Summary: Funeral message for an 11 year old girl (called Sherry in the message), who died from gall bladder complications.
When C. S. Lewis’ wife died, he explained to his friends that the pain of her loss was not localized in one particular area of his life but that it made everything about his life different. You who are members of Sherry’s family know what C. S. Lewis meant, for you too have gone through an experience that makes everything different in your life.
One of the most difficult tasks in life to accept is the death of a child. Nothing can prepare us for such a task. Children are not supposed to precede parents or grandparents in death. The death of an elderly person or an adult brings pain and sometimes leaves us with many questions. But the death of a child just crushes us with total surprise, deep grief and a sense of hopelessness. The words I’ve heard so many times in the last few days are true – “It’ not fair”. It is one of the worse “unfairs” of living in this sinful world.
As I have sought the Lord for words to share with you this afternoon in this painful time He brought a story to my attention. A minister had an opportunity to spend an enjoyable week in Denmark. One day he took a short bus trip from Copenhagen to a small town on the bay, where a festival was going on. Without knowing a word of Danish, he enjoyed the music, the street dancing, the open-faced sandwiches and the strong coffee. Eventually, just as the sun was beginning to set, he found himself in a courtyard of an old stone church.
The courtyard was a mixture of garden and cemetery, unspeakably peaceful. Walking among the tombstones he came upon one that marked the resting place of a boy who had lived just six years, from 1907 to 1913. The legend on the stone read: “Tak For Alt”. An elderly lady, who was evidently visiting the grave of a loved one, translated the words for him: “Thanks for Everything”. A man and woman had lost a son, at the age of 6, but on his tombstone they had engraved: “Thanks for everything”.
His first reaction was “How beautiful”. It was only right to Thank God for the deceased’s life. And it is only right for us to thank God for Sherry. Though He loaned her to us for only 11 years we all have been blessed by her life. Though her life was a rough one – from day one seizures – to liver disease – to frequent hospital stays – to having a time watching her diet – she was a joyful and delightful child. The sidewalk chalk messages and notes on balloons at our local elementary school on Friday give an indication of how well she was loved and how she touched other lives for good. She loved butterflies. I think she would love the necklace you made her, Doris. I also think she would have loved the poem you wrote for her, Ben. Sherry loved the color purple. She loved country music. She loved to sing in the chorus that you heard just a few minutes ago; even going to the county honors chorus. She…well, let your mind fill with the thought of her. Think of one of the best things you loved about Sherry. Do you have that firmly planted in your mind? Well turn to the person to your left and to your right and share with them what you are thinking right now. Go ahead, tell them! Was she a tremendous blessing to you? Then join me in saying, “Thank You Lord for Sherry!” Let’s say it out loud, “Thank You Lord for Sherry”. It’s only right to thank God for the deceased’s life.
After the minister thought about how sweet it was for the parents to put such a thing – “Thanks for Everything” on their son’s tombstone, he started to have a different reaction. He thought, “Isn’t this sentiment too noble to be real? Could any father or mother possibly feel totally thankful to God upon the death of a beloved child?” It is only natural to Be honest with your feelings to the Lord for taking a child. Anger is almost always a part of the grief process, but even more so in a situation like you find yourself in this afternoon. But God is Big Enough to handle your questions and your anger.
Only the Lord knows how difficult Sherry’s death is to you Ben and Linda, she was your life‘s joy. And Ralph you were her private chauffer and Betty you were her private nurse. Henry and Selma, you sought to share Bible stories with her when she came for a visit. Her going leaves you and the rest of the family with such heartache and emptiness.