I wrote this to be read at my Grandmother’s funeral today. Since no one will hear these words there, I still felt they deserved an audience. I still felt that my Grandmother deserved a memorial from me.
Morning. I don’t know if this will be read in the morning, but it’s habit for me to start like that. This is a hard thing for me to write. It may be a hard thing for people to hear. Solomon wrote in the book of Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 NIV). He goes on to list that there is:
“a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,”
“a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,”(Ecclesiastes 3:2, 4-5 NIV). Though this is a time of weeping, it is also a time for us to gather together and not scatter. Though this is a time of mourning, it is also a time for us to embrace one another and draw near. This is a hard time in my life, and for those of you who were close to my grandmother, I am sure it is for you as well. In light of that, I wanted to share some words, stories, and memories to comfort and to challenge. The first challenge would be the one that Jesus always gave: let those with ears to hear, let them hear.
So the first story is about a woman who just lost her brother. He had been struggling with a disease and well, he lost his fight. It is in this moment when her brother has been dead for four days, and all hope seems lost, that Jesus appears. Do you know what the first thing she says is? “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” I don’t know where everyone stands with God, I won’t even pretend I know. Maybe though, someone is right where this woman is, angry and upset with God. Maybe you don’t feel His presence or question His plan. Maybe you feel like He is against you. When Jesus says she will see her brother again, she says she knows that. She has resigned herself, however, that she will not to see him until she too dies. Here is Jesus’s answer to that in John 11:25. “Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;” (John 11:25 NIV). I could stop there. That is a tremendously comforting statement. Since Jesus is life, since Jesus is the resurrection, I get to live. Maybe because I’m a college student, and I’m used to reading for prerequisites, I see what the woman probably saw. You live, but you also gotta die. I feel so often, people stop at the promise of heaven. Yet Jesus doesn’t even stop his sentence with that promise. “and whoever lives by believing in me [Jesus] will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26 NIV). Jesus isn’t simply telling us to wait until we die to experience the Kingdom of Heaven. When Jesus spoke of His Kingdom it was always coming and already here. Jesus is not calling us to exist until we die, to survive until we die, or wait until we die. No Jesus is calling us to believe and to live.
I learned many things in my grandmother’s house. Not to jump on the couch for one. I learned patience and problem solving working on puzzles. I learned from some string that some knots we tie last longer than others. More important than that I learned about love. I learned about self sacrificing love. The apostle Paul said, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV). In my grandmother’s house, I learned love. I learned the kind of love that cares for a grandchild who shows up at the crack of dawn. The kind of love that cared for a child too young to change his own clothing and covered in his own filth. The kind of love that makes room and space in their house any time a night needs to be spent there. The kind of love that gave without expecting in return, especially to a child too young and foolish to give the thanks deserved. The kind of love that leads a person to give hours that become days, days that become weeks, weeks that become months, and months that become years, of care, kindness, compassion, and joy. I learned many lessons in my grandmother’s house, but the greatest of these is love.
My Grandmother Sandra Hamilton, or Grammy as we called her, lived. I can not tell you all the amazing memories that showed the life Grammy lived. When I was in her house, it was a time to laugh. Grammy had an amazing sense and capacity for joy. I will always cherish the many memories of her smile that could make a person feel good. Not only did Grammy live, but she was concerned with the lives of others. I remember how she always strive to make my family feel welcome in her house. I remember many phone calls and many questions about how my life was going. I remember that she would be able to talk with my dad for what felt like, and might have been hours, over their favorite basketball team, the Lakers. My grandmother lived. “and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:26 NIV). Do you? Grammy lived. I know she would not want us to simply be waiting, trudging, existing, or surviving until we die. She would have wanted us to live.
Are you ready for the crazy part? What if you showed up for a funeral and the person in the casket is not the deadest person there? Because Grammy believed, and she lived. Whoever lives by believing will never die. So I ask again, do you believe? The offer Jesus makes is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. The offer Jesus makes is as true today as it was when Grammy accepted it. The offer Jesus makes, still stands. Do you believe? Do you believe that Jesus and God are not thieves who come to steal away things and people from us? Do you believe that Christ came to give life? And not just life abundantly? A life like my grandmother lived, filled with Joy and love and the blessing of family? Do you believe that God wants a life like that for you? Do you believe he died to forgive you of your sins, not only so you can be with Him when you die, but so that you can Live? I ask all this, because I don’t want anyone to leave this funeral deader than the person in the casket. Which is a tall order because my grandmother lived an amazing life. So one last time, do you believe?