We have gathered here to lay to rest the earthly remains of Laura Louden Ball. As we do so, we turn to the Word of God
The Lord said, (Isa 41:10)
do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Jesus told us,
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. 3 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.
This is our basis of hope today: God’s promise. This is where our strength comes from in time of loss. So it is to the Lord we turn today. Please pray with me.
Father, it is hard for us to comprehend how quickly life seems to change. One minute there is laughter and the next a painful silence. Father, at this time when our emotions are so raw, help us to catch a glimpse of what is beyond the sadness. At this time when we feel so all alone help us to feel your presence. Draw us close to You, our Father. Amen
I’m not going to read or comment on the obituary because Laura’s mom is going to talk about that at the meal following this service.
Today we want to remember three things. First, we want to remember the vibrant life of Laura Louden Ball. From what I understand Laura was a woman who was wonderfully independent. She was willing to tackle any challenge (the cousins Kern, the FBI, the Lobster Palace, the Credit Union, Dance recitals, starting over after divorce, even death). Laura was the one who planned the neighborhood parties and drew people together. When she looked at others she didn’t see skin color, ethnicity, or reputation; instead she saw people of worth.
Laura loved her family. She wanted nothing more than to support them, encourage them, and enjoy them. She had a positive attitude believing that the difficulties of life were the stepping-stones to blessing. Even death is something she viewed as a long-awaited reunion. The reason you grieve is because Laura meant much to you. She had a powerful impact on your lives. It is good, fitting, and important to remember the blessings even in loss.
The second thing we need to remember is the trustworthy promises of God. You may remember the story in John 11 where Jesus’ friend Lazarus had died. His sisters were disappointed that Jesus had not been there to do something. To the sisters Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me (or relies on me) will live even though they die.”
To some that sounds like “pie in the sky” wishful thinking. The thing is, Jesus actually rose from the dead. Hundreds of people witnessed to this fact. I don’t know about you, but when the man who rose from the dead speaks, I am going to listen. Jesus said if we trust and follow Him we too will live beyond the grave. Jesus is not just a man sharing good ideas. He is a man with unmatched credibility speaking to us about the truth of God.
The Bible does not say that everyone goes to Heaven when they die. It says the choice is ours. God has provided a way for us to be forgiven of our rebellious acts and to be made right with God. That provision was the life, death, resurrection, and ongoing presence and leadership of Jesus. God allows us to choose whether we want to trust and follow Christ, or whether we want to do it “our way”. Christ is the only door to Heaven, whether we open it or not is up to us.
From what I understand, Laura believed in life beyond the grave. She looked forward to being reunited with her brother and others who have gone on before. It is not wishful thinking if it is anchored to faith in Christ. We can hold on to His promise that we will live even though we die.
Third, we want to remember that where we go from here is up to us. We have a choice . . . we can focus on the emptiness of loss or celebrate the life that was lived in such fullness. We choose whether we will stop living or whether we will be spurred on in our living by the example of Laura’s life. We choose whether we are going to be mad at God or whether we will run to Him for strength and new life. We each choose whether we will spurn His invitation to new life here and eternal life in the future or whether we will continue to trust our own ideas, efforts and schemes.
I heard an illustration that really helped me. Let me adapt it. When all of you leave here to return to your homes I am sure your departure will bring a measure of sadness. It is hard to say Good-Bye, especially when you don’t know when you will see each other again. As you drive away you will watch in the mirror or wave from the doorway, perhaps with tears in your eyes. There is a feeling of loss.
However, when you arrive home the experience is different. It is always good to be home. There will be friends who will greet you, co-workers who have missed you. Maybe there will even be pets who have been eagerly awaiting your return. Your arrival will be a time of joyful reunion.
Today we stand at a departure gate. This seems like the end of the story. We are left with the emptiness of separation. However, if we change our focus and think about the arrival gate the picture is different. As Laura walked into eternal life loved ones line the hallways. The long period of separation has ended and a reunion more wonderful than anything we have ever experienced is taking place.
In addition to that reunion there is something much greater. Even more wonderful than a Grandma who finally get to meets her Grandchild; we will get to meet Jesus. We get to have our questions answered. We get to see His enduring love in His eyes. And we find that we are more fully alive than we could have ever imagined. So you see, how we view this day all depends on which gate you are standing at.
For us, this is not a particularly good day. But for Laura, it is the best of days.
Don’t get me wrong. There is still sadness. The emptiness and loss is real. Tears are apt. That’s part of their job: to express pain that words cannot express. Our lives and hearts ache. It’s the way it is and the way it should be. When you love deeply, it hurts when you are apart.
However, our challenge is to remember that even in our heartache, the memories and lessons of Laura’s life are still very real. The promise of God is clear and it is more important now than ever. And we must remember that even if it feels like this is the end of Laura’s life . . . it’s not.
Will you pray with me?
Father it is hard for us to see beyond the pain. We don’t understand the timing of all of this. Why now? Why in this way? There was so much more we hoped to share.
Help us to see the bigger picture. Help us to catch a glimpse of the arrival gate. Help us to see beyond what this day means for our lives and comprehend just a little of what this day means for Laura.
Most of all, help us to love and trust You. Help us to allow your life to live in us. Help us to hope; to carry on; and to build on the wonderful foundation that has been laid.
I ask that you grant comfort to this family. Help them to grieve fully even as they trust deeply. Grant them safety as they go their separate ways. Keep them close to each other and to You for we ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now we commit these ashes to the ground as if they were seed being planted. And we look forward to the day when we will see them bloom in Heaven.