This is the eulogy I gave at my mom’s funeral today. Over 500 people came! We were expecting less than 300, so it was a great turnout. The funeral was beautiful, and it was an excellent portrayal of who she was and what she stood for.

How do you measure one person’s life?

How do you measure one person’s life? As my family has watched my mom deteriorate over the last few months, each of us has been forced to consider her life and to come to grips with what she means to us. We have to ask ourselves who this person was, and we have to define and clarify why she was important.

Well, was it because she was successful in the world’s eyes? There’s certainly a case to be made there. She was a simple girl from Canada, without any major achievements in academics, athletics, or music.

However, after catching my dad’s eye and becoming his wife, she became half of a very important marriage (and let’s be honest… she was the by far the more attractive and conversational half). This marriage would move up the corporate ladder, would attend inaugurations and important business trips. Together they would become a key part of their church community, bringing all kinds of support and leadership. This marriage would parent four kids, each of whom would distinguish themselves in various ways. Together they would go on mission trips, support missionaries, and become involved in Michigan Theological Seminary. By sometimes supporting my dad in his pursuits and sometimes dragging him along behind in hers, my mom had what anyone would deem a successful life.

The thing is, she would never have seen it that way. Her humility was too great. Yes, my dad was successful in business… but he hesitated to tell her when he got bonuses or raises, knowing that she would complain that he made too much money.

Yes, she went to all sorts of places for missions… but she would prefer taking on the dirtiest and hardest jobs when she did so, caring more about seeing people served well than she did about being proud just for having gone.

Yes, she had four pretty decent kids… but she challenged us constantly, never content with having “just” good kids. She made it a priority to stretch us in every way possible; if you were smart, she wanted you to learn compassion. If you won, she wanted you to learn grace. If you lost, she wanted you to learn character. If you got out of line, she wanted you to learn about the loving hand of discipline, helping you get back IN line.

You see, my mom hated the idea of seeing oneself as successful. Something much deeper and stronger drove her, and it would be dishonoring if we only remembered her as a successful person.

So, then, how do you measure one person’s life? Do you measure it by their general goodness, by their acts of service?

Again, my mom can make a great case for this. Her list of acts of service would be a mile long. Consider these things:

If you know what is meant by terms like Air Force One and The Beast, you know my mom was a servant. She spent countless hours driving my siblings and I in those stupid vans of hers to a multitude of friends houses, church events, and sporting events. Just imagine trying to juggle four schedules that include gymnastics, tennis, basketball, soccer, band, ultimate Frisbee, youth group, Awana, school projects, plays, birthday parties, movies, and so much more. THEN try to imagine throwing in kids who forget their lunchboxes, picking up 10-12 high school kids to be thrown in the van for youth group each week, driving to camp and back every summer, teaching kids to drive, running errands to the church, shopping for the family, finding Christmas gifts every year, and visiting friends and family. That gives you a small taste of how my mom served others with her van.

If you have ever seen her at the front of the room, you know she is a servant. She didn’t like being an up-front type of leader, and yet she put the Awana program at Lake Pointe together, acting for years as its “commander” (an apt term if I ever heard one). She also put lots of effort into mission trips, leading kids from all sorts of locations in singing songs about Jesus, hoping desperately that the lessons would sink in and that the kids would come to know God. She wasn’t a great speaker, but nobody who has heard her lectures can deny that she had a force of personality that would make itself heard, even if words and their technical meanings were more of an obstacle than an ally.

If you have ever seen her cry for others, you know my mom is a servant. Her love for people was so deep that it would bring her to tears on a consistent basis. She loved everyone. She loved her family, even when that involved heartache. She loved every high school kid she ever met, even when they would turn away from God and pursue their own path. She loved families, patiently teaching parents how to be better parents, while simultaneously gaining a reputation as one of the top “baby stealers” Lake Pointe ever had.

But the thing is, I don’t think my mom would want to be defined by her good works either. While they were an important part of who she was, she didn’t do those things because they made her feel good, or because she was trying to “put a little love in the world” or anything like that. No, my mom’s motivation went much deeper.

How do you measure one person’s life? At the end of the day, my mom could only and would only measure herself by her faithfulness to God’s calling. She and I fought quite a bit, and when we reached a point of high frustration she would always say, “Before the Lord, I can only make this choice.”

She wanted to honor God with every part of her life. Everything about how she interacted with people and loved them and served them was designed to reflect Him. She loved her family, but we all knew that if God had called her to be a missionary, she would have gone. Nothing was more important to her than what her Savior wanted.

My mom’s life was a terrific success. She radiated God’s presence, even in the times when she hurt our feelings, crushed our ambitions or challenged us when we thought we were doing the right thing. She taught us all to love others more, to examine ourselves more carefully, and to desire God above all else. She showed us that just living out our comfortable lives doesn’t make sense if we say that we believe in a God who has redeemed us. She showed us that no matter how hard WE think we have worked to love God in our lives, there is always more.

We love our mom. She was a mother, a friend, a prophet, and a martyr. Her love and sincerity were intense and unrelenting. We love her not because she helped us relax, but because she would never let us relax. As so many have said to us, her life made a deep impression, and we could never be who we are if it weren’t for her.

I want to close by sharing the words of an old hymn that reminded me of my mom.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Thou are the Potter, I am the clay.
Mold me and Make me, after thy will,
While I am waiting, yielded and still.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Search me and try me, Master today!
Whiter than snow, Lord wash me just now,
As in thy presence, humbly I bow.

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Wounded and weary, help me I pray!
Power, all power surely is Thine,
Touch me and heal me, Savior divine!

Have Thine Own way, Lord! Have thine own way!
Hold o’er my being absolute sway!
Fill with Thy Spirit till all shall see,
Christ only, always, living in me.


amanda said...

:) have a good christmas!

Cece said...

My, this brought tears to my eyes...makes you realize how short life is and how important family members are

Anonymous said...

Ben the euology was amazing.
It really kinda took my breath away on how well it was said, and how well it was summarized. I printed this out, and I leave a copy of it in my Bible, cause when I realize that when I'm having a really bad day I know that I've got to be happy to be alive.

Definitly praying for you guys