August 26, 2008

Love is Patient, Love is Kind...

In Loving Memory of Donice Wellman

A rose once grew where all could see

sheltered beside a garden wall

And, as the days passed swiftly by

it spread its branches straight and tall

One day, a beam of light shone through

a crevice that had opened wide

The rose bent gently toward its warmth

then passed beyond to the other side

Now, you who deeply feel its loss

Be comforted, the rose blooms there

Its beauty even greater now

Nurtured by God's own loving care
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John 14:1-6 (New International Version)

Jesus Comforts His Disciples "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." Jesus the Way to the Father Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

Donice Wellman funeral homily, August 26, 2008
Presented at Donice's funeral
by Pastor Vicki Sauter
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Amboy Illinois

We are gathered here today to celebrate a life - in spite of the unexpectedness of Donice‘s death this is a celebration. The celebration of the life of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, friend. She lived a full life - a life of integrity and strong values - a life of faith.

The scripture from Proverbs talks about the qualities of a wife - which is fitting I think, as Don and Donice had a long and loving marriage. And it is a tribute to her commitment that she and her high sweetheart have been married for 54 years. “Ode to a Capable Wife” describes the qualities of a good wife trustworthy, capable, provider, strong, perceptive, compassionate. Donice certainly fit that description, taking care of Don, (even picking up after him!) their daughters, then their granddaughter, Liz; providing a home, a true dwelling place, not just a house. But she was more than that. Her love went beyond family to special friends like her best friend Joanne Leffleman, who was there for her when she needed support, especially after her daughters died. . Her family really included all those that she came into contact with - friends as well as strangers. Their well being was vital to her well being. I’m told she loved to cook and was good at it…even Hunter appreciated her banana bread -!! She took care of others by sending cards, making phone calls, visiting. She saw to it that their spiritual and emotional well being was taken care of as well as their physical well being - and she didn’t make a big deal of it - she just did it.

Donice was well loved because she loved first - not out of duty, but out of genuine caring for others. This was her ministry - made all the more important after the death of her daughters. She has been described by her family as faithful, kind hearted, caring - she is described as having a sense of quiet contentment and happiness. Which is remarkable, really, give the tragedies that have occurred in her life.

When tragedy strikes, it is often difficult to bounce back - when a parent loses a child to death - regardless of the reason - that is not the natural order of things - and to lose both children is unimaginable. But somehow Donice found the strength to not only continue but to find joy in life and purpose. And that strength and sense of purpose could only come from God.

The Psalm that was chosen for today, Psalm 23, while often read at funerals, really is about life in the here and now - the life that continues with the Lord as shepherd, caring for and comforting and restoring our souls when tragedy strikes. The Lord as shepherd who walks with us through the dark days of our lives. The kind words we speak to each other at a time like this are necessary - and appreciated - but it is only God who can soothe us because it is only God who can truly understand how we feel.

In many ways Donice was a very private person. She didn’t talk about her faith - but all who knew her knew she had it. She knew that in spite of difficult times, in spite of tragedy, God’s hand was always open in giving - and hers must be open to in order to receive. She knew that she could not accept what God had to offer if her hands were clenched tight. Life is not always easy - difficulties are part of life - we were never promised a life without pain - but we were promised that we would not walk this way alone - and Donice knew that. The text from John is very specific - ‘Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God…‘ And belief was at the heart of who she was and all that she did.

“The assurance that there is a place for us comes to us through Jesus’ death and resurrection. There is new birth and a living hope in Christ’s death and resurrection. Hope that in spite of the trials and tribulations of life, our faith in Christ will be the anchor that keeps us grounded. And it is that faith that is the salvation of our souls - not our good works - only our faith - this genuine faith more precious than gold. And this faith provides the hope that regardless of suffering and pain that life often brings, there will be peace and forgiveness and eternal life. This hope is not wishful thinking, but assurance that it will be so. Implicit in this hope is the knowledge that we are forgiven people. Jesus died so that all of our sins would be washed clean - God forgave us without question. None of us is perfect and Donice was no different. I suppose determined or set in her ways could be a polite way of saying stubborn! But she knew that there would be a place for her in God’s kingdom - not just here on earth but in eternal life as well. “In my father‘s house are many dwelling places… and if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself“ says Jesus, and that is where she is now.

If Donice could speak for herself right now , I think she might say something like this:

“I may have suffered in my earthly life, but all is different now. I am beyond pain or discomfort. By God’s grace in his Son JC, I now am in the presence of God. You are the ones in pain. But in heaven, you too will not know pain. So for your pain, I am truly sorry. But dwell on the joys - the many joyful times God permitted us to have together. Remember our common faith in our Lord and Savior JC. That faith you confess in the Creed is the same faith held dear by us in heaven too. I love each of you so much in a special and different way. So now rejoice! Christ died for us and rose again - And because of that I will see you again.” Amen- it is so.

I wish to thank you, for your kind emails and cards of condolences. My family is overwhelmed by the outpour of love and support given to my brother Don and his grand daughter, well as our entire family. May God bless each of you.
* Photo information for can right click the picture and save it to your computer to print off on photo paper.( it will enlarge when you click onto it first..then right click.)
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