And with Pam playing beautiful sweet music on the piano, we reentered the church. For my mother’s funeral. And, I said, in my heart of hearts, “God, why did you do this? How could you do this?”. We sat, and our dear pastor, Rev. David Anderson, began to speak. He told several stories about Mom…and commented on the many cards she had sent to him. The last one saying…’It’s been a while since you have seen me…it’s time.” His words were kind and true and full of comfort and wisdom. He put us at ease with his words and his sweet delivery.

And, then, my friend Pamela, whom I love dearly, sang. She sang a song that Mom used to sing as a solo. Then she heard Pamela sing it once and she said, “When I die, have her sing that at my funeral.” It was her favorite song. And Pam has never, never sung as beautifully as she did yesterday. I believe the angels in heaven must have even stopped their singing to listen…it was that beautiful!

My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine,
For Thee all the follies of sin I resign;
My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus,’tis now.

I love Thee because Thou hast first loved me,
And purchased my pardon on Calvary’s tree;
I love Thee for wearing the thorns on Thy brow;
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus,’tis now.

I’ll love Thee in life, I will love Thee in death,
And praise Thee as long as Thou lendest me breath;
And say when the death-dew lies cold on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus,’tis now.

In mansions of glory and endless delight,
I’ll ever adore Thee in heaven so bright;
I’ll sing with the glittering crown on my brow,
If ever I loved Thee, my Jesus,’tis now.

And, then, I spoke. I really do not know all that I said. I had written out some things I wanted to say…and I had a semblance of an outline, but really, I don’t know that I followed it very well. I talked a little about how my Mom loved to plan things…Waaaaaay in advance, and how it frustrated her that I didn’t. I told how Mom had called me on July 8 th, their 58 th wedding anniversary…just last week. She said,”Guess what I got for my anniversary?” “What?” I said, thinking it was some new form of jewelry. “A casket, she said…Your Dad and I picked out our caskets and made all the arrangements for our funerals. Ann my dress is hanging in the back of the closet.”
I told how she never loved planning anything more than the 17 mission trips she led. 15 in the US, and 2 foreign. We had arranged for the ladies who were members of those teams to sit together…along with the men we allowed to travel with us as drivers and gophers! I told them she would expect us to keep working our own mission fields…which start the minute we open our doors.

Then came a dear friend and former Minister of Music, Bro. Billy.. I asked him to lead us in the song, “Jesus Loves the Little Children.” And, then we sang,’ There’s A Sweet, Sweet Spirit In This Place,’ then ‘Great Is Thy Faithfulness’. And, Bro. Billy shared some remembrances of Mom that he had when they travelled on a mission trip out of the country. Mom had a heat stroke in Guatemala, and nearly died. There was only one way to save her and that was to get her into water. Brother Billy sat with her in a makeshift shower for several hours while cool water from the river was poured over her. At first he stood, but then someone brought a chair for him to sit in. When she was finally moved back to a bed, the tops of his legs were blistered from the heat coming off her body. It was touch and go…but God granted her grace and mercy, and she was able to come home to us safely.

Our former pastor and dear friend Rev. Jerry Grandstaff had the main message. He spoke of his remembrances of her…some very humorous, but all so typical! He told us which lady of the Bible she was most like. He presented the Plan of Salvation…so that if there was anyone there who did not know the Lord, they would know the way to saving grace in Jesus Christ. His words gave us such peace, and such hope. His words strengthened us to be able to walk on without her.

Pop’s friends were pallbearers. And, as the casket moved out the door…we followed, got into our cars, and waited for the trip to the cemetery.

Do you live in a place where the cars still pull off the road in respect for the deceased and their family? We do and as we made out way through stoplights…with policman stopping traffic and standing with their hats over their hearts, it made me proud to still live in ‘Small Town America.’ All along the way, traffic would stop and respectfully wait until we passed. I saw people walking along the road who even stopped and waited for us, too. How kind.

The tents were set up at the cemetery and the casket was set upon the steel beams that would lower it into the ground. A box, beautiful and shining as the sun glistened off its sides. Flowers on top…a more beautiful arrangement I have never seen. And more flowers on the sides. Bro. Billy picked them out and arranged them with Mother in mind…and they fit her to a T. We sat, the family and a few friends…others stood around and listened as Bro. David read the beautiful words of our Saviour from the Bible, Bother Jerry prayed.

And, it was over. My Mother’s funeral, and graveside service was over. All that was left of her was in that box, under those flowers, under that tent. “O,God, why did you take my Mother?”

And, it was then…and only then…that He answered me. And, He spoke these words to my heart…

“Tonja, see that pretty box, all shiny and new? It’s going to lie in the dirty ground and rot away eventually. Once it is buried, it will never be shiny and pretty again. And, the light will never glisten as it reflects off of it. And those beautiful flowers…those flowers that I made… I never intended them to stay beautiful forever. Their time is short and then gone. They will die and begin to smell bad…not beautiful as they do today. They will be thrown in the garbage and rot and never be beautiful to look at again. But, my child, your Mother, is not in that box…all that is in there is what she wore on this earth. She will live forever more with me. She is seeing the glistening of the light of God himself shining on the streets of gold. She doesn’t need that old body, that was giving her such trouble. It was wearing out. The arthritis was hurting her hips and legs, it wasn’t easy for her to use her hands like she liked to. It was not the way I wanted to see her live. She still had the beauty of her sweet smile, she still had the delight of seeing her grandchildren, she still saw the love in her husband’s eyes…she still felt the hugs of her daughters. And, that is the way I want you to remember her. As beautiful as the flowers on top of her casket…but not like them at all. For as they rot away…she will live. As they are thrown away…she has blossomed anew. She is safe with me. She is happy. She has no hurts anymore. And, I will protect her forever. She will walk with me and she will talk with me. She will sing , ‘My Jesus, I Love Thee’ to me…face to face! She did, with strength and grace, the job I put her there to do. She finished her work…and now she will rest…until you come, when she will greet you with open arms, and welcome you home. And, that is why I took your Mother.”