Thursday, October 04, 2007

Funeral for My Dear Sister

Below is a copy fo the Funeral remarks I made at my dear sister-in-law's funeral,for those who asked. As alays, the written version is not exact to the spoken.

I am the last of nine in my family. Rowena was the wife of my brother Tom and the last of the nine spouses of the children of Wilson and Ieula Baird.

Mrs. Rowena Edge Baird
August 8, 1924 –– September 24, 2008

In the midst of our living, death, in its intrusive way, has once again come to dwell among us. So we gather to comfort one another and to put arms of love around one another...

In my brief 22 years as a pastor, I have conducted dozens of funerals and graveside services, and have participated in dozens more. But today, I hardly know where to start because there are so many things I would like to say ––things that could be said and should be said as we gather this morning to celebrate the life of Rowena Edge Baird –– wife, mother, grandmother and now great grandmother to little Zoe.

Rowena was my sister-in-law, really, my precious sister. She was also Aunt Rowena to a long extended line of nieces and nephews. Numerous family and friends loved Rowena and gather with us today to celebrate her life –– Rowena’s beautiful Christian life . . . her open arms and open life love and her living witness among us.

We gather to celebrate life –– eternal life through our blessed Lord Jesus Christ, the One whom Rowena trusted and faithfully served as her Savior and Lord.

Both Rowena and I were teen aged brides. My big brother Tom thought I was foolish to marry so young. Then, he later married a precious girl, also still in her teens.

It was 1941 and war clouds were gathering.

So it turned out that Rowena and I went through World War II together. We were both still in our teens when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and President Roosevelt declared war on Dec 7, 1941.

A draft was started and 1942 was a scary and bloody time for our generation.

If we were “The Greatest Generation," it was because we were perhaps the last generation where it was politically correct to openly talk about one’s Christian faith.

By 1943, my brother Tom, Rowena’s husband, and Charles Shaw, my husband, were both serving abroad –– Tom in Europe and Charles in the South Pacific.

Rowena lived with my mother who loved her like her own daughter . . . and Rowena loved and honored my mother like her own mother. At the time, Rowena was in a difficult pregnancy; she almost died in giving birth to their beautiful baby boy, Jack, while Tom was overseas.

It was a time when Rowena and I both learned –– or tried to learn –– how to pray.

Down through the years, it was always good for me to know that Rowena Baird was praying for me ...and praying for you…all of you whom she knew.

Rowena continued to be a happy witnessing Christian, devoted to her husband and her son and later her daughter. She had a great sense of humor, was active in her church, including teaching Sunday School. Rowena was a Christian role model any of us would do well to emulate.

Rowena and Tom’s Christian witness continued through some of the most difficult and heart breaking situations any of us could think to have to deal with. Jack, their precious son, died in an accident at age 22. Later, their grandson, Ray –– Jane and Warren’s older son –– died in a plane crash coming home from a Mission Trip to Venezuela.

Their faith in God sustained them and He held them close in His arms in the midst of unspeakable sorrow.

As both Tom and Rowena told me, one does not “get over” the death of a child or grandchild, but somehow they had to learn –– as we all try to learn –– that God doesn’t measure time in the same way we do. Death is a part of every life. We know that our children will die sooner or later. We always pray that it will be “later.” Psalm 90 tells us, “a thousand years is as a day and as a watch in the night.”

I heard Christopher Reeve being interviewed and asked what he had learned in the years since he was paralyzed. He replied that he had learned that “we are not our body.”

Christopher may or may not have known it, but this is the Good News we celebrate today. We all know that our bodies, at best, are wearing out. Thank God we are not our body.

In fact, we are not a ” body with a spirit” as much as we are a "spirit" in a temporary physical body.

Rowena seemed to know last Wednesday afternoon that her body had worn out, so she laid it aside. As Jane and I agreed yesterday: When Rowena took her last breath Wednesday afternoon, she was safe in the arms of Jesus and Tom was waiting for her at the Gate.

At death we come to the end of human knowledge, human power . . . and human comfort. Human beings can go just so far along the path of life with another person. Thus, our precious Jane went as far as she could go with her dear mother on Wednesday; she finally had to let go of her mother’s hand, knowing Rowena was safe in the hands of Jesus.

I am going to close by reading one of my poems that Rowena especially liked.

A few years before my husband died, we bought a cemetery lot –– sight unseen –– in East View Cemetery in Conyers, where Charles’ parents and grandparents are buried.

Charles was still pastor of a busy church, so it was some time before we went down to see the cemetery lot we had bought. We were there late one afternoon and remained as it began to get dark. I noticed lights beginning to go on in homes near the cemetery grounds. It seemed like a parable to me ––like the remembrance of parents leaving a light on until their children returned home at night.

So, I wrote these few simple lines:

My father always left a light for me
Against the nighttime shadows… lovingly
He left the doors unlocked…it opened wide
And I could safely find my way inside!

Beyond the grave…I see a light…I see
The lights of home…God left a light for me,
So I can walk on home…with faith…not fear
I see the Lights of Home…and God is near!

Regardless of what kind of shadows are falling around us today –– this week, Rowena would not want us to walk in the shadows.

Lift up your hearts . . . Look beyond the cemetery…
There is the Light of God … The light of the World
… There is resurrection. Thanks be to God!

Just a short time ago, in a daily email from “Word-a-Day,” a poet and Nobel Laureate Rabindraneth Tagor was quoted, “Death is not extinguishing the light….it is putting out the lamp because the dawn has come.”

For Rowena, the dawn of a new day has come.

Her race is run.

Henceforth is laid up for her a crown.
As I close my part of this time of remembrance and celebration of the life of Rowena Baird,

we praise God for this beautiful lady, rich in love and good works . . . friendly . . . always gracious and kind . . . a Christian lady.

Gratefully but ever so reluctantly , we yield back…the gift of Rowena.

No comments: