Below is the message I preached at my Grandmother’s funeral. She was truly an amazing woman.
Eunice Mills Canuel, September 15, 1914 – August 15, 2010
I want to start out by saying thank you to you all for being here. Our family is so grateful for your presence here, and I know Granny would have been thrilled to see you all, she always loved being surrounded by her loved ones.
My grandmother was the greatest person I have ever known. That is a bold statement, but I stand by it. I mean no disrespect to anyone else here, I have been blessed to know, love, and be loved by many great and wonderful people, but my grandmother’s selfless love, sense of humor, and just her overall outlook on life has had an unparalleled influence on me. Still to this day my fondest childhood memories are of being with her. Whether it was learning to play rummy, which became one of our favorite things to do together, or sitting on the front porch swing talking about how things used to be back in the old days, I loved being around my granny. I’m sure every member of my family can share similar stories, and I’d be willing to bet, most of them would end in laughter, whether it be something granny said, or did. She kept you laughing…that is one of the things I loved most about her.
As much as I loved granny, the last few years have been really hard for me to take, and I know that I’m not alone. Her mind gradually grew worse, to the point that she didn’t even know who I was. Her body began to deteriorate, as the effects of Alzheimer’s took its toll. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease, and I can’t think of a worse way to watch a loved one suffer. To be honest, in the last years of her life, I did not visit my grandmother as much as I should have, because it was simply too hard for me to see her in her condition. For anyone else who has watched a loved one go through this, my heart goes out to you.
As I said, my grandmother was a wonderful person. I would put her righteousness up against anyone else in this room. If anyone came close to living a sinless life-which we know is impossible, it was my grandmother. Knowing what an amazing woman she was, I think is one of the things that made it harder to see her suffer. We’ve all heard the phrase, and I’m sure many of us have even asked the same question before, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” When we see our loved ones suffer, we tend to have 1 of 2 reactions. First we ask, “where is God in this, or why would God let this happen”, which many times leads to anger or bitterness towards God; Or second we might question the very existence of God, as in our minds a “good” God wouldn’t allow this type of suffering.
When I was getting ready to prepare this message, my mind initially went to the book of Job. I was going to talk a lot about suffering, the different types of suffering, and God’s graciousness through it all, and offer some perspectives on suffering and give some thoughts on some of God’s purposes through suffering. As I began to prepare this message, it became clear that it was going to be a 2 hour sermon, and I don’t think any of us wants to hear a 2 hour sermon that revolves around suffering tonight, with our hearts so full of sorrow already. As I prayed, and asked God to give me the words to share tonight, I believe he has led me to another passage. I believe God has decided that what we need to hear tonight, what I need to hear tonight is some words of comfort. With that in mind, let us look to one of the most precious promises in the entirety of Scripture. The words I am about to share with you are, to me, some of the most beautiful words God ever breathed, and inspired the Apostle Paul to put forth in His Word.
Let us now turn our attention to the 8th Chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 31-39
As I watched my grandmother suffer, especially over the last few days, and as we suffered watching her, and even now as we suffer and mourn her loss, what a comforting thought that nothing, nothing at all can separate us, nothing could separate her, from the love of God.
I believe my dad and I got a small glimpse of that the night before she died. As she laid in her bed, slightly gasping, periodically crying out that her legs were in pain, at one instant she shouted out, “OH LORD GOD HELP ME!” Here is a woman that no longer recognized her grandchildren, and even her son at some points…yet she recognized that God was the only one who could help her at that moment. She didn’t know who her family was, yet she knew who her God was.
I prayed for the last few days before her death, for just a moment of clarity for her, where I could look into her eyes, and know that she recognized me, and we could share a moment similar to what we used to before her mind began to deteriorate. I too believe God answered that prayer. Right after my dad left to get some rest the night before grandma passed, I asked her if it would be okay if I spent the night with her. I said, “Granny, it’s been a long time since I spent the night with you, is it okay if I stay here?” She nodded and said, “I mean you can!” Now chances are, she was out of it, and perhaps she still had no clue who I was. But in my mind, I believe I got a glimpse of the old granny. As I looked in her eyes I felt like for the first time in a really long time, she was looking back at me with love. I kissed her head, and told her I loved her. That is a moment I will cherish until the Lord takes me out of this world.
That is evidence my friends of the love of God, and his pouring out of his grace upon us, even in the midst of suffering and difficult circumstances. Many people think that being a Christian means no sickness and suffering, or that God will take away all of our pain and our trials. I don’t know where they get this idea, but it’s not in the Bible.
The bible is filled with examples of God’s people suffering, the greatest example is the suffering of God’s own son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. Jesus was even referred to in Scripture as a “man of sorrows”.
I am here to tell you folks that if you are a Christian, if you are a human, you are going to suffer. Just look at the text I read today. Verse 32, “He” being God, “did not spare even his own Son”. In verse 35 it talks about calamity, persecution, hunger, destitution, danger, and even death. We are never promised a life free of suffering, but what we are promised is that nothing, as Paul says in verse 38 and, “neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow-not even the powers of hell”….No, not even Alzheimer’s “…can separate us from God’s love”.
Romans 8:28 tells us that, “God causes everything, get that everything, to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Everything means everything friends. Suffering and death included. I believe suffering and death serves two purposes in God’s plan. 1st it reminds us of sin, and ought to show us our need for a savior. Romans 8:33-34 says, “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one-for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.”
Adam and Eve our first parents sinned, and brought sin and death into the world. We continue to repeat their sins every day of our lives. Even my grandmother, as marvelous as she was needed a savior, Jesus Christ, was and is that savior for her, and all of us who will call on him.
In the book of Job, the oldest book in the Old Testament Job, a man whom God referred to as righteous, and blameless, talked about his own need for a mediator between him and God. He talked about his confidence that one day He would see His redeemer. That confidence was justified and personified in Christ, not just for Job, not just for my grandmother, but for all of us who will call on Him.
2nd Suffering and death brings us into the very presence of God. It is often during the most difficult of trials that we as believers experience God with us, right where we are. Even more so though, the death of the believer brings them into the very presence of God, where they can bask in His glory, that is shown perfectly in the face of Jesus Christ. That is the promise of the Bible. That is the Gospel my friends. We can escape this world so stained by sin, so full of suffering, pain and death. One day, if you are a believer in Jesus, you will be in His very presence, He will welcome you home one day. What a glorious promise that is. I rejoice that my grandmother is there right now. I rejoice that her mind is sharper than it ever could have been in this sin stained world. She has now been given insights into this creation that I long for. More than anything she is enjoying being with, and worshiping her Lord, her Savior, her redeemer.
I found it interesting yesterday, after grandma passed, the gown that the hospice center put on her had two very interesting phrases written on it. It had sort of an Islandy print, but the words were what really caught my attention. In a few places it had the word, “Destination” written on it. Very fitting, because finally Grandma has reached her destination. In several places though, and I had to chuckle when I read it, it read, “Paradise Discovered” I made the comment to my stepmother, that today she has indeed discovered paradise.
So as we mourn today, let’s not mourn for Grandma. There is no need. As sorrowful as our hearts are for our loss, at least temporarily, let us not have any sorrow for her. I am confident she is having the time of her life. Even if she could come back and be with us again, she wouldn’t do it. She is right where she wants to be. She is where I long to one day be. I pray all of us here today will one day be where she is.