We are gathered here today to mourn the loss, but also to celebrate the life of Jackie Braun. But we do not mourn today without hope. In the Bible we read,
We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed….because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us in his presence…Therefore we do not lose heart. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. (2 Cor. 4:8-11)
This morning we can have confidence that God is present with us and will give us the strength we need to face tomorrow. We also have confidence that there is life beyond the grave, and there is hope that we may one day be reunited with Jackie in Heaven. Since we recognize that our help is found in the Lord, will you pray with me to that end?
Father, we come before you today saddened and even angry because of Jackie’s death. We admit that it doesn’t seem right for someone like Jackie to die at such an early age, but we trust that you are the Lord of all things, even life and death. Help us as we grieve today. Help us not only to mourn Jackie’s death, but also to celebrate her life and the ways in which our lives were enriched by hers. We pray that you would help us to cling to your promises as we grieve. Help us in the midst of sadness to know true and living hope. We pray in Jesus name. Amen.
Jacqueline Leigh Braun was born March 7, 1982, in Iowa City, IA. She was the daughter of Michael Joseph and Brenda Kay Parrish Braun.
She attended the Union Church of LaHarpe. She enjoyed music, writing poetry and loved animals. She died Monday, June 14, 2010, in Burlington.
She is survived by her father, Michael Joseph Braun of Amboy, WA; her mother and stepfather, David and Brenda Murphy of Burlington; maternal grandmother, Nancy Lu Parrish of LaHarpe, IL; paternal grandparents, Michael and Barbara Braun of Brush Prairie, WA; maternal step-grandparents, Herbert and Eleanor Murphy of Burlington; one brother, Christopher M. Braun of Burlington; one step-sister, Jamie Lee Murphy of Burlington; and several aunts, uncles and cousins. She was preceded in death by her maternal grandfather.
Those who knew Jackie best knew that she was someone who had a wonderful heart. As I talked with many of you, you recounted the stories of how much she loved spending time with her family and enjoyed just being with those she loved. She was someone who cared deeply about other people, a trait that seems to be rare among many today.
It wasn’t just her family that Jackie cared about though; she seemed to have a gentle spirit with everything and everyone she met. Whether it was animals, plants, or even people she didn’t know, Jackie always seemed to have a desire to protect and care for them. Though at times it may have seemed that Christopher was the exception to this rule, Jackie’s picking on her brother was really indicative of the fact that she cared deeply for him.
Because of the way she cared for other people, she had a desire to speak kindly about and to others. She wasn’t one to participate in gossip, and would seek to find a way to gently remind those around her that gossiping really wasn’t something they should do either. Even when she seemed to be frustrated by the people around her, she wanted to find a way to express her frustration that wasn’t hurtful. Even when she would walk with Lucretia (who walked too fast) or Nancy (who walked too slow), she wouldn’t complain, but would simply ask if she could walk at her own pace for a while. She tried to be sensitive to the people around her.
She often wanted to offer whatever help she could. Whether it was advice about the plants at Grandma’s house or wanting to make sure the strays nearby didn’t go hungry, if she felt she could help someone out, she wanted to. When she was staying with Lucretia, she tried to help out with the yard work at the house. Even though she’d never really used a push mower, she was determined to help out. As time went on and Jackie got more and more tired, she continued to press on with the mowing until Lucretia finally assured her that it was ok to take a rest. Jackie had a big heart.
She was also a very creative and talented individual. She loved to hand-make cards for her family at special occasions. She felt that the card she would make would be a better expression of her love than any card she could buy. She loved music. She loved to listen to music, to play music, to write music, and to sing. Interestingly, even when she had her headphones on and would be enjoying singing with her music, she wanted to be alert to the people around her, stopping every so often to ask if her singing was bothering those who could hear it.
Even though she never had much in the way of formal training on the flute or the guitar, she had the ability to play many songs by ear. If she heard a song on the radio, she could figure out how to play it and sing with it. She had written several songs and many poems, often finding that she could express herself uniquely through these creative means.
Jackie was a person with a sweet, kind, and caring heart. She also had her share of struggles. For a long time, her addiction made it difficult to see the heart that was still present within her. Even though she still cared for others her desire to feel better often took priority.
Fortunately for Jackie, she had a family who cared a great deal for her—and she knew that beyond a shadow of a doubt. Even though there were many times where Jackie made it really tough to help her each of you went to great lengths to help her to break free of the desires that controlled her. Even though you knew that her health ultimately depended upon her choices, you wanted to give her all the help you could.
Unfortunately, when a person struggles with something for a very long time, it becomes difficult to remember what they were like without their disease. Let me challenge you to take time to share with each other the stories you remember. Talk about the stories of Jackie and Christopher when they were kids, remember back to when Jackie was the maid of honor at Dave and Brenda’s wedding, think about her laughing along with the family when you were all together. As you begin to share the good times with each other you will remember others, and eventually you will also be able to remember the Jackie Braun that was sometimes difficult to see.
My hope is that through sharing these memories together, you’ll be able to remember Jackie as she really was, and carry those fond memories with you for the rest of your life.
Today we can derive comfort in the knowledge that God loves and cares for each of us, and that He will help us as we grieve. It is likely that you have a whirlwind of emotions swirling within you at this point. Certainly you are sad that Jackie is gone, but you may also be angry at Jackie for never beating her addictions. You may be angry at God for allowing this to happen. You may feel guilty, telling yourself that you should have done more to help her. You may even feel some relief that the fight is finally over. Understand that these feelings are normal. Also understand that no matter what your feelings are, you can bring them to God. God understands that we are flawed people who often don’t understand, and He loves us in spite of our flaws.
Throughout the book of Psalms we frequently see David pouring out his heart to God, and many of the emotions he expresses are extreme. Yet God constantly reminded David that He was in control and that He knew what He was doing. When David admitted his weakness, God reminded him of His strength. Let me challenge you to share your struggles with God as you work through the grief. Come before Him and ask for Him to help you, to guide you, and to offer you His strength. He has helped many in the past, and He will help you too.
If you look through the pages of the Bible, you see countless stories of people that God continued to love in spite of their struggles and flaws. The Apostle Peter was impulsive and that impulsiveness often got him into trouble. Solomon was a womanizer. Noah struggled with alcohol. Saul had problems with authority. Aaron gave in to peer pressure. Paul seemed like he was so far gone that nobody could help him. Throughout the Bible, we find encouragement that nobody is too far gone for God to be able to reach them.
I share the stories of those who struggled in the Bible to remind you that even though Jackie struggled for a long time, she was not beyond God’s reach. The stories of these characters from the Bible remind us that God knows He is dealing with flawed and sinful people. As such, He doesn’t put a limit on how many times He will forgive us when we fall. He makes it clear that all of our sins can be forgiven in Jesus Christ.
After Jesus’ good friend Lazarus died, he was talking to Lazarus’ sisters and reminding them of the hope that lies beyond the grave. He said,
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:25-26)
Jesus reminded the sisters that there is life beyond the grave for those who believe in Him. Then He asked them a very important question—do you believe this?
That question really is the key. Just a little while later Jesus declares,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to Father except by me. (John 14:6)
The most important question we can ask is do I believe this? Our sins can be forgiven through Jesus Christ, and nothing else.
Many people throughout the world believe they can be good enough to get into Heaven. They think that if they can do enough good things it will balance out the bad things they’ve done. They think if they do enough good things God will be obligated to give them eternal life. Those people are wrong. None of us can earn our way to Heaven. It is only when we recognize this that we even stand a chance of being saved from the penalty of our sin. Only when we recognize that we need Jesus to forgive us can we actually trust in Him to do so.
I honestly don’t know where Jackie stood in regards to her faith. I do, however, have hope that she had trusted in Jesus to forgive her. She seemed to recognize that God was in control of the universe and that she would one day have to answer to Him. She also seemed to recognize that she needed His help if she was going to overcome her addiction. In her notepad she had written down a verse from 1 Corinthians 10:13, reminding her that God would be there to help her when she faced temptations. She said that she prayed to God and read her Bible. She often felt like God wasn’t listening to her, but she seemed to recognize that she needed His help.
Over the last several years when I saw her at church, it seemed that she was different. She had gone from being someone who seemed disconnected and distant to someone who seemed to be engaged and had life in her eyes.
I don’t know whether all of these things mean that Jackie had a true faith in Jesus Christ, but all of these things give me hope. I am hopeful that through Jackie’s struggles, God helped her to see that the only hope she had could be found in Him and Him alone.
If she really trusted in Christ, then today we can experience a relief, knowing that for the first time in a long time, she no longer is struggling with addiction. No longer does she need something to make her feel good. For the first time in years Jackie has felt completely fulfilled and has known a joy that has eluded her for a long time. If she has trusted in Christ, she also is looking forward to the day when she can see her family once more in Heaven.
Whenever we are faced with the death of a loved one we are reminded that our lives are more fragile than we think. There will come a day when each of us is going to die as well and we will either stand judgment before God for our sins, or stand before Him forgiven because of our faith in Christ. Ask yourself the question that Jesus asked—do you believe what He has said? How you answer that question determines what will happen when you die.
The death of someone we love is always difficult. It’s usually difficult not only because they are gone—because we can be sure that there is life beyond the grave—but because we remain. We are left to live our lives without the person we love. There will be moments when you are overcome with grief—where you are suddenly reminded of Jackie’s absence. In those times, it is best to just remember. Jackie had struggles, but she also taught us some things about life. So think fondly of her caring nature, her sense of humor, and some of the good times. Trust in the fact that there is life beyond the grave, that through the cross there is forgiveness for sins, and that someday you may be reunited with her once more.
Will you pray with me?
Father, you alone are the Lord of the universe. You alone know how long we have to live on this earth. And you alone have made it possible for us to live forever in heaven.
Thank you for Jackie Braun. Thank you for her kind and caring spirit and the good times we shared with her.
Lord, comfort us as we grieve. Remind us of your promises, and help us to rest in the knowledge that you know us better than we can know ourselves. For we pray this all in Jesus’ name. Amen.