Saturday, August 11, 2007

My Mother-in-Law's Funeral

Yesterday I gave my mother-in-law's funeral address after her long years of suffering, losing both body and mind. If you would like to read it, you can look at the first comment under this entry. She was a woman that embodied self-abnegation. She had no designs for her own promotion or reputation. She spent her life loving and serving children and her family.

2 Comments:

Blogger Mark Moore said...

A Funeral Oration for Emma Louise Wilson
This is a difficult day. There is no easy way to say ‘goodbye’ to a woman so dearly loved. Yet it is also a day of great relief for those who have watched her long years of suffering. And, in fact, it is partly this relief we feel that make this day so difficult. May I confess to you that I have prayed for this day to hasten? Is it right to pray for someone’s death? This is the difficulty we have all had to face in these circumstances. This is precisely the question asked by Job in his own suffering:
Job 3:21–23: “Why is light given to those in misery, and life to the bitter of soul, to those who long for death that does not come, who search for it more than for hidden treasure…” Here is the theological question we’ve been wrestling with. Why did she not die sooner? Is this a horrible thing to ask? If it is, I don’t suspect that I am alone. Wayne, I know you have questioned God about this and probably he has responded with deafening silence. Now, we’ve moved beyond question of human suffering since we know it is a result of the Devil and the submission men give to him. We are not blaming God for the evil in this world. Rather, we are speaking of a very specific question of a very specific person. She didn’t deserve this seven year season of suffering. Does the Bible have any answer for Job’s question which has become our own this day? Seven years of suffering is echoed in Revelation. Perhaps it will only lead to more questions, but let’s listen for just a moment to two comments on death from that book of life:
Rev 2:10–11: “Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you in prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution for ten days. Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. He who overcomes will not be hurt at all by the second death.” While this was spoken to a group of Christians undergoing persecution in the first century, the promises apply to believers of any age undergoing any suffering. We can claim this promise for Emma Louis. She was faithful unto death and will now receive her crown of life and this is part of our comfort today.
Rev 14:11–14: “And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever. There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name. This calls for patient endurance on the part of the saints who obey God’s commandments and remain faithful to Jesus. Then I heard a voice from heaven say, ‘Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.’ ‘Yes,’ says the Spirit, ‘they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.’” Does it not also give you comfort to know the Devil will be punished? Does not her faithfulness give us courage to hold on and endure? Her priorities for Jesus, for the Scriptures, and for the church live on in us and through us.
But these promises for her don’t settle the question for us. Why seven years of suffering? Again, I’m not blaming God. This world is under his curse for our own actions and for the Devils corruption. On this point we are clear. Wayne, you fed her how many meals? And how many had she served you? Your care for her was extraordinary. Yet it still is less than her care for us. Perhaps it took seven years for us to learn to care for her as deeply as she cared for us. Perhaps this seven years of suffering was a gift that allow us to become more like Jesus as we cared for this woman who so modeled his service. This much I do know. Wayne, the longer this ordeal stretched on, the more clarion was your example to me. I speak here too for Floyd, Harold, Don, Josh, Jordan, Brandon, Nathan, and Zach, even Jacob and Tobi. You made a promise when you were young skinny, and probably a bit idealistic: ‘til death do us part’ ‘in sickness and in health’. How could you have known that commitment would have included this? But today we can finally say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” For 63 years you kept this promise.
The Devil said, let me tear this family apart. But here we sit today, brothers and sisters, cousins and great grand children, all together. The Devil said, let me break a man; but instead this very curse from Eden has made a man. Your reputation has been forged on the bitter anvil of sickness. And while there have been long stretches of pain and sorrow, of loneliness and anger. You’re stride has not always been graceful, but you have crossed the finish line of this ordeal. No one ever judges a runner on the gracefulness of gait but on whether he has crossed the finish line. You did not just minister to Mimi, you ministered to every woman in your family who will be the recipient of a more gracious husband and father who follows your extraordinary example. We stand deeply in your debt . . . ‘till death do us part.’
1 Cor 15:54–56, So we are no longer left with the question, “Why”, but “where”, Where o death is your victory. I am fully aware that this is an eschatological discourse about the end of the world. But how much more glorious is it for those of us who can appropriate a portion of this promise even now. This satanic sickness has not robbed this family; rather it robbed the Devil for our grieving today is grateful celebration. Grateful for the memories of a woman with a laugh which lives on in her sons, grateful for a woman whose steadfast endurance and servant heart lives on in her daughters. Don’t be offended when I say I can’t miss Mimi…I live with her every day. Death, you have been robbed by the victory of Jesus Christ. You have been stripped of your power by a believing people who cling to a worshipping church. In echoes of Revelation 20, we say to death, “Go to hell for you have no place where our beloved has gone.” We say to suffering, “Go to the abyss for you cannot follow our beloved to her place of glory.” We say to sickness, “Go with her body to the grave and rot with the shell for the woman we love lives on and we shall now bid farewell, not to her, but to you, o sickness, for you no longer have a hold on the one we hold dear.”

August 11, 2007 12:16 PM  
Blogger Tyler Stewart said...

Mark-

I am very sorry for your mother-in-law's pain, and for the pain of a family loosing someone so close. I'm blessed by your celebration of God's grace, and your honesty.

August 15, 2007 6:55 PM  

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