A Life Filled With Love And Purpose

I’m pretty certain my mother-in-law never bothered to read “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren. She didn’t have to; her purpose was evident. And anyway, she never read non-fiction.

Jane McFarland’s purpose was twofold: to love and to work. There is no question she was driven by both.

She began working as a teletypist at The Times Leader at age 17 before she even collected her diploma from Martins Ferry High School. It was her job to key news stories into to the teletype machine. Proper spelling and line breaks were her passion, and she was a fierce enemy to the typo and incorrectly hyphenated word. When I met her, she had just retired from The Intelligencer after 49 years in the industry, and she never read the newspaper without wielding a pencil to underscore the typographical errors her successors let slip.

“She was very smart. She was a great employee,” her former boss at The Intelligencer, Doug Hartlieb, told me. He confirmed that even after retirement, whenever he called her to fill in for someone, she never said no.

She was a hard worker, and she enjoyed it. The two were not mutually exclusive for Jane; they were dependent on each other. In retirement, Jane joined First Presbyterian Church in Martins Ferry, and it didn’t take long for her to sign on to the hospitality committee. Committee chair Barbara Springer said Jane was dependable, was never afraid to try a new recipe and always had a good time in the kitchen.

When her mom got sick, she took care of her while still working. When her husband had a heart transplant, she took care of him for seven years, working all the while. When her grandson was born, she took care of him religiously throughout his childhood.

Of course, I know from very personal experience the workhorse that Jane was. Our daughter’s arrival revived Jane’s sense of purpose at a time when she was feeling a bit at loose ends. She babysat three days a week every week from the time Emma Skye was 8 weeks old till she went to all-day preschool at age 4 1/2. Eight years ago she became part of our household, and she took care of all the things that plague working moms: laundry, dishes, grocery shopping, cooking.

She was my living, breathing angel. Laundry was her favorite, I kid you not. She treated it like a job, taking meticulous care in every step of the process, from working miracles on Emma’s grass- and marker-stained school uniforms to folding creases into Dave’s jeans.

Four years ago, Jane’s body started slowing her down. What happens when a worker can’t work? What do you do when you can’t fulfill your purpose? She didn’t want to burden me. I told her time and again that it was now her turn to rest and for someone else to carry the load. She reluctantly allowed me to serve her; what choice did she have? She continued to serve those she loved by helping them financially, down to her last penny.

The final few weeks before she died, Jane’s body worked hard to stay alive. Her toil ended a week ago today.

The psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud said everyone needs two things to make life worth living: love and work. Jane lived a wonderful, worthwhile and purposeful life.

In Heaven, I believe she won’t even know what work is — only love remains. She who denied herself and served others her whole life will now rest in the loving arms of Jesus for eternity.

“Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)


Betsy Bethel is the Life editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News-Register and the editor of OV Parent magazine. She can be reached at bbethel@theintelligencer.net.