Two weeks ago, my grandmother passed away.  She was an incredible woman and one of the greatest people I’ve ever known.  So was my grandfather.  And if you ever cared to hear about some of the stories that make me so proud of who they were, I’ll be thrilled to share them with you.  They are two people I will always remember for their influence on the people around them and the love that they had for Jesus Christ.

At her funeral last Monday, I shared the “message” and that is one I would love to share with you here.  I didn’t have it written out at the service so I can’t give you a manuscript, but I will try and remember a summary below and I hope it will memorialize her well, but I am praying that it might also bring encouragement to others who have declared God’s grace and presence to our world.  At our passing, may others who love us have much to say of the love of God in our hearts upon our departure from this world and arrival into His perfect presence –

“Thank you to everyone who has joined us to share memories and celebrate the life of Shirley Buckalew.  When I thought of her and what might honor her life, I had two Scriptures come to mind that I would like to read.  The first is Philippians 1:21-24, in which Paul is writing to the church at Philippi.  He writes,

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; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sakes.

Grandma’s circumstances were certainly very different than the apostle Paul, but she always had this mindset.  Ever since our grandfather passed away, she had battled with this dilemma in which she was ready to leave this earth and be at home in God’s presence – and see the faces of her loved ones once again who preceded her there while at the same time struggling with knowing that she would be leaving us in this world “without someone to care for us”.  That’s how she saw herself – the one who could ensure we were loved and watched over.  To her, remaining in the flesh was more necessary for our sakes.

So she was hard-pressed like Paul.  Would it be better to live, which is ‘Christ’ – every day an opportunity to share the Gospel of hope with those around her and fruitful labor in stewarding her loved ones another day?  Or would it be better to depart and be with Christ? 

Well, we know that grandma closed her eyes for the final time here on earth and opened them for the very first time in eternity, with the face of her Savior before her.  And we know that she has found that, yes, being with Christ is ‘very much better’.

The second passage that came to mind is related and can be found in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 where Paul writes,

So we are always confident and know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.  For we walk by faith, not by sight.  In fact, we are confident, and we would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.

Grandma Shirley has seen her confident hope on earth now fulfilled.  While she has labored on in this life and in this body, she has been away from the Lord.  And while here, she so publicly walked by faith, not giving into the heartbreak and hopelessness that can come so easily with living by sight, but instead, she shared the hope that she had in the saving work of Jesus Christ.  Her work for God was good, but it was nothing compared to what awaited her.  She has now experienced the fulfillment of that promise.

There are so many more things to be said about this woman and we’re so thankful for everyone who has come alongside us and celebrated her life.  We’re thankful for every memory shared and enjoyed while we’ve come together in these rare moments.  But more than anything, we want you to truly grasp what meant most to her in this life. 

Through every memory shared, each of you show that you have experienced grandma in such profound ways and have enjoyed her life so deeply, but – to be sure – every one of those memories flows out of a singular truth, and that’s her experience of Jesus Christ in her life.  She was the woman she was because, upon hearing the truth of the Gospel, her life shifted dramatically into a new trajectory that brings you all here.  So many of you would never have known this great woman had she not become a Christian, but because she did, you came to know her through a faith that recognized the power of God in a broken world. 

Carry that truth with you.  Every time you think of our grandma from here on, remember these passages and how her Life was saved through belief in a God who was better than all He gave her while on this earth.”

Love you all,

Young Adult Minister – Evan McNeff

Memorializing Our Spiritual Giants

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