Below is the sermon I preached during Ruth Ann Oesterling's memorial service, Friday, November 17, in Weirton, West Virginia. You can hear the whole service, including memories shared, on the Cove Presbyterian Podbean page.
I've been a minister of over thirty years, and part of the work is doing memorials like this one. And in the past, I've done a lot of services for people who died suddenly and unexpectedly. In fact, I've done two of them in the last month. And you know, before those funerals, as I talked with the families, they always felt sort of numb, you know, like they were living in a dream, a nightmare. And I'll tell you something else; they always had questions that I just can't answer, most of which began with the word "why." You see, their emotions were all jumbled and confused. It was as though they just couldn't get their heads around what had happened, but then how could they; when it was all so sudden. I mean, their lives changed forever, and it happened in an instant, in the blink of an eye. Now this is something I’ve seen too many times. And whenever I go into one of those services, I try to offer some kind of comfort in my message, although I know that they're still going to be left with a lot of the same questions and the same feelings they had going in. And I know that only time and close friends and family and of course prayer will help them get a handle on the confusion and maybe even the doubt they're going to feel.
But you know, I hope that's not the case for us this morning, because I believe we have every reason to leave this service with a sense of peace. You see, although we'll certainly miss Ruth Ann, and I'm talking about the one who was gentle and kind and yet strong enough to raise two teenagers on her own, although we're going to miss her, I really believe that we can feel a sense of comfort, a sense of tranquility, a genuine sense of peace as we leave here and go on with the rest of our lives. And let me tell you why.
First, I think we can feel peace just knowing that Ruth Ann lived a good life. And you know, I think if you were going to sum it up, two words immediately come to mind to mind, at least they do for me. And you know it's interesting, they’re the same words that Debbie and I sort of challenged our daughter, Maggie, to use a guide when she was young. You see, when she did something that may not have been very nice, we'd ask her, "Now was that loving and kind?" And I'll tell you, for me, those words really describe Ruth Ann. I mean, she was certainly loving, and I’m talking about in her relationship with her family and friends and of course, her church and her God. But more than that, I think you could say she just plain loved life, and I think that's what made these last few years so difficult, because the quality of that life just wasn't what it had been. Now that's not to say that she didn't love the folks at Woodland Hills, but she just couldn't do a lot of things she really enjoyed. Ruth Ann was loving, but she was also kind. Yesterday evening, when I was talking with Kathy on the phone, you said that your mom looked for the good in others and that she'd say that everybody was pretty and nice, you know, whether they were or weren’t. Wow, that’s something I don’t do. But I'll tell you, in a world where it seems that we're all looking for the worse in the folks around us, I think that it's a real gift to be able to see the good; because that led her to be gentle and kind with others, even those who are hopelessly misguided, you know, like those poor souls who didn't cheer for the Steelers and followed teams like the Brown or the Ravens or the Raiders. But even to those sad people, Ruth Ann was kind. You see, Ruth Ann really did live a good life. And that's the first reason I think, we can feel peace.
And second, I hope y'all believe that Ruth Ann has a wonderful future, a future that's grounded in the promises of God and the love of Jesus Christ. I mean, just think about what Isaiah saw, a time when those who have gone before us "will mount up with wing like eagles, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not faint." And of course John, that wonderful vision he had of our future, in a new heaven and a new earth, a place where God will wipe away all tears from our eyes and where there will be no death and no sorrow and no crying and no pain. You see, that's our future, a new world, a recreated world. And I'll tell you, Ruth Ann is going to be there, golfing and swimming and hiking and doing all those things she hasn't been able to do for years. And she's going to be there with your dad, just the way it's supposed to be. In other words, the time is coming when we're going to see Ruth Ann again, and we'll all be together in a new and glorious world, one where there's no pain and no passing. You see, that's our future. That's our hope. And that's the second reason I think we can feel peace.
You see, after some funerals, families struggle for years with all kinds of questions and emotions, sometimes even guilt, and I'm talking about questions that I'm not sure anyone can answer and emotions that are jumbled and confused and guilt that can almost take over a person's life. But you know, I don't think that should be the case for us, as we leave here this morning, because I believe that we can feel a sense peace as we think about Ruth Ann, and I'm talking about the peace that comes from knowing that she lived a good life and that the day is coming when we'll see her again. You see, I think knowing these things offers a genuine sense of peace.