Sermon – December 23, 2014
The Rev. Rebecca S. Myers, CSW
Funeral of Brenda Neeley Gibson
London Funeral Home Chapel, London, KY
21Martha said to Jesus, ‘Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. John 11:21
27She said to him, ‘Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.’ John 11:26-27
Well over the past few weeks I’ve heard some favorite stories about Brenda. Like the time someone said they’d take her for a motorcycle ride and she climbed right on and went for the ride, although she didn’t really ever want to take a second ride. Or how she learned to drive using her crutches to move the gas peddle and the brake. Or the time when someone said they were coming to pick her up for something and she said she was in the middle of painting the ceiling! Her friend was incredulous, but arrived at the house to see Brenda in her wheelchair with a roller on an extension and she was painting the ceiling!
Or how she loved her job at Laurel Heights Nursing Home and what delight she had helping the residents there and how she made sure they got to the church services. We could spend hours telling stories, couldn’t we?
I didn’t know Brenda for very long, but got to know her better in the past couple of months when she was hospitalized. During her illness, I started hearing stories, and to a person, everyone agreed that Brenda was an amazing person. She was always so cheerful and encouraging. She was always up to a challenge. She didn’t want any special treatment. She’d talk about some of the things that happened to her, but she’d be so matter of fact about it. She was an inspiration to so many of us, helping us try harder in our own lives, helping us to be better people.
Yes, she did have her moments, but she sure didn’t like you to know about them. One day I called her at the hospital and she broke down about so many things that were worrying her. But when I went to see her the next day, I could tell she was so embarrassed she’d let me see her worries. Because, as amazing as Brenda was, her one downfall, like so many of us, was that she had a hard time asking for and receiving help. She was so independent and believed it was important for her to take care of herself. This independence could be frustrating at times when you knew she needed help. I hope as we mourn, we will reach out to each other and take help from each other.
So, upon hearing about Brenda’s death, most of us can relate to Martha in our Gospel, Lord, if you had been here, our sister, Brenda, would not have died. Because we depended upon Brenda so much that we didn’t want to have to readjust our lives to being without her. We wanted her to live forever or at least outlive us.
But, I think the gift Brenda gave us that we probably overlooked, was that Brenda knew every single day of her life was a gift. None of us are promised length of life and yet we live like it is our right to live many, many years. We act like there’s always a tomorrow. But, you see, Brenda knew as a child that she was not expected to live very long…not expected to live beyond her teenaged years. So, I don’t think Brenda took her life for granted. She tried to pack in as much as she could and lived in tremendous gratitude for every day.
Now, some people might choose to be bitter. But, you see, Brenda didn’t really question why she had the medical problems she had. Maybe she had her private moments of wishing things would be different and we wouldn’t blame her for that. But, I think Brenda accepted her life, because Brenda believed in God and in Jesus Christ, his Son.
Brenda believed that Jesus was “the resurrection and the life.” She believed that in believing in Jesus Christ, she would live and never die. She could answer Jesus like Martha did, “Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Messiah, the Son of God, the one coming into the world.”
And as hard as it is to say good-bye to her at this time of year…this time of Christmas…what more fitting time? This is the time we celebrate Jesus’ coming into the world. This is the time we remember that God gave his only Son to us and we can be sure that Brenda is wrapped in the loving arms of God. We can be sure that Brenda is sitting at the feet of Jesus. We here are waiting to see the face of Jesus, but Brenda is right there.
God asks all of us to be examples of His love and His rule on earth. Brenda was certainly that, so we carry in our hearts her perseverance, her determination, her joy, and her knowing that each and every day is a gift from God.
Thank you God for giving us Brenda. Rest in peace, dear one of God.