We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss, but also to celebrate the life of Deborah K. Mershon.
As we face this loss we need God’s help. So listen as we turn to God’s Word.
The Psalmist wrote words that seem appropriate for our situation,
Show me, O LORD, my life’s end and the number of my days; let me know how fleeting is my life. You have made my days a mere handbreadth; the span of my years is as nothing before you. Each man’s life is but a breath. But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help; be not deaf to my weeping. For I dwell with you as an alien, a stranger, as all my fathers were. Psalm 39:4,5,7,8,12 (NIV)
The Apostle Paul wrote these appropriate words in 2 Cor. 5,
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 and what is unseen is eternal.
And finally, the powerful words of David,
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil’ my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come before you this afternoon with hearts that are weighted by sadness. There is a numbness that that makes everything that is happening seem like a bad dream. But as much as we wish we could just wake up, we know in our hearts that it is not a dream.
Father, we have all kinds of questions. Most of them start with the word “Why?” We ask you to help us in this time. Though we may not be able to understand, help us to trust You. Father, help us as we remember, as we grieve, and as we seek to find the faith to get through this time. We ask in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Deborah K Mershon was born on January 3, 1967 in Macomb Illinois to Gerald Earl and Wilma Mae Ebey Mason.
Deb is the mother of two daughters, Heather and Brittany Singleton. She had worked at the La Harpe Care Facility in several capacities and for a while was the Dietary Supervisor. Currently she was working as a clerk at Casey’s Convenience Store and served the community as an Ambulance Driver for the La Harpe Rescue Squad. She was working on becoming and EMT.
Deborah was also a student at Carl Sandburg College and was pursuing her Nursing Degree.
Deborah died on Wednesday June 13th. Ser is survived by her daughters: Heather Singleton and Brittany Singleton, both of La Harpe; and two sisters, Janice Wheeler of Galesburg and Sheryl Thrasher of Bushnell.
She was preceded in death by her father, in 1991, and her mother, who died in 1997.
At this point Heather and Sheryl are going to share some of their thoughts.
I knew Deborah Mershon from our various contacts in the La Harpe community. I officiated at her marriage to Murray, I knew her when she was the Dietary Supervisor at the Nursing home and my wife worked with her during that time. I saw her frequently at Casey’s or around town. Deb was an easy person to talk to and to like.
As I’ve talked to people they all seem to say the same thing. She was a woman who cared. She would do what she could to help someone else. She would listen, she would give advice, she would lend a hand. At times she would clean a vehicle for a friend or even give a family member a haircut.
Her family called her the town Counselor because so many people turned to her for advice. She was one of those people who had the wonderful ability to turn any bad situation for the good.
Deb could make even the most primitive house into a home. She had a flair for decorating.
She was a good cook. She was known for her rolls, which were very close to the great rolls her mother used to make. She made terrific funnel cakes and a good Chicken Stir Fry.
Deborah had a great sense of humor. She was witty and not above pulling an outrageous prank on someone. And she was also a good sport when she was on the receiving end. She enjoyed life. She saw the funny side in lots of things and would often laugh about something for days.
Deborah was also known to be a bit bull-headed. She was always right. She would never give up without a fight. And she had a little bit of a temper.
Deb enjoyed playing Bingo in Macomb with her friends. She was a regular at the Tastee Freeze in La Harpe where she went to have coffee with her group of friends. She enjoyed having a few beers with the family. And she looked forward to her nightly “chat” with her sister on the Internet. Deborah Mershon just plain enjoyed her life.
Deborah was a great mother. She was the greatest cheerleader her children had. She welcomed and loved their friends and she pushed her kids to be the best they could be. Leaving her children would have been the hardest thing for Deb to do.
Let me share with you what one of her friends from the Nursing home said,
“She was always willing to give help to anyone that needed it. She always had a smile on her face and had the kind of personality that made her a pleasure to be around. She was patient when she was at work and never judgmental or condescending. She was good with the residents.
She was a very loving mother and was always talking about Brittany and Heather. You could tell that her children were very important to her and that they were her life. . . . she taught me that you can get what you want if you hang on and keep trying because that is exactly what she would have done if she had been able to finish her schooling.”
I suspect if we could hear from her many friends, they would all say the same thing.
Deborah Mershon may not have lived a long life . . . but she did live a full life. She may not have had an easy life, but she did enjoy the journey.
As we look for answers and for strength I point you to a simple story from the Bible. In John 11 we read about a friend of Jesus by the name of Lazarus.
Lazarus was sick. He was “deathly” ill. Lazarus’ sisters, Mary and Martha sent to Jesus and asked him to come quick. But he didn’t. He delayed and in the delay Lazarus died.
When Jesus arrived Lazarus had already been buried. Mary and Martha were upset that Jesus didn’t come and do a miracle for Lazarus like Jesus had done for so many others.
Jesus looked at Mary and 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.” And then Jesus asked a question, “Do you believe this?”
It is true that the story continues. Jesus performed one His most spectacular miracles in calling Lazarus from the dead. But the words that He spoke to Mary are the ones we need to hear today.
The first thing I want you to see is that Jesus declares that this life is not all there is. He talks about a resurrection. He refers to life beyond the grave.
In other places Jesus talks about mansions in Heaven, and reunions with loved ones, and an existence where the tears are replaced by joy. The Bible calls this Heaven.
This is hard for you and I to grasp because we can’t see it. The reason we can believe there is life beyond the grave is because of Jesus. He died. He was buried. He rose from the grave and then ascended into Heaven.
The resurrection is not a myth . . . it is a very well attested historical reality. Jesus died and came back to tell us what was on the other side.
This changes our perspective doesn’t it? Deborah Mershon is not gone . . . she has gone on. She has moved from this life to the next. She has been separated from her family gathered her today but she has been reunited with her family in Heaven.
As tough as it is to grasp . . . this was not a bad thing for Deb. It is a bad thing for us, because we will miss her. Deb has been granted new, vibrant, joy-filled life.
The second thing I want you to see is that Jesus tells us that there is life beyond the grave only for those who believe in Him. We like to think that everyone goes to Heaven when they die. But that is not what Jesus taught. He said only those who believe in, who trust in Him, will be granted this life we all long for.
I can’t say that I ever talked with Deborah about her faith. I know she went to the Christian Church here in Bushnell when she was young. I know getting married in a church was important to her. I know she had lots of Christian friends who talked to her about the Lord. So I am praying that her faith had been placed in Christ.
And that leads me to the last thing I want you to see. Jesus asks an important question, “Do you believe this?” And you know, this question Jesus asked of Mary, is the same question that you and I must answer.
Do you believe in Jesus? Do you believe that He holds the key to eternal life? Do you believe that there is life beyond the grave?
From Deb we have learned that the length of our days is uncertain. We don’t know how much time we have to play around with faith. The question of Jesus is the question of the day. “Do you believe this?”
If you have placed your confidence in Christ then death has lost it’s sting. We still grieve, but not without hope. But if you don’t believe then this is the most futile of days. We live and then we die . . . and it is all meaningless.
So, I point you in the direction of Jesus. I point to Him as your comfort in loss. I point to Him as the one who can cleanse and rebuild your life. I point to Him as the one who has the power to bring joy from sadness, renewal to the broken, and life from death.
Deb taught us many things in life,
- She taught us that life is better if you have a little fun along the way.
- That goals can be reached if you are willing to work hard and not give up when things are difficult.
- That people who are willing to take time for others may never get their name in lights . . . but they will change the people around them.
- That cheering for your children is one of the sweetest joys of life
- And we learned that questions about eternity are much more relevant than we think.
Our Father, help us to believe. Help us to believe in the promise of Christ. Help us to see beyond this world and catch a sense of the glory that awaits.
Father, thank you for the life and influence of Deborah Mershon. Only you know all the lives she touched. But we do know that she touched us. Thank you for her spirit, her determination, and her wonderful caring heart.
Father, I pray for this family. Help them as they make difficult decisions. Comfort them in the times when the grief seems overwhelming. And increase their faith.
Lord, greet Deborah for us. Let her know that she is missed already. And then place a portion of her spirit in us, that we might carry on. For we ask these things in the name of Christ our Lord. Amen.