We gather for several purposes to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Henrietta Finch; to support and strengthen each other; and to find hope and meaning in our relationship with God.
It is natural to look for meaning and comfort from something deeper today. The best place to look is in the Bible. I remind you of these words of Jesus,
“Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 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? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am… Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me. (John 14:1-3,6)
This is the promise to which we hold today.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, it has been a tough year. It has been hard to see Henrietta move from a person who was vibrant and independent to a woman who was ready and even eager to die.
I thank you that she did not seem to have any fear as she faced her own death. Her faith in you was real and it was seen in the way she tried to conduct her life.
Father, help us this day. Help us to remember the special memories so that we will realize how richly we have been blessed. Help us to hope in something solid rather than to engage in denial or mere wishful thinking. Help us to take firm hold of your hand so that we will know your strength.
We ask in Jesus name, Amen.
Henrietta Lorraine Finch, was born July 4, 1922 in LaHarpe, the daughter of Lorraine and Anna Melvin Ruhl. On January 16, 1946 she married Bill Finch in LaHarpe. He preceded her in death on December 18, 1999. She died on September 11, 2010 at 88 years old.
Henrietta was a lifelong resident of LaHarpe and graduated from LaHarpe High School. She worked at the nursing home in LaHarpe for many years in the Housekeeping department. She was an active member of the Union Church of LaHarpe where she served for many years as Treasurer and Financial Secretary. She was a very active member of the Kum-Join Us Class at the church and served with the group in many different projects.
Henrietta enjoyed calligraphy, and used her skills to hand-letter diplomas for the LaHarpe Junior High Graduation for many years. She also made many signs for the Nursing home. She enjoyed photography and took tens of thousands of pictures. She loved to travel and loved attending her grandchildren’s and Great-Grandchildren’s sporting events.
She is survived by her 3 sons,
- Dennis Finch of Blandinsville, Illinois,
- Brad Finch of Phoenix, Arizona and
- Mark (Barb) Finch of LaHarpe,
- 4 grandsons, Jason (Carrie) Finch of LaHarpe, Alex Finch of LaHarpe, Scott (Amy) Finch of Huntley, Illinois and Todd Finch also of Huntley,
- 2 step-grandchildren, Kelli and Joe Adkisson of LaHarpe
- and 5 great-grandchildren
She was preceded in death by her husband, her sister and brother-in-law, Anetta and Harold Faul, 1 sister in infancy, and her parents.
I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Henrietta for a little better than 28 years. I’m proud to say I was her Pastor during those years (believe me, you can’t always say that). She was a woman filled with life and contradictions.
- She seemed to enjoy life yet always sounded negative.
- She was very frugal (maybe even cheap) yet was incredibly generous.
- She loved her family yet sometimes sounded like she didn’t
She was one of those people you had to enjoy for who she was rather than for what you might wish her to be.
Henrietta was born on the 4th of July and every year she loved celebrating her birthday for several days in a row. She was a child during the time of the Depression and she carried with her that sense of frugality from that point on. She did a lot of things but she was very careful with money.
She spent most of her married life as a housewife and mother. She and Bill took many trips together. They loved to go to Biloxi Mississippi, Myrtle Beach, and even went to Hawaii. The family used to vacation down in the Ozarks. She loved her boys and she loved Bill. When they separated it was one of the most difficult times of her life. She used to say she could no longer cry because she used up all her tears when they parted.
Henrietta loved her family. I remember the many trips she took to Chicago to see Scott and Todd. When they lived in Dallas City they would get together every week to have Pizza. I remember how hard she worked and prayed getting Jason through school and how thrilled she was when he and Carrie were married. Henrietta wouldn’t miss any of the games Jason, Alex, Maddie or Josie played in. She even tried to go to many of the games when Jason was coaching. She took the kids to various shows like Sesame Street on Ice. Henrietta wanted to support her family. When someone in the family needed help she was eager to give that help. She was willing to give advice at the dining room table or sitting on the swing (solicited or unsolicited), and was also willing to write a check if she believed it would help you.
Henrietta felt quite free to tell you what she was thinking. At times she came across harsh. Yet, most of us here today knew her as one of the most thoughtful people we knew. She sent out hundreds of cards to people every year. She corresponded with more people than we would ever believe. Henrietta loved writing letters and loved receiving them even more. She saved all kinds of letters over the years. The church put Henrietta in charge of getting flowers for those who died and for other special occasions. She was fantastic at her job.
She loved pets. She often had a dog and was especially attached to her schnauzer Toby. She enjoyed cats and there were many cats who knew they would be fed if they came by her house.
Something I didn’t know was that Henrietta was a big sports fan. She had a huge fascination with tennis. She loved watching tennis on television right up to the very end of her life. One time she even talked about setting an alarm for 2:00 a.m. so she could get up to watch some match that was going to be on television. No one knows whether she did so.
She watched golf enough to know that Tiger Woods would always be wearing a red shirt on the last day of the tournament (usually Sunday). She followed football and especially followed the Steelers (because that was Jason’s favorite team).
She was extremely close to her sister and had a whole bunch of very dear friends whom she cherished. She would call them up on the phone and loved to visit.
Henrietta and Louise Collins were travel buddies. For the last 20-22 years they took bus trips all over the country. They enjoyed going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans, going to Mackinaw Island, they enjoyed seeing the Golden Gate bridge on a 10 day trip, they even went to New York City where they saw the Statue of Liberty. While they were in New York they decided to go to a play a few blocks from their hotel that stared Alan Alda. When they left the theatre late at night they became lost (Louise said they got to see a different side of New York). Finally they had to ask a policeman to help them find their hotel.
During these long bus trips Henrietta would get acquainted with people. She got their addresses and she wrote many of those people for years after the trip. If you had the time I’m sure you could look at all kinds of pictures from each of those trips since Henrietta took pictures of everything!
She and Louise took lots of day trips. They loved going to Dinner Theatres. They always enjoyed the hot fudge Sundae’s they got to eat for dessert. In fact the week she went back into the hospital she was set to go to Circa 21 in Davenport for a dinner theatre.
Henrietta was very active in the Union Church. I always appreciated her notes of encouragement. It was not uncommon to get a note that said she especially enjoyed something during a worship service. Henrietta was always willing to be in some kind of skit. The one I remember most was a humorous Christmas Skit put to the tune of the Twelve Days of Christmas. Henrietta was always the 5th day of Christmas. Instead of five golden rings it was “Five Shopping Malls”. She would come staggering into the sanctuary carrying a half dozen or more bags and struggle up to the front of the church. During the skit, every time you sang “Five Shopping Malls” she had to stand. To watch her struggle with her bags to stand (with obvious disgust) was hilarious.
Henrietta was a fixture in our yearly Advent Sing. Each year she would find a humorous story to read to the congregation. Something about that whine in her voice and the dead pan way she delivered the lines brought tears to the eyes of most of us. She really enjoyed making people laugh. Last year Chad Burt went to Wesley Village to film her reading one of her stories so we could show it during the night. We will think of her every year at that time.
Henrietta was very involved in the Kum-Join-Us Class and was deeply involved in the Christmas Children’s project from its inception. Each year the church would get a list of clothing needs for children in the grade school. Using the funds raised through the gifts of the congregation (which Henrietta kept track of) several of the ladies would go to Wal-Mart and K-Mart and shop for a day. They would sort all the clothes into bags and then give them to the school for distribution. Even though Henrietta often felt “some people” could have gotten better bargains it was a ministry she greatly enjoyed.
Henrietta helped with many funeral dinners. Apparently, she was never a big fan of making fruit cups for these dinners because she thought “it was too expensive.” She was always there to help decorate the Nursing home for special occasions and helped with the monthly Birthday when it was our turn.
Henrietta was always willing to get involved. She had a wonderfully faithful heart. She had a ministry with and an impact on more people than any of us will ever know. People of all ages (from even the youngest kids) thought of her as a cherished friend. She was unique. She was special. She had a big smile and a wonderful cackle of a laugh. She was Henrietta.
Mark is going to come up now and share a few things
[Song “I Believe”]
There is a great passage in the book of 1 Thessalonians written by the Apostle Paul,
13 And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14)
Paul was writing to the first generation of Christians. Some in this generation were beginning to die and people wondered what happened to these people. It’s much the same question we face today.
There are some who suggest we have evolved by accident, that life is a challenge to see who will survive, and that in death we simply head into oblivion. This anti-supernatural viewpoint is espoused by people who feel they are enlightened and can’t seem to see the absolute futility of their viewpoint.
The passage in Bible gives us a different view. Paul says several things:
1. We Must Not Be Ignorant of God’s Truth or sorrow as if we had no hope. The Bible does not forbid grief, and it does not tell us to avoid sorrow. Sorrow and grief are a natural part of life. What the Bible counsels against is sorrow without hope. The secularist who says: we live, we die, and that’s it, is left without any hope. Paul urges us to view death in terms of the life that follows.
2. The hope we have is anchored to the Resurrection of Jesus. He said, “For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again”. The Bible calls us to trust several things
- The promise of God. God has told us there is life beyond the grave for those who turn to Him.
- The words of Christ (that He is the way to forgiveness and new and eternal life)
- The miracles of Christ (who raised people from the dead, healed diseases, fed the multitudes, and calmed the storms). These miracles showed that Jesus was unique and possessed a divine power and authority. They gave credibility to His words.
- d. The Resurrection of Jesus. The physical and literal resurrection of Jesus is a fact that has undeniable supporting evidence. It transformed His followers from those who cowered in fear, to those who stood fearlessly. These men who had deserted Him at His time of death were suddenly willing to (and did) die as martyrs for their faith. The resurrection of Jesus changed everything. It proved that God’s promise is true; that Jesus was who He said He was; and it proved that there is hope even after death.
3. We Must View Death as a Phase and not a Finality. “… even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:14). As far as I understand things, when we die those who have put their trust in Christ (those who trust Him alone for salvation and who follow Him in the way they live their lives) go immediately into the presence of the Lord. Jesus told the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.” In Philippians 1 Paul said “to die is gain . . . it is to be with Christ”. Jesus told Martha and Mary, the sisters of Lazarus, (whom He would soon raise from the dead), that those who put their trust in Him would “live even though they die”.
Practically, this means that when Henrietta Finch took her last breath on Saturday she stepped out of her physical body into a new existence with God in what we call Heaven. When she closed her eyes in death she immediately awakened to the face of her Lord. She has been transformed. What Henrietta saw on Saturday was something exceedingly more glorious than anything she saw on all her bus trips put together. She was reunited with friends who were followers of Christ. And I believe even her negative outlook was replaced by joyful understanding and grateful worship.
Paul said there is coming a day when Jesus will come back to earth. That day will be unmistakable. At this time He will right the wrongs, establish justice, destroy evil, and take His rightful place as Ruler of Life. And on that day . . . those who have put their trust in Him, like Henrietta, will be with Him.
Some of course believe this is all a bunch of fantasy. I believe it is a reality that is bigger than my mind that is anchored to some historically verifiable truths. I believe not simply because I want it to be true. I believe it is true because I believe the One who says it is true: Jesus. Paul said such truths should encourage us today.
Henrietta loved pictures. Today I point you to the pictures of life rather than death; to a view of Heaven rather than the earth; to Joy rather than sorrow; to Hope rather than futility; And to an anticipated reunion, rather than the painful separation.
Today is the time to think about ultimate things. It is time to take stock of our own lives and ask if we believe life is just a random accident or the purposeful creation of a Divine Being. We must ask: if there is a God, what is He like. And we must ask, if this God is the One revealed in the Bible . . . am I willing to follow Him. Today is the day to look past the trinkets of life and consider something greater and more significant.
So, even as we look ahead for a future reunion, we also look back on the life of Henrietta Finch with gratitude for
- Her big smile and warm sense of humor
- Her boxes of pictures and stacks of albums
- Her adventurous spirit
- Her frugal generosity
- Her unashamed patriotism
- Her willingness to notice, share, and celebrate the significant days of so many people through her notes and cards
- Her deep love for her family
- And her rock solid faith . . the reason we face this day with hope rather than despair and know a glimmer of joy even in the midst of the tears of sadness.
Let’s pray together again,
Our Father, we thank you for the life of Henrietta Finch. At times she exasperated us, at other times she rescued us with her generosity and her thoughtfulness. Over this past year we have marveled at her determination and strength.
Father, now we ask you to welcome Henrietta to the place that you have prepared for her. Wrap your arms around her and love her as only you can. We also ask that you help us. Help us to put our trust in You. Help us to hold on to your promise and to live our lives in light of those promises. Place within us some of the love of people, the sensitive compassion, and the practical faith that we witnessed in Henrietta. We ask all this in Jesus’ name. Amen.