Lldon Little

December 19, 2013

 We gather here this morning to say goodbye to Lldon Little, a faith husband, a caring father, an involved community member, and a faithful follower of Christ. We mourn his loss and we celebrate his life.

We draw comfort from God’s Word.  The Lord said,

John 11:25-26

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die.

John 14:1-3 Jesus also said,

“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am.

In 2 Cor 5  Paul declared,

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.

This is our sure confidence and hope today: Death is not the end of the story for the one who puts their faith in Jesus Christ. In fact, for the believer, death is not a matter of “losing a battle”, it is more of reaching the day of graduation.

Please pray with me,

Our Father we come to you with mixed feelings today. There are feelings of sadness that someone we love is no longer with us. There are feelings of relief that the long battle Lldon was engaged in is over and he has been released from the body that has held him captive for these many months. And there is also a feeling of joy as we think about your promises and your faithfulness.

Help us this day to know your comfort, to renew our hope, to stir up our memories so we might see blessing rather than pain, and to bow before you in thanksgiving and faith for the life you have given us here and are preparing us for in the future.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Lldon Little was born December 20th 1928 in Stronghurst IL. He was the son of Guy and Mary Hutson Little. His father died in a car accident when Lldon was only nine. He worked hard as a child and throughout his life.

Lldon graduated from LaHarpe High School in 1946 and then attended Browns School of Business in Galesburg, Illinois. He served in the Naval reserve during the Korean War years. During all these years he worked. He carried the 50 lbs blocks of ice, he walked to the farm to milk the cows before and after school, and he always had some kind of work that needed to be done.

Lldon met Lucille Johnson at a New Years Eve party. Lucille said she noticed right away that he was a “good looking guy”. They married on July 23, 1950 in La Harpe. They served the Lord as partners for over 60 years.

Lldon joined with his brothers, Stanley and Robert, to open the Little Brothers Plumbing, Heating and Electrical Business. It started out as a Hardware store that had just about everything in it. You could buy appliances, toys, or anything else you needed. Later the focus narrowed to Plumbing, Heating, and Electrical work.

Lldon served LaHarpe and the surrounding communities for nearly 60 years. He served as an alderman, was on the LaHarpe Volunteer Fire Department, and was a member and past president of the LaHarpe Golden Rule Club. He was a member of the LaHarpe Masonic Lodge for more than 50 years and was a 32nd Degree Mason. He was also a faithful member of the Union Church of LaHarpe.

His health began to deteriorate and he spent the last many months at the La Harpe Davier Care Center. He was 84 (he would have turned 85 on Friday) when he died on Sunday December 15th

He is survived by his wife, Lucille, two daughters, Lynne (Steve) Beaver of LaHarpe and Lisa (Tony) Vento of St. Louis, MO, two sons, David (Krista) Little and Eric (Jennifer) Little all of LaHarpe, five grandchildren, Chris Beaver, Erica, Tyler, Logan and Kaden Little and two sisters, Darlene (Vern) Comstock of Hamilton, IL and Martha Jean (Robert) Cratsenberg of LaHarpe.

Lldon was preceded in death by two sons, Stephen and Jeffrey Little and five brothers, Stanley, Robert, George, Wayne and Richard Little.

****

It is always hard to lose someone you love. It is paralyzing to lose someone suddenly. The shock of loss leaves us feeling weak and numb. We ache with these people. There is a different kind of pain and loss that is suffered by those who lose someone an inch at a time as you have.

This is a loss that in many ways we welcome. Surely you have heard people say that Lldon’s death is a blessing. You may very well feel the same way. Lldon has not had any kind of quality to his “life” for a long time. We all believe that he preferred death to the life he had been living. Even so, there is guilt that comes with feeling relieved that someone you love has died.

When someone lingers in the process of dying for a long time the grief drags on and on. Whether you realize it or not, you have grieved over every piece of Lldon that you lost. In other words, you have been grieving for a few years.  Don’t be surprised if you find it hard to cry. Sometimes people in your situation have used up all your tears.

The Second thing that makes this loss difficult is that you find it hard to remember the good stuff. Your most vivid memories of Lldon’s life are the memories of him dying. You have vivid pictures of him in a chair at the Nursing home or lying in his bed. These were intense times so the memory seems to overshadow the 80 healthy years.

Today we don’t want to dwell so much on how Lldon died; we want to remember how he lived.

When you first think about Lldon Little you might think about his idiosyncrasies: his brutal handshake, the way he tended to stand way to close to you, his ever-present chuckle (like you and he were privy to an inside joke), or even his tendency to come across kind of gruff. But there was much more to the man than these externals.

Lldon was a survivor. He persevered through all kinds of things. He kept going in spite of losing his father at 9. He also was involved in a car accident at age of 13 in which his head went through the windshield of the car. That accident left him with a permanent brain injury that impacted his judgment and his impulse control. It also made him more subject to dementia. When Lldon was in the Navy he got a shrapnel wound while serving on the carrier Roosevelt during a training exercise off Cuba. He fell off a horse and broke his arm and likely broke it again but didn’t see the need to go to the doctor. He broke his shoulder when he flipped off of a three-wheeler (which he probably shouldn’t have been riding) and once he turned a backhoe upside down. He survived the loss of two children: one an infant (4 1/2 with Leukemia)  and a premature baby who lived for 2 days. Through it all he kept going.

Lldon battled various physical problems. He had epileptic like seizures when he was in Cuba which disqualified him from the military. He had periods of vertigo and battled arthritis. He even suffered from spotted fever once. He accepted what was and went on from there.

Lldon held on to these words from Isaiah 40,

Have you never heard?

Have you never understood?

The Lord is the everlasting God,

the Creator of all the earth.

He never grows weak or weary.

No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

29 He gives power to the weak

and strength to the powerless.

30 Even youths will become weak and tired,

and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31 But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.

They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

They will walk and not faint.

Lldon also loved the serenity prayer,

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

As a father, Lldon pushed his kids. When they were very little he would read them stories and loved to play with and tease the kids. However, as they got older he expected them to take responsibility and he pushed them to become self-sufficient. Though many times he came across harsh, his goal was to raise children who could take care of themselves.

The truth is, Lldon did the best he could. He didn’t have any good parenting models since his dad died so young. His brothers were left to watch over Lldon but . . . they were brothers, not parents.

Lldon worked hard to teach his family that the Bible was the authority for life and that worship and Sunday school were not options for negotiation. He expected everyone to be clean (he would always change clothes, wash, and put on cologne after coming in from work) and to sit down together at the dining room table for dinner. He knew that sharing meals was an important part of being a family. He worked with Lucille to provide for his family as best he knew.

Every year he took his family on vacation. These were special times because Lldon was able to relax. There are wonderful memories of trips to National Parks, State Capitals, and trout fishing in Colorado. Lldon loved looking at nature and taking in the wonder of it all. It is said that Lldon could not drive by any body of water without stopping to look at it.

The favorite family story was a trip to Las Vegas. Lldon talked about it being “sin city”. He decided it would be best to teach his children about the evils of gambling. He purchased a roll of nickels and told his children to watch what happens when you use the slot machines. Nickel after nickel was eaten by the machine. Finally, he got to his last nickel and said, “Do you see what happened to all those nickels I had?” He pulled the lever and hit the jackpot! There were shiny nickels everywhere. The kids thought it was fantastic! Lldon could only stand there knowing he would have had a great object lesson if he only had one less nickel.

Lldon loved working, he loved people, and he loved to farm. He loved everything about the farm. He loved trying to go back to nature. He enjoyed his “honey tree” where he could go and get fresh honey. He loved working with animals. Lldon wanted to pass his love for the farm on to his kids and Grandkids. He had all of them come out at a young age and drive the tractor (he never actually taught you to drive anything . . . he just told you to drive it!)

Speaking of driving, once Lldon was working with his nephew Donnie and they had to drive to Burlington to get a part. Lldon told Donnie he could drive (It was his first experience driving in Burlington). Donnie was 13 at the time!

Lldon loved being a Grandpa. As a grandparent he could have all the fun without the responsibility. He liked that. He was proud of his grandchildren.

The hospice nurse asked if Lldon was a stubborn man. Most people would answer that with a laugh. We all knew he was a stubborn man. At the same time he was a man with a big heart. I wonder how many bills he forgave at the shop. I wonder how many people he helped without ever telling anyone else about it.

If you knew Lldon you also knew about his faith. You couldn’t talk to him for very long without him quoting the Bible to you or asking you if you were saved. He was a devoted believer and a student of the Scriptures. He was active in the Lodge. He went to Sunday School and often taught Sunday School. He attended Christian men’s groups looked for any chance he could find to share his faith with people.

Many would say Lldon was overly zealous in telling others of his faith. Lldon didn’t care! He knew it was his job to tell people about Jesus. He did it fervently and to the best of his ability. He understood that all God asks of us is to give our best. That’s what he did. He tried to never pass up an opportunity to share the truth of the gospel.

One time when Lldon was on a job site with Aaron Hughes they were having trouble getting an air conditioning unit to start up. They tried everything. Finally Lldon decided they needed to pray over the unit and rebuke whatever forces were keeping it from working. Sure enough . . . the unit started to hum.  He was a man who was not timid in his faith.

Lldon remained faithful even as he could tell he was losing his mental sharpness. He began keeping a log of each day to help him remember. He would use all kinds of word associations to try to help him remember a word. He was not going to surrender without a fight. His goal was to be faithful in every circumstance. He serves as an example for us all.

***

The Apostle Paul reflected on the trials and suffering of his life. He saw it all as being used in God’s purpose somehow. It is a mindset that we see in Lldon. Paul wrote,

16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2 Cor. 4:16)

None of us knows what it was like to be in Lldon’s body during these last years as things began to get fuzzy and basic skills began to erode. However, even in these situations Lldon tried to be faithful.

The Apostle Paul was allowed (or given) a “thorn in the flesh” that likely was some kind of physical ailment. He said that God used it to teach Him that God’s grace was sufficient. It was a constant reminder that our strength, our resolve, and even the faith we could muster could save or sustain us. Only God can give us the strength we need for the trials and challenges of life.

Lldon Little tried to keep his eyes on what is unseen. Maybe that is why Lldon had such a fascination with nature . . . because it reminded Him that the world is bigger and grander than his mind could understand and that his God was bigger and grander than the world.

Lldon wore out a few Bibles. He read regularly to remind himself of what is unseen and eternal. I always had the sense that Lldon knew that he was not perfect. But he drew strength from knowing that he was forgiven.

Lldon knew that this life was simply a foretaste of a life that was far richer. He knew that the blessings of this life were never meant to make him arrogant or smug; they were to make him grateful and to create an appetite in him for something yet to come.

Last Sunday Lldon finally got to experience what he had longed for all his life. As C.S. Lewis writes so eloquently of death at the end of his Narnia series,

The things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the read story. All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

We can only grasp a little of what Heaven will be like. We know the best part of Heaven will be meeting our Lord. Finally we will meet Him face to face. Finally we will be able to fall at His feet and praise Him for His love. We will look into His eyes and be warmed and healed by His love.

Think about how much joy there is in seeing a family member who has gone off to war or who has been missing or absent for a long period of time . . .this joy in Heaven will be far greater.

We are led to believe that in Heaven there will be a great reunion. Lldon is reunited with his parents, his siblings, and he is able to get to know and embrace the children he never had the chance to fully know.  He will meet those people who taught him and led him to faith.

I sense that one of the most touching moments will be when God pulls back the curtain to allow Lldon to see his life as God saw it. Questions will be answered and mysteries made clear. I imagine a long line of people waiting to embrace Lldon Little. These are people Lldon witnessed to over the years. These people may not have come to a point of faith immediately, but Lldon was used by God to plant a seed that was watered and grew and ultimately resulted in a life that was made new by God’s mercy and grace. Just imagine that!  Imagine the joy that this simple, hard-working, resilient, faithful man has in seeing the way he was used by God.

So, let’s celebrate and thank God for his life and the lessons he taught us.

  • Trials do not define a person; what defines you is how you deal with those trials.
  • Helping your children learn to be self-sufficient may not always make you popular with your children but it is a wonderfully loving thing to do.
  • In every difficulty you have a choice: you can whine or you can use what you have been given.
  • Families should spend time together and they should smell good during that time.
  • Vicks Vapo Rub can fix any problem
  • Faithfulness doesn’t just happen. You must cultivate it through daily discipline and seeking God.
  • Everyone needs time off and needs to get away from their work. These are often the times others will cherish the most.
  • God is able to help in any situation . . . even with machinery that doesn’t work.
  • When one foot gets tired when you are driving you don’t need to stop . . . just move it out of the way and drive with your other foot!
  • The Heavens, the mountains, the waters, the animals all declare the glory of God . . . but only if you stop and pay attention.
  • You won’t see anyone come to faith unless you continually are inviting people to do so.
  • And He also taught us that there is no greater blessing in life than the love of a faithful wife.

Today we mourn, we celebrate, we worship, and we renew our hope and our hunger for eternity. We give God thanks for blessing us through the life of Lldon Little.

Let’s pray,

Father, today we pray that you would help us to forgive the faults, and learn from the strengths of your servant Lldon.

I ask that you grant comfort and strength to his family. Stir up within them the wonderful memories of Lldon. I ask for Lucille that you fill her life with your comfort and presence. In the times of loneliness help her to know and to feel Your strength.

Now our father stoke our hunger for eternity so that it impacts every moment we live while here on earth. We ask this all in Jesus’ wonderful name. Amen.