Below is a copy of the sermon I preached on Friday, June 23, for Cheryl Newbrough's funeral. You can hear a podcast of the entire service of the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.
I think we’d all agree; we shouldn’t be here this morning at a funeral for a person who, less than a year ago, was so incredibly full of life. No, y’all should be down state at the cabin or Cheryl should be hanging out with her grandchildren or she and David should be just spending some time together just like they always did. That’s what y’all should doing. Not saying good-bye to a person that everybody here knew and loved. It’s not right. It’s not fair. But sadly, life isn’t always fair. And good people pass too soon. And those left behind are left in places like this saying good-bye.
And even though there are a lot of spiritual things that I can say, things that, don’t get me wrong, I believe as sure as I’m standing here, you know like how God is in total control of his creation; therefore, where we’ll spend eternity is secure, and I believe it is; and how, when Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, he gave us all a solid reason to hope that one day we’ll be raised ourselves, and I believe he does; and how right now the Holy Spirit is flowing around and through us and he’ll lead us through grief to a place of peace, and I believe he will; you see, although I could say all that, I understand that it’s difficult to hear this kind of thing right now, maybe later but not now. And even if you believe it all, and I hope you do, I understand that it’s not going to make the grief and the sadness go away.
And I’ll tell you, God understands that as well. And so, even though I think it gives our Father genuine pain seeing his children sad, he knows that sometimes we have to travel through, not around but through, the darkness so that they can live in the light on the other side. And I’ll tell y’all, that’s where you are today. And my words aren’t going to change it.
But as you do that, I want y’all to remember two things, because I’ll tell you, I think they’ll help you as y’all go through something that will never be easy. First, I want you to remember that God loves. God loves Cheryl and God loves you. You see, I want you to trust me; right now God holds Cheryl in his loving hands, and they’re the same hands in which he holds us. And that like a good shepherd, he’s already led her through the valley of the shadow of death just like one day he’ll lead us. And when that time comes, we’ll enter a new heaven and a new earth, a place where there’ll be no more pain and parting. And of Cheryl will be there, maybe still packing heat, I don’t know how Heaven works, and certainly wanting to know how the Steelers have done since she was gone. I’m telling y’all, she won’t be alone; she’ll be there, of course, with her mother just the way it’s suppose to be. You see, God just plain loves. He loves her and he loves us. And that’s one thing I want y’all to remember.
And second, I want y’all to remember Cheryl, and in particular one thing that came up over and over again when I talked to the family yesterday afternoon. I want you to remember her smile, that incredible smile that Cheryl had, and the humor and joy and love that lay behind it. For example, I remember y’all said she had one great sense of humor, something that was there right to the end. My goodness, I don’t know many people who, after the movement in the arms and legs were gone and even speech was difficult, good night, who else would pretend to eat the arm of a nurse when he tried to put on the blood pressure cuff. Man, there was a lot of humor behind the smile. And joy, my goodness, as ya’ll know, Cheryl was up for anything, and she found a lot of joy in a whole bunch of different things, like shooting and staying in the cabin and definitely mushrooms, hunting them, not necessarily eating them. Y’all know there was also a lot of joy behind the smile. And when it came to love, her love was both wide and deep. But there was absolutely nothing that she loved more than her family, and I’m talking about all her kids and grandkids and great-grandchild, you know, the ones who sometimes seemed glued to her hip, and of course, the incredible love she had for her dear husband, David. I think y’all know that she would have made any sacrifice for y’all and that she worried a whole lot more for you than she did for herself. Maybe most important of all, that smile showed love. And that you can remember. And I’ll tell you why it’s important. Not only will it keep her alive in your hearts until you see her again, as you tell the story, you’re passing the memories to the next generation, people really need to know Cheryl.
And now it’s about time for us to say good-bye for one last time. And even though it’s not fair and I know it’s extremely hard to do, there are two things I challenge you to remember during this time of separation. First, I want you to remember that God loves. And second, I want you to remember Cheryl, and in particular, her smile.