We gather this morning in our time of sadness to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Alice Faye Wiley. As we do so we seek to draw comfort from God.
In the Bible we read,
God is our refuge and our strength a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof, the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.
These verses remind us that even though we may feel very alone today because of loss, we are NOT alone. God is with us. Even though you feel weak, you have his strength. Even though you feel lost, He knows the way.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit. [2 Corinthians 5:1-5 NLT]
Paul proclaims that there is life beyond the grave for those who put their trust in Jesus Christ. It is the hope to which we cling today.
Please pray with me,
Father, we would do anything if we didn’t have to be here today for this purpose. The hope was that Alice would be home to enjoy her Grandson and new Grandchild. Instead, we spend this Valentine’s Day having to say good-bye to someone who was the symbol of love in our lives. Please help us in this time of sadness.
Lord, we ask you to draw us together during this time. Help us to remember and celebrate the impact that Alice had during her 71 years. Help us also to find our strength and comfort in you. Amen
Alice Faye Wiley, was born October 25, 1937 in Burlington, IA, the daughter of Lester and Winifred (Anholt) Hartman. On September 30, 1956, she married Robert Wiley in Mediapolis, IA.
Alice and her husband owned and operated the LaHarpe Locker Plant for 30 years where Alice was an expert at wrapping the meet. Alice also worked at Methode Electronics for 18 years. She was a member of the LaHarpe American Legion Auxiliary and the Blandinsville Bowling League for several years.
When her grandson, Clifford, joined the military, Alice became even more active in cutting coupons for military families and regularly volunteered at the Illinois Veterans Home in Quincy.
Alice was 71 years old when she died early Monday morning, February 9, 2009 in the Fort Madison Community Hospital.
Alice is Survived by her husband, Robert,
Sandra Pence (Kevin Shauman) of LaHarpe and
Debra (Danny) Evans of LaHarpe,
five grandchildren –
Shannon (Felecia) Pence of Lomax,
Amber (Jason) Duncan of Macomb,
Andrew (Drew) Pence and (Lindy Shoemaker) of LaHarpe,
Clifford (Anastasia) Evans of Brighton,
and Skyler Pence of LaHarpe,
six great grandchildren –
Sidney, Taylor and Sawyer Pence,
Jack and Ellie Duncan and
one sister, Judy (Jim) Strausser of Morning Sun, IA,
five brothers Kenneth (Lea) Hartmann of Wapello, IA,
Richard Hartman of Fairfield, IA,
Fred (Nancy) Hartman of Winfield, IA,
Larry (Carmen) Hartman of Oquawka,
Ronald (Heather) Hartman of Stronghurst
and Dennis (Debbie) Hartman of Mt. Pleasant.
She is also survived by many nieces and nephews and a special Uncle and Aunt, Clinton and Marcella Bowman, of Burlington, IA. who have been dear friends and companions for many years. We’re pretty sure Alice was the Flower girl at their wedding.
She was preceded in death by her parents, one brother, Lester C. Hartman, Jr. and a sister-in-law Verlan Hartman.
Alice Wiley was a private woman. She had her friends with whom she bowled, or met for lunch at Tinks once a month, but even with them she was somewhat private. She didn’t talk about her problems. Often she didn’t even tell her friends when she was having medical tests. That’s just the way she was. As a result, many people didn’t know the kind of person Alice was.
Alice was a loyal friend. She was prepared to stand with you through any trial.
Alice was a collector. She went through various phases. She collected green glass, Avon dolls and her hummingbirds. When she would go to Flea markets she also would pick up Coke items for Deb or Lions for Bob. I sense that Alice enjoyed the hunt for these things.
Alice was careful with her money. She never spent money on herself but was eager to give to others. Ironically, she also liked to gamble. I’m told that she enjoyed playing the penny slots. She went to Las Vegas twice and hit most of the area casinos at one time or another. Her advice to Debra was, “Don’t spend too much on the gambling boat”. Even in her gambling she was frugal.
Alice really hated snakes. I’m told that every grandchild put a rubber snake in her bed at least once. She didn’t like people touching her hair or her ears . . . so that’s what everyone did. She also didn’t like it when her brothers sand the “Alie Opp” song to her. However, when the grandkids were learning to talk they called her Alie.
Alice had a Green thumb. She loved to plant flowers and had lots of healthy plants inside of her home. She had a knack with Christmas Cactus plants. One of her plants was older than she was! She also liked feeding the hummingbirds.
I’m told Alice tended to drive faster than the posted speed limit. Cliff remembers her getting pulled over outside of town one time as they were heading out to eat for his birthday.
She got her first cell phone last year so people could get hold of her. The problem was that she never had the phone turned on.
Alice never allowed anyone to go into her purse. I’m told it was as heavy as a suitcase and it was just jammed full of stuff. If you wanted a particular kind of candy there was a good chance she had some in her purse. If you needed a quick repair on your clothes, she had a sewing kit. If you had an injury she had a first aid kit. If you needed dental floss . . . it was in her purse. If you needed an address, she could look it up in her address book. You get the idea.
If you knew Alice, you knew that the passion of her life was her family. As she was in the hospital she kept asking Debra to promise to watch over Bob. The two of them built a good life together. On their 50th wedding anniversary the family had a huge party. Bob got down on one knee and asked her to marry him again and they renewed their vows to each other.
We know they had their fights. One time (that we know of) Alice threw some potatoes at Bob. She didn’t think she found them all. Later they found a potato plant growing in one of the other plants. Alice took good care of Bob and Bob tried to take good care of her.
Alice loved her girls and was devoted to the idea of family. When they lived in Mediapolis Alice helped with Bible School. She served as a Girl Scout Leader. When the girls were growing up they went somewhere every weekend to visit family or close friends. They always enjoyed their trips to Missouri to visit their special friends. Alice had a pen pal from that started when she was a sophomore in High School. Each year they would alternate going to see each other.
Each summer Alice looked forward to the family reunions. She was very grateful when Judy came and stayed with her for three weeks after her knee surgery. Whenever Bob and Alice would visit someone they were always early. . . often WAY early!
Alice was quick to welcome boyfriends, girlfriends and mates as part of her family (even though the first time she met Dan was very early one morning in her living room . . . you’ll have to ask him to tell you the story). Anna talks about Alice rubbing her head and back after they had only met a few times. Alice’s arms were always open. The first time Kevin came to visit Sandy in town, Bob and Alice just happened to show up before he arrived!
Alice loved having the family over for Christmas, Thanksgiving, and even Halloween. It was always a big event with lots of food. Tables would extend the length of the living room. Jason says his clearest image of Alice is standing in the kitchen making food for the family. She made terrific brownies, pistachio pudding, and much more.
Alice enjoyed having her grandchildren spend the night. Whenever Amber would visit, Alice would kick Bob out of bed so Amber could sleep with her. (Alice always complained about Bob’s snoring anyway).
Shannon remembers bike rides with Grandma all over town. The boys remember a time going fishing when Alice went to cast into the reservoir and caught the hook on the back of her pants! Alice went for lots of walks with the kids. She always made sure they had tickets for the rides at Summerfest.
Clifford remembers the snacks. Grandma would make him anything he wanted. She made a great homemade breaded tenderloin. Cliff also remembers the care package sent to Afghanistan that was packed as only Alice could pack it. Alice went over to clean the house before Clifford left for the service. Alice was proud of Clifford’s service to his country but was also very worried about him. She would have relished the chance to hug him this week.
Every grandchild remembers Alice being at every game or school event. If the Grandchildren were doing something, they were there. Usually they would be the first to arrive and often would stay if there was a second game and they knew someone on the team.
Alice and Bob were always first in the waiting room when every grandchild or great-grandchild was born. Alice was the first person to hold Clifford after he was born. It didn’t matter how far they had to drive, they were there at the time of birth.
Alice had all kinds of newspaper clippings of things her Grandchildren had done. She not only loved and was proud of her Grandchildren, she was loved by them as well.
As her Grandchildren had their own children, Alice enjoyed sharing her love with a new generation. Alice and Sydney had a special tea set that they used for their many tea parties. Alice was really looking forward to being able to spend some quality time with Raiden.
I have this feeling that in the times of chaos when the house was filled with kids and noisy from activity, Alice often looked over at the group and smiled. She was never more fulfilled than when her family was gathered around her. These were the times when I’m sure she thought to herself, “Life is good and I am richly blessed.”
Alice Wiley was a pretty private person. Lots of people never really knew her. However, those who knew her were changed and warmed by her love. Those who knew her feel a huge void in their life today. They will forever be grateful for her love and her example.
Let’s face it, there is nothing fun about a funeral. As we gather today our hearts are heavy. You are never ready to let go of the people you love. It doesn’t matter how much you expected death or how prepared you thought you were, you are never ready to let go of someone you love. Alice Wiley died suddenly, we were unprepared and that makes this an even harder day.
I want to share a couple of things today. First, I want you to know that grief is normal. It’s ok to cry. It’s normal to be angry at the circumstances. It’s appropriate to be numb and even feel nothing. When you love someone, it hurts to lose that person. Sometimes it hurts so much that can’t comprehend the loss, so your system shuts down for a while. The numbness is God’s way of helping us to cope.
In the Bible we read examples of people who grieved. When King David’s infant son was dying, he fasted, prayed, and pleaded with God to save the child’s life. But the child died. When his older son died he wept loudly. Abraham mourned for his wife Sarah. Jeremiah wept over the destruction of Jerusalem. Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus his friend. Tears are appropriate. Author Max Lucado writes,
Those tiny drops of humanity. Those round, wet balls of fluid that tumble from our eyes, creep down our cheeks, and splash on the floor of our hearts. They are always present at such times. They should be, that’s their job. They are miniature messengers; on call twenty-four hours a day to substitute for crippled words. They drip, drop, and pour from the corner of our souls, carrying with them the deepest emotions we possess. They tumble down our faces with announcements that range from the most blissful joy to darkest despair.
The principle is simple; when words are most empty, tears are most apt.
A tearstain on a letter says much more than the sum of all its words. A tear falling on a casket says what a spoken farewell never could. What summons a mother’s compassion and concern more quickly than a tear on a child’s cheek? What gives more support than a sympathetic tear on the face of a friend?
That task, my friend, was left for the tears.
(Max Lucado, No Wonder They Call Him the Savior.)
Grief is normal and appropriate. Alice wouldn’t want you to stand at her grave and weep . . .but tears are fitting. Do not be embarrassed by your grief . . . it testifies to your love.
As you reflect on your loss, please also take time to reflect on your blessing. It is obvious to me that Alice was a loving and special person. Share your stories. They are a tribute to her life. Sometimes in the times of sadness we don’t want to share memories because we are afraid we will make family members cry.
I had an experience once when we had lost a cherished member of our family. We gathered at the next Christmas and I was asked to say the blessing over before the meal. I mentioned that we were very aware of a empty place at our table. Immediately I began to hear people cry. Honestly, I was afraid that I was going to be in trouble. However, when the prayer was over I was shocked by the fact that people said, “I thought I was the only one thinking about the loss.” The rest of the day we laughed and we cried as we shared memories and celebrated a special life.
Share your stories. Your story will provoke other memories. We have tried to do this some today. I am sure that there is nothing Alice would like more than to be remembered by those who love her.
There is a second thing I need to say to you: there is more to life than what we see.
In some respects, it’s easy to dismiss the whole notion of life beyond the grave as something we need to say in order to get through the hard times. But I don’t think eternity is an illusion. The greatest piece of evidence for life beyond the grave is the Resurrection of Jesus. The factual nature of this event is, I believe, overwhelming. The facts detail the reality of His death. The tomb was empty even though it was put under guard. People saw Jesus alive for weeks after His death. Those who saw Him were transformed and emboldened by their encounter. There has been no fact more examined over the centuries than the Resurrection, and no one can give any evidence that Jesus did not rise from the grave. All of the evidence points in the other direction.
If Jesus rose from the dead then there must be life beyond the grave. If He rose from the grave, then He should be the One we listen to and follow. If Jesus rose from the dead, then we can have hope even in the midst of our own sadness and grief.
Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11)
This is a significant statement. When Jesus said this, He was talking to his dear friends, Mary and Martha at the funeral of their brother, Lazarus. There are three key points in these words that you need to hear today. First, notice the promise: “He who believes in me will live even though he dies and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.” Jesus says there is life beyond the grave. At another time Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many rooms, if it were not so I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you so that you may be where I am.”
The Bible’s teaching is consistent. Death is not the end. There is an existence and life that extends beyond the grave. It is a life that starts the moment we believe and extend on into eternity. It is a life that makes this life seem like only a moment. There are two possible destinations: Heaven and Hell. The life called Heaven is described in the Bible as a time and place filled with unimagined joy and the elimination of all that is evil or painful. We are told “God will wipe away every tear from their eye.”
Second, notice the condition of the promise, “He who believes in me.” There are two common views about Heaven. One view seems to say that everyone who dies goes to Heaven . . . . .except maybe the really really bad people. The other view says that those people who live good lives go to Heaven. The Bible says neither is true.
The Bible tells us that none of us have lived a good enough life to earn God’s favor or what we often think of as “heaven”. Even the best of us sin . . . and with great regularity. Think about it, even if we only sinned (did what was wrong in God’s eyes either in thought, word, or deed) three times a day (which would be a staggeringly very good day for most of us), that would be 21 times a week . . . almost a thousand times a year! By the end of our lives we would have committed tens of thousands of sins. Our sin-debt is greater than we could ever hope to pay.
That’s where Jesus comes on the scene. The Bible tells us that Jesus died to pay for the sin we have committed. The only condition is that we be truly sorry for our wrong-doing and that we put our hope, faith, and confidence in Jesus. The Bible is clear, only those who sincerely and truly trust Jesus Christ will be granted Heaven. Sincere trust is not a prayer you pray; it is a new orientation to life. To really “have faith” or “believe” in Jesus means being willing to follow Him and rest in Him.
For those who believe (the Christian), death is not the end of the story; it is merely the end of the introduction to the story. Death is merely a time of transition. It is the transfer point leading to new life, reunion and celebration.
I don’t know the nature of Alice’s faith, but God does. I don’t know how she felt about God or what she believed about Christ, but God does. I know she was involved in the church at one time and then was hurt by the church. I mourn over that fact.
If Alice Wiley genuinely trusted Jesus Christ, she is now enjoying the blessing of Heaven and she looks forward to the most joyous of family reunions.
Finally, note the important question that Jesus asked. Jesus had basically told these two sisters what I have just told you. Jesus then asked a pointed question: : “Do you believe this?” We can speculate all day long about what Alice believed. The more important question today is: What do you believe? The answer to this question makes a world of difference in how you face this day. For those who do not believe, this day is the height of futility (we live, we die, that’s it). For those who do trust Christ this is a day when we cling to the promise of God and the life that comes alone through Jesus Christ.
I encourage you to use this day to address the ultimate questions in your life. We have been reminded this week that death often strikes unexpectedly. Resolve today that you will not face that day unprepared. Turn to Christ. Begin developing a relationship with Him. If you will do so, you will not only be granted life beyond the grave, you will be surprised to discover a whole new dimension of life on this side of the grave.
So, I encourage you to remember. Share your stories. Remember the things Alice taught you. Things like,
- It’s always good to be prepared . . . a purse can help you be prepared
- Making time for family is never a burden; it is a joy
- Great joy is found in simple things: watching the birds, taking a walk, having a tea party, or fishing on the shore.
- Potatoes are great to eat . . . but you can also throw them if you need to
- A family is meant to expand. Don’t resist the expansion . . . welcome it with open arms.
- There is nothing wrong with having fun . . . you just need to know your limits
- You can pack a lot in a box if you know what you are doing.
- The high decibels of a family gathering may be viewed by some as noise, but it is better to view it as the joyous sounds of life and blessing.
- When life is over the people who matter won’t measure your life by what stuff you have accumulated, but by the memories of love you have burned into their heart.
Let’s pray together.
Father, we thank you for the life of Alice Wiley. Thank you for her huge heart and her generous spirit. We entrust her now to You who are filled with mercy and grace. Welcome her into your presence.
Lord, I pray for this family. There is such emptiness in Bob’s life. Please provide the strength and comfort he needs for this time. Grant this family your comfort. Flood their minds with rich and wonderful memories. Grant that their memories might not dim over the passage of time but instead grow more precious. Help them to carry on the passion for family that Alice had.
Help us all, O Lord, to live looking beyond the next moment. Help us to live with an eternal perspective. Help us to place our faith in Christ, the One you have provided for our needs. We ask this is the wonderful name of Jesus Christ. Amen.