We come together this morning to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Anna Lou Reed. But we also to seek God and the comfort that only He can give. We turn to God’s Word for the comfort for the promises
Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD;
O Lord, hear my voice.
Let your ears be attentive
to my cry for mercy.
If you, O LORD, kept a record of sins,
O Lord, who could stand?
But with you there is forgiveness;
therefore you are feared.
I wait for the LORD, my soul waits,
and in his word I put my hope.
My soul waits for the Lord
more than watchmen wait for the morning,
more than watchmen wait for the morning.
O Israel, put your hope in the LORD,
for with the LORD is unfailing love
and with him is full redemption.
1 Peter 1:3-6
3 All honor to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for it is by his boundless mercy that God has given us the privilege of being born again. Now we live with a wonderful expectation because Jesus Christ rose again from the dead. 4 For God has reserved a priceless inheritance for his children. It is kept in heaven for you, pure and undefiled, beyond the reach of change and decay. 5 And God, in his mighty power, will protect you until you receive this salvation, because you are trusting him. It will be revealed on the last day for all to see. 6 So be truly glad! There is wonderful joy ahead, even though it is necessary for you to endure many trials for a while. Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
And, at Anna Lou’s request, let me read a familiar creed that is not in the Bible but is a summary of the teaching of the Bible, This is a creed Anna Lou learned early in her life and became the basis of her faith.
The Apostles’ Creed
I believe in God, the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth.
And in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord;
who was conceived by the Holy Spirit,
born of the Virgin Mary,
suffered under Pontius Pilate,
was crucified, died, and buried.
He descended into hell.
The third day he rose again from the dead.
He ascended into heaven,
and is seated at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty;
From there he will come to judge the living and the dead.
I believe in the Holy Spirit,
the holy catholic Church,
the communion of saints,
the forgiveness of sins,
the resurrection of the body,
and the life everlasting. Amen.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we turn to you in our time of numbness and loss. We ask you to give us strength and perspective this day. As we remember Anna Lou help us to gain a sense of the blessing that you have given us through her life.
O Lord, draw us close. Instill within us the hope that comes from faith. We ask in the name of Christ, Amen.
Anna Lou Reed was born October 30, 1930 in Keokuk, Iowa, the daughter of Ronald Paul and Bonita Elizabeth Markey McGrath. She was raised in the Durham, Illinois area and graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in Nauvoo, Illinois. She lived in LaHarpe for most of her adult life.
Many people didn’t know that Anna Lou faced the horrors of Polio and Tuberculosis in her life. She endured great pain, but overcame these diseases.
She grew up on a farm. She lived through the Depression and learned about working hard. Working in the garden was just what you were expected to do. She was raised a strong Catholic.
Anna Lou lived through a difficult and stormy marriage. When she was divorced she took various jobs to support her family. She did what she needed to do and was not too proud to do any job.
Anna Lou was a strong and resilient woman. She came back from two open heart surgeries, 13 stints in her heart, a stint in her kidney, diabetes and a bad back. Angina pain was her constant companion. When she died, a Doctor suggested that he wouldn’t be surprised if she also had cancer.
In the midst of all the heartache, Anna Lou enjoyed her life. She loved her family, cherished her friends, and loved to be “on the go”. She lived a full and active life.
She died in the early evening of September 16, 2001 at St. Johns’ Hospital in Springfield, Illinois.
She is survived by one daughter, Debbie Reed and her husband Steve, of LaHarpe, 2 sons: Ronnie Read and his wife, Teresa of LaHarpe and Terry Read and his wife, Tyra, of Naples, Florida; 8 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren.
Her parents, and 2 sisters, Janice E. Howd and Rosemary McGrath, preceded her in death.
Anna Lou was a spirited woman. I’m told she had an “Irish tenacity” in other words, she was somewhat sassy, ornery, and bull-headed. Anna Lou knew how to get what she wanted. I’m told that she was not above using guilt as a tool.
Anna Lou loved to cook for others. People loved her apple pie, her cheese cake, and her “Lush” dessert. Anna Lou believed that one helping at dinner was never enough and if you didn’t leave her table uncomfortable, then she felt offended.
She loved being a mom, grandmother and great-grandmother. Her family was her life. She will be remembered for singing, “Dance by the Light of the Moon” and telling stories to the Grandchildren. Little Grandma or “Old Fat Mammel” was the one who always had a stash of candy around. If you wanted to do something your parents wouldn’t let you do, then you could often go to Grandma’s and do what you wanted.
It wasn’t that Anna Lou didn’t believe in disciplining the kids. She did. The problem was she had trouble carrying through on that discipline. She would wind up with the fly swatter and take a hard swing but stop before she made contact. Her heart was too tender.
As a mother she did what she could for her kids. When Debbie was elected Homecoming Queen Anna Lou took her check and went and bought Debbie the suit she needed for that honor. She didn’t particularly like horses or horse shows but she ironed their outfits so that they would look their best. When her kids were in need, she worked to meet that need. And when she needed her children, they were there for her as well.
Anna Lou made awesome Christmas candy, peanut brittle and fudge.
She loved loud cars. She had a 63 Black Grand Prix that she drove the wheels off of. She didn’t mind driving fast.
She loved to eat out at a restaurant.
But as I said, life was not always easy for Anna Lou. Money was tight. She had physical many problems, had some relationship problems, and at times was desperately lonely . . . even though she would never admit it.
She loved her friends and had the best time with her sister Janice. They used to do everything together and talk often on the phone. When Janice died it was a blow that hit Anna Lou hard. One of the most comforting images we have is of the reunion that she and Janice will have in Heaven.
She drew her strength from her family and her friends. She was fortunate to have some dear friends. Jim Gibb, Kay Ketchem, Rachel Neff, Georgia Lee Yetter, Doreen Reed, Mary Gallahue, Clara Jean Boyd her many neighbors, and many friends I’m not aware of. These people meant much to Anna Lou.
I think it would also be fair to say that Anna Lou was a little on the quirky or eccentric side.
She loved to shop. But she never bought things unless they were a bargain. She loved the K-Mart Blue Light special. Anna Lou had a simple philosophy: if it was a bargain to buy a couple items at a sale price, it was an even better bargain to buy a dozen at that price. On a number of occasions she would load up several grandchildren, head to the store early, give them each some money, a shopping cart, and specific instructions and then buy, buy, buy. This was her way of getting around those per customer limits.
Anna Lou had a couple hundred rolls of toilet paper at home! She had several gallons of bubble bath and laundry detergent. She believed in “stocking up”.
She was also a person who didn’t care for cats or dogs. She became quite concerned when she was around animals. This isn’t quite so irrational when you learn that Doctors thought she may have gotten polio from a cat. If a cat was nearby you would hear Anna Lou yelling “Skat!”
Anna Lou believed strongly that cleanliness was next to godliness. She was always cleaning. She believed strongly in personal hygiene but you would think that no one ever used her tub and shower. She used to go to Terry’s home and make sure it was clean. Often she would change even his soap because his soap “left a ring”.
I’m not sure if the story is true or maybe exaggerated a little, but the Grandchildren say they remember going over to Grandma’s house and having her follow them around with her Dustbuster. She believed in keeping things clean and neat.
Anna Lou had a playful heart. She loved to give people a hard time and liked to laugh. She was still giving her kids a hard time in Springfield. She also had a tender heart. Even when she was in the hospital she had Debbie go to the gift shop to buy some Guardian Angel pins for the nurses that were so kind to her.
A couple weeks back I had a chance to sit and visit with her in ICU about “important things”. Anna Lou was raised a Catholic and appreciated all she learned about faith from her upbringing but felt that the church let her down when she went through her divorce. Maybe she even felt God let her down.
Now as she looked back on her life she wanted to know that she could be forgiven. There were lots of things she wished she could have changed in her life. But she knew that was not possible. We talked about forgiveness and salvation. And based on our conversation I believe that Anna Lou came to . . . or came back to her faith. She was not afraid to die, though she wasn’t too keen on the process of dying. She didn’t want to leave her family, but she also didn’t want to have to leave (and lose) her home because of the costs of a Nursing Home. She was ready to die. She was not only ready physically, and emotionally, she was ready spiritually.
And because of that fact I share with you some verses that seem to fit her so well.
8 We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. 9 We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. 10 Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.
16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are quite small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us an immeasurably great glory that will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see right now; rather, we look forward to what we have not yet seen. For the troubles we see will soon be over, but the joys to come will last forever.
5:1 For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down—when we die and leave these bodies—we will have a home 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 for the day when we will put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. [2 Corinthians 4:8-10; 16 -5:2]
Holy Bible, New Living Translation, (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.) 1996.
These verses teach us some important things. First, they remind us that this life is not all there is. Deep inside of us, we all know that this is true. Deep down inside of even the most cynical individual there is the sense that nothing makes sense if this life is all there is. There is too much order in life to conclude that it is all arbitrary and meaningless.
The apostle Paul endured all kinds of struggles in life (as Anna Lou did) because he was sure that there was more to life than what he could presently see.
Anna Lou’s life was not easy. She endured heartache, she knew great physical pain, but she kept going. Why? Because she knew there must be more to life than what she saw.
But this text also tells us that the key to living life beyond the grave is Jesus. As we talked that day in the hospital room I asked Anna Lou about heaven. She had come to understand that Heaven was something we could never earn by our good works. She knew that even the best people in the world sinned and sinned often. She had reached that point in her life when she knew that her hope of Heaven was not in her goodness . . . but in the goodness and grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The Bible says that the only people who go to Heaven are the ones who trust Christ for their forgiveness and new life. They rely on Him and not their own good works. That doesn’t mean we stop trying to live well . . . it just means that now we live well because of our love for the Lord and not because we hope we will live good enough to get a passing grade and go to Heaven.
Anna Lou was ready. Her strong will made it very difficult for her not to want to try to “claw her way into Heaven by her own strength”, but she understood that even at her best, she could never be good enough. I think she understood that God forgave her the mistakes and regrets of her life. Just like He will forgive you and I . . . if we trust Him. Anna Lou came to the point where she was ready to rest in the arms of Jesus.
Finally Paul, (and Jesus) talks about life beyond the grave in terms that fill our hearts with anticipation. Jesus talks about mansions prepared for us. Paul talks about getting a body that will never diminish or decay. The Apostle John talks about a place where there is no more crying, no more pain, and no more darkness. The Bible calls it Heaven. It is the life that we can live after death.
Frankly, it all sounds a little too good to be true, doesn’t it? It sounds somewhat like simple words designed to comfort simple minds. But I am convinced that it is so much more than that.
Jesus not only died . . . He also rose from the grave. These are historical facts. I have somewhat of a cynical nature and I’ve examined the evidence. It sounded too good to me, also. But I stand here today convinced that Jesus came back from the dead, instructed His disciples on the life to come, and then returned to Heaven to wait for me . . . for you . . . and for Anna Lou.
Because of the resurrection of Jesus, I have concluded that there is life beyond the grave. And that life is granted to everyone who sincerely trusts in and follows Jesus Christ.
I believe Anna Lou Reed did this. I wish she hadn’t turned her back on God for those years. But she came back. God gave her time to return to Him. And she did. Now she is in the presence of the Lord for eternity.
So, I encourage you to do several things. First, I encourage you to celebrate the life of Anna Lou Reed. Remember the great stories. Recall the joy she brought to your heart. Remember the times she was there to help you through tough times. Give thanks for her life even as you mourn her death.
Second, I encourage you to look at your own life. Ask that all-important question: “On what basis do I think I will go to Heaven?” Don’t put off this important issue. Are you trusting your goodness, or His? Have you received the gift of forgiveness and life or have scorned it? It’s time to get right with God. When we turn to Him and God places His spirit in our heart and lives, we find peace. And we also find that we can better handle the peaks and valleys of life. And we can face death without fear.
Finally, I encourage you to set your thoughts not on the last hours of pain and agony that Anna Lou went through. Don’t keep playing those moments over and over in your head. Instead, think through the first minutes and hours of the welcome, reunion, and life as she entered heaven. Try to imagine her joy and excitement in seeing the Savior.
It’s really quite a picture. The pain has gone away. The fear is lifted. She is no longer lonely. She is with Jesus, with her family, and her friends who have trusted Christ and gone before her. Hopefully, she has already been reunited with her parents, with Janice, and her many other friends. And I’m suspect that in the midst of all the joy, Anna Lou is relieved to know that in Heaven you will never run out of the things you need, and things will never ever get dirty.
Our Father. Once again we thank you for the life of Anna Lou Reed. We thank you for her spirit, her songs, her strength and her faithfulness.
We ask now that you would welcome Anna Lou into your presence. Fill her with the life that only you can give. Let her know that she was loved and will be missed.
We ask Lord, that You work in us so that we might grow in our faith. Grant that we may come to trust you for our salvation and someday, see Anna Lou again.
Grant comfort to this family. Remind them often of the good times. And even more, draw them close to you. We ask these things in the name of Christ. Amen.