James Sparrow

We have gathered here this morning to remember and celebrate the life of James Sparrow. We do so in the belief that this is not the end of His life, it is merely a transfer point and in some respects the beginning of the life we all are longing for.

The Bible tells us

When this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. (2 Cor 5:1)

And Jesus said,

I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. (John 11:25-26)

Please pray with me,

Father, we bow before You with gratitude for Jim’s life. We come to you to ask you to bear us up in this time of loss. We know that Jim is with you. However, we need help dealing with the fact that he is not with us. So, draw us near to You. Remind us of your promises. Help us to celebrate Jim’s life as well as the hope that you have given to us through Christ.

James L. Sparrow was born on September 16, 1931 in LaHarpe to John Edward and Hattie Ellen McPeak Sparrow.

Jim was a veteran of the U.S. Army. On May 16, 1954 he married Bertha M. Negley in LaHarpe. She truly was the love of his life.

Jim started and built Sparrow Construction from the late 1950’s until retiring in 1997. In the early years he worked with his brother. His sons now run the business and his grandson works there also. Jim was proud of the business he had built and it pleased him greatly that this business was now in the hands of the next generation.

He is survived by four children, Deborah (Bill) Hamrick of Augusta, IL, John (Pam) Sparrow of LaHarpe, Diane (Marcos) Chavez of Nauvoo, IL, and Joe (Brenda) Sparrow of LaHarpe, 8 grandchildren, 6 great-grandchildren, two brothers, Lawrence (Liz) Sparrow of Winter Haven, FL, and Eugene ( Karen) Sparrow of Monmouth, IL, and one sister Clydine Waller of Macomb, IL.

Jim was preceded in death by his wife, Bertha who died May 22, 2005, his parents, great-grandson Bryson Sparrow and one sister, Martha Sparrow.

Jim Sparrow was quite a guy. He grew up in a home that was pretty poor. Because of that he was always very careful with his money. He only finished 8th grade but he did well in life. He had a head for business and always knew what needed to be done and how to get it done.

Jim was a talented guy he loved to do all kinds of woodwork. He made the pulpit in the Union Church, He made wagons, jewelry boxes and even once made a big doll house for his girls. He told me that all he needed was a picture of what you wanted built and he could build it for you.

He loved to garden. He enjoyed taking those vegetables to make his popular vegetable soup. His soup was a Christmas Eve Tradition.

Jim always said “La Harpe is a great place to live.”

At his most basic, Jim was all about family. Jim said he met Bertha at the Traveler’s Inn. Jim was with a group of guys and they knew there were a group of girls at the restaurant so they stopped. Jim asked Bertha if she would like to go out. Bertha answered, “Well, I don’t know”. Jim said, “Well, you either know or you don’t know” and turned to leave. Bertha hollered after him . . . Now, just wait a minute!

They were a perfect match. Jim could be rather blunt and direct and Bertha was able to let just about anything roll off her shoulders and would just respond, “Now Jim . . . “

Jim said the most difficult time of his life was the last 2 ½ years of Bertha’s life. He said it felt like they were always going to Doctors. I am sure the fact that he could not help her or fix her was very hard on him.

Jim loved Bertha. He was expressive in his love to her. They were often seen holding hands or he would come up and slip an arm around her. He would also go out into the kitchen to help cook (which I don’t know that Bertha always appreciated since in Jim’s mind there were two ways to do things: your way and the right way…his way).

Jim said he was welcomed by the Negley sisters (that is saying something). 2 years and 9 months later, Debbie was born.

Jim was a good dad. He liked to play with the kids. He was great at helping them hide for hide and seek and he had his tricks for finding all the kids when he was the seeker.

When it came time to go sledding, Jim was out with the kids. He loved to play with his children and grandchildren. He was a grateful man.

Jim wanted his children to learn how to be independent and responsible adults. He wasn’t going to spoil his children, but he did have his generous side. All the kids remember the best Christmas ever when they all received new bicycles (they had banana seats and chopper handlebars).

Jim was the undisputed leader of the family. If he waged his finger you knew you had better shape up. There was none of this “count to three” stuff with Jim.

When the family would go someplace to visit the whole family immediately knew when to leave . . . it was when Jim got up. (I think, knowing Jim even as little as I do, that the kids knew that if they didn’t get out to the car he would without hesitation leave them behind.)

Jim had a good sense of humor. He came across sometimes as a sourpuss but that wasn’t him at all. He had a playful smile and you could often see that twinkle in his eye that let you know he was kidding you.

Jim did not like these last months of being pretty helpless. He had worked hard all his life and the idea of being confined to a chair and not being able to live in his own home was a difficult transition for a very proud and honorable man. His family took very good care of him . . . even when for a period there he was not a happy person; frustrated by life.

Jim and I talked about death. He knew it was coming and I asked him if he thought he was ready. He said he was. He was looking forward to seeing Bertha again. I asked if he felt he was ready to stand before the Lord. Again, Jim said he was. He said he had put his faith in Christ.

I suggested that some people are concerned about whether they are good enough to get into Heaven. Jim laughed and said, “Oh I know I’m not good enough.” Jim understood. Salvation is not something we earn, it is a gift that we receive.

It’s hard for proud and independent people like Jim to accept such a gift from God. It goes against their nature. But though Jim was proud he also knew when he needed to be humble. He had put His faith in Jesus and that alone was his hope.

There was never a time I visited him when he didn’t want prayer. He said he needed all the prayer support he could muster.

I am sad that Jim is gone but . . .I know where he is. And when you think about Jim being in Heaven . . . no more prostate trouble, no more weakness from blood loss, no more mobility problems; made whole and having the chance to see the Lord face to face . . . how could we be so selfish as to want him to have to put such a wonderful thing off?

Today is a day for us to remember. To learn. And maybe to look at our own hearts and our own faith. No one is saved by their goodness because no one is truly good. Today is a day to remind ourselves that we, like Jim, must humble ourselves and turn to the Lord and ask Him to save us.

This is a hard place to be. Someone we love is being buried. It feels so final . . . but we need to remember; this is NOT final. In fact, it’s just the end, of the beginning.

So let’s remember and celebrate

  • The man who was always looking for a faster way to do things.
  • His peanut brittle
  • His Vegetable Soup
  • Dad in the workshop
  • Games of Hide and Seek
  • Jim’s playfulness like going out to eat with his cousin just to see if he could provoke rumors. (Which he did)
  • The Sunday night family meal when all the kids and families would journey home for a fun night.
  • And the way he approached death . . .with the same kind of determination with which he lived life.

We are grateful for Jim Sparrow and I for one look forward to seeing him again.

Let’s pray together,

Father we thank you for Jim’s life. When he was at work, he worked hard. When he was home he was fully present. He truly was a good man. It’s hard to know he has gone on to be with you.

At the same time, we thank you for the hope that is ours in Christ. Not a hope that is like wishful thinking, but a hope that is firm and anchored by the resurrection of Jesus.

Help us in this difficult place to separate the life of Jim Sparrow, the person Jim Sparrow, from the body which housed that person. The body we return to the earth, but the person, the spirit of Jim we know is now with you. And even in our pain that leads us to rejoice.

So I ask that you draw this family close to you. Grant them your comfort and your grace. Bring to our mind the memories of Jim as the healthy and vibrant man we knew and loved.

Help us also to examine our own lives and to make sure that we, like Jim, are truly ready to meet you.  We ask this all in Jesus’ name.  Amen.