We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Hazel D. Reed. We also gather to encourage each other by affirming the great hope of the Christian faith – life beyond the grave.
We turn to God’s Word to find comfort and hope.
Psa 91:1-4 (NIV) He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust. Surely he will save you from hidden traps and from the deadly pestilence. He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart.
Hebrews 4: 15,16
We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence so we may receive mercy and grace to help us in our time of need.
Before Jesus died he gave his disciples of all generations this promise,
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God a; 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. [John 14:1-3]
Let us pray,
Our Father, this afternoon we turn to you as the one who gives us life and also gives us the confidence through Christ for life beyond the grave. We turn to you out of gratitude for the life of Hazel Reed. We thank you Father for her faithfulness and for the many ways she blessed us in her fullness of years. We ask that you help us to remember her with fondness. As we remember, remind us of the hope that ours through Jesus Christ. We ask these things in His name. Amen.
Hazel Reed was born November 12, 1902, near Blandinsville to Luther and Grace Clayton Hensley. She was one of ten children. On June 12, 1925 she married Elmer Reed in Burlington Iowa.
Hazel was a graduate of Western Illinois Teacher’s college. She loved being a teacher. She taught grade school in one room schools near Blandinsville and Terre Haute and finished her teaching at the La Harpe grade school. Even after she retired she continued tutoring students until she was well into her 80’s.
Hazel had two children of which she was justifiably proud. Her grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great grandchildren filled her heart with joy. Elmer died on April 26, 1955.
Hazel was a faithful member of the Union Church of LaHarpe.
She is survived by her son, Richard Reed of Burlington, IA., one daughter, Mary Jo McConoughey of Bettendorf IA; six grandchildren; 12 great-grandchildren; three great-great-grandchildren; and one sister, Wren Klepfer of Scottsdale, AZ.
Hazel Reed was a delightful woman. Having lived for 100 years, she saw a great deal of change in her lifetime. It was always fun to talk to her about the horse and buggy, the one-room schoolhouse days, and the work ethic then and now. I wish I could remember all the stories she told me.
To put her life in perspective, Teddy Roosevelt was the President when she was born. The real Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid were at the height of their career (Hazel was almost 20 before they died). 1902 was the year Jell-o was invented. The first Model A car was sold the year after Hazel was born. The Wright brothers didn’t start making history until 1903. Ice cream cones and iced tea came into existence in 1904; The Titanic went down when Hazel was 9; the Buffalo nickel came on the scene in 1913; Charlie Chaplin came to the screen as “The Tramp” when Hazel was 12. We entered World War I when Hazel was 14. And of course, Hazel was around when the Cubs won the World Series!
I always admired Hazel’s sharp mind. She was mentally alert up until just the last couple of years. She could hold up her end of a conversation on just about any subject. She possessed a wealth of knowledge and was filled with wisdom. I never came to see her when she didn’t ask about my wife and children.
Hazel loved to teach. I’m told that every Sunday evening when she was teaching, Hazel laid out her clothes for the coming week! Apparently she was quite a disciplinarian. That part of her came out occasionally at the Nursing Home. When someone was making noise and being disruptive I would hear her say, “There is no need for that kind of behavior” or “I think you need to sit down and be quiet”.
Jeff Howd, one of the nurses at the Nursing home talked about the fact that Hazel taught him to love and to excel at math. He related that in 2nd grade she took the time to help him learn how to think mathematically. He went on to win prestigious awards in math that he credits to her. He also remembered that on rainy days Hazel would sit with him and play checkers. She not only taught the subject material . . . she taught the person. I suspect this is why she was a popular tutor well past her retirement. I know there are hundreds if not thousands of Hazel Reed stories.
Daniel Webster’s classic words are appropriate: “If we work upon marble, it will perish. If we work upon brass, time will efface it. But if we work upon men’s immortal minds, if we imbue them with high principles, with the just fear of God and love of their fellowmen, we engrave on those tablets, something which no time can efface, and which will brighten and brighten to all eternity.” Someone has written a poem titled, “Building aTemple”
A builder built a temple,
He wrought it with grace and skill;
Pillars and groins and arches
All fashioned to work his will.
Men said, as they saw its beauty,
“It shall never know decay.
Great is thy skill, O builder:
Thy fame shall endure for aye.”
A teacher built a temple
With loving and infinite care
Planning each arch with patience,
Laying each stone with prayer.
None praised her unceasing efforts,
None knew of her wondrous plan;
For the temple the teacher built
Was unseen by the eyes of man.
Gone is the builder’s temple,
Crumbled into the dust;
Low lies each stately pillar,
Food for consuming rust.
But the temple the teacher built
Will last while the ages roll,
For that beautiful unseen temple
Is a child’s immortal soul.
Hazel was also a woman of faith. She watched various Pastors on television when she could no longer come to church, and she went out to the church service and Bible Study at the Nursing home whenever possible. She loved to read her Bible and it upset her when she could no longer see well enough to read. Her Bible and her Daily Bread devotional were always near her chair. I know she read through the Bible many times.
Hazel was a joyful woman. I loved to hear her laugh. When she got tickled she made everyone else laugh. And in my experience it didn’t take a great deal to get her tickled. She was a woman who was appreciative of anything that was done for her and didn’t seem to have a negative word to say about anyone. She was wonderfully gracious. Even in the last several months of her life when you could tell that she didn’t really know who you were, she was still kind and gracious.
Hazel was a strong woman. She lost a lot of family and friends over her 100 years. There were a number of times these last couple of years we thought we would lose her. Let’s be honest, we never thought she would make it to her 100th birthday. But she did. It was an important milestone to her.
Hazel Reed lived a good life. She was a faithful servant of our Lord and she now can claim the prize that has been waiting for her.
Though I will miss Hazel’s wonderful spirit, her funeral is really not that difficult to conduct. She lived over 100 years, had a good life, was ready to die, and had actually begun to die some time ago. These aren’t the only reasons this is not a “difficult” funeral. The most important reason for joy in the midst of loss is Hazel’s faith.
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.
Hazel Reed 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. 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.
Hazel trusted Christ. She tried to live a good and godly life. She was a student of the Scriptures. In fact, I always enjoyed having her in our Bible Study at the Nursing home because she always had the right answers to the questions. Hazel worked hard at her faith, but did so, not to earn God’s grace, but in 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.”
Hazel is now home. She is back with Elmer, her parents, all her brothers and sisters, friends and students who have gone before her. But most important, she is with Jesus. She is with the one who has loved her since the creation of the world. I don’t know what kind of reward she will receive, but I don’t think it matters to her. She has lived her life longing to hear her Savior’s, “Well Done.”
Some might think that all this talk about Heaven is really just wishful thinking. It is a person’s way of coping with loss. But I beg to differ. The life, death and even the resurrection of Jesus are very well attested historical facts. If Jesus rose from the dead it means that He was who He said He was—God in human form. And if He was God then His Word is true. And it was Jesus who promised us life even though we die. Our hope is not anchored to wishful thinking. It is anchored to fact. It is sure.
So on this day we must grieve for Hazel. She is where she has always longed to be. Our grief if for our loss, not hers. As we remember her life we should learn several things,
- We should learn that even though times change, a godly character is always in season.
- We learn that the best investment we can make in life is to invest in the lives of those around us.
- We learn that even though a good life does not guarantee faith . . . true faith will bring about a good life.
- We learn that nothing makes the journey of life more enjoyable than a good hearty laugh.
- We learn that the most consistent gift we can give to each other is genuine courtesy.
- And we learn that those who trust in Christ will live even after they die.
So my challenge to you is to study the life of Hazel Reed. Let’s learn from her, let’s follow her example so that someday when our time on earth is over, we can be sure that we will see her again in the Father’s house.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we thank you for the life of Hazel Reed. Thank you for her faithfulness. Thank you for her kind and generous heart. Thank you for the things she taught us – not just in knowledge but also in life and character. We ask that you welcome her joyfully into your eternal home. Grant he the rich reward that you have stored up for her.
I ask that place Hazel’s spirit in this family. Comfort them in their loss. Spur them on in their own faith. I ask these things in the name of Christ. Amen.