Mary Lee Morrow

We gather this morning to mourn the loss and to remember and celebrate the life of Mary Lee Morrow.  As we do so, we turn to the Word of God.

One of Mary’s favorite texts was the 23rd Psalm.  The Psalm speaks to us about our strength and focus in life and our hope in death.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

2    He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.

3     He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness

     For His name’s sake.

4     Yea, 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 runs over.

6         Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me All the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the LORD Forever.

In her home Mary had a picture of Jesus standing at a door knocking.  The picture is an illustration of Revelation 3:20.  Jesus is speaking to the church at Laodicea and says,

Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him, and he with me.

This verse reminds us that those who invite Christ in as their Savior and as their King will become part of God’s family.  To those who put their trust in Him, Jesus said,

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.

The promise of Christ is that this life is not all there is.  So, even as we mourn today, I remind you that though this chapter of Mary Morrow’s life is over, the next chapter is being written as she lives on in the Father’s house.

Let’s pray together,

Father, we bow before you today as the One who is the Author of life.  We seek your perspective in this time of loss. It’s been a hard year.  There have been some ups but many disappointments. However, we come to you today, not to complain, but to ask for your help.  Help us to remember.  Help us to remember the good times, the healthy times, the blessed times. Help us to treasure the blessings you have given rather than complain about the circumstances of death. Help us to catch just a glimpse of the reality that awaits all those who believe.

We ask in Jesus’ name.

Mrs. Mary Lee Morrow, was born December 18, 1935 in Davenport, Iowa, the daughter of Donald and Margaret “Peggy” Mayhew Holmes. On August 2, 1954 she married Blaine Morrow in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

Mary was a graduate of the High School in Joy, Illinois. She loved sewing, gardening, flowers and animals. She was a member of the Bethlehem, Georgia United Methodist Church.

She died on Sunday, February 10th at the Embracing Hospice Care in Snellville, GA after a year-long battle with cancer.

She is survived by

  • her husband Blaine
  • 3 daughters, Donna (Mike) James and Denise (Kyle) Swanson all of LaHarpe, Diane Kornegay of Macomb, Illinois
  • 2 sons Lane (Tara) Morrow of Monroe, Georgia and Lance Morrow of Athens, Georgia,
  • 10 grandchildren, 9 great-grandchildren,
  • 1 sister, Karen Foglesong of Joy, Illinois,
  • and 3 brothers, Danny Holmes of Walcott, Iowa, Jim Holmes of Joy, and David Holmes of Illinois City, Illinois.

She was preceded in death by her parents, 1 sister and her grandson, Evan James

***********

I did not personally know Mary Morrow.  However, I do want to share with you some of what I’ve learned about her.

Mary Morrow was an energetic, personable and talented woman.  She loved to garden. She had a green thumb and a gift with flowers. She had a special gift with African Violets and Christmas cactus (which she was able to make bloom all year).

She grew up on a farm and even though she did not wear blue jeans she didn’t mind getting dirty.  She would cut dry wall, slap on mud, butcher chickens, get down in a tile hole, or do anything else that needed to be done. She was willing to tackle whatever job needed to be done.

Mary was also a very talented seamstress.  She made clothes for the kids and made hundreds of dresses over the years.  She loved her craft projects and really enjoyed traveling to craft shows.

Mary seemed to love being a homemaker.  She enjoyed cooking for Blaine and the family.  When you sat at Mary’s dinner table you could be sure you would have meat, potatoes, vegetable and maybe Jello or a salad.  She was also an expert pie maker. She loved cooking for people. Mary was one of those people who loved to be a host.  She never ate dinner until she was sure that everyone else had what they needed.  She enjoyed serving others.

Mary was the kind of woman who, if she believed you had a need, would do her best to help you meet that need (whether you wanted her help or not).

There were lots of memories of growing up in the Morrow home. Many of those memories were diverse depending on which end of the family you were on.  Saturdays was the time family cleaned the house, folded the laundry (after hanging it on the line to dry), and stocked up on groceries. The girls remember Sunday nights as the time they were able to have a bottle of pop and popcorn, while they watched the Wonderful World of Disney and Bonanza.

On the weekends during the summer the family always headed to the racetrack.  Everyone would pack up and travel to whichever race was going on during that weekend.  They would often be the first to arrive and the last to leave the track.  Racing was a central part and love of the family’s life.

Mary Morrow hated water but she loved people.  She could (and would) strike up a conversation with anyone.  She enjoyed the races and craft shows as much for the chance to visit with folks as she did for the race and the crafts. She had a wonderful ability to see good in anyone.  Though someone might hurt her feelings by their words or actions, it would not change the way she treated them.  She treated people with love and respect.

Mary loved her family.  Blaine was her companion and partner.  They looked out for and cared for each other. They worked hard together. She loved being a mom and would have had a dozen kids if she could have.  She was even a foster mom for a little while. Part of the reason she was involved in 4H and was always involved in the church was because she wanted to be involved with her kids and grandkids.  Mary looked forward to spending time with her grandchildren.  She loved when they came to visit during the summer.

I get the feeling that Mary Morrow realized that she was a blessed woman. She had a good life.  It appears she had a strong faith in God. When it became apparent that she was not going to beat the cancer, she seemed to realize that she had one more lesson she could pass on to her family. She could teach them how to die.  Even in her death she wanted to give to others. She made peace with the idea of dying. She was ready. When the time came, she went home to be with the Lord with class and dignity, just like she lived her life.

Your loss is great, but so is your blessing.

****

In the book of Revelation, the last book in the Bible we read these words spoken by a voice from the throne of Heaven that describes life in the “New Jerusalem” (which we would call Heaven),

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.” [Revelation 21:3,4]

 

I love the words, “there will be no more death or mourning, or crying or pain.”  This means in Heaven there is no more cancer, no more radiation or chemotherapy, no more hospitals, no more sores in your mouth, no more nauseous feelings, no more funeral homes, no more wars, no more violence, no more disappointment.

When people think about Heaven it is natural to ask several questions.  First, we want to know if we will know each other.  I believe the answer is yes.  When Moses and Elijah appeared on the Mount of Transfiguration, the disciples knew who they were, even though they had never met.  It would seem that we will not only know those we knew on earth but even those we did not know on earth. Jesus told a story about the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19ff), in the account they also knew each other after they had died.  I think the Bible makes it clear that somehow we will know each other in Heaven.

Second, we want to know if Heaven is real. What if it is just something we made up to help us cope with the reality of loss?  It’s a fair and good question.  The reason we believe Heaven is real is because Jesus told us it was and then, when He died, He showed us it was real by coming back from the dead.

I believe the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus is overwhelming. When Jesus rose from the dead He showed us that He was who He said He was, and He showed us that the notion of life beyond the grave is wonderfully real.

The next question is: How does a person get the Heaven? The common belief is that the only thing you need to do to go to Heaven is to die.  That’s not what Jesus taught.  Jesus taught that we are granted eternal life in Heaven when we admit our own helplessness and turn to Him for forgiveness and new life.  It is only the person who truly trusts Christ; only the one who opens the door when the Savior knocks and invites Him in; who will live even though they die.  We don’t get Heaven because we live a better life than most (in our own mind), or because we attend church, or donate money.  Heaven is reserved for those who trust and follow Christ in their lives.

We can’t help but wonder what Heaven will be like.  For some reason there is this image that we will sit on clouds, play a harp and have to wear robes and sing in a choir all the time!  That image does not come from the Bible but the imagination of men. When the Apostle Paul was in jail he knew he could be executed at any time. In Philippians 1:23 Paul reflects about whether it was better for him to live or die.  He said, “I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far.”  I love those last words, “it is better by far . . . “ That’s the best thing that can be said about Heaven, it is better by far.  It not only is a place without crying, sorrow or pain, it is better than the best that we have experienced on this earth. It is better than,

  • a great race that goes down to the wire
  • a craft show filled with old friends
  • a week with your grandchild
  • your favorite pie
  • a perfect sunset
  • a committed mate
  • and even being cured of cancer

In Romans 8:18 Paul writes,

I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us.

My point is this: you are right to be saddened today.  Someone you love is gone.  You will naturally miss her.  However, it is also fitting to smile, Mary Morrow, because of her personal faith in Christ, is not really gone, she has simply gone on ahead.  If we embrace her faith, we will see her again. We will meet in God’s house and as we do I am certain that we will all agree that the death which we all feared; is actually better by far than we ever even imagined.[1]

So share your stories, shed your tears, and draw strength from each other.  And as you do, dare to believe God.  Dare to believe Him when He tells us that this is not really the end for Mary Morrow, it is merely the end of the beginning.

Let’s pray

Father, the only thing we know in life is what we see and experience.  What we see today is loss.  What we feel is emptiness and numbness.  We ask you to help us see beyond our experience. Help us to believe God.  Help us to hold to and trust Jesus.  Help us to believe His promise about life after death and the factual testimony of His death and resurrection.  Help us so that we might see death not as an enemy, but also as a friend.

I pray for this family.  Lord, I ask that you grant them your comfort.  I also pray that you grant them wonderful memories.  Help them to remember cherished times that have been long forgotten.  Help them to help each other.  Most of all, I ask that you help them to believe.  Help them to trust You.

Father, we thank you for Mary’s life.  We know that only in eternity will we know how many people were impacted by her warm heart and gracious spirit.  Help us to carry that spirit on in the way we live.  Please keep us until that day when we see each other again, in your house.  We ask this in Jesus’ name.  Amen

[1] I gratefully acknowledge inspiration from the words of Ed Dobson in his encouraging book, “Prayers and Promises when facing a life-threatening illness” (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2007) pp. 92-94