We gather this morning to remember, celebrate, and thank God for the life of Marie Atkins. Today we remember not only how Marie lived but we also remember what she lived FOR.
In the Bible we read these comforting words,
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. 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. (2 Cor 5:1-2,4-5)
The Psalmist seemed to capture the spirit of Marie Atkins,
I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. 24 You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. 25 Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. 26 My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23-26)
At the end of his life the Apostle Paul wrote words that I think could have been spoken by Marie,
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day—and not only to me, but also to all who have longed for his appearing. (2 Timothy 4:7,8)
Though our hears mourn the loss of someone dear to us, we are reminded that we are not to grieve and those who have no hope. Our hope is sure. We know that Marie has gone to be with the Lord.
Please pray with me,
Gracious Father, we have been so blessed to have known Marie Atkins. She filled our lives with laughter and gave us an example of faithfulness and love. She was truly a blessed woman. Thank you for allowing her to live right up until the time she died.
Now as we reflect and remember help us to see beyond the loss to hope that is our because of Jesus Christ. We ask this in His name. Amen.
[SONG] – Elie
Mrs. Carolyn Marie Atkins, 101, of LaHarpe, Illinois died at 7:15 AM Tuesday, September 16, 2008 at the LaHarpe-Davier Health Care Center.
She was born February 1, 1907 in Stronghurst, Illinois, the daughter of John and Bertha Apt Fordyce. On July 6, 1934, she married E. Laurence (Tommy) Atkins in Kahoka, Missouri. He died in May 1970.
She attended Stronghurst and Roseville Schools and graduated from Monmouth Hospital Nursing School in 1927. She practiced the nursing profession for several years and was Floor Supervisor at Monmouth Hospital. She and her husband lived in the Roseville area for 17 years before moving to the Disco, Illinois community in 1951. Mrs. Atkins moved to LaHarpe in 1985. She was a member of the Methodist Church in Roseville and Disco for 65 years. She has been a member of the Laharpe Union Church since 1986.
Mrs. Atkins was a long time member of the Disco Embroidery Club, Rene Cossitt, Jr. Chapter of DAR, American Legion Auxiliary at Roseville, Monmouth Nurses Alumnae, Mayflower Society, Philathea Class, LaHarpe Senior Citizens and the LaHarpe Historical Society.
Survivors include one daughter-in-law, Ruth Atkins of Riverside, California, 2 grandsons, 5 granddaughters, 21 great-grandchildren, 33 great-great-grandchildren, 1 great-great-great-grandchild, 1 niece and 1 nephew and many cousins.
She was preceded in death by her husband, parents, 3 brothers, 1 sister, 2 step-daughters, Margaret Walbring and Jeanne Sturhahn, 1 step son, E. Laurence Atkins, Jr. 1 grandson, 1 great-granddaughter and 2 nieces.
Most people who live to be 101 have outlived all the people who knew them. Marie’s situation is different. She had people who thought a great deal of her from a variety of generations. I have heard from old and young people this week who shared their affection for Marie. She had a rich and wonderful life. It’s funny that I knew her for 25 or so years and never knew her first name was really Carolyn!
Marie was proud of the fact that she was a Nurse. For many years she met up with her nurse friends in Monmouth for lunch one a year. She did this up until just a few years ago when the couple of nurses who were left could no longer make the trip.
Marie was wonderfully proud of her family. She never had any biological children but she loved Tommy’s children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, great-great grandchildren as her own family. She was so proud of having a great-great-great-grandchild. Her family was wonderful to her. She called Wayne her “Guardian Angel”.
I had never had the chance to meet Tommy. From the way Marie talked about him, he must have been a wonderful man. Marie helped take care of his first wife in the hospital. Tommy farmed and Marie worked right next to him. She often drove the tractor. When she lived in Disco she and Hazel Lund would wave at each other on their respective tractors. The family remembers that Tommy and Marie were always together.
Marie’s grand-daughter Barbara tells of her memories of the six from her family taking turns two by two to stay on the farm with Grandma and Grandpa. These visits would add up to most of the summer. Barbara remembers the big vegetable garden and the beautiful flowers. I’m told Marie had hundreds of Gladiolas (which had bulbs that needed to be planted and dug up every year!) and these were surrounded by a hedge of roses. Barbara remembers that the mailbox said, “Tomarie Floral Gardens”. She remembers smelling the flowers through the open window in their bedroom. Marie and Tommy brought flowers for the church every Sunday.
Marie was a great cook. There are so many wonderful memories that are being passed down to the great-grandchildren and more.
There were a bunch of cats on the farm. They would gather in the enclosed back porch to be fed. The neighbor kids used to love to spend time there. On Halloween the kids loved to go by Marie and Tommy. They had special treats and always took a photo of the kids in their costumes.
Marie loved to take pictures. She has boxes and boxes of pictures. Often she would send birthday cards and include a picture. She was good about writing details on the back of the pictures. Marie must have sent out hundreds of birthday cards. She kept track of what all the local kids were doing. Every time I visited with her she asked about my children and later about our grandchildren.
Marie often kept a journal. What a treasure it will be to read through some of these records in the years to come.
I hear that Marie liked to drive fast. Once Harriet Crum called Marge to say she thought John was having a heart attack. Marge got in her car and raced to the farm. On the way she was passed by Marie! The neighbors remember that her car kind of whistled when she would drive down the road so everyone always knew when she was coming. One winter Jeff Quigle and Rodney Crum were on snowblowers in the pasture and they raced Marie down the road! She did have a good time.
Marie hosted a bridal shower for Charlene and Homer Quigle. At the time she told Charlene that she wanted to attend their 50th wedding anniversary. At the time, Marie was 52! She almost made it! Over the years when she lived in town, Homer was always great to come over and lend her a hand when she needed something.
Marie was very active in the Disco church. She taught Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, helped with meals and did whatever it was that needed to be done. She left a huge imprint on a number of lives. Marie loved all her friends from the Disco community. Less than two weeks before she died she was meeting with the Disco Club group at the Nursing home. She really enjoyed these meetings.
Marie was active. She was involved in many organizations. She was especially active in DAR events. I seem to remember that she was some kind of officer for the DAR.
I don’t think I met Marie until she moved to town from Disco. At the time, she was just the old lady who lived down the street. Who knew that this old lady was really in middle age at 75? Over the years we became good neighbors and she became a cherished member of the Union Church.
I always marveled that this woman in her 80’s was out mowing her lawn and doing all kinds of garden work. I had to hurry to her house with my snow blower in the winter because I knew she would be out there shoveling snow if I didn’t get it done first.
Marie and Harriett Crum were affectionately dubbed the “Sunshine Girls” of the Union Church by Victor Anderson. When someone was in the hospital (or had recently returned) Harriett and Marie would head off to the hospital with a flower in hand on behalf of the church. Once they even drove through a horrible rain storm to visit Eldon Yard in Carthage. After Harriett died, Marie was somewhat lost. Reva Elder took her place as the other Sunshine girl. They were such fine representatives of the church.
Marie did lots of things with Harriett and with Reva. They seemed to always be heading someplace. When they were both sick, Marie visited often. Even when Reva no longer knew Marie, she remained a loyal friend. It was hard for Marie to watch her friends die but she kept going.
I loved to hear Marie laugh. She had a loud and hearty laugh. She laughed with her whole face and body. She loved a good joke better than anyone I know. I actually felt better just from hearing her laugh! She had an outstanding sense of humor.
Marie was involved in our Thursday morning Bible Study for probably 20 years. She stopped attending only because she could no longer hear anything anyone was saying. Whenever we would get ready to choose another study we turned to Marie. She had a list of the various Biblical books we had studied. Marie loved the Bible. Ever when her eyesight had gotten so bad she was still using a magnifying glass to read her Bible. When she was at the Nursing home she almost always came out for Bible Study . . . at least when her church was leading the study. Many of us remember her with her Bible upon her lap.
She enjoyed going out to eat with the Sunday Seniors from the church. Tom and Elie Koopmans and Howard and Marilyn Thie became special friends.
As Marie got older she would often drive to Bible Study and sometimes even to church. She would open the garage door, drive across the street and park. In the later years this may have actually been more dangerous than if she had walked over! Let’s just say it was unwise to park too close to her or to park behind her. Wayne noticed many dents in her car (and garage door) over the years. He said the garage door repairman told him that he considered Marie a regular!
Marie met my mother the first time at a meeting in Quincy. After that meeting, every time my mom would visit they would make sure they stopped to visit. Just a few weeks ago mom came to visit and made sure she went to see Marie. Marie became a special friend to my mother. She was a big support when my dad died. While she was living at the Nursing home she would periodically call my mom or my mom would call her. My mom is going to really miss her friendship. Marie was a very special friend.
Marie originally went into the Nursing home temporarily. She was actually surprised that she liked living there. She probably could have lived in her home longer than she did but she liked the companionship and the Bingo at the home. Marie loved the staff at the home and they loved her. The family expresses their gratitude for all the love and concern over the years. Marie always loved her visits from her family. She was so appreciative of Wayne’s many visits over the years. What a treasure it was when the family stopped in to see her!
Marie wanted to live to be 100 years old. Once she got there she was ready to go home to be with the Lord. Throughout her 101+ years her mind was sharp. She didn’t hear well and her eyesight was going and this made her feel pretty useless. Her mind was as sharp as ever. Anytime you would stop in to visit her she would tell you that she was “so glad you came to see me.”
As we reflect on Marie’s life we find ourselves saying, “We are so grateful to God for sending Marie into our lives.” She has given us a great example of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. She fought the good fight, she finished the course, and she has kept the faith. We pray for God to open His arms wide to welcome home his servant and to express His “Well Done”. We pray for God to help us to live with her faith and spirit. We look forward to that day when we will see her again.
I have many fond memories of Marie Atkins. She was my neighbor for most of my life, and that seems like a long time to me, but in the perspective of her 101 years, I realize just how much of her life was lived elsewhere. Even though I wasn’t related to Marie, she always treated me as though I was one of her own grandchildren (or maybe a great-great grandchild is more accurate). At Christmastime, she always sent my sister and I cards with money in them. She rarely missed a birthday, and after I left LaHarpe she always made it a point to ask about what was going on in my life. After my daughter was born, she was so excited to see the pictures and was looking forward to the day she’d get to meet her.
Looking back over the years, I realize that Marie treated many people like that. She made the effort to care for those around her and to make them feel special. She worked hard to remember the details of other people’s lives, and that fact was not lost on most people.
Marie was a wonderful Christian woman. The reason I know that isn’t just because she cared for people and served in her church—it’s because in talking with Marie, she wasn’t afraid of death. She believed the Bible taught that if she trusted Jesus to forgive her, then she would spend eternity in heaven.
This last year, after celebrating her 101st birthday, I asked Marie if she had expected to see this birthday. She told me that she was excited to have lived to be 100, but didn’t really expect to live to be 101. She said she definitely didn’t plan to see 102. Of course, she was right. Many people fear death because they aren’t sure what lies beyond the grave. Even people who believe they are going to heaven are sometimes fearful, because they believe heaven will be boring.
Often if you ask someone to describe heaven, they will tell you that it’s a grand worship service that never ends. Sometimes people hear that and think, “If I’m just going to be singing for the rest of eternity, I’m not sure that heaven’s so great.” It’s unfortunate that we have this idea of heaven because it isn’t what the Bible describes.
The Bible teaches that when we die, we receive a resurrection body. This body is different from the bodies we have now, but it’s also very similar. Jesus was crucified, and then three days later, he rose from the dead. He had a resurrection body. When we look at how the Bible describes his body, we can know a little bit about what to expect.
We know that our bodies will be physical. Jesus asked Thomas to put his fingers in the holes in his hands. Obviously Jesus wasn’t just some sort of ghost or spirit. He had a real body. He also was still recognizable as Jesus. His disciples immediately recognized him when they talked with him. He didn’t have to tell them who he was, because they knew right away. Jesus was still Jesus.
When we understand that our bodies will be a lot like the ones we have now, it makes that the Bible describes our eternal home as the New Earth. It appears that the New Earth is just like the earth we live on now, only without sin. If you think back to the Garden of Eden, you can begin to get a glimpse of what that will be like. Here is how Lewis Smedes describes what life on the New Earth will be like,
“No more common colds, no more uncommon cancers. Everyone would have his day; there would be no second-class citizens. Prisoners and slaves would be free; hungry people would have plenty; no one would lift a finger to harm another; and we would all be at peace with everyone, even with ourselves.”
Our eternal home isn’t something we should fear or dread—it is what we truly long for.
Marie is now experiencing heaven. She no longer has trouble seeing or hearing or getting around. I imagine that heaven is filled with flowers more beautiful than anything this world can offer. Heaven means that Marie is now reunited with Tommy, and the rest of her family who arrived before her. Heaven means that Marie has finally met the Savior she has served for so long. I guess what I am saying is that Marie is more alive now than she’s ever been—and that’s saying something!
Marie understood what she had to look forward to, and she wasn’t afraid of death. Though we mourn losing Marie, we do not mourn for her—because we know that she has finally received what she was waiting for. We mourn for ourselves, because we will miss her.
But there is hope for us even as we mourn. If we go to heaven we will be re-united with Marie. The question is how can we know where we will go when we die? What must we do to be with Marie? Do we have to work hard at caring for others like she did? Do we have to be devoted to a church? Jesus’ disciples had the same question, and here is what he told them,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:16, NIV)
Jesus tells us that the only way to heaven is through him. No matter how many good things we do, we cannot earn our way to heaven. We can never be good enough. Instead, we must trust that Jesus can forgive us for what we have done wrong—we must believe that so much that we are willing to follow his commands every day of our lives. We must be willing to bet our lives on Jesus.
I believe that Marie Atkins is in heaven, but not because she was a good woman (though she was). She is in heaven because she trusted a great savior. If we want to join her we must truly and fully believe the promises that Jesus has made to us. If we will do that, then we too will spend eternity in heaven.
Marie’s Granddaughter Carolyn (named after Grandma) wrote this poem.
The silvery sands briskly flow–
Through lifetimes hourglass.
A cherished life we held so dear,
We had to let pass.
Our Heavenly Father whispered:
“Glory Now Awaits!”
Our world seemed dark, but heaven glowed
As she stepped through heaven’s gate.
Our hearts, we shall not let grow dim–
For love and joy she left within.
She shared her faith, so strong and true,
For this we are so thankful too.
We thank you Heavenly Father
For her life; we were allowed to share.
We’ll miss her smile and laughter–
As we now leave her in your care.
Thank you Heavenly Father–
For your promise oh so true;
That the one we so dearly love lives on;
Not only in our hearts, but now fully with you.
As we mourn Marie’s death today, we also celebrate the fact that she is home in heaven. We celebrate that she is no longer shackled by a body that won’t cooperate. We celebrate that her eyesight, hearing, and mobility have been restored. But most of all, we celebrate that she has been delivered from the burden of sin—she has been set free and has finally experienced the blessings that she waited more than a century to receive.
[SONG] – Elie
Will you pray with me?
Father, we thank you for the blessing that Marie Atkins was to each of us. We thank you that you have restored her broken down body and made it new. We can’t help but smile as we think about the homecoming that she experienced this week. Lord, help us as we mourn Marie’s loss. Grant us fond memories in the times of grief. And help us to learn from Marie’s life the value of serving you. We pray these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.