What Would You Say at Your Memorial Service?

I went to a memorial service today for a dear, Christian lady – a mom and grandma of some in our congregation. It was unique in many ways, some of which I will share in a moment, and some in ways challenging personally for me. She was gifted as a musician and throughout the Prelude and Memorial Service itself, her recorded piano playing of hymns and her gentle singing were piped through the sanctuary of the church. The overwhelming message that came in these songs was the intimacy, and necessity, of her relationship with Jesus Christ. Even if no picture was displayed, the joy coming from her heart in song was bursting through the sound system. There were traditional hymns, such as: The Longer I Serve Him, Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus, and He Looked Beyond My Fault; there were also some songs I had not heard before: In the Quietness, We’ll Be Caught Up in a Chariot of Love, and You’d Better Do it.

Her favorite verse was Philippians 1:6, (nas), “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.” The presiding Pastor spoke from Philippians 1, focusing on verses 20-23: (nas), “according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better;…” It was a joy to hear of how this saint had given the vast majority of her life to serve her Christ. She actively served in the Church until the last few days of her life when her body no longer allowed her to do so. We were blessed with the reminders that she had a “heart for ministry” and had prayed that God would allow her to become a pastor’s wife…which He gloriously did. Her adult children, with children and grandchildren of their own, rose up to describe her as one who “served the Lord without complaint” and that “laughter was a given any time you were with her“. Indeed the pictures that scrolled across the screen prior to the service always showed a smiling and joyful face.

She and her husband had chosen a text for their life together; and I found it interesting that it came from Deuteronomy, chapter 31:8: (nas), “And the LORD is the one who goes ahead of you; He will be with you. He will not fail you or forsake you. Do not fear, or be dismayed…” What a wonderful passage of promise to hold to throughout the years! What a testimony to the vast array of family and friends who gathered to celebrate this life.

But death hurts. The joy of a life lived in service to the Savior, the precious memories of a life filled with laughter, music and godly living, does not subdue the pain that comes with loss. There is hope, of course; but there is sorrow in separation as well. How comforting then were these words spoken by a the soloist as he prepared to sing “How Great Thou Art“: “Death is one of the greatest avenues for the believer to show God is great.” There is a wealth of theology there in these words. This simple phrase points to a God who actively cares for his own from “before the foundation of the world” until they experience their rest in his Son and one day will be resurrected to enjoy a glorified body like their risen Savior’s. God carried this saint throughout her life, in both good times and bad, in laughter and sorrow, in gain and loss.

It was fitting that the service ended with a recording of her piano playing. The tune was familiar and no doubt brought a smile through the tears. It was the song, “Jesus Loves Me“. There could be no finer ending to a life celebrated for service and giving glory to her Savior. Even beyond the bounds of separation came her simple message of faith once again.

Jesus loves me! This I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He who died,
Heaven’s gate to open wide;
He will wash away my sin,
Let His little child come in.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! loves me still,
When I’m very weak and ill;
From His shining throne on high,
Comes to watch me where I lie.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

Jesus loves me! He will stay,
Close beside me all the way;
He’s prepared a home for me,
And some day His face I’ll see.
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so.

I thought she spoke well at her memorial service.

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