We have gathered together this afternoon to affectionately remember and celebrate the life of Frances Schlereth. We temper the sadness of loss with the hope of eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.
In the Psalms we read,
Precious in the sight of the LORD is the death of his saints.
Jesus told his followers,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.
Today the promise of Jesus is more than theoretical. Today it is something practical and personal. Today it matters. It is this promise that gives us hope, even in the midst of sadness.
Please pray with me,
Gracious Father, we bow before you this day. We thank you for the life full of years that your servant, Frances Schlereth has lived. As we mourn her passing we ask you for your comfort. We also ask that you make your promise real to our hearts. Help us to believe . . . not out of a desire to soothe our weary souls . . . help us to believe because the promise is true.
Help us also to remember this day. Help us to celebrate the life that Frances lived so we might more effectively give you thanks for the blessing we have received through her. We ask this all in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Frances L. Schlereth, 96, of LaHarpe, IL passed away Saturday, February 21, 2009, after a final illness that began Thanksgiving Day 2008.
She was born November 12, 1912, near Fountain Green, Illinois, to Squire and Mattie Lee Humes Foster, the last of six children, and lived most of her life in the Blandinsville-LaHarpe area, though spending nearly 20 years in Florida and North Carolina.
She married Fay W. Williams of Blandinsville on November 22, 1930. He preceded her in death on October 16, 1974. In December, 1976, she married Ray Schlereth of Englewood, Florida. He preceded her in death on July 16, 1996.
Mrs. Schlereth worked for a time at Industry Mutual Insurance Company, and when 54 years old, she attended the School of Nursing in Burlington, Iowa, receiving a Licensed Practical Nursing degree. She worked in that profession for six years. She loved to read and was instrumental in helping form the Blandinsville-Hire Township Library, and served on its Board. She was a member of the First Baptist Church of Englewood, FL, and attended the LaHarpe Union Church.
Mrs. Schelereth is the last of her generation in three families: Foster, Williams, and Schlereth. She is survived by one son, Charles W. (Sandra) Williams of Glen Ellyn, Illinois, and a granddaughter, Dianne Williams and many nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her parents; all five siblings, including three brothers, Arthur, Harold, and Virgil; and one granddaughter, Susan Lea Williams.
Charles will now come and tell us a little about his mom.
[Eulogy from Charles]
[Poem from Becky and Ray MacFarland]
Frances Schlereth was a character. I can’t say I knew her well. I saw only a brief slice of her life. You didn’t have to know her long to know she had a unique personality. She had a quick wit and most often said what she was thinking. I do not mean to imply that she was rude or abrasive. She was anything but that. She was a kind and gracious woman. If she felt she needed to tell you something, she did. If she sensed you needed encouragement she was quick to try to give you a more positive perspective on life.
I’m told that when Frances was working at the hospital in Macomb when she would travel home late at night and she kept a pistol under her seat (just in case) and so some used to call her “pistol packing Frannie”. I’m told that the Williams family gatherings were always times of great laughter and fun.
Frances loved children even though she expected them to behave. She loved her family and always looked forward to visits with them. I think in every conversation I had with her she always talked about her son.
Frances was a smart woman. She loved to read. She especially loved reading the Bible but read lots of other books too. Even up to the end of her life she was constantly seeking to enrich her mind and her soul.
She was fortunate in her later years to be surrounded by many good people: Connie Williams, Ray and Bonnie MacFarland, Tom and Elie Koopmans and Howard and Marilyn Thie. Ray and Bonnie made Frances a part of their family these last seven years. Frances went on many trips with the group from our church. Before she moved to Ferris she went out just about every Sunday to eat with the group. Even after moving to Ferris she joined the group often when they went to Carthage to eat. She celebrated several birthdays with this group and enjoyed the trips to Quincy in December to see the lights. Frances always appreciated being included.
Frances was always a “put together” woman. She wanted to look nice but she was not self-absorbed. She felt she should always look her best.
She was a wonderfully gracious woman. I am ashamed to say that I hadn’t seen her for a number of years. After you haven’t seen somebody for awhile it becomes difficult to see them at all because of your own sense of guilt. When I went to see her I was prepared for her to chew me out. I figured I deserved it. But it never happened. She was grateful for my visit and as gracious as ever. We had a very good visit. Her grace and mercy to me at that moment made a deep impact on my life.
Frances knew what she believed and if she thought you were confused in your beliefs she wanted to help you work through that confusion. She was always willing to tell someone what it meant to be a follower of Jesus Christ. Like the Apostle Paul I think she could say, “For me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
I know Frances wasn’t afraid to die. She was ready. She knew where she was headed. The Apostle Paul wrote,
Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now it is God who has made us for this very purpose and has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
6 Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. 7 We live by faith, not by sight. 8 We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. 9 So we make it our goal to please him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.
Frances affirmed these same truths. She believed first that there is life beyond the grave. She believed we have an eternal house in Heaven that is not made by human hands.
Second, she knew the present sufferings in life were a result of our groaning for something more. She buried two husbands and both were difficult times. She kept going and accepted the reality of life. When she didn’t feel comfortable living by herself anymore she didn’t fight it . . . she found a place where she could be cared for. She accepted the fact that decay was a part of life.
Third, she made it her goal to please the Lord. She was eager to tell people about Jesus. She told me she came to faith when she was about 15. The family had moved to town and she started to attend the Christian Church youth group. She heard the gospel message, believed it, and then was baptized. She followed the Lord from that day forward.
Fourth, she knew from the Bible that not everyone goes to Heaven. Paul said “We will all stand before the Judgment Seat”. Frances was not worried about that day. Her confidence was not in her own goodness . . . her confidence was in Jesus Christ and what He had done for her when he died on the cross. She knew that Jesus had already taken care of the judgment she deserved for her sin.
She was concerned about those who are left behind. I asked her if there was anything she wanted us to say at her funeral service. Her words were crystal clear: “Preach the Gospel”.
With great confidence I can tell you that Frances would have me say this to you: “Make sure you join me in Heaven!” She would want me to remind you that even the best of us fall far short of the requirements of God. Even if we only did what was wrong (in thought, word, or deed) a few times a day that would total up to tens of thousands of offenses at the end of our lives. Imagine getting one parking ticket every day for a year. You might say one ticket was no big deal . . . and maybe one ticket could be overlooked. However one ticket a day could end up with you arrested and thrown in jail. It’s the same with God. Even if you fashion yourself to be a pretty good person . . . you are not near good enough.
This is what the coming of Jesus was all about. The Bible tells us that God showed his love for us in this that while we were still sinners (criminals) Christ died for us. Jesus paid the price of our rebellion. He was our substitute. He took the punishment that we deserved.
All this could be dismissed as a nice story except for the fact that Jesus didn’t stay dead! The resurrection of Jesus proved that Jesus was unique. It verified His claims. It showed He was more than an inspiring teacher; He is the Savior and Lord of Life!
An unbelieving attorney by the name of Frank Morrison set out to write a book that showed by the evidence that the resurrection of Jesus could not have been true. After examining the evidence, he became a follower of Jesus and wrote a different book: “Who Moved the Stone?” The book recounts the compelling evidence for the Resurrection account in the Bible.
Lee Strobel used to work as a crime reporter for the Chicago Tribune. Lee was an atheist. When his wife came home and announced she had become a Christian Lee set out to show her the foolishness of her thinking. The more Lee investigated, the more Lee discovered the truthfulness of the message of Jesus Christ. Lee not only became a Christian, he began writing books about the evidence for the Christian faith.
The Bible tells us that anyone can be forgiven and new life. All they must do is,
1) admit their sinfulness and their need of a Savior
2) recognize Jesus as the true Son of God who gave His life as payment for sin and then rose from the grave.
3) Be willing to bet your life on Jesus. Those who truly do these things will live even though they die. They will know forgivenss and new life here and will face eternity as part of God’s family. These people are true believers.
This is the kind of faith Frances had. I stand her today with absolute confidence that Frances is with Jesus. When she passed from this world she stepped into the arms of the Savior who has loved her since before she was born. I’m sure that embrace lasted a long time. Following her time with her Savior she was reunited with friends and family who have died as followers of Christ. She now awaits the future day when we will live on a new Heaven and new earth.
Frances’ concern as she was dying was not what would happen to her. Her concern was for you her friends. She wanted to make sure that she would one day welcome you into the place that God has prepared for you. If you do not have this kind of relationship with Jesus I challenge you to examine the evidence yourself. I urge you to take an objective look at Jesus. I believe you will find that He is worth following. If you really cared about Frances, you will want to at least examine this Jesus for whom she lived her life. Please examine the evidence carefully because everything hangs the decision you make.
Please don’t put this off. Those who do miss out on the joy of living for Christ and risk missing out on eternal life through Christ. Settle this issue today. In fact you can turn to Jesus right now.
Frances Schlereth was a faithful woman. We will miss her spirit. We will miss her example. I wish I could have made up for that lost time. I would have liked to have known Frances better. There was much more I could have learned from her. However, this I know: we’ll have all eternity to visit.
Please pray with me,
Our Father, we thank you for loving us. Thank you for Jesus and His death for us on the cross and His victorious resurrection from the dead. Though this day is sad, it is not a sadness that is without hope. We rejoice at the life and faith of Frances Schlereth. We ask our Lord, for you to welcome our friend and loved one into your Kingdom. Help us as we seek to grasp the fact that she is not “gone” but has “gone on” before us until that day when we meet again.
We pray also that you help us to align our hearts and lives with you that we too may live even though we die. Grant us your sweet comfort and fill our minds with rich and wonderful memories. Help us to live with a portion of the heart and spirit of Frances Schlereth. We ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.