a funeral sermon

With thanksgiving for the life of Patricia Josephine Bredeson

13 Oct 1923 + 5 Dec 2014

Hebrews 13; Psalm 23; John 14:1-6


Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

It struck me, Pam and Sue, when we were visiting the other day how you kept describing two different sides to your mother, two different experiences.

Now, a lot of how we would describe ourselves is that way: when we were younger and immature versus when we grew up, or workplace demeanor versus when we’re having fun. There’s also the Jekyll and Hyde kinds of distinctions, that we can be so saintly one minute and turn to be obnoxious, terrible sinners the next. Those are true and important and even fit with our theology and view of God’s work.

But it’s not that sort of two sides that you talked about with your mother, not those two types of sides to Pat’s personality. In fact, she seemed to dwell more constantly on the kind and gracious side, as I’ll say more about. To start, though, I want to repeat for others how you talked about how this same mother for two different daughters, exaggerating a bit to make a helpful point. Again, it’s not that she was nice to one and harsh to the other, that she spoiled one while neglecting the other. That may be true for others, but not for Pat. That would still be important for our views of God, but I believe she is even more appropriate as an example for us of God’s love.

And so I enjoyed hearing how you, Sue and Pam, each perceived your mother’s care. For the rest of you, Sue talked about her mother teaching her to be a young lady, to dress right and wear make-up, to be prepared and look your best, to be well-behaved and polite and say thank you. And she understood Pam was different, perhaps the more social side. That ended up meaning more time with friends and fewer rules and plenty of enjoyment.

I’ve been reflecting on how both sides of that are fitting for our faith as we live with paradoxes or dichotomies. We would say that God indeed has high expectations for us. We gather to worship in our Sunday best, looking good and behaving as we ought, whether that is phrased in Ten Commandments or in a summary like “love your neighbor as yourself” or “do unto others as you would have them do to you.” We expect that it’s good and right for us to return thankfulness to God, always to be grateful for what we’ve been given. We figure there is a pattern or plan for the good God wants us to accomplish in life. That is the Sue-side of relationship with Pat, and relationship with God.

And then there is the Pam-side, where those all-important expectations and guidelines are not all-important but fall to second place. As much as we ought to strive to live well in relationship with each other and in respect to God, still there is grace and forgiveness. When we fall short and when we fail and when things just turn out differently, that is not the end of the relationship. That is obviously true of a mother’s love, and is even more abundantly true of God. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus, whether sinfulness or our lack of love or our forgetfulness or even death.

That also calls to mind another set of those dichotomies or paradoxes, the odd opposites of pairs, as we reflect on Pat’s life and this moment now.

I got to know Pat as always beautifully and immaculately dressed. Her dressed in lovely outfits. Her make-up accented a bright and cheery face, which also was the external sign of a gracious internal demeanor that embodied a stunning hostess. She was always ready to smile and to greet and filled with compliments. So remarkably hospitable, she had an amazing welcome and was always pleased to help. I chose the Hebrews Bible reading because that grace and love and diligent good work and cheerful greeting and blessing and hospitality all seem to have been lived out in Pat. Still as I walk around this space on Sundays in sharing the peace and greeting others, I feel her place in that section near the back, that there’s some of her warmth still there.

Yet it was also there that I first noticed the confusion setting in. Her eyes didn’t have quite the same sparkle as she was beginning to confront the disease of dementia. And in these past years, that had changed some of who Pat was and how you knew her. From being one who could organize a household and planned meals and was a great wife and who could enjoy travels with her sister and would be out and about socializing or meeting new people or shopping, from the vibrancy of life, something indeed was lost. Even in the sign of her always-perfect hairdo something disappeared.

And, as much as we would try to stay positive, we would still very truly and honestly count those as losses in life, not just as transitions but declines. An Old Testament passage that became a well-known song says that there is time for every season, a time to be born and a time to die, a time to seek and a time to lose, a time to laugh and to weep, to dance and mourn. In each of those pairings, we would say there is very definitely one good side and one bad side.

And, indeed, as we gather here today, it is with reasonable lamentation, sorry at losing a mother and grandmother, a friend. There has been sorrow for years, as Pat’s sister Margaret died 20 years ago, and her husband a dozen years ago, as she moved toward death herself in the loss of memory and of mobility.

Yet, in faith, we live with the paradoxes, the dichotomies, the odd opposites that are paired together. Even as we mourn and weep, still we rejoice in a long life well-lived. And even in the face of death, we proclaim we expect something more. In spite of our illness and forgetfulness we are never forgotten. Even when beset by the bad, we trust in God’s goodness. In the midst of a cold, dark season, we enjoy warm, beloved gatherings and bright lights. Even when we fear the end of life, we turn to the birth of a baby, the promise of God with us, an infant who was cradled in his mother’s arms and in his embrace we are guaranteed to remain for eternity. Even at this season, when things are supposed to be happy and we’re supposed to be together, and gifts given, not life taken away, where this could seem like the worst time for death and loss, still we expect it’s good to be in this beautiful place, with the promise of new life in Jesus.

And that’s true even as we face all those opposites of being lady-like versus wild or a tomboy, of high expectations or abundant forgiveness, of great ability or disability, of memory or forgetfulness, of weeping versus laughter, of health versus sickness, of death versus life, we trust it is not just that there is a good side and a bad side, a dark side and a light side. In the promise of Jesus, for Pat and for you, we have one whose embrace holds all together, that nothing can separate you from that love. Even when hospitality fails and love seems to have reached its limit and Pat could no longer welcome people into her home or into her life, still there is the larger welcome, the assurance that Jesus has a place prepared for her and for you, to welcome you into his Father’s household forever, to prepare a table before you. Wherever you are, from birth to death and beyond, through thick and thin, good or bad, in all circumstances of life and for life to come, God is with you, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen