The Lord be with you. (and also with you)
Let us pray:
Father God, we praise you for those who have finished their race of faith and are now at rest in You. We thank you for the years we have had with those who have been so dear to us who are now gone from this earth. Especially we praise you for Mary Ann whom you have graciously received into your presence. To all these grant your peace. Let your light shine on them; and help us to believe in You who we have not seen and where we have not seen. Guide us through our years to come and bring us at last ultimately to yourself and to them we have loved. We long for our final home not made with the hands of men, but through Jesus Christ our Lord, whom we pray, Amen.
It’s easy to joke that my Grandma Mary Ann was a hard-nose woman. Most everyone who ever met her knew that she was a tough lady who did not back down. She didn’t retire until almost 75 years of life. She went through the very painful 80s farm crisis with Grandpa George. Soon afterwards she watched her husband of over 40 years die too soon. It’s been a long, tiring road for my grandma. She’s been waiting and wanting to go to Jesus for quite some time.
Our family really believes Isaiah 61 reflects the powerful work Jesus Christ has done in Grandma’s life over these many difficult decades. Isaiah 61 paints a picture of God’s grace being poured out, “To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified." NKJV The Lord Jesus Christ’s grace has marked Grandma’s life for a long time.
I know there are friends and family in this room who may know Mary Ann better than I do, but I feel a little like an expert on her life. I played lots of card games with her and croquet in the yard, joined her on a few walks with her old dog Mitzi, and like all her family received numerous letters filled with advice and newspaper and magazine clippings explaining the correct way for living. Whenever we came to visit Grandma in my younger years, I slept in her bed and we’d talk until the wee hours of the night about life and faith. Then when she came to visit us after we moved, she would sleep in my bed when she came to visit. I treasure those many late night hours hearing Grandma’s heart for her family, friends and Lord.
I won’t forget my Grandma’s strong-willed personality and the very fitting sign that hung in her home and eventually her room at Hillcrest that read, “I’m not bossy, I just have better ideas.” It fit her well. MaryAnn was viewed as an expert on many facets of life: making instant coffee, burning garbage, cooking, rock finding, picture hanging, and most importantly an expert on caring, laughing, and loving life. I think if you asked Grandma what she was an expert on, she just might say, “Basically everything.”
Though her stubbornness came through when you met her, another thing I will remember and what I have heard over and over again from other friends and family is that she was full of grace.
She absolutely spoiled her grandchildren with time and attention, love and gifts. We found out just recently that many of us have been quite confident that they were each Grandma’s favorite. She spoiled her grandchildren with baseball games in the backyard, an endless supply of pop-cicles, fantastic Christmas presents when she couldn’t afford much at all, hours of Nick-at-Nite and laughter, and visits whenever possible.
Her oldest grandchild, Michael Wagonseil wrote these words just a few days ago, “You have always been my most devoted supporter. That support has carried me further than I have ever allowed you to know. Just hearing, “I love you sugar, remember you’re my number one,” would make me soar! Super-G is an understatement! I love you Grandma!
The next oldest grandchild Stacy (Wagonseil) Hennessey put it like this, “You have not only been a fantastic Grandma but truly a great friend and confidant.” Both her granddaughters Stacy and Sara expressed many rich memories of cards, letters, phone calls, and being a trooper all the way to the end.
Other family memories expressed were her trips to Walmart for licorice, eating dessert before large meals to ensure the most important element of the meal was put away first, and she would occasionally put the tooth paste on the brush for her grandchildren even when they had grown into their late twenties Though at the time we felt silly and childish when she did things like that, we all know she was just trying to bless us, serve us, and make life a little easier for us. One of God’s greatest blessings near the end of her life was Mary Ann’s big 80th birthday bash last summer. I want to say thank you to many of her friends from Sumner who were a part of that special day with her extended family.
Other things we will never forget about grandma is her passion for people and being social. Many people knew that Mary Ann would never be seen in public without a fresh coating of bright red lipstick. She loved being a part of the United Methodist Church. She loved the sisterhood of the PEO. I learned last night at the visitation that Grandma helped start the Christian Women’s Group in Sumner in 1977, serving as the first chairmen. She was a member for all 25 years of its existence. She also gave tons of her money toward Christian organizations and humanitarian agencies. Late in life some of her own family thought she was a little nuts to give so much of her money away, but that was always Grandma. She sacrificed herself to bring blessings to others . . . even if it cost something of herself.
Local Sumner friends remember her many questions of concern. Though Grandma was a very private person, she would sometimes get frustrated when others would hold back things concerning their lives. She loved knowing the juicy details . . . often she took those things before her Lord in prayer. It was common for Grandma to write letters and make phone calls to friends and acquaintances in the hospital. One close friend told me she never once saw Mary Ann get angry. And the United Methodist women told me Grandma was known for making sure coffee cups were kept full during socials.
This amazing demonstration of grace came from her deep faith in Jesus Christ. It was not until mid-life before Grandma recognized her deep need for Jesus in her life. One thing that I remember Grandma expressing was that no one was good enough to deserve heaven. We all need grace. We all need to make our own personal decision to follow Christ. When Grandma understood this herself, she prayed to receive God’s forgiveness. She believed that Jesus died for her sins. This faith transformed her life.
I think if Grandma could leave behind a few choice words today they would be about the importance of a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That’s why it’s important to use this funeral and this time of reflection on the life of one follower of Christ as a moment to think about our own lives. I know for a fact Mary Ann prayed for her whole family and special friends everyday. She may be looking down on us and saying another prayer on our behalf. That we might glean something from God’s Word this morning that would touch our lives just a bit.
The passage from 2 Timothy 4:6-8 reflected well Grandma’s passion to follow God to the end. The Apostle Paul’s words could have been her own, “7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day — and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing.”
This passage shows very clearly that the Lord is a righteous judge. God has declared in His Word that we are all sinners and deserve death. This is a fair and right judgment because each of us have turned from God and gone our own sinful way. But we know of God’s grace, amidst judgment, when we remember that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son that whoever believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.” The hope of heaven and God’s reward is only possible for those who have fought the good fight, finished the race, and kept the faith. We need to have faith in Jesus Christ and believe desperately that he lived and died for us and rose again triumphing over death. When we enter into a personal relationship and press on in this new race of Christian faith, we have the great hope of eternal reward heaven. Maybe today you need to put your faith in Jesus for the first time or maybe today is a time to recommit to living a life of total commitment.
What will you do with Jesus Christ today?
Will you receive Jesus into your life?
Do you know the God that Mary Ann loved, served, and is now rejoicing over in heaven?
Remember, believing in Jesus is not merely an intellectual decision. It’s not about agreeing to some set of facts. Being a true Christian involves an intimate love relationship with God. He becomes our Father. We become his children. We talk to him in prayer and thank Him in songs of praise. It’s a new life, all old things pass away and new things come. Eternal life is a free gift from God. We cannot try to earn it. Just like when we received small gifts and letters from Mary Ann with joy, the only response to the gift of eternal life in Christ Jesus is to receive it with joy.
Psalms 116:15 reads, “Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.”
There is something special about the death of a faithful Christian saint. Christian funerals are always bitter-sweet moments. The Lord finds great delight in bringing his saints home Him. Jesus said he was leaving to prepare a place for his followers, and what joy it must be for God to bring one of His saints into the heavenly kingdom and show them their new home. Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His saints.
Mary Ann will be missed here on earth. Who else will use phrases like, “We’re off like a dirty shirt,” “My stars and garters,” and “Fish hooks and hammer handles?” I think my Aunt Paula put it best when thinking of Mary Ann's life and love, “Though she never approved of all we did and said, she always accepted us where we were in our lives. Each daughter and grandchild [and friend] considered her a friend and confidant. We all depended on her prayers and she never failed us.”
We love you Mary Ann.
Thank you Jesus for her 81 years of life. She was one of your blessings that you send to make the world a little better place. We didn’t deserve her, but we are thankful we got her. Dick Howe put it well this morning when he said, “We’re losing a great one.”
Would you pray with me?
Dearest Jesus, we thank you for the time we had with Mary Ann. She was loved much and she loved much. Help us to mourn. Help us to rejoice. Seal those memories of our dear mother, grandmother, and friend. We pray her faith and focus on Jesus Christ would challenge each of us this day to reexamine our own faith in the Savior of the world. Guide us oh Lord, we pray in the holy name of Je