Context: My paternal grandmother of 84 suffered her second stroke and passed away shortly after at Markham Stouffville Hospital. As far as I could tell, she was a Christian. I was asked by my uncle to be the minister for the funeral. Below is the transcript I used for the funeral, minus the graveside ceremony. I pray that it will bless you and bring a sobering reminder of what matters in life.
August 24, 1932 – November 30,2016
Thank you for coming to this funeral service for Grandma Kam. The passing of our loved ones and friends is always a great loss and a sad occasion. But for those who know the Lord, as does Grandma, it is a joyous occasion for them because they are now in His glorious presence. Our loss, therefore, which is their gain, can also be for us a cause of rejoicing and thankfulness in the midst of our sorrow because God has conquered death through His Son, Jesus Christ, and because of what death means to those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ. Would you please join me in a word of prayer.
Our Heavenly Father, I pray today as we share about our grandmother, that you would comfort those who need comfort, and mourn with those who need mourning. For you are the good shepherd, who is able to sympathize with us in our times of trouble. May your Spirit help us to honor her life and set aside our differences. This we pray in the name of Christ Jesus. Amen.
One of my fondest memories of Grandma Kam was when I openly shared my faith to her in the most ‘non-Chinese’ way possible. You see, my grandparents for the longest time had expected me to take over the family (IT) business. After all, the ‘Chinese’ way is for the son to take over the father’s trade and venture, especially if it made big money! So then I had a fear deep down inside of me that they would disown me for leaving my career as an aspiring businessman for a career as a simple pastor.
However, my fears turned into surprise as I shared the news. Rather than being cast-out, I was welcomed with open arms. Both my grandparents resoundingly said in Chinese, “我們支持你!” (English: we support you!). My grandmother began to share her faith with me in a profound way I had never seen before. Before, I had never seen her pray or share her faith in any way that would suggest she was a Christian. Now, I learned that she had prayed for me and my family way before I was born that we would come to faith, and more importantly she left with these words; ‘I’m proud of your decision to become a pastor. Keep on going son.’
From that time onward, I observed and prayed with her on many visits to help ensure that her faith was genuine. I kept reminding her to put her trust in Jesus Christ alone for the forgiveness of her sins. She would reply, ‘yes, yes….. but don’t pray for me, we need to pray for him!’ (pointing at my grandfather, who was not a believer).
As we face this loss and the fact of death, I would hope that we would recognize that if we are to find encouragement and comfort amidst the losses and tragedies of life, we must turn to the Bible as God’s precious Word to us. This Book, God has graciously authenticated with tremendous evidence as not merely the Word of men, as it truly is, God’s Word to man, God-breathed and accurate, and thus our means of hope. With this in mind, please allow me to read a passage that has sustained me through times of grief, sorrow, and loss.
Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
What an amazing guarantee for Grandma who put her faith in Christ, and for us Christians! That not any sin, not any trial, not even death itself can separate us from our relationship with Jesus Christ. For us of faith, this is only a goodbye on earth, but not a farewell in heaven. And this ought to bring us comfort. For she is in a better place; no more pain, no more sorrow, no more sin, no more death, but rather an everlasting presence with our creator God. It is this eternal relationship that is guaranteed for those who call themselves Christians.
You see, I watched as she grew older. Her vision and memory faded as the relationships she once had became lost as her first stroke took its toll. She eventually forgot who her family was, myself included . Yet with all her memory gone, she would always squeeze my hand during visitations. I saw that twinkle in her eyes and smile on her face that always told me that her faith in Jesus Christ had never diminished. Through that eternal relationship, she would love her husband to the end, and never stop praying for answers.
There are many things in life we do to make us think we are secure. We have a big bank account thinking we can dip into it whenever trouble comes. We have a large home, thinking that we will comfortably live in it forever. We have a prestigious career, thinking that we will never be laid off. We bear many children, thinking that we will outlast them.
But the reality is that nothing is secure in this life. When we die, our bank accounts will hit 0. Unforeseen circumstances may cause us to leave our homes. Nobody will remember who we are after fifty or a hundred years later, lost in the annuls of time. Our loved ones may die before we do.
There is a guarantee written in the bible. It starts with the forgiveness your sins at the cross. It ends in everlasting joy and peace with God. Please listen to the words of Jesus himself:
Jesus said to her,“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”.
These are promises for the Christian, who have put their lives in the hand of the Great Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Let us find hope in them as those who trust in him.