Funeral sermon for Katherine “Kay” Thompson, based on Prov 31:10-12, 28-30 & Rom 14:7-9; by Rev. Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, Chaplain, The Good Samaritan Society's South Ridge Village, Medicine Hat, AB, January 18, 2013.
We are gathered here today to remember Katherine, more fondly referred to as Kay Thompson. We’re also here to acknowledge and share the loss of Kay and support one another as you mourn the death of Kay; and we’re here to worship God by giving thanks to him for the life of Kay and to commend her into the Lord’s eternal care.
For those of you who knew and loved Kay; you will likely remember her as a strong-willed, even at times, a stubborn person. However, being strong-willed and stubborn is a blessing if one exercises these gifts at the right time for the right reasons—which I’m sure Kay did. Kay needed to be strong-willed and stubborn for the many challenges that she faced in her lifetime. Coming from a large family, she was given responsibilities for other family members at an early age. In her family of origin as well as after getting married and raising her family; Kay did the best she could because for her, family was very important; and looking after one another is a sacred duty. In this way Kay showed, expressed and lived as a sibling, a wife, mother and grandmother—sharing her love with you all, as you children have so clearly affirmed in your eulogy.
When we have loved someone and that person dies, what happens to all the love we invested in that person? The Israeli poet Yehuda Amichai offers a bold and arresting image to answer that question. He suggests that a person’s body absorbs and stores all the love it receives in the course of a lifetime, from parents, lovers, husbands or wives, children and friends. Then when the body dies, it pours out all that love “like a broken slot machine disgorging the coins of all the generations,” and all the people nearby, and the entire world, are warmed by the love that has been returned to them. People die, but love does not die. It is recycled from one heart, from one life, to another.1
I think that is what our two passages from Proverbs and Romans are telling us as well. Love never dies. Love invested and shared in the life of others is a worthwhile investment and sharing—oftentimes the benefits of investing and sharing love go far above and beyond our highest imaginings or expectations.
That’s why I thought the words of the writer of the Book of Proverbs are an appropriate description of who Kay was and what her life was about.
The passage from Proverbs describes a capable, a worthy wife and mother. In the patriarchal society in which it was written, one of the highest compliments given to a woman would have been to call her a capable, a worthy woman. To be a capable, a worthy woman, meant that you were important; you were a positive, a powerful and hopeful influence on others because God had blessed you with physical and spiritual strength; God had given you wisdom worth listening to; God had given you life-skills to love and serve others.
So capable, so worthy is such a wife and mother says this passage from Proverbs that she is more valuable, “far more precious than jewels.” I’m sure Kay’s husband Harry would have regarded Kay in that way, since she was a very devoted and supportive wife. Such a wife, says our Proverbs text, gains the whole-hearted trust of her husband and he shall lack for nothing. Consequently her husband praises her.
The Proverbs author goes on to tell us that such a capable, worthy wife is also loved and respected by her children—and the children call her happy, likely because she provides for the needs of her children, making them happy. I think Kay’s children and grandchildren regarded her as a really good mom and grandmother; and likely you were blessed with happy times together. All of this was possible because of God’s provision for Kay of a long, healthy and full life. To the author of Proverbs; being able to do your duty as a capable, worthy wife and mother meant that you were fearing God; therefore you were worthy of praise.
So the love that Kay invested and shared with you family members and others too that she came to know have much to be thankful for; since you benefitted greatly from the life and love of Kay. That reminds me of our second passage from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, where he assures us that: “We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.” I like the way the Contemporary English Version puts it: “Alive or dead, we still belong to the Lord.” Why is that the case? Well, Paul answers that by telling us: “This is because Christ died and rose to life, so that he would be the Lord of the dead and the living.”
Those who fear God; those who trust in the Lord are not afraid of death since Jesus is always with us; even in death. Why? Because he’s Lord over death; ultimately he defeated it he won the victory over it through his suffering and death on the cross; and thanks to his resurrection he tells us that if we trust in him we shall be raised from the dead into eternal life. Such Good News cannot be kept to himself. He shares it with everyone; he loves you and me and the whole world. His Lordship over our lives and deaths is his way of spreading his love around so that it grows, and grows, and grows.
Kay didn’t live only for herself; she lived and shared her love for you family members, friends and neighbours. She did because Christ her Lord, your Lord, and my Lord first loved her and claimed her as his precious daughter. No person is completely alone. Thanks to Jesus we are bound to one another and our Lord—so we can never live to our self. Whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. In response to his endless love for us; may we serve him by being bound together in love for our fellow human beings. Being bound together in love we are all part of God’s family; and so we can celebrate and give thanks to the Lord for the life and now the death of Kay and the privilege of having known and loved her. Amen.
1 Harold S. Kushner, Living a Life That Matters: Resolving The Conflict Between Conscience And Success (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001), p. 154.