Flora E. Mueller grew up in Denison, Iowa in somewhat humble circumstances. Her parents were both educated (unusual for the time) but the family didn’t have much money. They ate a great deal of rabbit and squirrel which the boys had gotten (which explains Flora’s dislike for these things). On holidays a special treat was a jar of olives on the table.
Flora didn’t feel deprived. Her parents gave her solid values and encouraged her to be the best person she could be. She was involved in the church and even sang in the choir. Her humble beginnings taught her the value of the little things in life. She learned that happiness is not found in the things you owned, but in the person you are and the friends you had. She worked in a candy store and could have been content to work in that store the rest of her life but she chose to go to college because she thought she should do more with her life. She went to the University of Iowa where she graduated from the College of Nursing. She worked hard to get herself through school. Following graduation she worked for five years as a surgical nurse for an Ear, Nose, and Throat specialist. The work was hard and long.
Flora remained an avid Hawk Eye fan throughout her life. She enjoyed going back to the University. I’m told she was a fervent Hawk Eye football fan and if you sat in front of her you always had to watch out for her rolled up program because she could get rather excited.
It was while she was at the University of Iowa that she met B.I. Mueller. They actually met on a blind date. Flora told the friend that set them up that if she didn’t like the looks of the man when she came down the steps, she was going to turn around and head right back up to her room. She didn’t turn around.
They had a wonderful time together. Flora is said to have remarked, “He was so nice he will probably never call me again.” She was wrong. Those days at the University of Iowa were some of the happiest days of her life. She used to love sitting in the commons with Doc eating cheese and crackers and drinking tomato juice. Flora kept all the wonderful letters her Doc had written her and still would take them out and read them.
They were married after they had both graduated. For a short period of time they lived in St. Charles, Iowa. When Doc learned about a practice for sale in LaHarpe they came to visit. Doc was impressed by this town that had an “air of prosperity” and had their own hospital. They made the move to Illinois.
The medical practice was certainly something they managed as a team. Flora served as the office nurse, did the bookkeeping, dispensed medicine and served as his secretary at home. Flora understood the demands of medicine. She and Doc had children in the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Their six children might very well have been eight if it wasn’t for World War II and the threat that Doc would be called into the service. Flora didn’t want to raise a baby by herself.
Flora loved managing her household. She worked hard to keep the house presentable because she knew that she had to be ready for visitors at all times of the day or night. She was a great cook and always prepared enough so there was extra that could be shared with any guest(s) that might be at the table. At the dinner table the most common phrase was, “We’ll wait fifteen more minutes for your dad, and then you can eat.”
Flora was never upset by the fact that Doc wasn’t home – it was the consequence of the life they chose and she accepted that fact. When Doc came home Flora delighted to wait on him. She didn’t do so out of a sense of duty, but out of love. Doc knew his wife was the perfect hostess. If he was hungry and had a visitor at the house he might say, “Flora, you know George here would really enjoy a hamburger and I wouldn’t mind one either.” As a good hostess Flora would make them their hamburgers. I think she saw this as her way to help her husband manage the stress and pressure of his job.
Flora had to always know where Doc was so she could call him and let him know where he needed to go next. It was not an easy chore. Flora served as Doc’s “buffer”. Often people would call the house and say, “We didn’t want to bother Doc, . . . “ and then ask Flora for her medical advice. Because sick people were always coming to the house, she often had to clean up blood or vomit. She didn’t complain – the people couldn’t help it, they were sick! She also had the job of calling Doc when he was at meetings so he would have an excuse to leave!
As a Mother, Flora kept the house going. She did all the disciplining around the house because she believed things should be dealt with immediately and she knew Doc was just too tender-hearted. Whenever there was a difficult punishment to hand out you could be sure that Doc was going to be gone or “asleep”.
Flora never got upset about broken windows, and the other kinds of things kids do. She always wanted the children to “sit behind the line” in the carpet when they watched television so it wouldn’t hurt their eyes. She expected the children to always try what was placed on the table. She believed “You couldn’t say you didn’t like something if you had never tried it!” She made sure her kids were in church and Sunday School even though the demands of medicine usually made it impossible for She and Doc to be in church.
Flora was the Doctor for her children. She made sure they had their vitamins and castor oil. When the kids were sick, mom was the one who diagnosed, bandaged or prescribed. They had to be really sick before dad saw them. Flora was good at lots of things but I’m told one of the things she wasn’t good at was giving shots. The kids are sure she saved all the blunt or bent needles for them!
Flora put every Christmas toy together. She never wrapped the kids Christmas gifts because they were all from Santa.
The kids were always welcome to bring their friends home and they were always welcome to stay for dinner or spend the night. Flora was good about getting to all the activities her kids were involved in. Doc often couldn’t be there, but she worked hard to make sure she was there. It sounds to me like Flora loved sharing in every aspect of her children’s lives.
Flora worried about the kids even after they were grown. Her greatest fear was having to bury one of her children. She had seen that anguish in the lives of others and never wanted to go through that heartache herself. She was constantly exhorting her kids to “Be Careful”. She was always uncomfortable when she knew they were on the road.
When the kids started dating she welcomed their mates as part of the family. In fact, some her children might say they were treated better than the family! The boys knew that if they wanted to go fishing the best way to get mom to say “Yes” was to say, “Mom, Alvin and Chuck want to go fishing and we’re going to go with them.”
She was a woman of class. She wore a dress everyday until Doc became sick. She never had a car available to her and would walk up to the office every day in her dress and heels. Flora was 85 before she wore a pants suit . . . and then almost never wore a dress again! She set her table for every meal.
Flora loved to entertain. They had people in the house often for a meal. Every Saturday night there were people over for dinner. They also enjoying going to the homes of their friends. Every Christmas Flora enjoyed hosting the PEO Christmas meeting. For this occasion she always made her candy made of sugar, butter, and black walnuts. She always wanted to have plenty of food.
Flora loved lots of things. Her hobby was reading cook books. She would read the cookbooks just like she read any other book. She loved to read all kinds of books, especially those that dealt with current events. She always stayed current on what was happening in the world. She loved to watch C-Span and CNN. Even when she was in the hospital she was eager to watch the news. She didn’t understand those who didn’t want to know what was going on in the world. She enjoyed doing jigsaw puzzles and cherished her many friends. She kept her mind sharp and was constantly learning something new.
She was a woman who enjoyed the simple things of life. She loved watching the birds, enjoyed the flowers, and noticed how things smelled. She loved music and liked to play the piano. She always read the Quill carefully because she felt it was important to know what was going on in the community.
There were things Flora didn’t like. She wasn’t particularly eager to travel. When she was younger she used to get car sick. She flew at least once and didn’t particularly like the experience. She couldn’t get past the fact that there was no real explanation for how that plane stayed in the air! She didn’t really like being outdoors that much. She didn’t like bugs being on her. She was not a big “pet” person even though the family did have a dog. Flora liked animals but really didn’t want them to touch her.
She had a wonderful way with people. She had a great sense of humor, never took herself too seriously, and if you know her family, you know she must have had a great deal of patience.
Flora never talked negatively about other people and didn’t want her children talking negatively either. She and Doc both believed that you should never say anything bad about another person because you don’t know how they are forced to live. Because she and Doc had learned to be content, they never worried about the people who couldn’t pay their bills and often gave medicine to needy people free of charge. Every holiday they would make up plates of food that Doc and the boys took to the homes of various patients who would not have a good meal. It seems to me that Doc and Flora didn’t see medicine as their “job”, they saw it as their calling and perhaps their ministry from the Lord.
Flora had a deep and abiding faith. She didn’t see a need to talk a great deal about her faith; she just tried to live what she believed. She and Doc used to talk about how their faith in God was the thing that sustained them when difficult things happened to the people they cared for. They trusted that there was a higher purpose in the circumstances of life.
Flora was a citizen of LaHarpe. She believed in supporting the community. She happily supported the schools with her taxes, bought as much as she could in LaHarpe, and she and Doc always bought their cars locally. They believed in re-investing in the community.
Flora Mueller loved her life. She was deeply in love with her husband. When asked at a public ceremony a number of years ago what it was like to be married to Dr. Mueller, Flora’s response was “It’s Wonderful”. She meant those words with all her heart.
She loved and was loved by her children. She loved caring for them, entertaining their friends, and enjoying their accomplishments. She loved her Grandchildren and always had Ice Cream sandwiches in the freezer, orange slices in the corner and M&M’s in a jar.
Flora gladly gave her life to the LaHarpe community. She did not feel she made any great sacrifice. She would tell you that she could not have imagined a better life than what she was allowed to live. She appreciated the love and kindness of the community toward her especially after Doc died. If Flora could speak on her own behalf today she would tell you that she was grateful to the community for allowing her to live here. She would say thank you for loving her and enriching her life. And if we had the chance, we would say the same thing to her. Thank you Flora! Thank you for your love, your example and your service. You have enriched us greatly and we will miss you dearly.
I am tempted to go in so many different directions this afternoon. On the one hand we could go to Proverbs 31 and talk about how Flora exemplified what a godly wife and mother was supposed to be. We could turn to Matthew 6 and talk about how Flora demonstrated the idea of laying up treasures in Heaven rather than on earth. Or maybe we could turn to Matthew 25 or the book of 1 John and talk about how Flora showed us that true faith is shown by the way we treat those who are around us.
But I’m not going to go in any of those directions. Our hope and our comfort today not found in the life that Flora lived. Our hope and comfort is found in our Lord Jesus Christ.
When Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died, Jesus went to visit the grieving family. Jesus talked to Lazarus’ sister, Mary and spoke these words,
23 Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who was to come into the world.” [John 11:23-27]
As a servant of Christ, I am able to say to you this day, “Your mother, your friend, Flora lives, even though she has died.”
It is important that you understand that the Bible teaches that Flora lives beyond the grave not because she was a good woman or a nice lady. She lives beyond the grave because of what Jesus did for her. Jesus told Martha, “whoever lives and believes in me will never die”. Later, in John 14 Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, NO MAN COMES TO FATHER EXCEPT THROUGH ME.”
The Bible is brutally honest with us. We are told that we have all sinned and fallen short of God’s glory. In other words, there is not a one of us who is good enough to earn salvation by our own merit. Each of us deserves to be sent to Hell.
However, the Bible also tells us that out of God’s great love, He became man in the person of Jesus, so He could give His life as a payment for our sin. His resurrection proved not only that there is life beyond the grave, but that this life comes only through Him.
Sinful people can be made right with God when we admit our need and receive His gift of life. We are not granted life beyond the grave because of our goodness but because of Christ’s goodness given on our behalf.
Our hope today is anchored in the fact that Flora Mueller loved the Lord. She trusted God’s guidance for her life. She believed she belonged to Him. I think Flora was ready to die. She was not afraid because her hand was in the hand of Jesus.
The Bible is clear: those who truly trust in Christ will live beyond the grave. The Bible tells us that this existence we call Heaven will be characterized by beauty, freedom from suffering, fear, and heartache. Heaven is the place where we will see clearly, love fully, and appreciate and love God with all our heart, mind, and strength. Heaven is where we will find ultimate contentment and satisfaction. It’s in Heaven that we will finally be all that we were created to be.
Today, I think Doc and Flora are together again. Today they share a table with Jesus. Flora is no longer worried about you. She trusts God’s hand of providence with a new confidence. She now eagerly looks forward to welcoming each of you into the house of the Lord.
So, even though we know we will not see Flora again on earth, every one of you who truly trusts Christ as your Savior and Lord can know that you will see her again in Heaven. Today we do not say, “Good-by”; we say, “Till we meet again!”
We thank God for His grace, mercy and love. We thank Him for the hope that is sure and is found in Christ alone.
I encourage you to reflect on this day. First, and foremost, I encourage you to look at your own heart. Is your hope and confidence in Christ? Have you turned to Him as your Savior? Are you following Him as your Lord? If not, I urge you to turn to Him today. Without Him, death is a time of despair rather than hope. The Bible tells us that all we need to do is sincerely turn to Him and He will do for us what we cannot do for ourselves: He will make us right with God. He will prepare us for eternity.
In addition, I hope you will learn some lessons from Flora’s life,
- True joy in living is not found in the stuff you own, it’s found in the simple and beautiful things of life. It’s not something you have to chase . . .it is before you and must simply be appreciated.
- We have a choice in life. We can see people through the eyes of judgment or through the eyes of God. One makes us critical, and the other makes us compassionate. The choice is ours.
- Those who have been blessed should use their blessing to help those who struggle.
- A life of service is often demanding but it is also filled with a rare joy that few are allowed to know.
- The gift of family is a jewel that is to be cherished.
- And Flora teaches us that you might be surprised what you can learn from a cookbook.
Our gracious Father, we thank you for your Son Jesus. It is because of Him that we can face this day without despair. We rest in your love and your grace this day. Fill us with your presence. Draw us close to you. Strengthen our faith.
We thank you for blessing us through Flora Mueller. We ask you to help us remember what she taught us and what she meant to us. Receive her warmly into your house.
I ask you to comfort this family. Draw them close to you. Help them to remember. Help them to trust you. I ask these things in the name of our wonderful Savior. Amen.