June Waller

We have gathered here this morning to remember and celebrate the life of June Waller.  We do so as a way of honoring her and the life she lived and also as a way to help us in our own grief.

The Bible reminds us,

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, the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.

The Bible also gives us the hope we need,

Now we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not made by human hands, Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed with our heavenly dwelling, because when we are clothed we will not be found naked.  therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.

Please pray with me,

Gracious Father, it has been a long and hard struggle.  This family comes before you weary but also grateful.  Weary from the battle, grateful for June’s life and example.  We ask you to dwell in our midst this morning.  Help us to find perspective, to know hope, and to experience your comfort. We ask this in the name of Christ our Lord.  Amen.

June I (Harn) Waller was born June 1, 1935 to George and Tillie (Crum) Harn.  She graduated from Sciota High School and lived most of her life in the Mc Donough/Hancock Co. area.  She married Ralph J. Waller on January 23, 1979.

June worked at the Porcelain in Macomb, until moving to La Harpe, IL where she was then employed by Howd Insurance Agency.  Later she owned and operated the Eight Ball Café in La Harpe. She then moved to Macomb and worked at WIU for several years.  She managed River Run Apartments in Macomb from 1979 until 1984, afterwards she managed an apartment complex in Bloomington for two years.  Over the next several years after returning to Macomb, she worked in the Health Services buildings, and for Dr. Thrasher. During her working career, she was also very involved in her husband’s construction company, “R.J. Waller Co”, adding her decorating expertise to the newly constructed houses.

She was a twenty-three year breast cancer survivor and had been in remission until the past seven years. She always had a strong desire to live life to the fullest, even after a car accident had left her partially paralyzed for the past six years. She was a person who was always doing for others, and found it difficult to let others do for her.

She was a member of the First Christian Church in Macomb until her accident. Family and friends were among her most precious treasures, June was also her families most precious treasure.  June was 73 when she died peacefully at her home on Tuesday night December 2, 2008.

June is survived by her husband Ralph J. Waller of Macomb, IL, two sons; Larry (Peggy) Sparrow of Winter Haven, FL., Terry (Mary Helen) Sparrow of Macomb, one daughter; Pam (Rod) Sparrow Swisher of rural route Dallas City, IL.; three step-daughters Robin (Scott) Waller-Jarus of Plainfield, IL, Sandy Waller Taylor of Noble, IL, and Kim Waller Medzumus of Aurora, IL. Twelve grandchildren, and five great grandchildren. Four brothers and two sisters also survive her. Her parents and one brother preceded her in death.

[Song]

I had talked to, but did not really know June Waller, so it seems odd that I would stand up here and reminisce about her life before those who really knew her.  What I want to do is share some of the memories that have been shared with me as kind of a verbal snapshot of June’s life.  My hope is to draw a picture that will lead you to give thanks to God for her life.

June was a resilient person.  She did not grow up in easy times.  When she was in 1st or 2nd grade she froze her hands walking to school.  She almost lost them.  She always felt she had big knuckles because of this incident.

When she was growing up she battled Polio and survived a house fire.  Times were hard but she kept going.  Even as she got older when she would face a crisis, she might shed a tear or two and then she would re-group and figure it out.

June was a pretty strict mom.  She felt kids needed to learn responsibility early.  She certainly was not afraid to discipline.  It’s a great testimony that Terry is able to say, “I am very grateful for the way I was raised and I wouldn’t change anything.” (Of course it should be noted that if you had asked him as a child his read on the situation would have been much different.)

When one of the kids would get hurt June would look at the scrap or cut and say, “It’s a long ways from your heart so I think you’ll be O.K.”  It doesn’t sound very sensitive but I think June wanted her kids to learn how to view life with perspective and to roll with the punches just like she had learned to do.

Of course, as June became a Grandma she wasn’t near as strict.  The Grandkids could have dessert even if they didn’t eat all of their food.  They didn’t have to eat whatever was served to them . . . Grandma tried to make what they liked to eat.  And when June became a Great-Grandmother there didn’t seem to be any limits imposed!

June met Ralph when she was working at the Pub in Macomb.  Pam used to come by after school and Ralph started eating peanuts and 7-Up with her.  It was good fun but Ralph also had an ulterior motive: to get close to June.  They finally dated and danced together.  Once they hit the dance floor it seemed obvious that they were meant for each other.  You could say they were “in synch” with each other. They loved to dance together and were a great team.

Ralph and June were married in Las Vegas in 1979.  They were married in the courthouse right next to the Hotel (after Ralph ran her all over the city trying to find the courthouse he knew was next door all the time!)  June always liked Vegas.  She enjoyed the shows and liked to play the slot machines.

Everyone remembers June playing the piano with everyone singing with her.  She actually taught herself to play.  Two of her favorite songs were “The Old Rugged Cross” and “In the Garden”.  It sounds like music was like her “release”.

June was a hard working person.  She was always doing something!  In addition to whatever job she had as her employment, she was also planting flowers, watching birds, mowing the grass and helping Ralph on the various homes he built.  She liked to decorate the homes.

To relax June liked to clean house!  From what I gather, this wasn’t a “do a little dusting and run the vacuum” kind of clean.  This was an “everything is in its place” kind of clean.  Her house was so orderly that June could tell if someone had been in the house because something was out of place! Even when she was confined to a wheel chair she would still grab the mop and try to work on the floor.  June took pride in having a nice and orderly home.  I think she believed that a nice home was a reflection of her own character.

June was a sensitive and caring woman.  She didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings but . . . she valued honesty most of all.  She would tell you the truth no matter what; even if it might sting.  She made friends easily and cherished her friends dearly.  She enjoyed playing Yahtzee with Judy. And she got together with some schoolmates once or twice a year.

June was a fighter.  She fought cancer and enjoyed a 23 year remission.  During these last seven years there were good days and bad days as she battled cancer once again. After she had her accident the Doctors thought she would not walk again.  She proved them wrong.  June believed her job was to overcome her obstacles and that’s what she worked to do.

These last years were hard because she hated having to rely on the help of others.  She certainly didn’t want to be “a burden” to anyone.  June used to scorn those who would sit around and watch Soaps and the Price is Right during the day (because there was so much else to do).  However, when she became less mobile she looked forward to the Price is Right everyday.  In fact, if you had something to tell her you’d be wise to wait for a commercial.

June was never one to covet attention.  She didn’t see any need for a funeral and she would have hated this eulogy!  But I’m comforted by the fact that she didn’t  want a 70th birthday party but when a surprise party was thrown for her she loved every minute of it.  It’s my hope that when all is said and done . . . she’ll be glad we had this service also.

June Waller lived a good life.  She gave everything she had to the years she was given.  You have been richly blessed not only with wonderful memories but also with a sterling example of how to live well.  May God keep your memories sharp even as He comforts you in your loss.

* * * *

In Psalm 23 David speaks words familiar to most of us,

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

     2     He makes me lie down in green pastures.

          He leads me beside still waters.

     3     He restores my soul.

          He leads me in paths of righteousness

for his name’s sake.

     4     Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

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 mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

          and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

forever. [ESV]

I think the most powerful words to me are these, “even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.”  June Waller had this kind of confidence as she faced that valley of the shadow of death.  As June knew she was dying she talked about how much she was looking forward to seeing her mom on the other side of the valley.  Once again June faced a crisis and adjusted her focus.

The Apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that he did not want them “to grieve as those who have no hope.”  I want the same for you.  Grief is natural, normal and appropriate.  Shedding tears, feeling a sense of emptiness or numbness are all part of the grieving process.  Paul was not suggesting that grief is bad.  He warned them about grief without hope.

Too often we think of hope and we think of “wishful thinking”.  This is what people mean sometime when they say, “you just have to hope for the best.”  It is a desire to “stay positive” in a difficult situation.  Some people talk about their “hope of Heaven” in this way.

This is not the kind of hope that Paul was talking about.  When Paul talks about hope he is talking about a settled confidence; a firm conviction based on the facts.  The key basis of this confidence is the life and testimony of Jesus.

Jesus taught that there was life beyond the grave.  He said top his disciples,

In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.[1]

He told his friends,

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die.[2]

Jesus talked about a future judgment and a day when we shall receive an “eternal reward”.

Perhaps most important Jesus showed that there is life beyond the grave.  When Jesus rose from the dead (a fact that is readily apparent if you are ready to examine the evidence) He proved that there is life beyond the grave.  The apostle Paul challenged the Corinthians to check out the facts and talk to the witnesses who had been with Jesus after he rose from the dead.

Paul also writes,

35 But someone may ask, “How are the dead raised? With what kind of body will they come?” 36 How foolish! What you sow does not come to life unless it dies. 37 When you sow, you do not plant the body that will be, but just a seed, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body as he has determined, and to each kind of seed he gives its own body. 39 All flesh is not the same: Men have one kind of flesh, animals have another, birds another and fish another. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the splendor of the heavenly bodies is one kind, and the splendor of the earthly bodies is another. 41 The sun has one kind of splendor, the moon another and the stars another; and star differs from star in splendor.

42 So will it be with the resurrection of the dead. The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable; 43 it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. [3]

Paul says life beyond the grave will be different and much better than the life we now know.  Tears will be dried; pain will be banished; loneliness, frustration and decay will be replaced with love, fulfillment and life.

Perhaps you remember the first time you went to Disneyworld.  You walked through the front gates and are stunned with how magnificent and magical everything seems.  Heaven is better than that.

Or maybe you remember the first time you went to the mountains and you awed by the majesty and beauty of the scenery. You wanted to take it all in but it was impossible.  Or maybe you have visited Hawaii and stood on the beach and marveled at the incredible sunset.  Heaven is better than this.

Maybe you remember that first time you held your child in your arms and you were stunned by the amount of love that welled up in your heart.  You loved that child so much that you never wanted to put them down. Heaven is better still.

In honesty I have to point out that the promise of Heaven is conditional.  The Bible is clear: those who put their hope and confidence in Christ will be the ones who live even though they die.  This isn’t about church attendance (though that helps) this is about seeing our need for forgiveness clearly and trusting Christ to provide what we need to be forgiven.  It isn’t a matter of earning His favor, it is about receiving it.

Faith in the Bible is not simply and emotion, it is a way of life.  The person who has true faith lives their life seeking to please and honor God.  They aren’t perfect by any stretch but they do seek to follow the example of Christ in the way they live.  True faith changes the way we live.

When Jesus talked to Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, He told them those who believe in Him “would live even though they die”.  Then he asked them a question: “Do you believe this?”

This is the question of the day.  Do you believe that Jesus is the Savior, the King and the ruler of your life?  And a second question is: “Are you willing to bet your life on that fact?”  The person who truly believes says yes to both of those questions.

June Waller was one who believed.  She trusted Christ through the crisis times of life.  She trusted Him in the times of heartache and the times of joy.  She trusted Him as she began her descent into the dark valley of the shadow of death.  As a result, when she died,

  • Pain and decay gave way to joy and healing
  • Questions were replaced by answers
  • The Pain of separation was swallowed up by the delight of reunion
  • The search for God was rewarded by God’s embrace
  • Hard work and faithful living was rewarded with a “Well-done” from the King of Kings

Our grief today need not be for June.  Our grief is really about OUR loss, not hers.  She has lost nothing and gained everything.  So I encourage you to grieve; it is a natural part of living.  But as you grieve I pray you will do so in hope.  Someday it will be our turn to walk the dark valley and if we do it holding the hand of Jesus we will move from the darkness into the light.  We will see the Lord and be reunited with June.  Undoubtedly everything will be clean and in order.  And don’t be surprised if June asks you to sing a few songs or invites you to dance with her in joyful celebration of your new life.

[SONG]

Father, we can’t imagine what this day would be like without You.  The idea that, “we live, we die, and that’s it”, leaves us cold and futile.  Thank you for coming to earth in the person of Jesus.  Thank you for pointing us toward Heaven and then making it possible for us to go there.  Thank you for verifying it all through Christ’s resurrection.

Lord, I pray for this family.  They have suffered a great loss.  In their pain of separation fill them with hope.  Deepen their faith.  Help them to walk with You.  I ask that you draw them all together as a family. Grant them clear memories of June.  Help them to embrace the lessons she taught.  Help them to continue to celebrate her life even as they mourn her passing.

I pray especially for Ralph.  He has lost his partner and his friend. Father, fill his loneliness with your comfort and grace.  Strengthen him as he faces his own health issues.  Give him what he needs to keep going. Embrace Him in your love.

We ask all of this is the strong and wonderful name of Jesus.  Amen