Janet Foote’s Unusual and Poignant Eulogy

At Jerry Foote’s memorial service last week, his wife of 45 years rose as the last speaker and delivered in the place of a remembrance a poem that was so different and so moving that I asked permission to publish it, which I now do after the jump:

I Was Not Consulted

Schopenhauer said (and Darwin knew)
That we do not choose our mates
For any reason that we understand, but through a process unconscious and complex,
Designed by Nature to ensure
The promulgation of the race.�
In other words, we do not choose at all.
We have no vote.  We are just tools.

When I met you, Beloved
I was a graduate student, hot in pursuit of knowledge
Or so I thought.
I didn’t know that I was really on the prowl
for a particular set of genes.
I didn’t know it wasn’t up to me,
Or that I was merely following
Instructions from my DNA.

You said, “May I join you?”
And I looked up and kept on looking.
Neither of us had a clue of what was really happening,
But I guess our genomes knew.

And maybe all my predecessor spirits,
The souls of my ancestors –
Called an emergency meeting,
Reached a hasty consensus,
And faxed to my unconscious
The following urgent message:
“Snag him. Secure unto our family line those genes.”

They measured your bones and musculature,
Length of arms and legs;
Feet, fingers, toes, and hands.
The height of width and brow,
Cheek, chin, and upper lip.
They examined carefully your teeth,
And looked behind you skull to count brain cells
On both the left and right.
They said, “Take this fellow to your bed.  Do it now!”

Those wily Northern European types,
German, English, and Scottish Irish,
Were on the lookout for heirs
Cut from the same serviceable piece of cloth.

“Ya-vo!” they said, “We want a good protestant boy.
Only Presbyterians and Episcopalians need apply.”
They’d had a problem with me once or twice before;
“These academic types,” they said, “are troublemakers.”

The spirits of our unborn children, and their children,
Crowded to the scene and cast their votes:
“Yes!  Yes! We want those genes, we NEED those genes,
Come on Mom; Grammy, please!”

Amanda said, “I’ll need his analytic mind ,his logic
And his power of persuasion for my legal practice.”
Suzanne said, “I’ll need his sensitivity and compassion
To save the world.”
And Holly said, “With legs like that, and those blue Swedish eyes
I can get any guy I want!”

Samantha, Sparks, Sophie, Lucy, Ben and Abby said,
“Go for it, Grammy!”
Though I was just sitting there in the Student Union Cafeteria
At Indiana University, eating scrambled eggs.

But my eternal soul spoke up
To the three daughters:
You’re going to have two parents,
Don’t forget.  Don’t I get a shot?

Amanda said, I suppose I could use a little of your perseverance (she didn’t call it stubbornness).
Suzanne said, “Her ability to empathize might come in handy.”

But Holly said, “She’s way too bossy, and anyway,
I’m going to be my Daddy all over again!”

– Janet Voth Foote, February 2, 2009


Get a weekly recap in your inbox every Sunday of our best stories from the week plus a primer for the days ahead.

Find It

Search our directories for...









View All

View All


11 responses to “Janet Foote’s Unusual and Poignant Eulogy”

  1. publicnewssense says:

    Makes me weep my most heartfelt tears around the joy of the love of all these lives. Such beauty in this poem….
    Thank you for posting this….

  2. Grumpy says:

    Thank you for this unusual, sad, and beautiful post. God’s speed.

  3. MNS says:

    Thanks for publishing this. We all can only hope and aspire to be this loved in our own lifetimes. I am and will be eternally grateful for it. The Foote family will be in our prayers.

  4. Sky Masterson says:

    Wow. That’s amazing. Thanks for posting.

  5. Marv says:

    Amazing, thanks so much for sharing this with everyone. So touching and beautiful in its prose.

  6. Wick:

    Thanks for posting. I never cease to be amazed at the evocative and emotional power of black letters on a white page.

  7. Gala Harris says:

    Dear Holly,

    I can barely write while choking back tears. These words are amazing. I can see where you got your gift to write so beautifully. Thank you for sharing.

  8. Jerry would have loved it more than anyone.

  9. Sandy Nichols says:

    Dear Janet, Our deepest sympathy at the loss of your best friend and dear husband, Jerry. The poem is wonderful and Jerry was a great guy. We’ll miss his wit, compassion and his hearty laugh. All our love , Sandy and Phil Nichols

  10. genie bentley says:

    The poem is wonderful and Janet’s joyous delivery was equal to this great tribute to a cherished union.

  11. Don Higginbotham says:

    Janet: As you suggested,I read your wonderful and even humorous Eulogy/Poem. I always enjoyed my time with Jerry and you. He was always a good listener, interested in my take on things, even though they a cut below his thinking. He was also quick to smile, quick to laugh. We did have a lot of laughter together. My love to you and your family. Don Higginbtham