Eulogy for Virginia Lee Lawson
My grandmother, Virginia Lee Lawson, died at 4:12 p.m. on Friday, April 13, 2012 in Kokomo, Indiana. She was 81. I have been asked to offer a eulogy at her funeral tomorrow. Follows are the remarks I plan to give.
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“Christ, my hope, is arisen!” These words, written almost a thousand years ago, are taken from an ancient Easter hymn. We have just celebrated Easter Sunday: the most important day in the Christian calendar. The day when we celebrate the triumph of Jesus Christ our Lord over our most feared and loathed enemy: death. My Easter Sunday was spent driving six hours from Nashville, Tennessee to Kokomo to be at my grandmother's side. We were told she was dying. We were told to expect the worst. But my grandmother Virginia fought. She did not let go. She made it through Easter. And then she made it for almost an entire week. Now, she is gone from us. But Christ, my hope, is arisen. And so I know that my grandmother's death on Easter Friday is not the end of her journey. It is the beginning.
In Saint Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians, the apostle writes, “We do not want you to be unaware, brothers, about those who have fallen asleep: so that you may not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose, so too will God, through Jesus, bring with him those who have fallen asleep” (1 Thess. 4:13-14). Christ, my hope, is arisen, and so my grief—our grief—is not like those who mourn without hope. It is true that we grieve. Death was not what was intended for us. We men and women who are created in God's image as body and soul were not meant to have our souls separated from our bodies. We were created for deep, personal communion with the most holy Trinity, our Lord and God. And so we know that when death comes, when we lose someone whom we love and care about, that it is not right. It is not joyful. It is sad. We are separated. It is good for us, like Jesus, to weep in the face of the death of those we love. And so we do.
But our grief is not hopeless. My grief for the death of my grandmother Virginia is not without hope. I have hope for my grandmother's soul. I have hope that one day, she, who was buried with Christ by baptism into his death, and raised to walk in newness of life with him (cf. Rom. 6:4), will have her body resurrected and her soul restored. I have hope that she, whose faith in Jesus Christ led her to raise up her children in the bosom of a Christian family, did not die in hopelessness and despair. I have hope that she, who is now dead in Christ, will live with him: will be raised from death to everlasting life in the likeness of His resurrection (cf. Rom. 6:8-9).
My grandmother's death was not easy. When I arrived on Easter Sunday afternoon, I saw a woman I had known as strong and vigorous — a woman of life and vitality — laid low with bruises and suffering. It was not easy for me or for any of us who saw her like this. It broke our hearts to hear her cry out in agony. But her suffering was not in vain. Her suffering was not the pain of a woman dying isolated and on her own. Instead, as I watched my grandmother Virginia fight for her life and undergo deep suffering and pain, I saw her take on even more deeply the image of Jesus Christ crucified. I saw in her that same suffering that brought about the salvation of the whole world when Jesus hung upon the cross for the sins of the world. My grandmother was united to a death like Jesus' death. And, praise God, I have hope that she will be united to him in a resurrection like his! Though she cried out in pain on Easter Monday, I have hope that she will shout with joy and acclamation on the Last Day!
And so, dearly beloved, let us grieve for my grandmother Virginia. Let us weep that we are separated from her. Let us call out to God in honesty and in faith for his consolation and peace. But let us also remember that we mourn with hope. Let us remember that Christ, my hope — our hope! — is arisen. By dying, he has destroyed our death. By rising, he has restored our life. He will come again in glory. And he has promised to raise up those on the last day who have shared in his death and who have been raised to walk in newness of life with him. Hope in Christ is our strength. Faith in his resurrection is our hope. His love for us — his undying, self-sacrificing, unbelievable out-pouring of his life's blood for our salvation — is our life.
Christ, my hope, is arisen. Christ, our hope, is arisen. Christ, Virginia's hope, is arisen!
Let us pray.
Almighty God, who sent your only Son our Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and die for the salvation of the whole world: hear our prayers for your servant Virginia; and grant, O Father, that she who was buried with Christ by baptism into death may be raised on the last day to share in his resurrection to eternal life; through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit: one God, forever and ever. Amen.