This past week my grandmother was brought into the eternal presence of her King. And in a whirlwind of week, we had a memorial service for her last Thursday. She had asked me to speak at her memorial service a few years back and so I honored that request by saying the following. I share this not because you know my grandmother, but because what I shared is very close to my heart. And since this blog is primarily a chance for me to share about what I see in the world around me, I’m sure you can imagine that the death of someone I loved dearly is still on my mind.
So the following is more or less what I said:
“We’ve all gathered here this afternoon as the beginning of an ongoing memorial for RoseMarie Starks, or as I called her, grandma, and I even occasionally called her grammar. We will remember her beyond whatever we can say or do in this short time here today. She loved us all and was loved by us.
I’m up here speaking because she asked me to! I didn’t want it, and I didn’t ask for it. But a couple of years ago we were visiting with her and she was talking about her faith in God, and she outright asked me if I would speak at her funeral. I told her I would.
In the context of that conversation, I know why she wanted me to speak. She and I have shared the same faith. We share the same hope. We share the same Lord and King who saved us.
Grandma wasn’t born again until after she was an adult. She was working for a lady named Barb Harrison, and Barb was a very religious woman with a deep faith in Jesus Christ. And in a conversation with Barb Harrison, grandma trusted the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross to cover her sins, grandma asked Jesus Christ to save and lead her. And grandma was born again to a new life. A new hope. And a new purpose.
I had many conversation over the years with both grandpa and grandma about faith, the Bible, and Jesus. I am a pastor today, in part because of the legacy of many of those conversations. But one thing was clear to me that I am confident that she would want me to say in her memorial. She was not good enough. She was a good mother, she was a good wife, a good friend, a good sister, a good grandmother. But she was not a good enough person to earn eternal life.
Grandma’s hope was not her own self-righteousness, but it was a hope for forgiveness through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross that took away the penalty for her sins. And her reward will be resurrection just like Christ was raised from the dead!
Grandma’s life, just like all of us, followed the course of the history of the world. It was all created good . . . And grandma enjoyed the good of this creation. She was hoot! I remember as a kid playing cards with her for pennies and she would sweep them all! Her smile and her laugh was contagious. She loved life. Two Christmases ago I remember her with an Oreo on her forehead trying to get the cookie in her mouth without using her hands. She was always up for trying something new. And what a model of wisdom and love. When my wife, Linda, asked her how in the world she and grandpa stayed together for over 70 years she didn’t hesitate . . . Without God we never would’ve made it! Grandma loved grandpa. Grandma loved life.
But just like the world fell into sin, grandma had her own sins and struggles. And I know some of you might find it distasteful to mention this at her memorial but she had a stubborn streak and we all know that. We don’t come here to celebrate some fictional super-woman. We come here to celebrate an amazing woman made out of the clay just like us.
But just like the story of history blazes its way toward an eternal glorious end, grandma’s end came to meet hope when she was born again. The world was created good, humanity broke it through sin, but God made a way for us to be restored through faith in Jesus Christ. Grandma enjoyed the good of creation, but she also was broken by sin, but she was restored through faith in Jesus Christ.
I have no doubt in my mind that she wants all of you to hear that message of hope today. She asked me to share with you, that you might follow in her footsteps, believe you are sinner, ask Jesus Christ for forgiveness, and be born again to an eternal hope.”
And I believe that my grandmother is so pleased that I have also shared this with the few of you who have taken the time to read it. May you be blessed with hope in Christ, just as my grandmother was for most of her many years in this world.