Monday, September 22, 2014

Eulogy for Maman -- Sept 2014

June 30th, 1949 - Sept 13th, 2014

(Read by Will)

A reading from 2nd Corinthians chapter 4, verses 7-18

If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness.
We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That’s to prevent anyone from confusing God’s incomparable power with us. As it is, there’s not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we’re not much to look at.
We’ve been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we’re not demoralized; we’re not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we’ve been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn’t left our side; we’ve been thrown down, but we haven’t broken.
What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus’ sake, which makes Jesus’ life all the more evident in us. While we’re going through the worst, you’re getting in on the best!
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise!
So we’re not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There’s far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can’t see now will last forever.

(Read by Jolaine)

In the wake of mama’s homecoming, I felt so overwhelmed at the thought of standing here today, and the responsibility I so heavily feel to honor her and her life before you today.

As time passed, God provided the message I am about to share with you loud and clear, delivered to me in three specific points.  The source of her essence and spirit, her true purpose in life, and the choice she ultimately leaves us with.

I’ve been witness to this my entire life – my mom was a legendary woman, evident by the glorious 65 year trail of life she leaves behind, filled with friends and loved ones who were drawn to her beauty, and evident by your presence here today.  She was known for her capacity to love without reserve or judgement, to forgive the unforgivable, to show mercy and grace, to find joy in the unlikeliest places (even French verbs), giving of herself without reserve to anyone she came into contact with...  with a strength and grace that was unparalleled in this world.  We all saw it, we all paused in the wonder of her spirit – it was as though her well of life never went dry.

On September 13th, the day God called her Home, the message in my devotional for that day clearly described the source of mom’s well, as well as the reason it never ran dry.  I felt compelled to share this with you today.   Exodus 34:2 says “In the morning... come up... present yourself to me there on top of the mountains.”  As you know, mom was constantly fluttering from here to there, busy doing life, always in contact with her family and friends, always on the go, loving, living and embracing life to the fullest... but what some of you may not know, is that each of her mornings began in complete stillness, envisioning herself climbing to a place she called “God’s mountain”, to climb into His embrace and replenish her spirit and soul. 

She knew full well that blessed is the day when the morning is sanctified, set apart to God! 

...  That successful is the day when the first victory is won in prayer! 

...  That each morning begun so sacredly on the mountain would make her strong and help her carry out her purpose the rest of the day. 

She would spend an hour in His presence, praying, pouring over scriptures, writing pages and pages as she journaled her faith journey, quieting herself before God - not a small feat for a woman who so loved to talk and struggled to sit still.  (I am my mom’s daughter!)

The words in my devotional reflected this beautifully “That hour was like a blessed fountain from which she drew the strength and sweetness that prepared her to complete all her tasks.  It also enabled her to maintain a genuine peacefulness in spite of the normal, trying worries and pettiness that so often accompany life in a [busy] environment.  As I think of the life she endured, I see the absolute, [unquestionable] triumph of the grace of God in the ideal Christian woman.  She was such a lovely woman that I never saw her lose her temper or speak even one word in anger [ok, except maybe once or twice in my teenage years].  I never heard her participate in idle gossip or speak a disparaging remark about another person, [ever, regardless of the circumstances, even if it was someone who had hurt us deeply].  In fact, I never saw in her even the hint of an emotion unbecoming to someone who had drunk deeply from “the river of the water of life” (Rev 22:1) and who had eaten of “the living bread that came down from heaven” (John 6:51).”

A dear friend of mama’s, Jennifer Seeley, shared a meal with mama over 20 years ago in Sussex, and as they talked, mama told Jennifer that she couldn’t possibly have more joy, that she knew life to the full...  she told Jennifer that you could take everything from her, strip her life of all that she had, take her health, her family, her everything...  throw her in jail, and still, she would have joy, because she had Jesus and Jesus couldn’t be taken away from her.  Jesus was all she needed.

Dear loved ones, that is the true reason for the indelible mark she left on all our hearts...  Mama lived a life of pure and glorious devotion to the One that gave her life.  That is why we are so touched by her life – He touched us all, through her, because she had completely and utterly surrendered her life to Him.

Her surrender to Jesus gave her a perspective and purpose in life that was very rare in this world of “every man for himself”.  She often talked about the Five Love Languages, words of affirmation and quality time being the two she not-so-secretly favored, but as much as she craved to hear the encouragement and love, she also felt an intense responsibility to reflect them back to her Jesus, and not be tempted to keep them for herself.  This was a delicate walk for her, given the attention she drew in all her interactions and her renowned career.  She was forever making attempts to give credit where it was due, for she knew that without Jesus, her life would lack meaning and purpose.  Given that not everyone was comfortable hearing this, knowing the Gospel can be offensive, divisive, even mocked...  she sometimes had to preach it without words, but one way or another, she found a way to make it known.  To her, it wasn’t about religion – it never was... it was about relationship. 

In the song Legacy (Nichole Nordeman), a picture perfect description of my mom’s lifesong is described through the lyrics. 

As a gift to you, I will choose not to sing it for you, but instead, sharing only the lyrics:

I don’t mind if you have something nice to say about me...
I enjoy an accolade like the rest
You can take my picture, and hang it in a gallery
With all the who’s and who’s and so and so’s
That used to be the best at such and such,
It wouldn’t matter much...

I won’t lie it feels alright to see your name in lights,
We all need an atta boy or atta girl
But in the end I’d like to hang my hat on more besides
The temporary trappings of this world

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Don’t have to look too far, or too long
To make a lengthy list of all that I enjoy
Some accumulating trinkets and treasures
That moth and rust, leaves and dust will soon enough destroy

I want to leave a legacy, how will they remember me?
Did I choose to love? Did I point to You enough?
I want to leave a mark on things, want to leave an offering,
A child of mercy and grace who blessed Your name unapologetically...
And leave that kind of legacy.

Not well traveled, not well read,
not well to do, well bred...
Just want to hear instead,
“Well done, good and faithful, Well done!”

And that, indeed, was her legacy to me...  and to us all.  It was the most priceless treasure she passed on through her living example, one that I will continue to carry out in my own life.  She wanted it for me, lived it out for me...  but never one to exclude someone, she wanted it for all who knew her.  For her children, her grandchildren, her siblings, her extended family, her friends, her co-workers, and everyone else who came into her life.  It was what mattered most to her.

I have written many letters to my precious mama over the years...  some of which she shared with many of you. 

I have one last letter to share...  for such a time as this. 

My beautiful, precious mama...

I remember when I was little, sharing with you how I prayed that we would both pass away at the exact same time, because I knew we were so close that losing one another would be unbearable.  Yet here we are...  I wonder how I will keep breathing.

At first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you here with us... 

It was so hard to realize, over and over again, the loss we would feel with each step, at so many points of our lives. 

My MIND WOULD SEE an empty place at the Christmas table, where you would delight in being surrounded by your children, grandchildren, friends, and any so called strangers you would welcome into our family when they had none to be with.  I’d ask myself “How would you want us to celebrate this without you?  How do we piece together a new normal?  Who will make your cheesecake in your absence?  Who will go to the ‘DollarGramma’ for the white elephant swap, or as Sebastien affectionately calls it, “torture”?”  In many ways, that’s how I remember you, surrounded, always, by those you loved, celebrating and always making sure everyone felt welcomed and included. 

My MIND WOULD SEE all the photos we have of you, and feel the ache of knowing how many photos will be missing of you as the years go on, each representing an event or moment you would miss alongside of us.  When the kids graduate, when they walk down the aisle, when they welcome babies into the world, we won’t have photos of those special occasions with your bright smile so full of life.  You looked so forward to going to the Outer Banks with Jillian and I, and to Honduras to visit with Bessy, Justin and Maryuri, and we will go in your honor, but will deeply feel your absence in the photos, the look on your face as you stand in awe of God’s beauty and live life to the fullest, the joy radiating from you.  Oh, how you loved photos....  and how precious few of you and I there are.  Yes, my MIND WOULD SEE how our family photos from this point on would always be missing someone – as though our family would never be complete again.  You wouldn’t be where we pictured you, you wouldn’t be here with us.

My MIND WOULD SEE the memories of you and I worshipping the Lord side by side, and it broke my heart to imagine not going to Harvest with you this fall at church, not sitting beside you on Sunday mornings, not reading devotionals with you and hearing about your spiritual journey and the things God is showing you, hearing about your Lay Ministry program, which the kids’ lovingly referred to as the Pope Studies.  They were convinced you were net in line.  I would miss not having you to talk about our favorite topic ever... serving Jesus...  Most of all, I knew I would miss you teaching me about Him in ways only you could.  You were only wrong about one thing, mom – I hadn’t become your spiritual mentor over the past few years, as you so often told everyone, including myself...  you had always been my teacher. 

There were things I wished I could ask you... What went through your mind as you breathed your last breath and reached out to Him?  Did you see the joy on His face as He ran to you?  Has our heavenly Father showed you the indelible mark you left on the world, the impact you’ve had, the lives you’ve touched?  What’s it like to be held in the hands of the One who created life? 

There are things I want you to know...  I’m thankful that you were here to welcome Jillian into the world... and that she was here to hold you as you were welcomed into Heaven. 

I’m thankful you had extra time to spend with Brandon and Joshua, especially in the past year.

You loved me fiercely, and loved me well, and although nothing can ever replace that, I know we both rejoice and thank God for the gift of Will in my life, I know it brings you peace to know that in your absence, I am loved as fiercely and as well as you loved me.  You’ve left big shoes to fill, but he has big feet – and he is able, willing, and honored.  I am thankful you had the blessing of knowing him, and that he had the blessing of knowing you. 

My heart feels an ache in the space where you once were...  as though I’m no longer whole...  a permanent ache that will linger the rest of my life here.  And yet, if loving you leaves me with a permanent ache, loving you was worth it.  You were worth it.  Someday soon, the ache will be healed, I will hold you again in my arms and rejoice with you – but by then, I will be whole and no longer aware the ache ever existed.  I will be Home.

And you know what, mama?  What I want you to know the most, is that while at first, it seemed impossible to imagine life without you alongside of us...
  now, I understand why it was impossible...

It is not you that is missing from where we are, it is us that are missing from where you are.

You are living the life you were created to live – you have achieved the dream I pray for all my children; the dream that I pray for everyone -- for their lives to lead them Home to God. This was your goal, your purpose, so how can I not rejoice?  This was the way it was meant to be all along, but somehow, along the way, I had hoped to selfishly keep you here, away from the glorious experience you are living now.  

Rather than my heart noticing the empty chair alongside mine at the family table, I now see the seat you've saved for me at His table, and I see you showing me which fork to use. I'm sure there's about ten!  You’re there now, likely sipping a glass of Green Smoothie.  When I sit with you at His table, I’ll still give you all my mushrooms.  Just sayin’!

My heart sees no photos of you missing in God's family photos --
 you're where He pictured you to be all along. We're missing... we're not home.  Our family will only be complete for the rest of eternity once we are all gathered with you THERE. 

Last but not least, my HEART KNOWS I’m the one who is missing from singing with the saints all around His throne, you are there, and I am not yet... but  when I get there, you will teach me all that I’ve been missing out on, and we will worship Him side by side once more. No more tears, no more goodbyes...  you’re still my teacher, and always will be.

I no longer see us growing up without you, I see you growing up without us... waiting for our hearts to understand what you've understood all along, waiting for the day until you can teach us about where you've been since the day you were called Home.

Your passing is not what we want in this life...  but what if we wanted the wrong thing all along?  What if instead of clinging to this life, we follow your example and set our hearts’ compass on eternal life with Jesus, only then we will find everlasting peace and joy, and only through Jesus we will find our way back to you.

You will not return to me, but I will go to you.” 2Samuel 12:23
The world would be quick to say you’re an angel, but you’re not.  Nor did you grow wings or become a mere memory.  He did not pick the best for His garden – let us not be tempted to diminish your life this way, let us instead speak the Truth.  His heart in you made you who you are!  You are not gone!  You are not lost!  You, my beloved, are so much more – you are fashioned by the Creator’s hands, a spirit born of His heart and love, and returned back to Him. 

You are simply Home, waiting as you always did, for us to come and gather together around you.  Given how you felt about everyone being included, everyone being together, about living in community with one another and God – we owe it to you, mom... to you, to ourselves, and most of all, to God, to not be left behind, to really take a moment to consider the weight of your legacy, and to not forsake that eternal gift that has been offered only through Jesus and is ours for the taking. 

You left behind one message for us all, the one thing you ask all of us to do in honor of your life...  to choose Jesus, as you did, and to lay down our lives for Him.  I will pick up this cross and spend the rest of my moments left making sure everyone who knew you considers the purpose of your life and wants it for theirs, that everyone considers the choice you were given and the gift you embraced – the gift of eternity that is also theirs for the taking...  that everyone considers the brevity of life, and the sacredness of eternity with Jesus. 

When our hearts ache for you, mama, and all that your life stands for...  in essence, our hearts ache for the One you represented so well and His character in you...  our hearts ache for Home, where you’re waiting for us to join you.   We could close our eyes right now and almost hear that distinct “wooouuhoo”, I am here, who’s with me?

You’ve sung it with me many times, mama – no guilt in life, no fear in death, this is the power of Christ in me; from life’s first cry, to final breath, Jesus commands my destiny... no power of hell, no scheme of man, can ever pluck me from His hand, ‘till He returns, or calls me home, here in the power of Christ I’ll stand.

And so today, mama, on this sacred ground, I stand, loud and clear... just as you did... “As for me and MY house, we will serve the Lord.” Joshua 24:1
You are loved... beyond measure
You live on... beyond measure.
We are blessed... beyond measure.

J’taime buckets...

Bonne nuit...


(Music – “Home” – music by Nicol Sponberg)

What is it like to be held in the same arms that hold the universe?
What is it like to sleep on the chest of the King of heaven and earth?
When you open your eyes and look on the face of the Giver of life, the Author of grace, do you know?

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
Cause our hearts ache for Home

What is it like to breathe in and breathe out heaven's glorious light?
What is it like to be robed in perfection, no reason to cry?
When you feel on your face, your Father's kiss, his welcomed embrace, we prayed for this, you should know...!

That your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all
‘Cause our hearts ache for Home

Twinkle twinkle little star
We will keep you in our hearts
Twinkle twinkle little star
We will meet you where you are

Your days here changed everything
You're missed here and will always be
But you left here the greatest gift of all

‘Cause our hearts ache for Home