This is an attempt to sum up the meaning of my Mom’s life. During those last few days that she was with us, I began to think about these verses from I John that help unlock the meaning of my Mom’s life.
Do not love the world, or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world–the desires of he flesh, the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions–is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.
You all knew my Mom.
1. Mom was an influencer.
- The people that she prayed for.
- The people she taught the Bible = At Bible Study fellowship.
- The people with whom she argued.
- The people for whom she made things.
- The people she introduced to each other.
2. Mom created beauty.
- That beauty did not come without a price: Dumptser diving! You may hear about the indignity of it from my sisters or me, but the fact was that so much of the beauty she was able to create was made with things that other people threw away. How did she do that.
- It wasn’t just things. It was experiences. She was good at creating special and memorable experiences.
- Picnics on the lawn.
- Party themes.
- Her Christmas cards weren’t cards. They were an experience!
- Creative gifts
3. Mom gave herself to her family!
- As a mom, she took us many places — museums, parks, friends.
- She presided over well-planned, fun birthday parties. Pin the tail on the donkey, spaceship cakes, etc.
- She made us a part of her ministry to High School and college kids. They were always in our home. They were our friends, too.
- She let me, as a 16 year old, go to boarding school in Guatemala, a country that was moving into what would become a brutal civil war.
- She was an incredible grandmother, creating memories, and providing a place where our kids could come, from Brazil or Guatemala and find a place that was familiar and safe.
So here we are today, “celebrating” the life of Pat Halls, even though her life has ended. We are all richer because of her life, but poorer today because she is no longer with us. We are celebrating the memory of her life and mourning her passing.
Before I go on with trying to figure out for myself the meaning of the memories we are celebrating, I think it is important to think about her passing. One cannot avoid the awful reality that both she and my dad, the love of her life, though deserving of honor and respect, were disrespected by the effects of Parkinson’s Disease. They were taken from us little by little until finally they were gone and in a very undignified way. The effects of the disease was so evil, and it stole so much from them–things they earned and treasured and deserved , that had it been possible to name someone who had taken so much from them, we could have had that person locked up! Parkinson’s is a terrible scourge and it seems unfair that they both had to go through it.
One of the amazing things about my Mom was the way she faced her Parkinson’s and the indignity of it all. She hoped for a day when she would be all put back together and incorruptible, this time. More importantly, she applied her magic to the people around her. She was conscious that God kept her in the Health Center at Plymouth Village, precisely for the people around her–and she tried to live that way. It must have been frustrating though because toward the end it became more difficult for her to add beauty to the place–perhaps because they didn’t let her near the dumpster. She must have done the right thing with her family, because her family was always coming to spend time with her.
The defining characteristic of her life, was really not any of these things. The things I have told you about are just a few of the ways she got into our lives. What shaped all of us, through her influence, was rooted her undying (and that is an interesting word to use at a memorial service!), her undying love of God and of the Bible.
Her commitments to God were more than simply something for her. It would not work to say: she had her commitments and passions, and I have mine. Her love and commitment to God, and to the Bible as the Word of God, produced what she produced in our lives. The result of her commitment to God is that meaningfulness of our own lives was increased. For her, the important, and lasting impact of her life on us was not about her, but about Him!
So, lets go back to those verses, this time in my own words:
Don’t love the world or the things in the world.
If anyone loves the world, they don’t love the Father (that is God).
The problem with the world is that it is made up of the things you want, the things you want to acquire, and that excitement that comes when you get them. If you want the world, you are not wanting the Father, and the problem is that the world is passing away, along with the things you desire.
BUT whoever orients their life around what God wants goes on forever.
Mom redirected her desires, her acquisitions, her excitement and her pride to God.
We all know that it’s not like she didn’t enjoy this world! Life for her was fun. There were lots of fun things to do and she did them. Things were to be appreciated. Her home was something she took pride in. But this world was not where she found her hand-hold. It was not what she grabbed onto.
What Mom wanted, and what Mom got was something lasting, not something that will die, and disappear. She wanted God. She did what she did so that she and we would get something that won’t pass away.
In this, she was more than simply a good example of a godly person. She engaged with each of us to give us something lasting.
You could tell that her love of God was greater than her love of the world in these last years. She loved it when we read the Bible with her, and sang hymns with her. That’s why, even when her mind was not working well, she often would turn to me and ask me how I was doing with God, how you were doing with God, and whether each of us was grabbing onto what really matters, what lasts, what does not pass away.
The impact of her life is measured in the answers to her prayers. She prayed quietly for many people. Some of us were lucky enough to notice how her prayers were answered in their lives. The impact of her life was in the people that she helped reorient their own lives around God and around the Bible. That is why, in these last few weeks, when people who knew her and mentioned her commitment to God, she would smile and glow. She would wake up and get more lucid. What got her going was when you and me would see God and choose to value Him above things we might want, buy or take pride in.
I want to tell you a story. Just about two years ago, we got that dreaded phone call, “It’s time to come if you still want to see Mom alive.” So the four kids and others rushed to her side. And she was not doing well. She couldn’t talk to us, and seemed to be going downhill fast. We sang hymns, read scripture, all the things that brought joy to Dad. But she was pretty unresponsive, as I recall. As we wondered what to do, we asked other people more experienced in the process of the end of life. They suggested we gather and pray for Mom, thank God for her life, say our good-byes and generally let her know that things would be OK. That we would carry on without her and that she had done her work well.
So we went to her room and each of us prayed for her, through tears. It is important for you to know that she hadn’t spoken to us for a couple of days. When the last of us had prayed, she sat up in bed and said, “I want to pray, too!” And she prayed for each of us. She told stories about us, and encouraged us to keep close to God. And she lived another 2 years!
That afternoon we sang with her. Not hymns. We sang “These boots are made for walking!”
She was more than simply a good example of a godly person. She engaged with each of us to give us something lasting.
Her love of God and commitment to Him is why everyone of us in this room has anything to say about her–that’s one important way that she goes on forever. It’s not simply that we can envision her in heaven. The Bible doesn’t actually say some of the things we try to imagine about her today–being reunited to Dad, no more wheelchair–etc. We imagine those things based on the hope of resurrection.
But we don’t have to imagine what we can see: the permanence of her life is visible to us in the effects of her life on each of us. What we got from her that is of value came to us through her love of God and her commitment to Him–as we were drawn to permanence by the things she did: influence, beauty, family and friends and Jesus Christ
What she constantly wanted us to recognize is that our lives can go in one of two directions. We can pass away along with the world, or we can latch onto God and last, as He does. She didn’t just give us an example, but actively involved herself in giving us the only thing that will last–love for God.
This celebration is not about her passing, but about the world’s passing.