Today was Lois Byrne’s funeral.
Her daughter asked me to play the piano and accompany the soloist. Because my mother had the flu and couldn’t, I also gave a eulogy for her. It was all an honor and a privilege.
Lois has been in my life my entire life. I was born on a Sunday. My parents took me to church the next Sunday. Lois was there. From my childhood, I most remember her as a Sunday school teacher and Bible School (that’s what we called VBS back then) teacher. Back in the 1960s there were quite a few of us children learning the stories from her. When, at the age of nearly 17 I came to know Jesus personally, those early lessons were undoubtedly a part of the experience.
In recent years, I knew her as an encourager. She often complimented my piano playing. She would sometimes cry when I preached, and I allowed myself to believe it was because she knew she had a role in the faith I now have. Today we said good-bye to her in the same church where she taught children Bible stories about Paul, David, Joshua, and Jesus among others. Hers was a life well lived. It is a life she now enjoys in perfect health in Heaven; of that I have no doubt. When I think about Lois now I can’t help but think of the Ray Boltz song “Thank You” when I think about her walking the streets of Heaven. When I gave the eulogy my mom would have given, I added some of my memories to Mom’s.
It was difficult being a part of the service because the last one I attended was my husband’s. At the graveside on February 12, 2016, it was bitterly cold, windy, and snowing. Today it was cold and windy. I am thankful to God I didn’t have to go to the graveside; instead I went to the village hall to help set out the funeral dinner.
The church was packed out for her funeral. The pastor is a good friend, a confidante, and I could just hear her thinking—where are all these people on Sunday morning? 100+ people come to mourn, but those same people can’t come to receive life.
Of course, many of those people do attend other houses of worship. But our town has somewhere between 200 and 300 residents. Between the Methodist church and the Lutheran church across the street, both would be full to capacity if everyone in town attended one or the other.
This past Sunday, 4 days ago, I attended the visitation of a young man with whom my husband and I were acquainted. Rod was good friends with his parents. The man’s brother attends Rod and my church in Lincoln. Afterward, I went to visit Lois and her daughter and pray with them. An hour later, Lois was gone.
It seemed like a week of death because right in the middle of those, yesterday, February 7, was the 2nd anniversary of the date Rod went to be with Jesus. Next Wednesday, Valentine’s Day and this year Ash Wednesday, would have been his 58th birthday. When I checked Facebook last night, there wasn’t a single mention of him. Not even by me. Life goes on, but he is not forgotten; I know he is not.
To say I miss him still is an understatement.
Like Lois, he poured so much into my life, albeit at the other end. And like Lois, he probably didn’t even realize it.
Before I met him, the life I lived was that of one who was just going through the motions. I was attempting to live for God, had been doing so for years, but there was no overcoming. I was looking forward to heaven, but there was no enjoying life in the land of the living (Psalm 27:13). My children were nearly grown, and I was scared to death that God was going to leave me a broken person, useless, no longer relevant in any way, unable to find victory in any area of my life.
He did not.
He loaned me Rod for a few precious years.
Rod loved me, a person utterly unlovable, unworthy, insignificant, at least by any person who was not related to me and was not God.
Rod loved me; even while God was using him to bring healing and rejuvenation to my soul, He also used him to help restore my body after a serious battle with cancer a year and a half into our marriage.
Rod loved me. Even after 6 years of marriage when he was finally beginning to see I wasn’t always the “blessing” he had proclaimed me to be in the first year of our marriage, but I was a real person with some serious flaws, one being an extreme distrust of just about everyone. My favorite nonbiblical quote is one by Shakespeare, “Love everyone, trust a few, do wrong to none.”
I had good reason to be distrustful. Rod had more reason than I; yet he continued to love. Me and everyone else he met.
My negativity never rubbed off on him. Laughter was his primary expression.
More than one person has suggested to me that God placed this angel in my life for 6 years to help me become me, the me God created me to be. It sounds right, but how can it be? Rod was a wonderful person in his own right; his ministry had to be more than that.
When we married at the ages of 48 and 49, I believed we would live out the rest of our lives together; and I intended to make sure those years were the best ones of Rod’s life. I hope they were. Aside from the years my kids were born, they were certainly mine.
Now that he’s been gone from me for 2 years, I find myself fearful (fearful? she who wrote a book entitled Fearless in Euroclydon? she who knows there is a verse in the Bible regarding fear for every single day of the year?) at times of reverting into the person I was before Rod came into it.
In addition to the fear, there’s the apathy. I recently read a blog post by a writer who believes apathy is the greatest hindrance to walking out the Christian life. Another teacher shared the same thoughts. And, with the prayers of my dear husband on my behalf no longer wafting up to God daily, I feel that very thing attempting to make its insidious way in. Apathy seems akin to stagnation. Both are death.
Yet, in the funeral of a dear saint of God, there are many reminders of the life of God in the midst of death. Apathy can’t withstand a life lived in faith because faith is the opposite of death; faith is life. Today more than one person testified they’d never heard Lois complain, not about anything, ever. Rod lived life with such joy, as he lay in his casket I observed that the funeral director couldn’t completely get the smile off his face.
Lois and Rod both exemplified the faith life; if either of them ever experienced apathy, I never saw it. They lived their lives well to the very end. They lived life which death cannot defeat.
O death, where is thy sting? Some believe Shakespeare said that, too, though others say not. Not having read him, I cannot say for certain one way or the other.
I have, however, read the written Word of God, and He said it first through the apostle Paul in his first letter to the Corinthian church chapter 15 verse 55.
Death has no sting. It is the beginning of life for those who know Jesus. For those of us who remain, it brings the good memories and encouragement of a life well lived. “Life is short, I wanna’ live it well.” Line from Live It Wall by Switchfoot 2016