Halcyone Shutwell

We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Halcyone Shutwell.  We also gather to encourage each other by affirming the great hope of the Christian faith – life beyond the grave.

In times of struggle and lose it is always a good idea to turn to God’s Word to find comfort and hope.  Halcyone’s favorite passage was this one from Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for everything,

a season for every activity under heaven.

2     A time to be born and a time to die.

A time to plant and a time to harvest.

3     A time to kill and a time to heal.

A time to tear down and a time to rebuild.

4     A time to cry and a time to laugh.

A time to grieve and a time to dance.

5     A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.

A time to embrace and a time to turn away.

6     A time to search and a time to lose.

A time to keep and a time to throw away.

7     A time to tear and a time to mend.

A time to be quiet and a time to speak up.

8     A time to love and a time to hate.

A time for war and a time for peace.

I think Halcyone loved this passage because she understood that God had a plan.  He has a purpose and a time for all things.  She trusted God’s wise providence. We don’t always understand His timing but in those times we trust Him rather than our ability to understand.

Before Jesus died he gave his disciples of all generations this promise,

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 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. 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. [John 14:1-3]

Let us pray,

Our Father, our hearts are heavy today.  We knew this day was coming for a few weeks now, but we still find that we aren’t ready.  We believe that Halcyone is with you but we still ache because she has left us. Today we seek your comfort.  We ask you to help us to remember.  Help us to remember the life that filled Halcyone’s body and spirit.  The longer she has been sick, the harder it has been to remember when she was alive and vital. Help us also to remember your promises and to find hope in the midst of sadness.  We ask these things in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

Mrs. Halcyone Shutwell, 90, of LaHarpe, Illinois passed away Friday, December 9, 2005 at 6:15 A.M. at the LaHarpe-Davier Health Care Center in LaHarpe.

She was born January 12, 1915 near Burnside, Illinois, the daughter of Ruben and Jessie Sears Gray. She attended the 3 year high school that was in Burnside and then graduated from the LaHarpe High School.  She was high school sweethearts with Kermit Shutwell. On January 12, 1933 (Halcyone’s 18th birthday) they were married in Burnside. He preceded her in death on February 11, 1986.  They were married for 53 years.

She lived most of her life in the Burnside and LaHarpe communities except for 10 years when she and Kermit farmed near Canton Missouri.  They made many long-lasting friendships while they were there. Halcyone was the head cook at the LaHarpe School for 3 years and then worked at the law office of Richard Rassmusen in LaHarpe until her retirement. She and her husband served as 4-H leaders in both Missouri and Illinois. She enjoyed quilting, crocheting and playing the piano.  She even played in a Square Dance band in many places in the area.  She was a longtime member of the LaHarpe Union Church where she held many offices.

She is survived by 2 sons and daughters-in-law, Robert and Linda Shutwell of LaHarpe and James and Ruth Shutwell of LaGrange, Missouri, 3 granddaughters, Brenda (Scott) Briney of Geneseo, Illinois, Angela Solter of Fowler, Illinois and Melissa Shutwell of LaGrange, 1 step-granddaughter, Jennifer Witt of Jerseyville, Illinois, 4 great-grandchildren, 3 step-great-grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husband Kermit, her brother Stacy, her sister Gladys and her parents.

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For as long as I have known about La Harpe, I have known Halcyone Shutwell.  When my wife and I were considering a move to LaHarpe our contact person was Halcyone who was then the Secretary of the Pastoral Search Committee.

I’d like to say, like many of you, that I considered Halcyone Shutwell my friend.  We all knew that Halcyone was going to tell you what she was thinking, but that’s what I liked about her.  Over the years there were dozens of times when she would come into my office to share her opinion on a number of issues.  I understood that she wasn’t trying to intimidate me; she was just being honest and giving me her opinion.  Sometimes I agreed with her, sometimes I didn’t.  Either way, we remained friends.

We spent an hour together most Thursdays over the last 24 years.  Our Thursday morning Bible study was a time when Halcyone would sometimes surprise me with her sharp mind and keen insights.  She loved studying the Bible.  Her favorite Bible was her Revised Standard Version Harper Study Bible.  Over the years we had a continuing debate similar to whether you should say Missour-a or  Missour-e.  I would make a comment about God’s free grace and she would always remind me (and the others) that true faith must always result in a changed life.

Halcyone loved her family.  In the early days, times were hard.  She used to get on the Doodle Bug train in Colusa with others in the neighborhood and shop in Burlington.  Usually they would make a stop at the Cookie Factory and get a bag of “seconds” for 10 cents.  She has always been careful with her money because she knew how hard life could be.   This may also explain why she never threw anything away!

Halcyone loved her kids and was proud of their accomplishments.  She adored her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.  She was close to both her brother and her sister. She didn’t see any real need for Bob to move back to La Harpe but she was really grateful when he did.  I don’t know what she would have done this last year or so if Bob hadn’t been here.

Halcyone had many dear friends.  She used to do lots of things with Gladys Worden, Kathryn Wagonner and Joan Mealey.  Halcyone, Gladys and Joan were affectionately called the Three Musketeers.  They loved to play dominos.  She was a good an loyal friend.

Halcyone enjoyed life.  She enjoyed going to shows of various kinds.  She went often to and enjoyed several Country Opry shows but always cringed when the fiddle player played the Orange Blossom special.

Halcyone was a faithful woman.  I remember early in our ministry together the church needed a new electric typewriter.  Halcyone and Kermit came down to the office and asked how much the typewriter would cost.  I told them and they wrote me a check.  They had sold some animals and wanted to give to the church.

Halcyone was frequently at the church.  She was a quilter, she helped serve and coordinate certainly well over 100 funeral dinners. For several years she kept the Philathea Class going by her own will and determination.  She sang in the choir several different times.  She served on most of our committees at one time or another.  She was always a trusted confidant.  I always knew that if I asked her opinion . . . I was going to get it. . . sometimes even when I didn’t ask.   Halcyone had a wonderful balance in her view of the church.  She valued tradition but was also marvelously progressive and open-minded.

Halcyone had a great strength about her.  When Kerm became sick, Halcyone cared for him.  Losing Kerm was a tremendous loss to her.  Yet, after his death she was determined that she was supposed to go on with life.  She faced colon cancer with courage and strength.  She refused any treatments saying, “If it is going to get me, it’s going to get me, I’m not going through all of that stuff.”  She was determined to trust God. When she made her mind up, you were wasting your time to try to change her.

Many of us remember the time not long ago when she spent the entire night outside in the cold and rain because she had fallen.  She said she got through the night by singing hymns.  Instead of asking why it happened, she gave thanks that God stood close by her side and that Larry stopped to check on her.

Halcyone had a great sense of humor.  You always knew when she was giving you a hard time because she couldn’t hide the twinkle that was in her eye.  She enjoyed a good joke and often had one of her own to share.  I could always tell on a Sunday morning whether a certain comment was funny or inappropriate just by looking at Halcyone.

Halcyone came across much of the time as a tough and maybe a hard person.  The truth however is that she was a wonderfully tender-hearted person.  She ached with those who hurt and freely rejoiced with those who had a good experience.  She was always willing to lend a hand and never seemed to view it as an imposition.  I suspect that her prayers were filled with intercession for others.  I know several troubled people (that others rejected) who considered Halcyone a special friend.

There have been many times over the years where Halcyone served as my adopted mom. When I was down she was there to pick me up.  When I was confused, she gave counsel.  When I needed a kick in the pants, she gave it to me.  When I needed encouragement she always seemed to know just what to say. I have grown greatly because of her, and like you, I will miss her greatly.

Though I will miss Halcyone’s wonderful spirit, her funeral is really not that difficult to conduct.  I know Halcyone was not afraid of death.  She was ready.  I know she hated the fact that she was bedridden and needed to be cared for.  She didn’t want to continue to live this way.  However, the thing that gives me the most comfort today is that I know where Halcyone is.  I know her faith was sure.  Her hope was solid.

The Bible is crystal clear, not everyone goes to Heaven; the Biblical testimony is that every one of us is a sinful person.  None of us can save ourselves.  There is no such thing as a person who is good enough to earn eternal life.

Halcyone was a good woman but she knew that her hope of eternal life did not rest in her goodness. Her confidence was in what Jesus had done for her.  The Bible explains that Jesus came into the world to teach us about God and to give His life as a payment for our sin.  Through His sacrifice as God in the flesh, we are can be forgiven. When Christ rose from the dead He promised that anyone who would trust Him for their salvation, anyone who would follow Him, would be given eternal life.

Halcyone trusted Christn in this way.  She tried to live a good and godly life.  She was a student of the Scriptures.  She worked hard at her faith, but did so, not to earn God’s grace, but as a response to God’s grace.

She lived her life in such a way that she could say with Paul, “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Because of that fact we know that she is now with the Lord.  She was a woman who could say at the end of her life, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith and now there is laid up 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.”

Halcyone loved butterflies. I’m not sure where the fascination came from.  Maybe it was their elegant beauty, maybe it was the seemingly carefree and effortless way in which they floated through the air.  Maybe it was the realization of how a butterfly symbolizes what we are in Christ.

The process of metamorphosis is the process of a caterpillar being transformed into the magnificent butterfly.  The word metamorphosis is a Greek word that is used a few times in the Bible.  It is usually translated as “transformed”.  It is the word used to describe the Transfiguration of Jesus.  It is the word used for the change that takes place in the heart and life of the person who truly trusts Christ.

Paul talks about death as being like a seed that is planted in the ground that yields a crop that one could have never imagined simply by looking at the seed.  He says that this is what death is like for the believer: a transformation, a metamorphosis that results in something more wonderful than we can grasp on this side of the grave.

There is a sense in which this side of life is the life of the caterpillar.  We are sometimes slow, unnoticed and at times we feel unnecessary.  Yet, those who die in Christ are like the caterpillar in the larva.  A transformation takes place and we are ushered into God’s Kingdom where we will receive a new, perfect, and magnificent body.

I don’t want to merely sound poetic and whimsical.  I want you to realize that our hope of new life beyond the grave is not anchored to our imagination; it is anchored to the reality of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Jesus died and rose again. He told us that those who believe in, cling to, trust, and rely on Him for eternal life will live even though we die.  Halcyone trusted the Lord in that way.  Consequently we claim the sure promise of life beyond the grave on her behalf.

So, though I miss my friend, Halcyone, I find it hard to be sad.  She has reached her goal.  She has arrived at the place she longed for.  She is home with her Savior.  She has been set free from the limits of this world and knows a life that is as dramatically different as that of a caterpillar and a butterfly.

Today Halcyone has been reunited with Kermit, Stacy, Gladys, her parents, and the Christian friends who have gone on before her.  Most of all, she has seen Jesus.  She sees clearly what she could only see as through a glass darkly before.  We don’t need to worry about Halcyone. She is home.

Our job today is threefold.  First, we must run to the Lord for comfort and strength.  He alone is our comfort in the time of loss.  He gives us hope and He gives us the perspective we need.

Second, we should pause and make our own faith sure.  This is the time to examine your heart and determine whether you are putting your confidence in your perceived goodness or in the sacrifice and transforming power of Jesus. Use this opportunity to do a personal inventory of your own heart.  Make sure you are headed for Heaven.

Finally, I encourage you to remember.  We must remember God’s promises but we must also remember Halcyone.  Over these past several months it has been easy to forget the woman who was alive and vital.  We need to share our stories.  We need to celebrate this life.  I hope you take time often in the weeks, months and year ahead to celebrate what Halcyone taught us,

  • It is better to be blunt than risk being misunderstood
  • You can be a Christian and a Democrat
  • Music can always lift a soul
  • If you’re not willing to debate a point, you will never learn anything
  • True faith shows itself more by the way you live than in the words you say

Today, we mourn a loss even as we celebrate a life.

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Let’s pray,

Our Father, we thank you for the life of Halcyone Shutwell.  Each of us in this place have been touched by her in some degree. We are different people because we met her and we thank you for the change she brought to our lives.

We also thank you today for Jesus.  We are grateful for His life, His ministry, His sacrifice, and His resurrection.  We thank you for that new life that comes to all who receive Him.  We thank you for the hope of eternal life in Christ.  And we thank you that Halcyone was one who trusted you.

Help us this day.  We are so torn.  We are grateful that the suffering is over, are grateful for the impact of Halcyone’s life, but we also feel a deep sense of emptiness in our loss.  Help us to hold firm to what you have told us is true.  Help us to trust you.  Help us to remember.  Help us to remember the laughter, the music, the counsel and the love that Halcyone gave to us.  We ask this all in the name of Jesus.  Amen.