We gather this morning to remember, celebrate, and thank God for the life of Brian L. Blythe. We are stunned and saddened by his death which makes this day that much more difficult for us to bear.
As we gather in our grief we cling to the promise of God. Jesus said to his friends and disciples,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. [John 14:1-3]
To Mary and Martha Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live even though he dies.” Though our hearts ache, we hold to the promise that this is not the end of Brian’s story.
Let’s pray together,
Father, we bow before you and our hearts ache. We ache because Brian is gone. We ache because we did not have the opportunity to say “Good Bye”. We ache because there are so many unanswered questions. It seems like we should not be doing this for another 30-40 years. Please draw us into your comfort. Remind us of your sufficiency for our need.
We also ask that you help us to remember. Help us to see the blessing that Brian was to our lives. Stir up within us a spirit of thankfulness for Brian’s life. Instill within us a sense of his spirit. Be present in our midst and be honored by our thoughts and words, we ask in Jesus Name.
Brian was born on October 3, 1962 the son of Lowell and Marcia Kern Blythe. Growing up in the Blythe home meant you were expected to take responsibility, you acted with character, you laughed a lot, and when dealing with your siblings, you always watched your back (or in at least one time with Brian and Julie, you also needed to watch your forehead)!
Brian graduated from La Harpe High School, Bradley University, received his teaching degree from Western Illinois University and received his Master’s Degree from the University of Miami, FL.
Brian loved people. He always had a big smile and a hearty laugh. He loved music. He sang in the Swing Choir and in the church choir here in LaHarpe and I think the two of us even had a duet together one year. Brian had a good ear for music and a fine tenor voice. He enjoyed all kinds of music.
Brian wasn’t particularly handy with tools but he wasn’t afraid to tackle any project. He had confidence that he could do whatever he set his mind to do. He helped start a fraternity at Bradley. He went dog-sledding and even jumped off of a mountain and sailed in the wind to the bottom. He traveled all around the world and spent time in 5 of the 7 Continents. Of course there was that one time when Brian was around 10. He wanted to climb the Corn Crib and Gary told him he could go up there. When he got to the top he determined there was no way he was going to go down on that ladder! Rob and Gary had to go up and coax him down with one of them above him and one below him. Brian savored and loved life.
Brian was an avid sports fan. He especially liked college sports and watching the Olympics.
After receiving his teaching degree, he taught business classes at Sacred Heart Griffin, Springfield, IL. He continued his career as Director of Admissions at Robert Morris College, Springfield for over 10 years. After moving to Miami, he was employed by the University and was Director of Pre-College Programs where he dealt with hundreds of high school students.
Brian invested his life in the lives of others. It is impossible to know how many young people had their lives changed because of his care, his consideration and his genuine concern. Brian treated his nieces and nephews as if they were his own children. He loved spending time with them. The feeling was mutual.
Brian also loved Christmas. He was always trying to guess who had his name and what they were buying for him. Christmas was a special family time and Brian loved everything about it.
Brian was a generous man. He was generous with his time and his money. He was a member of the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, Ambassador for United Way projects, participated in the Rotary International Exchange Program to Sweden and other leadership projects inMiami. He was actively involved in the St. John’s on the Lake United Methodist Church in Miami Beach, FL. Brian loved to serve others. I suspect he loved looking back on a day with the feeling that he had brightened the day of someone else.
Brian wasn’t perfect. He had his struggles and his battles. However in these times he worked hard to keep his faith. He always knew that the source of his strength was the Lord. He was active in the church wherever he lived. He wasn’t perfect, but he was forgiven.
Brian died suddenly on Friday, June 27th. However, in the 45 years he lived, he lived fully. He did and saw more than most of us will see in a lifetime. At the same time he will be missed by everyone who knew him. He is survived by three sisters, Julie (Rick) Jarvis, Mahomet, Donna Jo Lydy, Loveland, Ohio, Linda (Max) Comstock, Springfield, two brothers, Robert (Paula) Blythe and Gary (Cheryl) Blythe, all of La Harpe and 14 nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his parents.
In 1 Thessalonians 4, Paul wrote to the church these words,
Brothers, we do not want you to be ignorant about those who fall asleep, or to grieve like the rest of men, who have no hope.We believe that Jesus died and rose again and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. (1 Thess 4:13-14)
The words that jump out at us are these “I do not want you to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope”. I want the same for you.
There is always a sense when someone Brian’s age dies to say, “What a waste”. Life feels somewhat empty and meaningless. We stand here today to affirm that this is not the case. We do not know why Brian died so early but we do know that this is not the end. There is a loving God on the other end of death’s doorway. What we understand as tragedy is actually something quite different for Brian.
I love the analogy someone made to death being like a departure and arrival terminal. On the departure side there is sadness. Someone special is going away. The people who must say good-bye feel like a part of them is leaving. There are often tears. However, on the other side of the journey; on the arrival side; the scene is different. Those who are welcoming the traveler are waving, smiling, and some are jumping up and down in eager anticipation. We stand here today filled with the hope that in contrast to our sorrow Brian smiles and laughs as he is reunited with his parents, friends and other family members who have already made the journey. He has been set free from his burdens and has experienced the loving embrace of a magnificent Savior.
Our hope for life beyond the grave is not anchored to Brian’s kindness or generosity or the fact that he was a good guy. Our hope is anchored to the grace and mercy of God. One of Brian’s favorite verses was John 3:16. The promise is simple: whoever believes in Him will not perish, but will have everlasting life. The necessary condition for eternal life is faith and trust in Christ. We are not granted eternal life because of our behavior, we are granted eternal life because of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf. When Jesus rose from the dead he took away death’s sting. He overcame the grave’s defeat. Because He lives those who put their trust in Him will also live. If Brian’s faith was sincere in the risen Christ, and I believe it was, Jesus says he will live even though he has died.
I encourage you in this time of sadness and loss to hang on to the sure hope that is anchored to the person and work of Christ. Use this as a time to examine your own heart. Ask yourself if you trust Jesus or if you are trusting your own goodness and resources. One way leads to life, the other to frustration and despair. Use this time of sadness to renew your own devotion to the things of God.
I also encourage you to give thanks for Brian’s life. We mourn his death. We are saddened by the way he died but that must not overshadow the spirit by which he lived. It’s my hope that God will inspire us to live more fully, to reach out more faithfully, and to enjoy every minute of the journey.
It’s a sad day, but it need not be a day of despair. It is my prayer that God would use this day to stir up faith and to renew our hope.
Father, we commit now the body of Brian Blythe to the ground in the hope of its future resurrection and we commit his life and soul to You, the one who made Him, who sustained Him, and who now welcomes Him home. Grant comfort and blessing to these who mourn. For I ask it in Jesus’ name. Amen.