Eulogy for Diane Day

Eulogy for Diane Day
August 03, 2015
by Rev. John Partridge

This is the day.

This is the day that we knew was coming.

For months (or longer), we knew that one day soon, we would be here but no matter how much we knew, today still came faster than we expected and far faster than we wanted it to. Despite our knowledge and anticipation of this day, our pain is undiminished. Nothing the doctors said makes today any easier. And realistically I know that likewise, little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier.

We have lost a friend, a wife, a sister, aunt, great-aunt, coworker, bowling buddy, and many other things. It is as if a light has been extinguished in an already darkening room. Diane Day was many things to many people, but to everyone who knew her, she was a light that brightened the room and the mood wherever she went. It was almost as if she was a star, and all of us who knew her had been pulled into her orbit. As she has been lost to us we feel as if we have been cast off in some way, we have lost the pull of her gravity, and we are adrift.

For Ronnie, Diane was his world, but much the same is true of Jan and Joan and the rest of Diane’s family. They have all lost the pull of her gravity, the anchor of her faith, the light of her smile and her sense of humor and so many other things. We will all struggle to find a new “normal” but the struggle will obviously be harder for those who knew her best.

Diane’s sister Joan shared this with me yesterday:

Diane was our older sister. I remember growing up always thinking she was the smart one. She did very well in high school; it seemed to come easy for her. She took French and many years later she could still speak it. Anything she wanted to do she would teach herself to do, sewing, cake decorating, canning, gardening, figuring out how to work the mechanics of things. She loved to read, loved the Indians, the Browns and always her cats. She was independent, disciplined, a hard worker, faithful to her friends and enjoyed cutting up with family. She was always willing to pitch in and help whatever the need. Her most outstanding quality was her love of her family. She didn’t have children of her own but loved all of ours. She took pride in her abilities to calm a fussy baby, crawl on the floor with the toddlers, play games with the younger, take the older bowling or play in the pool with them. My kids only saw her once a year or so but grew to know, love, and appreciate Aunt Dee. She is my big sister and she will always be loved and missed.

    Diane’s niece Julie remembered that, on her wedding day, she forgot the wedding license at her house and it was Diane who, typically, volunteered to retrieve it. This, Julie said, “was the essence of Aunt Dee.” She was always giving of herself, always trying to help others. Several people told me that even though Diane never had children of her own, she loved on her nieces and nephews, all 13 of them, as if they were her own. Honestly, we saw the same thing at church. I don’t know of anyone who didn’t love Diane, or anyone that Diane didn’t like. Even when Diane was well, it took her a while to get in and out of the sanctuary at church because she had to get a hug from just about everybody. And during those times when Diane was not doing so well and was in a wheelchair, or simply not quite as mobile, everyone came to where she was. There was a line of people waiting to give Diane a hug.

And there is something else worth noting about that scene. Some of us realized just how much of an accomplishment it was for Diane to even be there. Each week, Diane wanted to be in church. Even during those times when she wasn’t doing especially well, if she cold possibly get out of bed she wanted to be in church. Ronnie would help her to get ready, help her to the car and bring her to church. At the back door Jan, or Wade, or both, would be waiting for them, help Diane to the door, up the elevator and into her spot in the sanctuary. Sometimes there were a few of the ushers and other folk who helped out too. It took a team effort of love to make sure that Diane got to spend time each week with her church family, but especially with her Jesus. No one on that team begrudged the extra effort it sometimes took because of all the love that Diane had poured into their lives over the years.

Diane had just a few great loves in her life, Ronnie (of course), for whom she would do almost anything, her family, work, bowling, and, again, her Jesus. Diane loved to work. Even when she didn’t feel well and when many of us would have called in sick, Diane pushed herself to put one foot in front of the other and went to work anyway. And when she was well, she was pretty much unstoppable. Regardless of what it was, like Julius Caesar, she came, she saw, she conquered.

And through it all, Diane loved her Jesus. I know I’ve already said that a couple of times but this is an incredibly important thing. Earlier I said that little or nothing that the preacher says is going to make it easier. But if I have anything helpful to offer, this is it. Those of us who have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus Christ receive great comfort in knowing that this world is not all that there is. We know that the world that God created has been distorted and perverted by imperfect human beings. We know that the world that God created, and the world in which we will one day live, is a world in which there is no pain, no suffering, and no death. We know that Diane has gone ahead and is already in that place. Diane is no longer in pain, no longer suffering, and, if Jesus knows how to bowl, she has probably already challenged him to a line or two. Even more importantly, we know that if we have put our faith, hope and trust in Jesus, we will one day join Diane in Jesus’ house. In that place, we will all be reunited with the people that we love, and we will live there together forever. As we lose the pull of Diane’s love, may we all fall farther into the orbit of Jesus’ love.

I know that my words will not make your pain any less. But my prayer is that in the words of scripture, and the words of Jesus, we can all find hope. Diane believed that. She had that kind of faith and hope, and I am certain that she would want you all to know that you can too so that you can join her someday in her new, and eternal home.


Obituary

Diane F. Day

December 16, 1949 – July 29, 2015
Resided in Massillon, OH

Diane F Day, 65, of Massillon passed away on Wednesday, July 29, 2015. She was born December 16, 1949 in Meadville, Pennsylvania.

Diane was employed by K-Mart in Massillon for 30 plus years and loved bowling. She was a member of Trinity United Methodist Church.

She was preceded in death by her father, Carl Rohleder and brother, Kenny Rohleder.

Diane is survived by her husband, Ron; mother, Dolores Rohleder; sisters, Linda Stanley, Joan (Ed) DesCombes and Janet (Wade) Gash; brother, Charles (Patricia) Rohleder; sister-in-law, Sandra Rohleder and a host of nieces, nephews, family and friends.

The family will receive friends on Monday, August 3, 2015 from 1pm to 2:30pm at Reed Funeral Home Canton Chapel, 705 Raff Rd Canton with funeral services to follow at 2:30pm.

Visions of Home

“Visions of Home”
July 19, 2015
By John Partridge

Scripture:

2 Samuel 7:1-14

Ephesians 2:11-22

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56

Over the years I have made a number of friends who were born in other countries. Some of them were in the United States for a limited time and others had come here to become American citizens and to make a new life. In either case, when they told stories of home, it was much, much different than simply reading stories about that place from a book. When these people told stories, the descriptions were alive with details of sights, sounds, smells, family and friends. When you heard their stories, you could feel the connection that they had, that their heart had, with a place called home. You can hear it in the voice of someone who was born in the south when they talk about the smell of magnolias in the springtime, or when fans talk about the baseball stadiums where they saw their first game. Their voices change and suddenly the story isn’t just a story, it comes alive, because in it, are visions of home.

This morning we are going to read three very different stories, stories which, at first, don’t seem to have a lot in common, but which, in the end, all include these very sorts of visions… visions of home.

We begin in 2 Samuel 7:1-14, where we find King David, resting in his newly constructed palace reflecting on the fact that the Arc of the Covenant was still kept in the Tabernacle, the tent, that Moses had made in the desert a thousand years earlier. Granted, it was a nice tent, and undoubtedly well maintained, but something still didn’t seem right about it…

7:1 After the king was settled in his palace and the Lord had given him rest from all his enemies around him, 2 he said to Nathan the prophet, “Here I am, living in a house of cedar, while the ark of God remains in a tent.”

3 Nathan replied to the king, “Whatever you have in mind, go ahead and do it, for the Lord is with you.”

4 But that night the word of the Lord came to Nathan, saying:

5 “Go and tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord says: Are you the one to build me a house to dwell in? 6 I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought the Israelites up out of Egypt to this day. I have been moving from place to place with a tent as my dwelling. 7 Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their rulers whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”’

8 “Now then, tell my servant David, ‘This is what the Lord Almighty says: I took you from the pasture, from tending the flock, and appointed you ruler over my people Israel. 9 I have been with you wherever you have gone, and I have cut off all your enemies from before you. Now I will make your name great, like the names of the greatest men on earth. 10 And I will provide a place for my people Israel and will plant them so that they can have a home of their own and no longer be disturbed. Wicked people will not oppress them anymore, as they did at the beginning 11 and have done ever since the time I appointed leaders over my people Israel. I will also give you rest from all your enemies.

“‘The Lord declares to you that the Lord himself will establish a house for you: 12 When your days are over and you rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, your own flesh and blood, and I will establish his kingdom. 13 He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 14 I will be his father, and he will be my son.

This is a great story and we can draw a lot of lessons from it, but today we’re looking behind it just a little bit. Today we are listening for that change of voice, that vision of home, and some insight into the nature of God. And in that sense, there are a couple of things that I heard. First, God says that he was never really concerned about where, on earth, that he lived. He never commanded that he live in a gold-plated palace. Being a nomad, wandering from place to place, never bothered him. Second, God promises that God is the one who is the ultimate builder. He is the one who is building the kingdom; he is the one who made David a king, and he is the one who is building our future. Third, God tells David that despite all the great things that he has done, he is not the one that God has chosen to build his house. In another passage of scripture God insists that because David is a man of blood, because he was a warrior, he is not to be the one who builds God’s house. Instead, God will choose David’s son, Solomon, who was a man of peace.

In Mark 6:30-34, 53-56, we hear this story that, at first sounds completely unrelated.

30 The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. 31 Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.”

32 So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. 33 But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. 34 When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. So he began teaching them many things.

53 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. 54 As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. 55 They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

At first this seems pretty random. At least until we start looking for those visions of home, and then we realize something about Jesus’ personality. Even when they were worn out and dog tired from all the time that they had already spent ministering to other people and caring for their needs, even when they were so tired that Jesus said, “Let’s get out of here for a while and take a break,” even then they still did more ministry.

Why?

Even when they had every right to take break and get some rest, Jesus kept on teaching crowds of people and healing as many as could be brought to him.

Why?

Because, our scripture tells us, Jesus had compassion. Jesus cared about people. Jesus cared about their suffering. Jesus cared what they knew and how they thought. Jesus cared so much that his own comfort, even his own rest and his own sleep, were put aside until they could be taken care of. And that is a vision of home. It tells us something about how Jesus thought and felt, and it tells us something about his father and the things that are important to God. It tells us a little about what God’s home must be like. If Jesus cared so much about people who live here on earth, how much more must God care about the people in his own house?

Finally we arrive at Ephesians 2:11-22. Here again, this passage of scripture, appears to be a random selection that has nothing at all to do with the first two, but again we need to listen for that tone of voice that gives us a vision of home.

11 Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called “uncircumcised” by those who call themselves “the circumcision” (which is done in the body by human hands)— 12 remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near by the blood of Christ.

14 For he himself is our peace, who has made the two groups one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, 15 by setting aside in his flesh the law with its commands and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new humanity out of the two, thus making peace, 16 and in one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. 17 He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. 18 For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit.

19 Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Paul is talking about Jesus. How Jesus came, not to bring peace, but to be peace. Jesus came to bring hostile groups together, to bring people together, and to make peace, not only between groups of people, not only on earth, but to bring peace between human beings and God. Not only to bring people together, but to bring human beings and God together.

Paul says that, because of Jesus, we are no longer strangers to God. We are no longer strangers and foreigners regardless of our differences, regardless of the color of our skin, and regardless of our nationality. And if that is what Jesus was doing on earth, just imagine what that means in his own house.

And so, even though you won’t find a chapter of the Bible that tells you all about heaven, if we look carefully, we can find, behind scriptures like these, glimpses and hints of what Jesus’ home must be like.

From these short passages we found that God is building his kingdom, not in a gold plated palace, but in the lives and hearts of human being beings. God is also building our future, he is moving us to places we need to go and bringing people into our lives that we need to meet so that we can have the life that God intends. God is a god of peace. Even though he loved David and called him a man after God’s own heart, he wanted the world to see that the builder of God’s house had to be a man of peace and not a man of war and blood. And that was a foreshadowing, a preview, of the Messiah that was to come. Jesus was not a man of war but a man of peace, a savior who not only brought peace into the world; he came into the world to be peace, to bring people together, and to bring peace between humanity and God. Jesus was a man who was so filled with compassion that he set aside his own needs to bring comfort and healing to others.

In all of these passages, and in many others, we see glimpses of God’s character and clues to what we will find in heaven. Jesus has invited everyone to come; all are welcome regardless of the color of your skin, or nationality, or personality or anything else. We are invited to a house so filled with compassion that there will no longer be suffering or pain or death, a place where there will be no strangers nor will we be strangers to God.

These are just a few of the things we can find in scripture when we read carefully.

These are examples of how we can begin to live our lives here and now, lives filled with peace, love and compassion toward others, even when they appear different and strange to us.

These are images of the future.

Visions of home.

A Great Cloud of Witnesses


What does it mean to be surrounded by a “cloud” of witnesses? 
    Not long ago I was preaching on Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees in regard to the existence of life after death.  In Luke 20:27-38, Jesus reminds them that Moses called God, “the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.”  Jesus implies that it would be foolish to say such a thing in the present tense if they were not, presently, alive.  Jesus said, “He is not the God of the dead, but of the living, for to him all are alive.”
The Apostle Paul described life as a sporting event in which we are called to give our best, saying,
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us…” (Hebrews 12:1)
    Paul expands on the idea of resurrection and the afterlife to remind the church that those who are alive in the next world are watching those of us who remain in this one.  Paul specifically refers to the prophets, saints, and martyrs but it isn’t difficult to imagine that this also includes all of those who have always loved us and cared for us, but who no longer remain among the living of this world.  I know that my grandmother prayed for me nearly every single day of her life and I have no reason to imagine that she has stopped doing so today.
Let me share a mental picture that I have found meaningful.  Have you ever held a newborn baby, yours, or your grandchild, niece or nephew for the very first time?  Do you remember how that made you feel?  It is a magnificent feeling.   Hold on to that feeling.  Now, imagine the moment when you first arrive in the next world, right after you have “crossed over” and passed through Saint Peter’s pearly gates, right after you’ve met Jesus face to face, or however you might image your arrival.  Now, you see, standing before you, a group of people.  Some you know, but many you do not.  In the front are your parents, lost children, and dear friends, but there are many more, perhaps hundreds, even thousands of faces that you do not know.  As you embrace your family and your friends, your father, or perhaps your grandfather, takes you by the hand and says, “There is someone here, that I have wanted you to meet for a very long time.” And he turns to a an unfamiliar face and says, “This is myfather” or “This is my grandfather.”  And then, for hours on end, they in turn introduce you to their fathers, and their wives, and their children, allof whom have known you since you were born, and have been watching you grow, and have been praying for you that Jesus would watch over you and guard your steps. 
    And the feeling that you have is the feeling of holding that newborn child in your arms, multiplied by ten thousand, or more.
    Every moment of your life that you were in trouble, every moment when you faced difficult choices, every moment when you needed prayer, all of these hundreds and thousands of friends and family who love you, were watching and praying for you.
   Think of this, when we walk outside in a heavy fog, that moment when the clouds lay upon the surface of the earth, we are not near the cloud, or next to the cloud, we are completely engulfed and surrounded by the cloud.
    This is the picture that Paul draws for us.  With every choice that we make, with every success or failure, with every crisis or ordinary day, we can imagine that this cloud of people who love us, family and friends, surround us, watch over us, and pray for us.
    Because our God is the god of the living and not the dead, we are constantly watched over by those who love us, care for us, and who are, even now, praying for us.  Paul says that because we are surrounded by this “great cloud of witnesses” we should cast aside everything that is holding us back and have the confidence to forge ahead into the unknown toward whatever God has placed in our path.  

May we all have the courage to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us…”