We buried my grandmother on Saturday and my dad asked me to conduct the graveside service. It was a great honor and blessing to do this for my family and my grandmother. Far from a pastor, I admittedly borrowed from my friend David Helbig’s previous memorials and a 1920’s era book titled “The Pastor’s Ideal Funeral Book”. I wanted the service to be formal but personal. Everyone seemed to be happy, so I trust my grandmother would have been as well.
Here is the text of what I presented. The spacing was how I printed it to remind me to go slow and take my time out of respect for my Memaw.
Graveside Service – Ellen Reynolds
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live even if he dies, and the one who lives and believes in me will never die.”
The righteous live forever and the care of them is the most high God’s. With his right hand shall he cover them, and with his arm shall he shield them.
We are here to celebrate the life of Ellen Metta King Reynolds, born Feb 26, 1919 in Castle Oklahoma, departed from us January 26, 2009 at age 89.
Let us pray:
Almighty God, fount of all life; thou art our refuge and strength; thou art our help in trouble. Enable us to put our trust in thee, that we may obtain comfort and find grace to help us in this and every time of need through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Readings from Scripture
1 Thess. 4:13-18
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.
When death comes to our loved ones, there are a few things we want to know. We want to know that God cares, that we are not alone in our grief. But even more importantly, perhaps, we want to be reminded that for every ‘exit’ there is an ‘entrance’. We want to know that there is a future for us and our loved ones who we seemingly have lost.
THE PROMISES OF SCRIPTURE BECOME LIVING REALITIES IN TIMES LIKE THESE.
Jesus said in John 14 “Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And 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.”
Our faith in those promises, along with the presence of God in our hearts, sustains us.
One of the most beautiful promises found in the Bible is in Isaiah 25:8, “He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord will wipe away tears from all faces.” Our exit from this world is an entrance into the next and there is great comfort in the promises of God.
One of the great hymns say,
Through many dangers, toils and snares,
I have already come,
Twas grace that brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.
That’s God’s promise to us as well. For those who love Jesus, every exit is but an entrance. God is faithful to His promises. He has promised us that in our times of need He will never forsake us. This is cloudy for us now. But for Ellen, the sun is shining brightly and someday it will shine again for us.
Today, while we memorialize her, while we remember her life, while we both laugh and cry at the memories and the loss that we’ve faced this week; Ellen is, as we speak, receiving her full reward. Out of our presence, yet in the fullness of the presence of her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
There are so many vivid things I remember about my Memaw going all the way back to when I was just a little boy. A few things stand out for me that I would like to share.
We could and maybe should write a book with all the funny things she has said over the years. Quick as could be, you didn’t cross her with your words cause she wasn’t scared to remind you in the mostly lady-like of ways just how smart she actually was. Ironically, the word Wit has a german origination just like Memaw.
She gave people the benefit of the doubt and almost never spoke poorly of people. Neither the lowest or the highest of society had anything on her, but she spoke generously of both. She said to me in the last few years of her life “I want to focus on the positive, what’s ahead of me and not what is behind me.” She taught that to my Dad as well.
Her heart seemed always motivated with the purest and most noble of intentions. She served us unceasingly and constantly with no burden or sense of duty, but a joy and blessing.
I don’t know if it was the German in her or what, but when she made up her mind to do something she did it. Whether it was raise a son alone for a few years during WWII, quit smoking, annihilate every last germ in her kitchen, or live fully and gracefully until the very last hours, well she just did it.
Her Family Focus.
It was always about her family, both those who were coming up and those who were already gone. Family meant the world to her.
I found a poem that reminded me of her that I would like you to hear:
The Watcher by Margaret Widdemer
She always leaned to watch for us,
Anxious if we were late,
In winter by the window,
In summer by the gate.
And though we mocked her tenderly,
Who had such foolish care,
The long way home would seem more safe
Because she waited there.
Her thoughts were all so full of us,
She never could forget!
And so I think that where she is
She must be watching yet.
Waiting till we come home to her,
Anxious if we are late,
Watching from Heaven’s window,
Leaning on Heaven’s gate.
And today, FAMILY is the legacy she leaves behind. Yes, that’s us. You and I. Children, Grandchildren, & Great Grandchildren. All of us were loved deeply by Ellen.
Allow your mind to go back today. Go back to a time when she blessed you. Go back to a time when she made you laugh. Remember a time when she made you feel like you could do it. Remember your favorite thing about this magnificent woman. Following our time together here there will be a meal at ____________________ wherein I hope we can all share a few memories of Ellen that we’ll never forget.
The last thing that stands out for me about this beautiful woman was:
Her Quiet Faith.
Five or six years ago I asked Memaw if she believed in Jesus. Without skipping a beat she said, “well how do you think I’ve been able to be patient with your Papaw all these years?”.
Ellen had a quiet, but sure faith that was explored not through theological education or even busy church involvement, but through a reliance on God for peace and steadfast security.
May we ask God to help us grow closer to Him and that the reality of his presence would bring us peace and an impact to those around us?
The Closing Prayer
Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil; for thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen
We brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. Forasmuch as it has pleased Almighty God of His mercy to take back to Himself the soul of our Ellen, we therefore commit her remains to the care of a loving God; earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust; in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
As we come to the conclusion of our service, we commit her to her burial place, waiting for the day when Christ returns for us when we can spend eternity together. Grace and peace be unto you. At this time, for those of you who are comfortable, you are welcome to pay your respects to family members and to Ellen as well.