Pastor Bob Tousey
Sudden Tragic Loss of a Loved One
This morning we are here to celebrate the life of _____. _________’s death reminds us how suddenly life can change. Last week none of us expected to be here today. ______________ an unexpected visitor, named death, intruded into your lives and changed your world forever. Beverly was called home. Death is never a welcome visitor for those left behind. When the death is tragic and unexpected it is even harder to accept. I am sure the words “stunned” and “shocked” could be used to describe your state when you heard the news.
When I am speaking to family and friends at a time like this my mind often goes to one of the most comforting verses in the bible. It is contained in the Gospel of John and it teaches us what Jesus said to His friends shortly before His own earthly death. “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. And you know the way to where I am going.” “No, we don’t know, Lord,” Thomas said. “We have no idea where you are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.”
In these words, we learn three things. First, there is room in heaven for each one of us. When it comes time for God to call our name, we do not have to worry about being greeted by a “No Vacancy” sign. Our reservation was made when Jesus died on the cross, all we must do is be willing to accept His wonderful gift.
Second, that Jesus is preparing a special place just for us. Jesus promises to prepare a place for us. Imagine this we have the Son of God, who in his earthly life was a carpenter by trade, promising to prepare a special place just for us. Early in my career I would have tried to paint a picture of what ________’s new heavenly home is like but as I matured, I realized I am limited by earthly words and we all are limited by earthly imagination. We can’t possibly imagine the beauty and majesty of __________’s new home. The Christian band Mercy Me sings a song entitled “I can only Imagine”, the song begins with the lyrics “I can only imagine what it will be like when I walk by your side, surrounded by your glory.” Then the lyrics take the shape of questions. Will I dance in your presence? Will I be in awe? Will I stand? Will I kneel? Will I sing? Will I even be able to speak at all? They take the form of questions because none of us can possibly imagine. But ______ no longer needs to imagine as she is surrounded by the glory of God and walking by His side. But for those of us who are still here there are however three things that we do know, there is no more suffering or pain and no words that mean goodbye. _________ is at peace and she will no longer have to say goodbye. Not ever again.
Finally, that Jesus will take us there himself. I have had the honor to be with people during their final hours and it is not unusual for them to say, “it is time”, “I’m ready” or “they are here”. In the book “The Other Side of Suffering” the author writes of the death of his wife. She was in a coma, she opened her eyes and had a wondrous expression on her face as if she was seeing something magnificent. She then closed her eyes and died. I believe she opened her eyes to see our Savior. This story and my experiences are proof to me that Jesus keeps His promise.On ___________, _________ was not alone. Jesus was with her. He was there ready to escort her to her new home. A place that He had prepared just for her. Just the way she likes it.
I like to think that while each of you were sad and confused over the events of _____________; there was a big celebration in heaven. As Jesus lead ________ into her new home she was likely greeted by a welcoming committee made up of her family and friends that went before her. It was a grand reunion.
There is a book entitled “90 Minutes in Heaven”. It was written by a Baptist minister named Don Piper. Don was on his way home from a Baptist convention in Texas when he was involved in a serious car accident. Don was pronounced dead at the scene by EMTs who twice checked for a pulse. About 90 minutes later another Baptist Pastor who had been at the convention came upon the scene, he got in Don’s car, having been a combat medic in Vietnam he checks for a pulse and there was none. He began to pray and then he decided to sing “What a Friend We Have in Jesus”. You can imagine his surprise when Don started singing as well. In the book, Don describes his 90 minutes in heaven. There was wonderful music, he was greeted by all his family and friends who went to heaven before him, there were no earthly worries, no pain and no suffering. In fact, Don was a little disappointed when he learned he was heading back to earth. I am certain that the message _________ has for every one of you is I am at peace, I am happy, and I look forward to the day that I am on your welcoming committee.
About 2,000 years ago Peter gave some advice to the churches in Asia Minor. This is advice I want to share with you today and just remember the term “family” includes friends. “And now this word to all of you: You should be like one big happy family, full of sympathy towards each other, loving one another with tender hearts and humble minds.”
Today you have a hole in your heart. A “___________ hole”. It will take time to heal. You need to be there for each other. To support and love each other. Be a shoulder to cry on. Be an ear to hear a story. Be there to tell a story. The story of ___________’s life did not end on ________. It is your job to share it with others. To let people, know how special ________ was to you. I know emotions are raw. There will be times when you want to cry other times, usually during a story, you might want to laugh. Both are normal, healthy emotions. Exercise them in abundance. Remember, the bible teaches us that Jesus cried when he learned of the death of His friend, Lazarus.
There is a poem I would like to read. It was written by Linda Ellis and is entitled “The Dash”. “I read of a man who stood to speak at the funeral of his friend. He referred to the dates on her tombstone from the beginning --to the end. He noted that first came the date of her birth and spoke of the second with tears, but he said that what mattered most of all Was the dash between those years. For that dash represents all the time that she spent alive on earth, and now only those who loved her know What the little line is worth. For it matters not, how much we own; The cars, the house, the cash. What matters most is how we live and love when we are living out the dash. If we could just slow down enough to consider what's true and what is real and always try to understand the way other people feel. And be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we never loved before. If we treat each other with respect, and more often wear a smile, Remember that this special dash might only last a while. So, when your eulogy is being read with your life's actions to rehash will you be pleased with what there's to say about how you lived your dash.”
Share memories of the deceased’s life This would be the time for any of you to share any special memory that you might have of __________. Please feel free to do so from your seat or you can come forward whichever is most comfortable for you. If you are not comfortable sharing now remember you can do it privately with each other later.
I would like to offer a prayer for each of you. God, our heavenly Father, I lift ___________’s family and friends as they work through their grief. I know you will walk with them and if necessary, carry them. Fill them with Your love and grace in the days to come. Help them to be there for one another. I pray this in Your name of Your Son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now we can offer a prayer of praise thanking God for ________. I ask that we bow our heads and turn our thoughts to the Lord. Holy God, we praise Your name for all who have finished this life loving and trusting You, for the example of their lives, the life and grace You gave them, and the peace in which they rest. We praise you today for Your servant, _______ and for all that you did through h____. May she/he rest in peace and we all say Amen.
This concludes our services at the funeral home. The funeral director will be in shortly to provide directions for the trip to the cemetery. May God bless each of you and keep you safe. I will see you at the cemetery.