A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead are waiting at the pearly gates. God then says to them “Normally you girls wouldn’t be let in, but I’m in a good mood today. In front of you there is staircase of exactly a thousand steps. Every time you take a step up, I will tell you a joke. If you make it all the way to the top without laughing, you will be allowed into heaven. If you laugh at one of my jokes, you will be doomed to spend eternity in Hell.”
The brunette goes first. She makes it the 250th step, and laughs. God then sends her to Hell. The redhead goes next. She makes it to the 500th step and laughs. God sends her to Hell as well. The blonde goes last. She makes it to the 999th step, and laughs. God then asks her, “you were so close to the top, why did you laugh?” The blonde responded “I just got the first joke.”
This would be an inappropriate start to a funeral for anybody other than Boyd Heil. Today we gather to celebrate and give thanks for his life. We also want to stir up the hope that is within us.
In the Bible, Psalm 91:1-2 we read,
1 Those who live in the shelter of the Most High
will find rest in the shadow of the Almighty.
2 This I declare about the Lord:
He alone is my refuge, my place of safety;
he is my God, and I trust him.
In 1 Corinthians 15 we read these words of comfort.
Our earthly bodies are planted in the ground when we die, but they will be raised to live forever. 43 Our bodies are buried in brokenness, but they will be raised in glory. They are buried in weakness, but they will be raised in strength. 44 They are buried as natural human bodies, but they will be raised as spiritual bodies. For just as there are natural bodies, there are also spiritual bodies. (NLT)
The challenge for us today is to remember that this is not the end for Boyd Heil. Through faith in Christ, he is more alive now than he has ever been. We are left to miss him and grieve. Grief is appropriate but we should not grieve like those who have no hope.
Will you pray with me?
Father we come to You today because there is nowhere else to go. We feel pretty self-sufficient until death touches our life. Today we come to you because you hold the keys to life and death. You are the only one who can comfort us. So, father, draw us together, help us to remember fondly and then stir up that hope that is anchored to the reality of the resurrection of Jesus. Our hope is anchored in you today Lord. Draw us close. Amen.
Julie is going to share some of her memories about her dad. [JULIE]
Boyd Heil was a character. He was also a patriot, a loving husband, father and Grandfather, and a follower of Jesus Christ.
Boyd was born January 3, 1927 and grew up in the Mount Pleasant area. He joined the Navy when he was 17 (1944). He served active duty in the U.S. Navy until December, 1948. He then joined the Navy Reserves where he served from 1949 until 1953. Throughout his 9 years and 9 months in the service Boyd worked as a Chef.
While he was in the Navy he married Grace Price. They had three children. Boyd and Grace later divorced. On January 10, 1964 Boyd married Judy Sturms. Boyd and Judy were married for better than 52 years.
Boyd worked many different jobs over the course of his life. Many of those jobs were food service related. He cooked on an Oil rig, ran several restaurants and managed other food services.
He met Judy while he was working in Food Service at the Ordnance plant near Burlington. As Judy tells the story Boyd was the one who hired her and 3 weeks later Judy was his boss. (And I know Boyd would say, “and she’s been bossing me ever since”.) Boyd worked hard all his life. He worked right up to just a couple of months ago at 89 years old. He even worked once with triple pneumonia. He took pride in his work and loved the people he got to work with.
Boyd was a guy who liked to have fun. I’m told as a dad he was a “soft touch”. Judy had to do the disciplining because Boyd had such a tender heart. It sounds like it was always interesting around the Heil household. You never knew when you were going to open a closet door and have Boyd jump out at you. You might put your shoes on only to find a snowball or shaving cream inside. Julie came home one night after Cheerleading practice and stepped into the shower only to see a lobster shell laying there. Your bed might be short-sheeted. If there was a prank he could think of, he would pull it.
These things were not reserved for family . . . he gave everyone a hard time and if you didn’t hear Boyd laugh then something was wrong. He always had a joke (which testifies to the fact that he kept his memory right up to the end). He loved a good joke and enjoyed telling them even more. Usually he laughed the hardest even though he may have told the joke 25 times.
One of his recent favorites was about the old guys sitting in the restaurant drinking coffee. One of the guys said, “Hey, I have some news! I am getting married.” His shocked companions wondered what led to this decision. They asked, “Is she younger than you?” “No” he said we are around the same age. “Is she really attractive?” “No, not particularly.” he said. “Is she rich?” “No, she has less money than I do.” “So, is she a good cook?” “No, I’m really a better cook than she is” he said. “So why in the world are you getting married?” He answered: “She can drive at night!”
After Boyd told you a joke or shared some piece of wisdom he would often let you know that it came “from the Book of Boyd”.
One of the reasons Boyd started to attend the Union Church was because we do not believe laughter is a sin. Boyd always said, “He liked the stories” in church. By that he meant our sense of humor.
I’ve wondered what it was that made Boyd the way he was. I think Boyd had a great compassion for people. He felt things deeply. When bad things happened to family members Boyd took it hard. When his dog Bear died Boyd cried. When Boyd Jr. died four years ago it was a loss that took a big chunk of life from Boyd. I think Boyd realized there was enough pain in the world. His mission was to bring joy.
Boyd also enjoyed eating. Judy said Boyd could (and would) eat anything . . . except sweet potatoes.
Boyd loved all his kids. He was always a supportive dad who cheered for his kids. I’ve only known him with Mary and Julie. Mary was dad’s “inside” girl. She liked to cook with dad and they had Daddy Daughter dinner dates on their birthday. They went out for Prime Rib together. They went to the restaurant that had a 2 for 1 deal on your birthday.
Julie was the outdoor girl. She worked with her dad as they fixed things and built things together. He loved to listen to Julie sing.
Boyd was eager to pass on his knowledge to his children and grandchildren. He got Christopher his first tools and they built a work bench together. It was hard for Boyd when Christopher and the family moved to Texas. He loved his family.
When the kids would get upset he would tell them to “tighten up” (meaning “hold it together”). If they were getting cranky he would say, “Don’t lose your joy”. Maybe we could all use a little of that counsel.
Boyd loved Judy. If you listen to them talk to each other sometimes you might get a different opinion. But they had a great and fun relationship. Boyd liked taking care of his wife. When Judy would come home when she was working, Boyd often had a nice meal on the table ready for her.
When Boyd was wearing down he was asked what the girls needed to do after he went home to be with the Lord. His response was simple: Take care of your mom. It wasn’t always easy for the two of them. There were physical trials, financial trials, and times of family crisis, but they endured and loved. They were wonderfully blessed.
Boyd was a strong man. When he went into the hospital this last time we learned just how sick Boyd had been. Yet, he wasn’t one to complain. He accepted life as it was and sought to be faithful in the way he lived. He believed the captain always went down with the ship.
Boyd always said he believed in God but it was only after he started to attend church regularly with Judy that his spiritual life came alive. Boyd didn’t like to go to church where there was a lot of noise from the congregation. He wanted to be able to concentrate. I know no one laughed harder at something funny than Boyd did.
After Boyd started growing in his faith he and Judy started having daily devotions together. Boyd would read from the Bible, Judy would read from a devotional, and then Boyd would pray. Usually the prayer was the same . . . unless there was a crisis in the life of one of the members of the family. I am confident that Boyd is now with the Lord. He wasn’t a perfect man. He sometimes did things that had Judy scratching her head. But Boyd Heil was a good man. He was a faithful man. He was a man who brought joy into our lives. He is a man who will be missed. He is a man who lives on with the Lord that he loved.
In the Bible, we read a story about when Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died. When he arrived to comfort Lazarus’ family, he reminded them of an important truth, which I think is applicable today. He said to Lazarus’ sister,
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (John 11:25-26, NIV)
Jesus reminded Lazarus’ family that for those who trust and believe in Him, this life is not all there is. He reminded them that the person who lives a life of faith in Jesus Christ never truly dies, they simply move from life on this earth to life in heaven.
I believe that Boyd Heil is in heaven today. Today I believe he is no longer plagued by trouble breathing or the pain he had dealt with for so long. I believe that today Boyd is more alive than he ever has been. I don’t believe this simply because he was a good man or because he went to church. I believe Boyd is in heaven because he had a genuine trust in Jesus Christ. He was often so silly that it was hard to know what he believed, but I think Boyd truly trusted in Jesus. He understood that he was a sinful person who needed the forgiveness that was available only through Jesus. As a result, I believe he with Jesus in Heaven.
The reason I share this now is because I think it is intensely relevant. So many times people think of faith as something of a preference. They believe that you should believe in “religious stuff” if that works for you, but if it doesn’t work for you, then it’s no big deal. They believe that if it makes you feel better to believe in God then you should, but ultimately it doesn’t matter much what you believe. But as we stand before the casket of someone we love, the question of what happens after you die becomes much more important. The question of whether God is real is no longer philosophical, but intensely practical. And the question we all ask is is there life beyond the grave, or is this life all there is?
Jesus Christ clearly tells us that there is life beyond the grave—and more than that, he demonstrated it by allowing himself to be killed and then coming back from the dead! This is great news, but simply knowing this is true is meaningless unless you believe it and live a life of faith.
When Jesus talked to Lazarus’ sister, he asked her a very important question, “Do you believe this?” The answer to that question makes all the difference. Many people seem to believe that everyone goes to heaven when they die, but that’s not what the Bible says, and it’s not what Jesus told his followers. What he did say is that if you will trust in Him to save you, then you will live even though you die. So the question we must each answer is, do you believe this? I believe that Boyd Heil could answer with a resounding yes, and if you are have that same kind of faith, then you too will be in Heaven. For the follower of Jesus, today we do not say goodbye to Boyd, but merely, “See you later.”
As we reflect and remember today, it seems to me that there are many lessons we can learn from the life of Boyd Heil.
- We learn that God has given you a family to care for, so you should love and cherish them while you have them. That will look different for each person, but we should look for ways to let those closest to us know how much we care.
- We learn the value of hard work. Boyd happily worked hard at everything he did, and he took pride in the work that he did. He wasn’t sure what he would do if he couldn’t work anymore. Because of this, work was a joy rather than drudgery.
- We learn that we shouldn’t take life too seriously. Yes, there are some things that are serious, but we should take time to laugh, to be goofy, and to have fun. It will help to keep you young no matter your age.
- We learn the value of making time to study the Bible on our own and with those we love most.
- Lastly, I think we learn that faith in Jesus is not merely a philosophical question, but it is a question of ultimate importance. It is a question that we must each answer for ourselves, and how we answer it will impact the way we live.
As we gather today, I hope that each of us will learn from the life of Boyd Heil, because there is much to learn from him. If we will learn those lessons, we can live with the joy that Boyd had. And if we will trust in Jesus as Boyd did, then one day we will see him again. And I’m confident that even then the first words out of his mouth will be, “I’ve got a story for you!” I, for one, look forward to that day.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come to you today with heavy hearts at the loss of a beloved family member and friend. We will miss Boyd’s laugh, his spirit, his stories, and the joy he brought to others. We will miss the love and care that he showed for so many around him.
Lord, I ask you to comfort this family as they grieve today. Bring to mind the many fond memories they have of Boyd, and comfort them with the truth that this life is not all there is. Surround them with your love as they grieve, we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
 Tyndale House Publishers, Holy Bible: New Living Translation (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2013), 1 Co 15:42–44.