We gather this morning to mourn the loss but also to celebrate the life of Barbara Magee. We come seeking God’s comfort. And to that end I ask you to turn with me to His promises.
In Psalm 103:13-18 (NLT) we read: “The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone–as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those whoa re faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments.”
Most of us are familiar with these words of David:
Psalm 23 (LB) Because the Lord is my Shepherd I have everything that I need. He lets me rest in meadow grass and leads me beside the quiet streams. He restores my failing health. He helps me do what honors Him the most. Even when walking through the dark valley of death I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me, guarding, guiding all the way.
You provide delicious food for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcomed me as your special guest; blessings overflow! Your goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with me all of my life, and afterwards I will live with you forever in your home.
The Apostle Paul wrote these appropriate words:
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us in his presence…Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we ask for your help this day. For several years we have watched Barb as she fought for and savored every day of life. Today we are tempted to think that she lost her battle. Remind us that we don’t see the whole picture.
Today help us to remember the life she lived. And as we remember, help us to give thanks.
Draw us close to you, that we might know your comfort and your strength. Stir up within us the hope that can only come through Christ, for we ask these things in His name, Amen.
Barbara Magee was born on November 21, 1937 in Breslau, Germany, the daughter of Paul and Anna Scheiblich Scholz. Barb’s sister, Elizabeth came to Illinois in 1948 and then Barb, her mother and her other sister came over in 1952. They lived in Biggsville where Barb went to school.
On June 1, 1955 she married the boy who lived down the street, Orval Magee. They got married in Oquwaka by the Justice of the Peace 5 minutes before closing time.
Orval and Barb worked together. They had seven children which kept them both busy and on their toes. Barb was a devoted mother and grandmother.
She died on June 2nd after a long battle with cancer. She is survived by her husband, Orval, Four sons,
- Paul and Dwayne “Fibber” Magee both of Raritan, Ronald Magee of Kansas City, Kansas, Daryl Magee of LaHarpe.
- Three Daughters: Diana Parrish, Patricia Irish, and Elizabeth Anna Magee all of LaHarpe
- 15 Grandchildren, 1 Great-Grandson, 2 Sisters, Christa Scholz of Monmouth, IL and Elizabeth Blake of Kirkwood, IL.
- She was preceded in death by her parents, as well as by her sister, Ruth Lorenz and her brother, Gerhard Scholz
Barb Magee was a remarkable woman. For three years I watched and marveled at the strength and determination of this woman. She survived surgeries, endured treatments, and at times held on by sheer willpower. And as she did so she maintained her gracious, fun-loving spirit. There was a life in her eyes that refused to be diminished.
Lesser people would have tired and given up. But Barb was driven by a love for her family. She was determined that she would not die until she saw her last daughter graduate from High School, her two grandchildren graduate, and celebrate her 45th wedding anniversary. She saw the graduations and the anniversary was the day before she died.
When Barb was healthy enough to be alert, she never failed to give me a hard time about something. I seldom visited her without hearing her laugh and without having her make me laugh. Over these years I learned to respect her, admire her and thank God for her.
But there was a lot more to Barb Magee than the person she was when she was sick. For 59 years she lived life at high speed.
When Barb first moved to Biggsville she spoke a broken English. That didn’t discourage Orval however. He faithfully came to see her every day. And eventually won her heart.
Once they got married they were busy having children every year and a half for a while. So Barb was busy with diapers, with laundry, cooking, cleaning and general care of her family.
They raised a huge garden and it was known as the “cleanest garden around”. She seemed to always be out there pulling weeds. The family worked together to raise chickens. And the garden and the chickens kept them well fed.
Barb was always busy. She would walk the beans or help pick up bales, or would bring lunch out to Orval. She knitted blankets, made doyleys and made clothes for her children. She was a great cook and was best known for her Potato Patties, German Dumplings with Brown Gravy and her German Potato salad. She also managed the family finances.
You always knew when you were in trouble with Barb because she would start talking in German! One of her favorite phrases was “Acht du Leiber!”. But if she said much more than that in German . . . you’d better shape up . . .fast!
Barb was a practical mother. When one of the kids got the chickenpox or another of the diseases that get passed from child to child. She put the sick child in with all the others so she could “get it over with” all at once.
Barb was also a fun mother. She was the one who taught the girls to drive, and she was the one who was always out there with the kids trying whatever it was that they were interested in.
There are lots of memories
- like the time Barb rode Paul’s Harley and got it stuck in the picket fence because when she rode Ron’s Honda . . . the brake was on the other side.
- or the time she saw the boys practicing the pole vault. She decided she’d go out and pole vault with them . . . and did.
- She was a woman who was always up for a challenge. One day Paul drove by in his car while Barb was in her car. He challenged her to a race . . . and she took him up on it. So, mother and son were seen racing down the road . . . and Barb had no intention of stopping first! In hindsight it may not have been the wisest course . . . but it sure did reveal her spirit.
- When there was a water fight at the Magee house, and it sounds to me like there probably was often, Barb was usually in the middle of it.
- She was known to be out there playing football and softball whenever the kids were doing so.
- Barb wanted to be involved with her children and so instead of waiting for her children to come to her . . . she went to them.
- Barb was a loving mother. Each of her children knew that mom would love them no matter what. She may not have always agreed with their choices . . .but she loved them all the same.
She always knew when something was bothering someone in the family. And she was always willing to listen and had a knack of giving advice that was right on target. She was one of those mothers who always sat down to eat last . . . she wanted to make sure that everyone else was taken care of first.
Barb Magee was a determined woman. She was strong-willed and straightforward with her dealings with others. And when she set her sites on a goal, she pursued it with gusto. We not only saw this in these last couple of years of her life . . . it is also illustrated by the fact that in 1996 she went back and got her GED.
I suspect that many people may have looked at Barb and her family and said that they didn’t have much. But in truth, they had a whole lot more than most people do. They were rich in all those things that money can’t buy. Her children grew up secure knowing they were loved. They knew a contentment that most people never find. Their home was filled with laughter. And there was that wonderful satisfaction and joy that comes from working together. Barb Magee made sure that her family was one of the richest families in town.
All you have to do is sit down with her family for a little while and you will quickly see that the joy that filled Barb’s life has been passed on to her children. If you watched how her family took care of her you are aware of how greatly they loved her. . . and how much she loved them.
Barb used to say, “The Lord doesn’t give you any more than you can handle.” And she lived her life in a way that showed she believed that truth. She wasn’t a big church-goer but she was certainly a woman of faith. She always welcomed a prayer on her behalf and talked about trusting the wisdom of God.
I’ve learned that I didn’t know Barb Magee well. But what I knew about her I sure liked. Like many of you, I am richer for having known her, her spirit infected my own. I’m glad her suffering is over. But I’m sure going to miss her.
As we reflect on life and death today I want to share with you some things I have learned over the years. And to do so I point you to a story in the Bible . . .the story of the death and the resurrection of a friend of Jesus by the name of Lazarus.
The first thing I want to show you is that it is natural that we mourn today. Someone special has died. Life seems to have lost some of its brightness.
When Lazarus died we are told that Jesus wept. Jesus knew that He was going to bring Lazarus back from the grave, but He still wept. The apostle Paul told us that “we should not grieve like the rest of men who have no hope.” He wasn’t saying that we shouldn’t grieve . . . just that we shouldn’t grieve without hope. Grief is normal and natural.
In the weeks ahead there will be times when your loss will sweep over you. You will want to share something with Barb and she won’t be there. You’ll start planning your day to make time for a hospital visit and then you’ll realize that you have no one to visit. Holidays will feel empty. And you will find yourself turning to the album Barb gave you at Christmas again and again.
Grief should not embarrass us or surprise us. Grief only goes to show that someone’s life was meaningful to you. If we didn’t miss someone when they were gone, it would mean we were unaffected by them while they lived.
In the days and weeks ahead the tears will come. You don’t need to apologize for loving someone. There is no need for you to try to hide the fact that someone touched your life deeply. So, grieve and support each other as they grieve. And then take some of those lessons you learned from Barb’s life and apply them in your own.
Secondly, I want you to see that questions are natural. Very often people are mad at God when someone they love dies. In the story of the death and resurrection of Lazarus Jesus wasn’t there when Lazarus died. And when he arrived, Lazarus’ sister, Martha said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died.”
Now that statement may have been just a statement. But I think Martha may have been angry. I think she felt that Jesus had let her down. She had seen Him heal others . . . she didn’t understand why He didn’t heal her brother. She had sent word that Lazarus was sick . . .but Jesus didn’t come.
Now it is true that Martha had no idea what Jesus was about to do. She didn’t know that He was about to bring Lazarus back from the grave. She was angry because she was ignorant. But Jesus did not rebuke Martha for her questions and her anger.
It is natural when someone we love gets a disease as horrible and as devastating as cancer to be angry. We hear that God healed others . . . why didn’t He heal Barb? We pray. We hope. We try to have a positive attitude. But the one we love dies anyhow. And we wonder why. Sometimes we get angry.
At these times some people turn away from God entirely. Some conclude that God doesn’t exist. Some run in the other direction. They don’t understand why God seems silent. But in this time of anger, Jesus doesn’t turn away from them. He understands that the anger comes from hurt and confusion. He continues to love us even when we feel that He doesn’t.
God can handle your questions. I have to be honest, there are lots of questions I have asked over the years that I don’t have answers for. And I suspect even if I were given the answers it wouldn’t help.
It’s like a child with who wants something from their parent, say a new bicycle. Your young child tells you that their current bicycle is in bad shape. And you know it is. Their friends all have shiny new bikes. It’s not that you can’t afford it. And your child knows this. They don’t understand why you won’t give them what they want. They think you are mean. They question your love. They ask why and all you say is, “You’ll find out.”
You see, what your child doesn’t realize is that you’ve already gotten them a new bike. But it’s a birthday present and their birthday is still a month away. For now, they will be angry. For now, they will question your love. But someday, they will see and understand.
That’s the way I think it is with our questions. We ask and feel we are getting stonewalled. But we don’t understand. I believe the answer is available but we won’t see it until we are on the other side of death. Until then, God asks to trust His loving nature. But sometimes that’s hard.
Finally, I not only want you to see that grief is normal, and questions are common. I hope you can also see that hope is more than an illusion.
The message of the Christian faith is that this life is not all there is. There is more! And the reason we know this is because Christ died and rose again. His resurrection, which is historically verifiable, proves that there is life beyond the grave. And the Bible tells us that all who place their trust in this Christ . . . will experience that eternal life, and enjoy it.
In the resurrection of Lazarus, Jesus said to Martha,
“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?”
Jesus comes right out and tells Martha that eternal life is found through faith in Him. And then He asks the most important question, “Do you believe this?”
And that’s the question that is before you today. Do you believe the message of the Gospel? The message is that God became man in the person of Jesus, and He came to declare the Lord’s love. He came also to give His life as a payment for the wrongs we have done. He rose again to prove that His sacrifice was acceptable, and that His message was true. We are told that those who place their faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior of their soul and Lord of their life, will live beyond the grave. And the so the key question today is this: Do you believe this Gospel message?
If you don’t, please examine the evidence. Don’t trust your emotions . . . check out the truthfulness of the promise. You see, the answer to this question of whether or not you believe, determines many things. First it determines whether or not you will live beyond the grave. The Bible is clear: only those who trust in Christ will know eternal life. The others will know eternal separation from God and His goodness.
Second, the answer to this question will determine whether you will grieve hopelessly, or hopefully.
I honestly don’t know what Barb’s relationship was with the Lord. I know she read her Bible. I’m sure she prayed. I know she had solid values. But beyond that, I’m really not sure where she was spiritually. I think she believed, but I don’t know for sure. I wish I did.
What I do know is that If Barb had placed her faith in Christ, then last Friday was her “graduation day”. Last Friday was when she moved to new life. Last Friday she felt the arms of the Savior around her. It was the time when she left the broken body and the devastating pain and moved to a life that is better than anything that she dreamt possible. If she believed, then last Friday was, if you will, her birthday party. It was the time when her questions were answered and Barb not only understood . . . .she rejoiced.
So, the question remains: “What do you believe?” It’s o.k. to cry. It’s natural to feel lost. It’s even normal to have questions. But the ultimate issue is still the same: Where will you turn? Where will you find the strength to carry on? I point you to Jesus. He alone has the key to eternal life.
So today we celebrate the life of Barb Magee. We celebrate her spirit and her energy, her wisdom and her strength. And, even in the pain of loss we celebrate that this is not the end of the story.
Our Father, we pause to see your strength. In our sadness, comfort us. In our questions, hold us close. And in our faith, help us to believe.
We entrust Barb now to You. We ask that you keep her memory and her spirit ever fresh in our hearts.
Lord, I ask that you strengthen this family. Draw them close to each other, even as you keep them close to You. Fill the emptiness in their hears with the comfort that you alone can give. For I ask this is Jesus’ name. Amen.
We must remember what Barb taught us . .
- that the joy of life is determined more by attitude than by circumstances
- that cherishing family is never a mistake
- that trying new things is always an adventure
- that a sense of humor can melt even the coldest heart
- that there is nothing quite as satisfying as doing your best and cheering others on to do theirs.
- and that faith is revealed by life more than words
So, Barb has taught us much. And as we release her to the hands of God . . . we are left here to apply the lessons of her life