We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and also to celebrate the life of Ivan Dale Weeks.
We turn to the Word of God for comfort,
In Psalm 34 we read,
18 The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.
19 A righteous man may have many troubles, but the LORD delivers him from them all;
The Apostle Paul wrote,
13 And now, brothers and sisters, I want you to know what will happen to the Christians who have died so you will not be full of sorrow 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 comes, God will bring back with Jesus all the Christians who have died.
15 I can tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not rise to meet him ahead of those who are in their graves. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the call of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, all the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air and remain with him forever. 18 So comfort and encourage each other with these words.
(1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
There is life beyond death. There is hope beyond grief. There is joy beyond sorrow. This is our hope and our confidence.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come to you this afternoon feeling a strong sense of Déjà vu. It was only a few months ago that this family gathered to bury Nina.
As the pain of grief sweeps in again, I pray for your strength to be present with us. Grant the comfort that you alone can give.
And I ask that you help us as we remember Ivan. Help us to pay tribute to his life even as we mourn his death. We ask these things in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Ivan Dale Weeks was born on March 3, 1921 in Burnside Illinois to Edward and Lula Cox Weeks.
Ivan attended grade school and two years of high school in Burnside. He completed his high school education after serving in World War II.
Ivan first dated Nina’s sister (once) and then the next week came over to the Patterson home and asked Dean if he could date Nina. When she came to the door, he asked her if she would like to go to a show, and they were inseparable from then on..
On November 22, 1941 Ivan and Nina, along with her sister (the old girlfriend), traveled to Palmyra Missouri one Saturday to the courthouse to get married. From that point on Nina and Ivan were seldom apart. Ivan enlisted in the Navy Seabees during World War II and was sent to Williamsburg, VA for one year, and then to California. Nina traveled with him.
While they lived in California, Ivan hitchhiked to and from the base (28 miles) every day. After the war ended he and Nina returned to Illinois and Ivan worked for Caterpillar for a year. They spent the next six years in California and then they returned once again to Illinois. Ivan worked as an agent for Standard Oil for almost ten years until 1962 and then served as the Superintendent of Postal Operations for the US Postal Service in Carthage. In March 1981 he retired from the Postal Service. In Carthage many of the people knew Ivan as Ike.
He was a member of the Carthage American Legion Post 74.
On July 18, 2001 Ivan lost the love of his life. In another week they would have been married for 60 years.
Ivan is survived by: one sister, Fern Wilson of Carthage, and several nieces, nephews and great-nieces and nephews. He was preceded in death by his wife, 3 brothers and 4 sisters.
His loss leaves a hole in life.
I did not have the privilege of knowing Mr. Weeks. It sounds like I would have liked him.
Ivan Weeks was an outgoing, cheerful, and energetic man. He was not afraid of hard work and enjoyed “tinkering”.
He was a smart man with a quick wit. A group of the guys went to the horse races one day and they took a bag of Dean’s big red crab apples with them. They loved seeing people polish the apples and take a big bite of these very sour apples. When they arrived at the races, Ivan put the bag of apples in a car that had it’s windows open. Just the thought of those people thinking they had received an unexpected treasure was quite satisfying.
He and Dutch owned a cabin for a while at Ria Vista. They enjoyed going down to the cabin on weekends to ski and to boat on the Mississippi.
Ivan enjoyed lots of things. He liked making various crafts like turquoise jewelry and baby food bottle Christmas Trees. He liked to bring home cowboy cactus to put on car antennas.
He enjoyed going to the Tastee Freeze for coffee . . . especially when Heather was working there. He always left her some kind of strange tip. It was usually some kind of foreign money.
He enjoyed all his nieces and nephews and was quick to encourage them.
He liked going to Flea markets, enjoyed Country Music and the Wagon Wheel Opry in Macomb. For some reason he got a kick out of those motion sensitive frogs and dogs. He enjoyed going to Ruthie’s for Catfish and Gator’s in Burlington. He liked playing “Push and Shove”, Chinese Checkers, and Mexican Dominoes. He liked keeping busy.
Ivan was a creature of habit and like routine. He loved going to Apache Junction Arizona every winter. And every year he packed the car (starting two weeks before they departed) the same way, they took the same route, they stayed in the same hotels, and ate at the same restaurants. He knew what he liked and saw no reason to change.
If the truth is told, after his retirement, he and Nina spent more time in Arizona than they did in LaHarpe. For 19 years he and Nina would head off in September and not return until May.
Just prior to his retirement from the Postal Service some of his good friends from Carthage who also lived in Arizona, saw a mobile home come up for sale at the Arizona Mobile Home Park. These friends contacted Ivan and he came right down and bought the home.
Ivan was fond of telling people that when they started wintering in Arizona in 1981 the park rental was $480.00. And when they sold their mobile home last year the park rental was $2400.00.
While in Arizona he enjoyed doing all kinds of handy work for his neighbors. He liked being one of the “young guys”. Sometime every winter he and Nina would head to Las Vegas for a couple of weeks.
Ivan was a big fan of the Phoenix Suns and the Arizona Diamondbacks. He fell asleep before he saw the Diamondbacks rally in game seven of the World Series but was delighted that they won.
In 1998 Ivan had several surgeries while in Arizona. When he returned in 1999 he battled Pneumonia and he and Nina knew that they could no longer make that yearly trip. Ivan was grateful for his dear friend Jack Moore who took Nina back and forth to the hospital when he was sick. And when Nina died, Jack came to stay with Ivan for several weeks. It was a much cherished friendship.
The greatest delight in Ivan’s life was undoubtedly Nina. They had the kind of relationship that everybody would like to have. People would see them walking around town holding hands. And even after 50 years of marriage there was still a look in their eyes that told you that their love had not diminished but had only grown deeper.
Consequently, Nina’s death was devastating to Ivan. It left a hole in his life that would not go away. Ever since Nina died Ivan has been ready to die. I think it would be accurate to say that Ivan died of loneliness or a broken heart.
Ivan Weeks was a simple man. He worked hard, savored life, and enriched the people who came in contact with him.
Now Ivan is with his beloved Nina once again. And they can celebrate their anniversary just like they always have . . . together.
Once Jesus went to funeral of a dear friend. This friend’s name was Lazarus. Whenever Jesus went to Jerusalem he would stay with his friends, Mary, Martha and Lazarus.
One day, Lazarus got sick. Jesus was told that his friend was sick. When Jesus arrived in Bethany, where Lazarus lived, he was told that his friend had been buried four days earlier.
When Martha, Lazarus’ sister heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. And in John 11 the Bible tells us of her conversation with Jesus.
“Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.”
In my mind I imagine that Martha was a little disappointed with Jesus. She had seen Him heal others and perhaps didn’t understand why he didn’t heal Lazarus. She had sent a message that Lazarus was dying but instead of coming right away, Jesus delayed. It’s possible that Martha was a little miffed when she talked with her friend.
As we continue the story we read,
23 Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
24 “Yes,” Martha said, “when everyone else rises, on resurrection day.”
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again. 26 They are given eternal life for believing in me and will never perish.
Seems like kind of an odd conversation doesn’t it? But it is such an important conversation. Jesus uses this time of grief to instruct his dear friend.
In these words, Jesus tells Martha two important things. First, he tells her that there is life beyond the grave.
Truthfully, we all want to believe this. No one likes to think that we simply live and then die. That seems so futile and pointless. You work hard all your life . . . .for what?
Jesus told his disciples that we live this life in preparation for the next. Jesus calls it Heaven. He says those who believe go to “the House of God.” And in everything Jesus taught He pointed to a future life where we will be conscious, aware, and more alive than we have ever dreamed. It will be a time when evil will be abolished, pain will be removed, and weakness will be no more.
But there is a second thing that Jesus tells Martha. He told her that the only way to this life beyond the grave was through faith in Him. He said,
“I am the resurrection and the life.* Those who believe in me, even though they die like everyone else, will live again.
Jesus never taught that everyone will go to heaven. Only those who trust and rely on Him will live eternally. The Bible explains this by pointing to the fact that every one of us needs a Savior. We need someone who will pay for all our rebellion against God. The Bible tells us that this is what Jesus was doing when He died on the cross.
It’s not very popular today to say that trusting Jesus is the only way to Heaven, but it is the message of the Bible.
I suppose anybody could say what Jesus said. But Jesus is the only one who backed it up with His own resurrection. No other religious leader has come back from death. . . only Jesus has.
The evidence for the resurrection is compelling. There is the missing body, the vast eyewitness testimony, the grave clothes, the radical transformation of the disciples, and the testimony of the guards who were stationed at the grave. Jesus proved that there is life beyond the grave and that He is qualified to lead us to Heaven.
So Jesus tells his friend, Martha that there is life beyond the grave and that the only way to that life is through trust in Christ. And then Jesus asks an important question: “Do you believe this, Martha?”
And this is the question that is put to each of you today. You know what the Bible teaches. You know what Jesus says. But now the question is, “Do YOU believe it?” And I suspect that this is the question that Ivan will be asked as well.
For those who have placed their faith in Christ, death is not the end, it’s just a transition. For those who do not believe, there is only emptiness.
Perhaps you know the rest of the story. Jesus came to the place where Lazarus is buried. He saw the grief of his friends and “Jesus wept”. But then Jesus did something astounding. He called Lazarus back to life. His tomb was opened and Lazarus, still wrapped somewhat like a Mummy came out of the grave.
Some time later, Lazarus did die again. And I suspect that when he died the next time his sisters had an entirely different attitude. I suspect they still cried. They were going to miss him. But they also looked forward. They now knew that their brother was with Jesus. They knew that their brother lived on. They knew that some day they would see him again.
And that is the hope that I covet for you. I pray that this day you would believe. It’s my hope and my prayer that you would place your confidence in the person and work of Jesus Christ. I pray that you would see faith as something intensely practical and relevant. And I pray that in your time of sadness you might know the hope that comes from knowing that this life is not all there is.
So we weep for our loss. But we are also comforted with the thought that Ivan Weeks lives on, and some day, those who believe in Jesus, will see him again.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we confess a certain numbness. We know that Ivan was not afraid to die, and in some respects, he even longed to die. We place him in your hands. We entrust him to your mercy, justice, and grace.
We ask you to help us to believe. Help us to believe in You. Help us to believe in a life we cannot see. Comfort us in our time of loss. Help us to grow in our faith.
And Father, we ask that you help us to remember all the great times with Ivan. Keep the pictures in our mind clear and sharp. Help us to remember how he loved, how he laughed and how how he lived. For we ask these things in the name of Christ, our hope for eternity. Amen.