Summary: Funeral sermon for Mrs. Amanda Foye Jackson, who had suffered through two massive strokes and the loss of her son.
In Biblical times, a person’s name revealed something about who he was or what she was intended to be. In the creation story, there is Adam, meaning earth, and Eve, meaning mother. Their names told you who they were and what they were intended to be. Abraham, father of nations; Isaac, laughter; Jacob, supplanter; Esau, red; Moses, drawn from the water; Joshua, salvation. On and on we could go. Names, in Biblical times, revealed who a person was or what her parents intended her to be.
I wonder if back in 1912 when a baby girl was born in Kinston, North Carolina, her parents realized all that they were saying when they called her Amanda. Amanda. Now I do not know that we have any Latin scholars in the crowd today; but if you know a tiny bit of Latin, you know how to conjugate the verb, “amo, amas, amat” – I love, you love, he loves. But did you know that the present participle of the verb, “to love”, in Latin is “amanda”? “Amanda”, in Latin, means “loving”. Did her parents know that their daughter would grow into maturity as a lady we would experience as profoundly loving? Amanda lived up to her name, and grew into a loving lady, concerned about others, touching many lives, supporting her family, communicating care, invested in her community, a vital part of her church, living beyond herself. Loving. Amanda means loving.
Where did Amanda Jackson get that loving spirit? Where does that come from, that ability to live outside yourself and to care for others? Is that something you learn in school? Is that something you just decide to go and do? Where do you learn how to be loving?
The Bible has an answer. It tells us that love comes from God, and that if we are loving, that is a result of our relationship with God.
“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.”
Amanda was loving because she was loved; because God loved her and she accepted God’s love.
Surely you noticed that Amanda loved life. She loved life itself, and worked to keep her quality of life, even under the most difficult of circumstances. Amanda, loving Amanda, loved life.
Did you ever see a more elegant lady? Wasn’t there something about the way she carried herself, with dignity? Something about the way she dressed, with style? Everything about her said, “I am glad to be alive”. “I enjoy life”. Amanda loved life and showed it. With some people, you think, “How vain, how flashy, how tasteless.” With Amanda, you thought, “How together, how lovely, how tasteful.” Amanda was in love with life, and just seeing her told you that.
The last time I visited with Amanda, just about a month ago, she could not speak, but I thought she might be able to hear. I was not sure she knew who I was; her face was a blank. So I spoke with her for a while and read Scripture and prayed, just as you would expect. But then, on an instinct, as I was about to leave, I said, “Mrs. Jackson, you look good today. You always manage to look good.” And that face came alive, there was a little expression that sort of said, “Oh, go on now. Me?” I knew that the old Amanda was still there, loving life.
But I do not have to focus only on her last days to know that she loved life. We can go back, months ago, when she had her first stroke. Deacon Faith Brown and I went to see her at Prince George’s Hospital, and neither of us thought she would ever get out of there. She had had a massive stroke. And yet she fought her way back. She loved life enough to make her way back from the edge.
When she came home, I went to see her to talk about places she might go for assisted living. She read the materials I brought and thought about it, but said, “I don’t want to lose my freedom. I want to live in my own home where I can be with my own family and live my own life.” That was an Amanda-type decision. It was a “loving life” decision; she wanted to live life to the full.
I believe the Scripture gives us a clue about Amanda’s love of life when it says:
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear … we love because he first loved us.”
You love life if you are loved. You love life if you know that it came from God, that life is given out of God’s love. Amanda: loving because she was loved.