We gather this morning to mourn the loss and also to celebrate and thank God for the life of Mary Jane Stevens. In this time of sadness we turn to God’s Word.
Mary Jane had listed several favorite passages. Let her favorite passages strengthen and comfort your soul this morning.
John 3:16 (NLT)
16“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
24 ‘May the LORD bless you
and protect you.
25May the LORD smile on you
and be gracious to you.
26May the LORD show you his favor
and give you his peace.’
2 Timothy 4:5-8
5But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don’t be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at bringing others to Christ. Complete the ministry God has given you.
6As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. 7I have fought a good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. 8And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness that the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on that great day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his glorious return.
And Mary Jane had written down that Matthew 11:28 was her favorite verse,
28Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Draw comfort from her faith and from the fact that she is now in the presence of the Lord she loved all her life.
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, we come to you this morning with such mixed emotions. We feel an overwhelming sense of sadness at the loss of someone who has inspired us so with her character, her endurance and her faith. We have lost a dear friend and a faithful servant. We ache.
But we also come to you with a profound sense of gratitude today. My how you blessed us through Mary Jane’s life. What a privilege we had to know her and be touched by her. In the midst of the ache, the sadness and the desire for one more conversation, we know we have been richly blessed. We thank you for her life. We thank you for sparing her a long period of hospitalization, we thank you for the time we had with her.
Help us now as we grieve. Help us to grieve fully, to remember affectionately, and to hold on to that solid hope which comes from Christ, our Lord and Savior. Amen.
Mary Jane Boyd was born on October 27, 1926 in La Harpe to Walter and Olive Boyd. As a child she enjoyed playing trumpet in the band. She had her first date with Don Stevens when Robert Link asked Mary Jane to go out with Don. She agreed and the two fell in love. They became engaged before Don went to the Navy. His ship was torpedoed and their relationship almost ended before it had a chance to begin. When Don came home on survivor’s leave, He and Mary immediately got married. They were married April 27, 1945 in La Harpe.
Mary worked as a Secretary in Springfield Illinois in the Insurance department. She moved to San Diego to be close to Don, and then he was shipped to the Philippines. Mary Jane later worked for 19 years at the State Bank of La Harpe.
Mary Jane served as Secretary for the Girl Scouts Two Rivers Council; was a post officer of the Home Extension, a member of the Happy Helpers Club and the Blandinsville Order of the Eastern Star. Mary was a member of the Union Church of La Harpe, where she served as Church Clerk, was active in the Kum-Join-Us Class, and served as Secretary of the Women’s Fellowship. She was an active and faithful member.
Mary is survived by her husband, Don; Two sons, Todd Stevens of La Harpe and Kevin Stevens of Ocean Springs Mississippi; One Daughter, Sheila Clover of Lebanon, Indiana.
Three brothers: Clifford Boyd of San Diego, CA. and Glen and Jerald Boyd, both of La Harpe; Two sisters, Joyce Traser of Manhattan, IL. And Carol Allen of Tempe, Ariz. Seven Grandchildren: Melissa Jensen, Shawn Clover, Aaron Clover, Lesley McCain, Kristin Lolling, James Stevens, and Josh Stevens; three foster Grandchildren: Tom Howard, Cindy Hicks and Heather Gray and Eight Great-Grandchildren
Her parents preceded her in death.
Mary Jane Stevens was a remarkable woman for many reasons. She will be remembered for many things. She will be remembered as a loving mother and grandmother. She worked hard and provided well for her children. There are many memories of her making clothes for Sheila or repairing Todd and Kevin’s jeans. As a mom she insisted on good values. You knew that the bar of ivory would be nearby if your vocabulary was deficient. You knew that there were chores to be done and you were expected to do them. Sunday was God’s day. You knew that whatever you needed mom would try hard to provide.
For Mary Jane, family was most important. I don’t think it was because she felt her family was more significant than anyone else, it was because she felt that God gave her primary responsibility for her own family. It didn’t matter if you were a child, grandchild, in-law, or foster child. She treated all her family the same. She loved them all with all of her heart.
Mary enjoyed the close relationship she had with her siblings and really enjoyed the times they spent together in Florida these last few years. She cherished her husband and the other day I heard Don say, “She was my best friend.”
Among the cherished items Mary Jane clipped out was this piece that seemed to speak the message of her heart.
I have the greatest job in the world. God gave me the job. He did not ask for my social-security number, my birth certificate or my diploma.
My salary is very small, sometimes a hug, maybe a kiss, occasionally a thank you; lots of times, nothing. My job does provide some benefits, but no retirement plan. I do not worry about being fired; I have a permanent position.
I am the purchasing agent for such things as clothing, household supplies, and food. As a dietician, I plan menus for three meals each day. I am also the chef and waitress. My responsibilities include such things as washing dishes, washing clothes, ironing, making beds, scrubbing floors, and all other services provided by maids.
I do not have a doctor’s degree, but I diagnose tummy aches, earaches, pink eye, chicken pox, and measles. When my patients are in need of special care, I’m a nurse on 24-hour duty.
Although my car does not have a taxi light on its roof, I pick up and discharge passengers at all hours of the day or night.
No one would hire me as a carpenter, but I do know how to use the screwdriver, hammer, and a pair of pliers.
You will not see me as an umpire or a coach, but I can be found in the cheering section at many ballgames.
My sewing pile is always high. I have tried to be a teacher, but I still remember when we used four lines on the paper to get the right answer and not it takes the whole page. It takes a magician to balance the checkbook, pay the bills, and still have enough money left to buy groceries.
I’m not complaining! As I said before – I have a great job. I am a mother.
Mary will be remembered as a great cook. She was a woman who was proud of her meals. She was noted for her Chicken and Rice, her Beef and Noodles, her seven layer salad, her potatoes and gravy and her great pies with their homemade crust. Mary Jane always would have something to offer you if you stopped by the house. Even Shirley’s dog, Charlie knew Mary Jane as “the cookie-girl”.
Mary knew that her guests had different tastes so she would often make several versions of the same thing. She might make one batch of brownies with nuts and one without. She might make one gooseberry pie and one apple pie. Or she would make some jello with bananas and some without. Everyone in the family enjoyed when Mary was cooking. She had a way of making you special with what she prepared.
One of the favorite memories was her “Garden Dinners”. These were the times during the summer months when dinner was made up of everything they got from the garden. The boys might eat 12 or more ears of corn but it was fun and it was designed to make sure that nothing was wasted that came from the garden.
Mary Jane loved to entertain. When Leslie and Kristen graduated, she wanted to have the parties at her house. She wasn’t able to get around real well so she moved around the kitchen on her rolling chair and enjoyed every minute.
Mary Jane will be remembered as a disciplined and organized person. She was a woman who planned ahead. Her funeral plans were fully made. She had a place for everything and everything was expected to be in its place . . . it just worked better that way. She was good at managing household finances. She had a wonderful ability to plan her day to get many things done that we only wish we could get done. She was so organized that she made photo albums and scrapbooks for the kids and grandkids that had clippings of their various activities. She made quilts for her kids and embroidered blankets for the Grandchildren. In fact, since she knew at times she was physically limited, she made extra blankets so she would always have some ready. Mary made one quilt out of the scraps of all the dresses she had made for Sheila. She was always thinking.
Mary knew that there was a right way and a wrong way to do things. And if you were going to do something, you might just as well do it the right way. This went for washing windows, vacuuming and most other things in her life. She didn’t spend a lot of time watching television. There was too many other things to do.
Mary will be remembered as a compassionate person. She appreciated and loved the people around her. She loved her children and loved babysitting for the children and grandchildren. It was never a chore to her . . . always a privilege. When she went to work at the bank one of her motivations was to make it possible for her family to take vacations together. These are some of the best memories the children have. When her mom, Olive, was getting feeble Mary was there every day to take care of her. There were many days she didn’t feel well but she still got over to see her mother and helped with her hair. Friends loved Mary because she always had a willing ear and always made sure that the conversation focused on the other person rather than herself. She made you feel special.
Mary will be a person with many talents and interests. She enjoyed cooking, sewing, crocheting, making quilts, and embroidering. She liked to read and do crossword puzzles. She enjoyed collecting shells and making things with them. She was an avid Bridge player and was always up for a challenge.
Mary will long be remembered as a woman of incredible strength. She battled a number of physical problems the last twenty years. She had a degenerative disease, Polymiacitis, which attacked her muscles. She had problems with her back and a host of problems that were related to the medicines she was taking. When others would have shriveled up and died, Mary just became more determined. She never complained, never said “I can’t”, and she continued to live her life with gusto and determination. You weren’t going to find Mary Jane sitting around in pajamas all day! She was dressed, tastefully coordinated, and ready to put her best foot forward, every day.
Her spirit was best shown by the fact that each night she climbed the stairs to her bed . . . even if it meant going up the stairs on her hands and knees. She would not give in to sleeping downstairs. She was determined to fight her disease. She was determined that she was going to enjoy life as fully as she could and not waste time whining about her circumstances. She trusted God’s providence and accepted it gratefully. Another poem she had clipped and saved was this one,
Today, upon a bus, I saw a girl with golden hair I envied her;
She seemed so gay, and I wished I were as fair.
When suddenly she rose to leave, I saw her hobble down the aisle,
She had one leg, and worse a crutch, and, as she passed a smile.
O God, forgive me when I whine,
I have two legs, the world is mine.
And then we stopped to buy some sweets. The lad who sold them had such charm,
I talked with him. He seemed so glad. If I were late ‘Twould do no harm.’
And as I left he said to me, “I thank you Sir, you’ve been so kind.
It’s nice to talk to folk like you. You see,” he said, “I’m blind.”
O, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two eyes, the world is mine.
Later, walking down the street, I saw a child with eyes of blue
He stood and watched the others play. It seemed he knew not what to do.
I stopped a moment; then I said, “Why don’t you join the others, dear?”
He looked ahead without a word, and then I knew he could not hear.
O, God, forgive me when I whine.
I have two ears, the world is mine.
With legs to take me where I’d go . .
With eyes to see the sunset’s glow..
With ears to hear what I would know . .
O, God, forgive me when I whine,
I’m blessed indeed, the world is mine.
Mary Jane Stevens will be remembered as a woman of faith. She worshipped regularly, read faithfully, served tirelessly and trusted unswervingly. She loved the Lord and did her best to honor Him with every breath she took.
Mary Jane Stevens loved life and the people who shared that life with her. We will miss her spirit, her faithfulness and her example.
In 2 Corinthians Paul wrote these words that sound like they could have come from Mary Jane.
7But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. 8We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; 9persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body. 12So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
13It is written: “I believed; therefore I have spoken.”£ With that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak, 14because we know that the one who raised the Lord Jesus from the dead will also raise us with Jesus and present us with you in his presence. 15All this is for your benefit, so that the grace that is reaching more and more people may cause thanksgiving to overflow to the glory of God.
16Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18So 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 Corinthians 4:7-18)
There are several things I would remind you of this morning. First, Paul reminds us of the truth that was lived out in Mary Jane’s life: Attitude is the key to faithful living.
Paul tells us that things were not easy in his life but he viewed the struggles of life as opportunities to glorify the Lord. He said, “we are being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.” That’s a tough idea to grasp but it is illustrated perfectly in the way Mary Jane lived. Her attitude spoke volumes about her faith. She trusted God’s wisdom and care. She viewed her trials as opportunities to prove her faith.
And now in our time of sadness we are faced with choices,
- We can complain or we can trust
- We can despair or we can renew our hope
- We can focus on the burden or we can celebrate our blessing.
Mary Jane saw every day as an opportunity and we should too. She chose to see the positive, the possible, the blessing. She chose to see opportunities rather than obstacles. She chose to focus on others rather than herself. She chose to see the progress rather than the decay in her frame. She was hard-pressed but refused to let it destroy her. We can learn a lot from her attitude. Her example reminds us that we often complain when we should give thanks, we despair when we should dig deeper, we whine when we should worship.
Second, Paul reminds us that our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. Mary Jane Stevens was looking beyond this life. You could see that in the way she lived, in the spirit she possessed, and in the verses she cherished. Her goal was to fight the good fight and to finish the course. She wanted to be faithful to the end so that she could stand before her Lord and here those wonderful words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” She was living now . . .to live again. She was laying up for herself treasures in Heaven.
This day is empty if we don’t see it with the eyes of faith. The message of Scripture is loud and sure: “this is not end!” Jesus came to earth, lived a perfect life, taught us the truth about life and eternity, died in our place, and then rose from the dead to prove for all time that there is life beyond the grave.
Jesus told us that the only way for us to know this life beyond the grave was to trust Him. We must turn to Him for forgiveness, we must trust Him for direction, we must follow Him in our living and we must cling to Him in the difficult times. Mary Jane Stevens understood this. She was able to prepare for her own death because she understood that death was not the end. She had written notes down about how her body was going to be changed and set free from the limitations of this life. She was not eager to die . . . she loved her family too much. But she also was not afraid to die. She knew that her eternity was certain . . . not because of her goodness, but because of His. She knew she was going to Heaven not because she deserved it but because God had given it to her through Christ.
Today, I declare with confidence that Mary Jane Stevens is with the Lord she served all her life. She has been set free from the limits of her earthly body and is free to rejoice with friends and family who have gone before her. Today her eyes are filled with wonder and her heart explodes with joy. And someday, by God’s grace, we will see her again, in the place that the Father has prepared for us. On that day, today’s pain will be a distant memory (like the pain of labor when you hold your healthy child in your arms). At that greatest of family reunions we will rejoice over all the Lord has done for us. On that day the tears will be tears of joy. And on that day, we will still be grateful for way God blessed us through Mary Jane Stevens.
As we wait for that day, let us learn the lessons she taught us.
- to focus more on God’s blessings and not our problems
- to trust God’s purpose rather than dwell on our pain
- to look for ways to show love to those who are closest to us
- to work at being a little more organized so we can live more efficiently
- to work at listening to those around us
- to be determined to “finish the course” by living fully until the last breath we take.
- to place our trust in Christ and show it by the priorities that order our living
And as we do these things we can rest assured that somewhere in Heaven Mary Jane Stevens will be watching and smiling.
Please pray with me.
Our Father, you have shown us your love through Mary Jane Stevens. Thank you. Thank you for her spirit, her talent, and her example. Thank you for the ways she changed us and enriched us.
Lord, please welcome Mary into your kingdom with open arms. And please let her know how much we loved her.
Father, please draw this family together. Give Don the strength that he will need to live his life without his best friend. Give this family, rich, clear and strong memories that will survive the passage of time. Draw them close to each other.
And Father, please help us to learn from Mary Jane. Help us to benefit from the lessons she taught and the life she lived. Place a portion of her spirit in us, that we might reflect you in our lives, as she did in hers. We ask these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.