Note: The following was delivered at West Laurel Hills cemetary in Bala Cynwyd Pennsylvania. Names have been removed.
We find ourselves gathered here today, in a bittersweet celebration of the life and memory of (The Departed). She’s been known formally (And informally by many names).
(Her) journey began early last Century at a time when men were slipping the bounds of this earth and soaring into the skies on delicate machines constructed from wood and canvas. It was a time when through harnessing the elements; they were beginning to communicate across vast expanses of Empty Ocean in the language of Mr. Morse’s Code. Daredevils could take to country roads outside of Philadelphia and travel at blistering speeds of 45 MPH in Mr. Ford’s Model T. But it was a frightening time too, as for the first time in modern history; it seemed that the entire civilized world was now at war. Just weeks prior to her birth, her nation had declared war on the central powers and entered the “war to end all wars”. (She)entered adulthood, only to find herself fleeing Europe on one of the last ships leaving as the black tide of Nazism was sweeping across the continent.
Our Lord, through his providential hand brought (Her) back to our side of the Atlantic where she would meet her husband-to-be. , Ultimately, she would find herself settled in Summit, New Jersey where her family ultimately grew to include three children, five grandchildren, and six great-grandchildren. During one of her last conversations, she asked that they’d know how “she’d really loved knowing them, and expressed her wishes for their happiness, success, and joy.”
When it became clear that (Her) sojourn here was coming to its conclusion, those who loved her were burdened with the question of whether she was ready to undertake the next leg of her journey. She had spoke of her daughter(‘s) passing on a few occasions. She spoke of her desire to be reunited with (Her) in Heaven. Though she maintained a relationship with her church throughout her life, (She) knew that she’d never taken that same faith-affirming step taken by (Her daughter) which gave her, based on Holy Scripture, absolute assurance of her eternal destiny. Subsequently, in quiet prayer with a minister in the hospital, (She) declared her need for Jesus to be her savior and redeemer, and trusted in his sacrifice made on her behalf. This wasn’t a desperate act on the part of someone who was fearfully facing the unknown; (She) was a woman who had faced the uncertainty of terminal illness before. She shared that she had quietly placed her trust in Christ a few years prior when facing cancer. Though perhaps unknown to her at the time, she called upon a God who promised to “never leave or forsake her” and as the seasons were changing, He was there. This was a faith in the person of Jesus, the only Son of God the Most High. It was a faith in His promises and comforting words to those who would embrace him as their champion and redeemer. It was a trust that believed that, not only would this Jesus keep His promises, but that His sacrifice would be sufficient to wash away her sins both willful and genetic. Then the time came and (She) closed her eyes. Saint Paul spoke of this moment; she was now in the presence of the Father and the Son.
This afternoon, as we brace ourselves against the chill of this early Pennsylvanian Spring, (She) now not only dwells, but dances in the light and presence of the Holy and Almighty Trinity. This is a place of many dwelling places, prepared by Jesus Himself for all those who would trust in His promises. She rests in the presence of the Almighty, and will accompany him on that great day when He recreates heaven and earth, declaring all things “New”. Truly for (Her); this isn’t an end; it’s a beginning that will be forever beginning. Perhaps the greatest promise of all is that though (Her) spirit dwells in the presence of the Divine, a moment is coming, described by Saint Paul, where the elements that represent her earthly body will be raised and transformed to a body that will know no age, no illness, no debilitating disease or defect.
Will we see (Her) again? Can we share in the joy that she now knows? Succinctly, yes. The comfortable words that arrested (Her) were spoken for us too. Jesus, looking across an assembled crowd confidently declared:
Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. "Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. "For My yoke is easy and My burden is light."
He further declared:
"Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.”If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
Today, in the light of this Saturday afternoon, if we would place our hope in the message and the messenger, that messenger being God’s only Son, no only will we see (The Departed) once more but we’ll share in truth she trusted in and now knows perfectly.
"slipping the bounds of this earth"
Maybe a small tribute to John Gillespie Magee, and appropriate for the age of the deceased.
Actually, that was a nod to the Canadian aviator and his poem High Flight
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