Sermons

Summary: This is a generic model for a funeral message for someone who died after struggling with an illness, using the autobiography of Morrie Schwartz who died of ALS to craft the message.

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MESSAGE FOR A MEMORIAL OR FUNERAL SERVICE

___________________________

I’ve been in a funk for a couple of weeks now. But I think I’m coming out of it now. Strange that I could say that on the occasion for which we have come together here.

It all started a couple of weeks ago as I anticipated my 50th birthday, which I just celebrated yesterday. It occurred to me that more than half my life is over and there’s so much more I want to do. That is half of my life is over if I live the average life span.

And then I’d go over and visit ___________________________ in the hospital and see how ill he was and how he was struggling for life and I’d get down on myself for worrying about something like my 50th birthday. But somehow I couldn’t shake this cloud over my head. Now it’s not like I was depressed—just sad that life seems to go by so quickly.

But then I was really down after visiting ___________________________ in the hospital last Thursday when I learned that little hope existed that he would be able to benefit from _____________________________________________. I began to experience feelings of disappointment. ___________________________ had fought hard to make it through the recovery ______________________. And then I received word ________________ that death could be imminent for ___________________________. What a downer—and I was still feeling sad about turning 50—just couldn’t shake it.

I was distressed for all who know ___________________________ and his family— his church family.

It was in this state of mind—being in this funky state—that I traveled to my mother’s grave in West Virginia in anticipation of my 50th birthday.

So I traveled to West Virginia with this burden on my heart for ___________________________ and his family and this sadness about getting older. I took with me a book on CD that I had checked out of the library last week to listen to while I made the 3-hour trip. At first I resisted listening to the book. I heard it was very good but I thought, “This is going to be a real downer. Not sure this is a good time to listen to this book.” But I broke through the resistance and listened to “Morrie: In His Own Words.” I’m glad I did because it really began to make me feel more hopeful in the midst of my mini-mid-life crisis and my distress over ___________________________’ imminent death.

Morrie Schwartz became an inspiration to millions of people because of his willingness to talk openly about the intimate aspects of facing his own imminent death through interviews with one of his former students and on Ted Koppels’ Nightline on ABC TV. In 1994, at the age of 77, Morrie learned he had ALS, commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease: incurable, disabling, fatal. People with degenerative or terminal illness often withdraw from others. Morrie, however, chose to live as fully as possible in the time he had left.

Among his final acts, was finishing the book that I listened to someone read on CD—an unforgettable guide to caring for the mind and spirit when the body grows frail. He began writing his thoughts on a legal pad, but had to dictate them to others as he lost the uses of his muscles in the latter stages of his illness. Listening to the book actually was uplifting for me. Not that Morrie necessarily said anything profound or new. What was inspiring was that Morrie could maintain the type of attitude that he did as he wasted away and neared death. I’m not sure I could face the same thing with such courage.

By the way Morrie grew up as an Orthodox Jew, became an agnostic as an adult, but became a spiritual seeker 10 years prior to the diagnosis of his illness. His faith grew stronger during his battle with ALS up until his death.

So this evening for this memorial service for ___________________________ I want to share with you what gave my spirit a lift as I listened to Morrie’s words on Monday the day of ___________________________’s passing to the next stage of eternal life. I will share with you some highlights of what touched me from the book along with scripture passages.

I want to share with you at this time a passage I read aloud at my mother’s grave on Monday morning from Psalm 121:

I look up to the mountains—

does my help come from there?

[I was looking up at East River Mountain and the surrounding hillsides that you can see from my mother’s burial place]

2 My help comes from the LORD,

who made the heavens and the earth!

3 He will not let you stumble and fall;

the one who watches over you will not sleep.

4 Indeed, he who watches over Israel

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