We have gathered this morning to remember and celebrate the life of our Husband, Father, Grandfather and friend, Jack Parrish. As we celebrate his life we also mourn his passing. We are here to help each other in our time of grief.
Our help today is found in the Lord. Jack’s favorite Bible passage, like many of us is Psalm 23. I suspect Jack repeated the middle of the Psalm often during the last year.
The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,
3 he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,a
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.[NIV]
Another Psalm states our confidence,
God is our refuge and our strength a very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea;
though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,
though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof,
[though cancer might ravage our body]
the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. [Psalm 46 italics added]
Jesus said, “He who believes in me will live even though he dies”. The Word of God is our confidence today.
Please pray with me,
Our Father, we bow before you this morning. We have watched as Jack’s life was taken from him and we confess that we hate cancer. However, we love you. We trust you. We do not understand why things happen as they do but we come here today to submit to your will and to praise you in it.
We ask you to increase our faith. Help us to remember the healthy and vibrant times. Turn our deep sorrow into a time of warm gratitude for the blessing Jack brought to our lives. Help us to this end we ask in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Jack Lee Parrish was born January 6, 1934 near Blandinsville, Illinois, the son of Virgil and Doris Hensley Parrish. He was a graduate of La Harpe High School.
On June 27, 1953, he married Nancy Lu Painter. He had lived in the Blandinsville, Raritan, and Durham areas before moving to LaHarpe in 1974. He had farmed, and was a carpenter, and also served as a bus driver.
Jack was a volunteer fireman with the LaHarpe Fire Protection District for twenty eight years, and was an ambulance driver for the LaHarpe Ambulance Service for fifteen years. He was a member of the Union Church of La Harpe IL.
Jack is survived by his wife Nancy
One son – Jim (Diana) Parrish of LaHarpe,
Three daughters – Lucretia McPeak of LaHarpe
Brenda (David) Murphy of Burlington, Iowa,
Betty Parrish of Bethany, Illinois,
Three grandchildren – Amanda (Lee) Woods, Jackie Braun, and Christopher (Jessica) Braun, and one step grandchild – Jamie Murphy.
He was preceded in death by his parents and one brother – Gene Parrish.
Jack was 75 when he died Monday March 9, 2009 in the Carthage Memorial Hospital after a valiant fight against cancer.
There is a popular poem by Linda Ellis that draws attention to the fact that on a tombstone there are the dates of a person’s birth followed by the date of their death. In between the two is a dash and that dash represents all that a person did in their life. Her poem emphasizes that how you spend your “dash” is what matters most in life.
I want to take some time to consider the dash of Jack Parrish’s life.
Jack Parrish wasn’t famous. He never had a lot of money or fancy stuff. However, he was a man who made the most of his dash. He gave himself to his family, his church, and his community. We are all richer because of his life.
Jack grew up in La Harpe schools. He loved to play football. In those days you played both offense and defense. Like most boys, Jack enjoyed playing any sport. Jack would go to school, play football, and then head out to work on the farm. Jack continued to love football as he grew older and enjoyed watching the games on television (he would often rest his eyes during a game).
Jack’s 1952 graduating class was blessed with a group of classmates that remained very close throughout the years. The class met together two or three times every year often at the Palms in Ft. Madison and in today’s vernacular they “had each other’s back”. Jack loved his classmates and they were a great support to him over these last couple of years.
The story is told that Jack took a liking to Nancy Lu Painter who went to school in Terre Haute. He was nervous about asking her out so he asked various friends to set them up. I get the impression that they weren’t too helpful. If I have the story right, one day Jack was driving by and noticedNancy on horseback with a spooked horse. He turned around to rescue her (she already had things under control) and asked her out that night (his birthday, Nancy would find out later). She couldn’t go out that night but they made a date for the next Sunday night. Nancy was admittedly less than enthused about the date but one date was all it took for Jack to win her heart. Nancy loved his dimples and the life that was in his eyes. She calls Jack her “Knight in shining armor” because he always seemed to know when she needed help. He never forgot an anniversary. Their love continued to grow through the years.
Jack always worked hard. He worked as a farm hand before buying a farm of his own. While farming he also did carpentry work with his dad and drove a school bus. Jack wasn’t afraid of hard work. One of my most vivid memories of Jack is with his bandana around his head, a sleeveless shirt and sweating profusely as he worked on some project.
Jack and Nancy had four children but it was pretty much up to Nancy to do the disciplining. Jack had trouble saying “No” to his kids. The only time they can really remember him saying “No” was when the girls asked if they could learn to drive the M & M tractor. Jack answered he would teach them to drive the tractor, “On the second Tuesday of next week”.
Jack only had to give the kids a look to get the kids in line. When Jack was forced (by Nancy) to talk to the kids about something they did wrong it brought him so much pain that the kids felt bad because he felt so bad. Jack was such a loving guy that you didn’t want to disappoint him.
Jack was a pretty calm guy. It took a lot to rile him. He rolled with the punches. When teaching the kids to drive if they would miss a turn he wouldn’t panic, he would just say, “You might want to start earlier next time”. When Jim wanted to get a motorcycle Jack just said, “I’ll get you a motorcycle if you let me whip you in the backyard first!” (Jim never took him up on the offer).
There was one time he was pretty shaken up. Somehow a raccoon had gotten into the basement of the house. Jack found his pistol and shot the coon. Unfortunately, this was one tough coon. He got up and perched himself on top of the fuse box…daring Jack to do something really stupid. Jack got him off the box and finally after a couple more tries was able to kill the thing. Shortly after the duel had finished one of the neighbors called and Jack was sure they were calling because of the gunfire to see if things had “gotten out of hand at the Parrish household.
When the kids needed Jack (even if it was across the country) he would take off to be there for the kids. He was there for a repair, a trip to a Doctor’s appointment, or just to lend support. (Well, there was that one time Lucretia was on a trip and called to report she had a flat tire that time Jack asked if someone closer might be able to change the tire for her).
Jack just wanted his kids to be happy. I guess that’s why discipline was tough for him. When they got married he was supportive. When they struggled, he was supportive. He would do whatever was needed.
Jack was very proud of his Chili. He was also pretty good cooking on the grill. After Sunday dinner he would often tell the kids, “We might have something better next week.” It was his way of saying, “I hope you come back.”
Jack had a great sense of humor. If you knew him at all you knew this. That cackle of his seemed ever present. Once he was sitting on the porch swing and it fell down. When asked if he was hurt he said, “No, not until the chain came down and hit me in the head”.
One night he was giving one of the kids a hard time about the table being sticky for dinner. He pretended his glass was stuck to the table but somehow in the pretending Jack pulled the glass up and got water all over himself. The family had a good laugh over that one.
Jack could be quite the tease. If you asked Jack about a project Jack would say, “Well, a fella could do that.” He didn’t say he would do it or wouldn’t do it, just “a fella could”. Jack had a simple philosophy: if you can’t take it – don’t dish it out!
After Jack became sick he came to church one Sunday. I hadn’t seen Jack for awhile so I came up and gave him a hug. He looked at me and said, “Let’s not make a habit of this.” A week ago when I saw him in the hospital I asked to pray with him and took his hand. He looked at me holding his hand and said, “Let’s keep this between us!” He was a lot of fun.
Jack enjoyed farming but realized it was just a hobby that wasn’t paying particularly well. So he decided to work with his dad full time. As a carpenter Jack wanted to do a job right and make sure the customer was happy. Later on Gene joined the pair as they did various jobs. They were good carpenters.
One of the things I always respected about Jack was the way he loved his brother. After Gene had his cerebral hemorrhage Jack worked hard to keep Gene working (and getting a paycheck). A lesser man would have resented the fact that they were not able to work an equal amount. But that wasn’t Jack.
Jack Parrish served his community well. He drove the ambulance for around 15 years and served on the fire department for 28 years. He loved being a fireman. He almost never missed a meeting. When it was time for the Fireman’s dinner at Summerfest Jack would take three days off of work to help get ready for the fund-raiser. I know Jack was deeply touched by the way his fireman buddies came to his aid while he was sick. Whether it was the benefit they held, mowing his lawn, or helping with a need in the home . . . you were there. He was proud to have served with you.
Jack loved his family. Each Christmas the only thing he wanted was to have the family together. That brought him joy and contentment. He welcomed mates warmly into the family and had treated Diana and Dave as his own. He adored his grandchildren. He enjoyed having Amanda and Jackie sit on his knee when they were little and they enjoyed being swept up in his big strong arms. Christopher loved hanging out with Grandpa and enjoyed going up to the fire station to play pool. Jack joyfully welcomed Jamie, Lee and Jessica as they joined the family. Jack was definitely a family man. I’m sure there were many times when he looked around the time and thanked God for so richly blessing him. Christopher put into words what I think all the Grandchildren and many of us feel,
You never showed me how to build a house, but you showed me how to build character. You taught me how to love and accept people no matter what. You never complained or asked why the cancer came, you accepted it.
You lived a great life filled with wonderful memories. You were a great leader loved by all. We all have learned from you. We all wish our hearts could be as big and caring as yours.
Grandpa, you’re knocking on heaven’s door but it’s already open. Walk on in and see Jesus. We will miss you much, but we will be so excited when we get to see you again. Watch over us and guide us. Help make our hearts like yours Grandpa. We love you and miss you and will never forget you. Go, have fun with Jesus.
Jack Parrish did indeed teach us about character. He enriched our lives and we will all really miss him.
As we mentioned earlier, Jack’s favorite Bible passage was Psalm 23. Many of us are familiar with this passage, and if we believe what it says it is a great comfort, especially in times of trial.
I believe this was probably Jack’s favorite passage of Scripture for the same reasons that many others find comfort in it—it reminds us that there is a God who is real and who takes care of His children. Jack believed this to be true throughout his life and throughout his battle with cancer. Jack knew that God would take care of him, and that God was ultimately in control.
This is precisely why I believe that Jack is in Heaven today, because he believed God. There are lots of people who would say that they believe in God—most of the people in our nation would say that—but that isn’t the same as actually believing God. Simply believing in God does not guarantee that you will go to Heaven when you die. The Bible tells us that believing in God is nothing special, it is clear when you look around at the world that their must have been a Creator.
In the book of James, it states things a little more forcefully, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” (James 2:19, NIV) We are told that believing there is a God is no big deal, because even the demons believe that. The demons recognize God’s power and authority. If we deny God exists or fail to recognize his authority over our lives, we are not enlightened people living in an age of reason; we are actually farther from Heaven than the demons! What really matters is whether you actually believe God, whether you trust his promises and live the way he tells you to.
I knew Jack for most of my life, and had always seen him at church. I knew that he was always willing to help people out, he worked hard, and everyone seemed to genuinely like him; but I didn’t really know where he stood with regard to his faith. It wasn’t until the last year or so that Jack really expressed his faith to me with his words. When he did, I was struck by the depth of his faith—Jack believed God. He trusted that God could heal him from the cancer, but understood that God was in control and cared for him whether he lived or died. He had absolute trust that when he died he would spend eternity in Heaven. He also understood that it wasn’t because he was a good person that he would go to Heaven; he knew that it was because Jesus had paid for his sins and if he would trust in Him then he would go to Heaven when he died.
Once I had the chance to see Jack’s faith in this situation, all the other things seemed to make sense. Jack wasn’t trying to earn his way to Heaven by all the things he did in his life, he was trying to please the God who had saved him.
I think the reason Jack lived the way he did was because he knew it was the right thing to do. He knew that God wanted him to love his family—so he did. His wife, his kids and their spouses, his grandkids, his parents, his brother, they all knew that Jack loved them. I suspect that the reason Jack worked so hard at whatever he did and wanted to make sure things were done to the best of his ability is that he knew God wanted him to give his best effort. Jack gave selflessly of his time and energy because he knew that it wasn’t about him, it was about living in a way that would please God.
Please don’t misunderstand what I’m saying. Jack’s not in Heaven because he did good things; he did good things because he knew he was going to Heaven. Jack was not trying to earn his way to Heaven—he knew that was impossible—but he trusted in Jesus to save him, and lived like a person grateful for the love God had shown him.
This is the hope that we cling to today—the fact that because of Jack’s faith, we know he is at home with Jesus. Let’s be honest, the death of a loved one is never easy. We will always have an ache in our hearts as we remember them. We will always have moments where we miss them, moments where we are upset that they are no longer with us. But, for a person who has believed God there is hope—a knowledge that death is not the end but rather a transition point.
It is important for me to ask you today whether you have hope for beyond the grave. Will you be reunited with Jack in Heaven? Have you believed God—taken Him at his word and lived your life in a way that demonstrates that belief—or do you simply believe in God? The answer to that question is of utmost importance—both to you and those who love you. It is because we know how Jack answered that question that we have hope today.
We will miss Jack Parrish greatly, as a husband, father, grandfather, and friend. Jack was the kind of guy that everyone wanted to be around, because he was a lot of fun, he worked hard, and he could be depended on. We can learn a lot from Jack’s life—we ought to live our lives in a way that would please God. We should strive for excellence in whatever we do. We should give our best in our work, we should give freely of our time to others, and we should put an emphasis on family. Like Jack, we should be more concerned with doing what is right, and less concerned with who sees us do it. We should also learn that the most important thing in life is a deep and abiding faith. Jack’s faith in Christ was at the heart of everything else he did. Jack realized that without a strong faith, nothing else really mattered.
In talking with Jack’s children, it seems they understood this already—after all he consistently lived his life that way. So, I’d like to close by sharing with you a poem that Lucretia wrote for her dad.
When I think of you Dad, I think of Love, Joy, and Pride,
Your Love for us all, you could not hide,
You were proud of us all, in your own special way,
In our hearts and our souls, you will forever stay.
Growing up as your children has been such a pleasure,
You taught us strength, faith, and love, we will always treasure.
We had such fond memories being raised on a farm,
To your three precious daughters you never could harm.
You taught Jim to drive tractors, but wouldn’t teach us,
“It wasn’t women’s work”, is what you preached to us.
“Farm work was for men”, is what you would say,
We girls could gather eggs, but the men bailed the hay!
We cherish those times, and we hold them so dear,
To our hearts and our minds, they remain so clear.
Fun loving, and kind, is what we remember,
Like a fire burning bright, a burning ember.
As we grew older, and began moving away,
You hated to see us leave, and we wanted to stay.
In your loving embrace, you let us go with a tear,
Knowing full well, we’d be home in a year!
When we got married, and took on new spouses,
You helped each one of us with our houses.
“I just want you to be happy”, was your reply,
When we got divorced, you wanted to cry.
All three of your daughters went through this with grief,
But you never let us see your display of relief!
You never let us see your sadness or tears,
Even though it hurt you more than your worst fears.
Your Love for our Mother, was a strong bond indeed,
It’s what we all strived for, what we all need.
We witnessed it firsthand, and we’ll never forget it,
That Love is timeless, never omitted.
It pained us to see you in that hospital bed,
Thrashing in anguish is what we all dread.
Now we know you are at peace with our Lord,
In eternity forever is your reward.
Life will be different without you by our side,
No words of wisdom from you as our guide.
We have to let go, and let you move on you see,
Even though we hate it, that’s the way it must be.
We miss you Dad, and wish you were still here,
With sadness and grief, we still shed a tear.
We’ll take care of Mom, and never lose sight,
Till we see you again in Heaven’s bright light.
-Lucretia McPeak 2009
Will you pray with me?
Father, we come to you today as we grieve over Jack’s death. We thank you that you have provided life beyond the grave, and that Jack trusted in you. We thank you that Jack is with you in Heaven, and that we can be reunited with him again.
At the same time, our hearts ache. We will miss so many things about him, because he was such a good and loving man. Lord, I lift this family up before you. As they go through these periods of grief, I pray that you would comfort them with fond memories and the hope of being reunited again someday. Remind them of the promises you have made, and help them to truly trust you as Jack did. For we ask this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.