Summary: This is the memorial service sermon for Barbara Garrett, delivered October 24, 2008
Precious In the Sight of the Lord
Barbara Garrett Memorial Service
October 24, 2008
Death is where the rubber of our earthly lives meets the road of ultimate reality. Death is where we are compelled, even in our grief, to decide what we really believe about ultimate reality.
What do we really believe about what happens to us after we breathe our last – after life leaves our mortal bodies?
This past Monday, just about an hour or so after Barbara Garrett went from this life, into the presence of the Lord, Jim Grinnell and I were up in the hospital room with a few members of the Garrett family, and extended family, and Bob and Shirley McWilliams.
As the family and the rest of us said our goodbyes to Barb, there were many tears. There was grief and mourning. Jim Grinnell, being the consummate pastor in that moment, had the family gather around Barb in her hospital bed and pray. As he prayed, he noted this passage of scripture, which I’d like to spend a few minutes considering this morning.
Psalm 116:15 Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Isn’t that an odd way to describe death? With the word precious? To most of us, grievous seems like a more appropriate, more descriptive word. How about Hard. Difficult. Painful. But, the Psalmist tells us that, to the Lord, the death of His saints is a precious event.
I began to think about the word precious and about this verse…about what the word precious means in our everyday understanding, about what’s precious to us. At its ultimate, precious means someone or something for which we’d give everything, or almost anything.
But in our most common usage, precious means, “of great value or high price.” It’s a word we might use to describe valuable jewels. It means highly esteemed or cherished. It means dear or beloved.
When we think of Barbara Garrett, it’s very appropriate to use the word precious, isn’t it? She was precious to her husband of 59 years, who faithfully cared for her when she was ill and suffering, which encompassed many years of her life, and most of the last 5 weeks. Barb was precious to Jim when she was ill, but she was also precious to Jim when she was well, and when she was enjoying the precious things of life, like God’s creation in Colorado or New Hampshire, or the simple pleasures of gardening in her own backyard.
Barb was precious to her children. She was precious to her grandchildren. She was precious to her great grandchildren.
Just as much, Jim, was precious to Barb. To Barb, her children, her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, were all precious. She valued each one, she held all of you dear, she cherished you. She was also very proud of you.
That was obvious. You could not spend more than 10 minutes with Barb, without hearing her bragging on her kids, her grandkids and great grandkids… telling you how smart they were, what great jobs they had, what great singers or musicians they were, how kind they were, what great soccer players they were.
And it wasn’t just talk. The woman that her great grandchildren called “greatmommy “ was present at so many of her grandkids and great grandkids special events through the years. This was a greatmommy who was there for these who were precious to her, as much as her physical condition allowed.
Mikayla, and Micah, I can just imagine if she were here today, your greatmommy sitting on the back row here at TCF where she always sat, and just beaming with greatmommy satisfaction as you sang this afternoon.
And all you great-grandkids - the story of you holding candles up here during that song would have been told again and again. You were all very precious to her.
But even considering these more common understandings of how we might think of what’s precious, it’s still more than a little difficult to call the loss of someone so precious to us, a precious event.
One of the things I’ve learned is that life is precious. The lives of our loved ones are precious, as is our short time on earth with them. That’s why we mourn their departure. That’s why it hurts so much. Because they’re precious.
But here’s where the rubber meets the road again. As followers of Christ, our lives are precious to the Lord as well – and our deaths are precious to Him, too. Our deaths are precious to the Lord perhaps for several reasons. But perhaps the most important reason is because of what it cost our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:18-19 (NIV) For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.