Eighteen days ago we held a celebration of life service for Nancy Boyd, mother of Debbie, Janet and Nancy Dee. And today we conducted the same type of service for John Boyd, father of the three women and the patriarch of the Boyd family. He had a rough time between the death of his wife and his final entry into heaven this past Thursday evening. John, though, not being one to leave things to chance, had created the major elements of his own memorial service and he had requested that all of his daughters participate.
Debbie and Janet read verses from the Old and New Testaments respectively. Then Nancy gave a heartfelt tribute to her Dad, helping to familiarize the assembled attendees with some of the earlier life of their father. And I, as I did several weeks before, gave the message of encouragement and hope to those who were there to honor the memory of my father-in-law.
I have been privileged to speak at a number of services that recognize end of life events. But never in all my years did I think I would be asked to speak at one, let alone both, of my in-laws’ services – and within 3 weeks of one another. But it is important to realize that my father-in-law was the patriarch and undisputed leader of the family. He left no detail to chance and, as such, took the occasion before his death to speak with each of his daughters and voice his expectations for their roles after he was gone. He knew that they would grieve and suffer – after all, suffering is the price we pay for loving. If we didn’t love, we wouldn’t grieve.
But this is something that he wanted to make sure was short lived and that his daughters did not become obsessed with the absence of their parents. Both he and Nancy did a great job raising their children and now was the time to make sure that they were set free to live the rest of their lives in accordance with love, great memories, freedom and obedience to the Lord. In fact, John admonished them to “not grieve excessively” – something that most parents would not even think to tell their children. And to be sure, his pain was excessive and anyone who loved him would not have wanted this to go on any longer. In other words, it was time for the Lord to take him home.
Notwithstanding all this, knowing John as I do, it would be unthinkable for him to not comment on the idea that some day the family would be re-united. While Nancy and John have gone on ahead, like Jesus did when he ascended to the Father, we will not be separated from them for long in the eternal scheme of things. And I know that all three of his daughters cling to this promise of God.
The verse for this evening is the verse that John specifically asked Janet to read at his service. We are told, from the book of John 14: 1-6, 25-27, “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.” 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… All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you.”
Now I know that these words were spoken by Jesus to the disciples to quiet their fears about being separated from Him. But it also sounds like a message to three daughters from their father who wants them to know that they will all be reunited some day. And it is just like John to alleviate their anxiousness with these words of encouragement. I don’t think I will ever think of these verses the same way after today. My encouragement this evening is to let you know that God looks forward to welcoming you to heaven some day as well. It is important to remember that we are in this world, but not of this world. Eventually, we will be called home. My prayer is that you will be the kind of parent that Janet and her sisters have been blessed to have had. For sure, the next season of life will be painful for them, but I also pray that they will take comfort in the memory of two absolutely wonderful, loving parents. Rest in peace, John and Nancy. We love you. Have a great day in the Lord, grace and peace…
What a thoughtful and comforting thing to do!