We’ve come to this point in time to remember a young lady who was with us for what would have been 93 years in a couple of weeks. Violet – Mom, Grandma – touched the lives of her family and friends as no one else could. And for that reason, she will be remembered long after our time here.
When your mother dies, major changes happen, at first perhaps imperceptible. Like the tectonic plates shifting deep beneath the earth to forecast a major geological event on the surface, a maternal loss affects those left behind, like no other loss.
The one who birthed you, who physically released you into the world, who literally spilled blood for you, is one who has made an indelible mark on our soul. And when she no longer occupies space and time in our lives – even after nine decades—a huge shift occurs, and we feel deeply, sharply, this loss.
Others have described this special relationship with our mother that refuses to end: “She’s the beginning and she is never the end. She starts and then she endures. She is the wisest of all creatures, carries you wherever she needs to be herself – feeds, clothes and proudly places your distorted drawing of an elephant on the refrigerator door; the ‘Hall of Fame’ in every home.
“She’s your mother. No matter her achievements or accomplishments outside the home, whether in a big or small job, her dying thought will be as ‘mother’. She creates as God creates, she sustains as God sustains, and she is sometimes not at her best, as God has also shown us about Himself.”
So, we’ve come to mourn our loss. While the immediate family will probably notice the loss more physically, each one of us here will also mourn in our own way. It’s okay to mourn, to be sad. We can do so with full assurance because it was Jesus who told us, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”
And as I pastor, I want you to know that God is not immune to our emotions. In Christ Jesus, God already knows what we, in our humanity, are feeling. Because God feels it, too. God knew the pain of death. On the cross, God knew, fully, the brokenness of our humanity.
But God also knew new life. On this day of mourning, we also affirm the resurrection. And so, it is okay—also—to celebrate the life of Violet which has no end. A life which started on earth and a life that endures through eternity.
Bishop Oscar Romero once said, “We plant the seeds that one day will grow. We water seeds already planted, knowing that they hold future promise. We lay foundations that will need further development. We provide yeast that produces far beyond our capabilities.”
You have described a development, of sorts, in Violet’s own life on earth with us. You pointed to an aspect of her character that stands out – her giving, compassionate, caring nature. She was always ready to help.
And then, let’s say in the last twenty years or so, when she moved into the Redwoods kitty-corner from where we are today, you noticed a shift. She had started in the latter part of her life to ‘receive’. That is, she started looking out for her own needs, too, asking – and maybe at some points even demanding – that someone help her.
And that’s not altogether bad. For it is in giving and receiving that we experience all that is good and right, in life. Especially at the end of a journey, when the gate of death looms larger on the horizon, we must be practiced in letting go. Should we experience ‘a good death’ as they say, we need to be able and willing to release our grip and fall into the loving arms of someone else. To depend on them. To trust in them. To help you.
Today, Violet rests in the bosom of her saviour. She walks with Jesus beside the still waters and along paths true and safe. And she continues to receive the constant loving attention and care of a God she followed her whole life long.
Rev. Joe Jagodensky, SDS “Funeral Sermon for a Mother” (wordpress.com, January 20, 2015)
Cited in Jagodensky, ibid.