The Peura Family
Service for Mary
Dear Friends in Christ, especially David and Kristin,
To attempt to summarize the significance of a persons life in a few moments can be an exercise in futility or arrogance. I would like to avoid both as I share words based on my relationship to Mary Peura which I hope will bring comfort to all of you.
What do you see when you look at this painting? I see the work of a woman who had considerable artistic talent. I see the heart of a person who was generous to a faultone of the most giving people I have ever met. I see hands which once were deft and steady which of late moved slowly in uncertain gestures. But most of all, I see the eyes deep seteyes which studied the subjects on which they were fixed, vision which absorbed the image on which it was focusedeyes which saw inwardly and outwardly at the same time.
Grammies eyes were so expressive. They laughed. They questioned. They made statements. They expressed understanding. They shed tears of sorrow and betrayed disappointment in her limitations though she struggled to put up a good front. I loved watching her look at you, David. She loved you. She trusted you. She was proud of you. I loved to see her look at you, Kristin. She loved you. She appreciated your many acts of mercy and kindness. I loved to observe her looking at her grandchildren. How pleased and proud she was of you. And how fortunate she was to have family and grandchildren who loved her so deeply. I still remember how you honored her at your wedding, Brian and Jenn, though she could not be there physically.
In addition to her artistic abilities and her love for family, I remember Grammie for her gifts of hospitality. When she lived in Silver Spring, she and Warren would invite us to their apartment in your house. What a feast she would prepare. And as if food and drink were not sufficient, there would usually be a giftlike those Finnish glasses she gave us. In her humble New England accent and deliberate speech she would say, I hope you like them. Like them. They were exquisite!
For 85 years God blessed the world through Marys precious life. It is not hard to imagine God smiling the morn that she was born, knowing what a magnificent gift he had entrusted to the world. And now her life has come to an endor is it a beginning? Someone wisely wrote that death is not extinguishing the light, but turning off the lamp because the dawn has come. Like the light that travels from space for longer than we can comprehend before it appears on our horizons, so Grammies precious life will shine with meaning, long after her body has been absorbed into the earth.
If one could say of anyone, Here was a good person, that can be said of Mary Peura without hesitation. She was as good a woman as God has placed upon this earth. But this also must be saidshe was not only saint, but sinner too. As the psalmist David wrote, she was conceived and born in sin. Hence the comfort we crave from a memorial service comes not only from remembering what Mary did for God but from celebrating what God did for Mary.
I like the story about a farmer driving on dusty tracks through his field with his son sitting beside him. When he slowed his truck to cross a rocky outcropping, a bee flew into the cab and the young lad who was deathly allergic to bee stings began to shout and jump in his seat. Instinctively the fathers hand shot out and grabbed the bee. The boy calmed down but resumed his frightful protest as the father opened his hand and released the bee in the cab of the truck. Dont worry, the father assured him, the bee cant hurt you now. His stinger is here in the palm of my hand.
God sent a beloved Son to bear in the palm of his hand the sting of the sin of all of us. Tauntingly Paul questioned, O death, where is your sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord, Jesus Christ. Therefore, beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Cor 15:55-58)
That life ends in death does not mean that life is lived in vain. From the moment we were born, each of us begins to move toward the day of our death. But death is not to be feared or looked upon as failure. Death is the path that leads to closer union with God because of his Son, Jesus Christ.
God himself must have wept the day Jesus died bearing the sin of the world, questioning My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Because Jesus died a God-forsaken death none of us shall die like that. The end of his death, however, was not defeat but triumph as the hand of God trembling with love, descended from heaven to earth to flick away with a finger, a great stone in front of a tomb, the purpose of which was to separate the living and the dead. Then the hands of God reached inside to carry a limp body into Easter air, raising it to the divine nostrils that the breath of life might reinvigorate it. From that resurrection into which we enter through the water of baptism comes the blessed assurance, For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Or, to put it in terms of the beautiful Epistle lesson which you chose David,
If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, no height, nor depth not anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39)
Or, to say it in the words of the passage which you chose, Kristin, Faith, hope, and love abide. These three, but the greatest of these is love. (1 Cor 13:13) Right on. There is nothing greater than the love of God in Christ Jesus, the love which grasps us and will not let us go, the love of God which finds us when we were not seeking him.
It is a foolish thing to do but I have done it since my father died when I was a child. At the death of people who are significant to me, I try to envision what life might be like for them in paradise. So I see Grammiewide eyedwalking in the garden of God from which all sinners were evicted. Her eyes behold colors in the purity of perfection, forms as only the hand of God could shape them. I envision her holding a flower and saying, Oh, this is beautiful.
I also see her hand steady and skillful, bringing images to life, gathering magnificent blooms to set the table with its crystal more gorgeous than the finest Finnish craftsperson could create. She has set place at the foot of the table. Warren is already seated at the head, napkin in his lap, that contented smile on his face. And she has carefully arranged table settings for all of us who love her.
You see, David, the reason I chose the gospel lesson for today is that I wanted to tell you that it is not just Jesus who has gone to prepare a place for us, but your mother and your father also.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen