Funeral Sermon for Paul Gerard McCann, by Pastor Garth Wehrfritz-Hanson, based on Ps 23; Eccles 3:1-8 & Jn 11:21-27, /Burgar Funeral Chapel, Camrose, September 17, 2016, ten o’clock.
A loving husband and father, brother, son, friend, neighbour, and child of God—Paul Gerard McCann, has passed from this life into life eternal. You, who knew and loved Paul dearly, shall certainly miss him.
For Paul and you, his family members, the last several years have been challenging. Alzheimer’s and dementia can be a cruel disease. A person who is struck with Alzheimer’s and dementia suffers from both physical and mental losses. Family members can feel rather helpless at times as they see their loved one suffering from these losses. Family members observe how their loved one changes as Alzheimer’s or dementia takes its course and robs them of their faculties; so they no longer are the person that they once were. They can forget so much, even the names of their family members as well as their own name. Past memories of their family history and their own life story disappear. The mind becomes more and more like fog, unable to think clearly.
They also lose their ability to talk and walk, and even eating and drinking can become a challenge. They can become totally dependent on others. When death does come, it may be mixed with both sadness and a sense of relief. Sadness because you certainly shall miss your beloved Paul and your life will not be the same without him. Relief because now your Paul’s suffering is over. Relief also for those who place their faith in God—trusting that Paul is now in the loving, eternal presence of God.
That is our hope for Paul. As a people of faith with trust in those wonderful words of the twenty-third Psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” Notice that death is not a permanent existence. Rather, God our loving Shepherd walks us through death’s valley, we don’t stay in that valley of death forever. As a people of faith, we don’t have to be afraid of death because God our Shepherd is with us. If God is with us, then we can face anything in life, including death.
So it is that we can affirm the truth of Ecclesiastes chapter three (which we heard sung by the Byrds). You see, the way that God puts order in our lives is through time. God is a God of order and not chaos. That is why God created a time for everything and everyone in life. There are stages of life that each one of us lives through.
That is why for Paul there was a time to be born. For Paul there was a time for him to be a child, then a time to grow into a teenager, and from there a time to become an adult. There was a time for Paul to go to school, a time to leave school and go to work, and a time to meet and marry his wife Sandra. For Paul and for Sandy, there was a time to have children, Sean and Melanie, and a time to raise them. There were many times for Paul, Sandy and the children to enjoy each other’s company—to do things together. For Paul there was a time to support, be involved with, and encourage both Melanie and Sean in their various activities. For Paul there were many times to show his love for Sandy and the children, because family was important to him. Paul also spent time smiling at others and being kind and friendly towards them and offering to help them. In the words of faith, that is what we call spending time to love our neighbour, and in loving our neighbour we love God, because as one wise person of faith once said, God is as close as your neighbour. As time passed, there was a time for Paul to be afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, a time to suffer, and a time to leave this life—which leads us to another truth of our faith that takes us beyond time, beyond death, into eternity.
In our beautiful passage of John’s Gospel, that’s where we are taken, when Jesus speaks those words of promise to Martha who is sad and mourning the death of her brother Lazarus. Jesus surprises Martha with those wonderful words of promise: “I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die.” WOW! What a promise that is! A promise that is yours and mine through faith, thanks to the saving work of Jesus on the cross and through his resurrection. Do you believe this? I know I do, thanks to Jesus who gives me the gift of faith to believe it. I hope and pray that you do too.
So, for Paul Alzheimer’s disease is not the last word, nor does it have the ultimate victory over Paul. No! Rather, thanks be to God that Jesus, through his death on the cross and his resurrection have ultimately defeated Alzheimer’s disease and all other powers that work against God.
For Paul, there is a final victory over Alzheimer’s disease. Thanks to Jesus who is the resurrection and the life, there is Life with a capital L, eternal life, abundant life for Paul now, thanks to the LORD his suffering is over. That is Paul’s hope! That is your hope and mine! Amen.