We gather this afternoon to remember the life and mourn the loss of Helen Merticese Drake Slover. We do so seeking the perspective and comfort that only God can give. To that end I share with you the Word of God,
I declare to you brothers that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, not does the perishable inherit the imperishable. Listen, I tell you a mystery” we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed- in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
The words of Isaiah are words that give us strength,
Do you not know? Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.
He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and wary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint. [Isa. 40:29-31]
Please join me for prayer.
Father, we confess that we are still surprised and numb to think that Merticese is no longer with us. We ask that you help us to face our loss today. We also ask that as we reflect and remember that you would lead us to celebrate the richness of her life and the true nature of her faith. Help us also to gain perspective on this day. Help us to see hope in the midst of sadness. Help us to find reason to rejoice even as we mourn. We ask this is the name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
Mrs. Helen Merticese Drake Slover was born December 5, 1914 in Cole Camp, Missouri, the daughter of Guy and Lyle Bulloch Drake. She graduated from Highstown High School in 1934 and attended Rider Business College in Trenton, New Jersey. On April 1, 1948 she married Enoch Slover in Hightstown, New Jersey. He died February 8, 1990.
Merticese was most proud of working as a bookkeeper at the Columbus Boychoir School in Princeton, New Jersey for 18 years. She was a member of the Hightstown Baptist Church. In 1978 she and her husband moved to LaHarpe where she attended the Union Church. Enoch died February 8, 1990. Mrs. Slover died on July 19th at the LaHarpe Davier Care Center where she had resided for the last 11 ½ years.
She is survived by one brother, Harold (Rita) Drake of Westminster, California; two nephews, Jesse and Terry Drake, both of Westminster, and several cousins.
Merticese Slover was an interesting and fascinating woman. She was wonderfully intelligent and could carry on a conversation with anyone.
I remember the first time Zelma Hodges brought me over to meet Mert and Enoch. I didn’t quite no what to make of this couple. As the day progressed into years I came to appreciate them as a fascinating couple. They had a million stories.
Merticese had Polio when she was 16 and the disease left her unable to walk. She refused to be confined to a wheel chair. She worked hard to be able to walk. It was one of the accomplishments she was most proud of. It’s hard for some of us to realize that in High School Mert played Field Hockey. She also was an accomplished pianist. Merticese didn’t want to be defined by her polio . . . she wanted to be defined by what she accomplished.
Mert went to business school and took a job as a bookkeeper. She married Enoch and seemed to enjoy the life they had together. They loved to travel. One of her happiest memories was of the camping trips the two of them took. She remarked that Enoch would set her down and then do everything. They would fish and sit on the bank and spend the day talking and enjoying each other.
Mert was proud of her days as the bookkeeper for the Columbus boys Choir School. From the way she talked about those days, I suspect she was one of the favorite people around the school. She retired after 18 years there.
Mert and Enoch didn’t have any children but they did have a dog named Ginger. Ginger was like a child to them.
Mert loved her family. She was constantly writing a letter to someone. She was always cutting something out of the paper to send to someone. She loved the letters she received in return mail. She was a person who was an expert at needlework. The Doilies she made were exquisite.
When Merticese moved to the Nursing home on a snowy day January 3, 1994, it was a difficult time. Merticese made up her mind that she was going to make this her home. She had fun with all the aides and nurses. She participated in most of the activities. She visited with the residents. She frequently won the Spelling Bee. She attended the weekly Bible Study (at least when we were leading it) and was usually out at the Sunday afternoon church service. Mert had a gentle way with all the residents. When someone would wander into her room she would politely tell them where their room was. She understood that when people were confused it was not because they wanted to annoy her . . . she sought to make their confusion less painful.
Mert was always reading. Every time I visited with her I’d ask, “What are you reading?” She had wide interests. She would read novels, biographies, historical fiction, and I know she even read one of my books. I loved the fact that she was fascinated by life and always learning something.
For a long time Mert couldn’t come to church. Once the church added an addition that included an elevator, she became a regular when weather permitted. Often she would also go out with the “gang” after church to various restaurants to eat. She was always up for an adventure.
Merticese Slover was smart, wise, fun, and faithful. She liked to play cards and games and do anything that stimulated her mind. At times you might think she might look like she was a dour woman but before long she would burst into laughter and you would see her playful heart.
I hope you can tell, I liked Merticese a lot. I wish I had known that her first name was really Helen. I would have liked to have asked her why she chose to be called Merticese (which people are always mis-pronouncing and mis-spelling). I wish I had asked more questions about the things she had learned over the years. She had much more to teach me than I took advantage of. I wish I had visited more. I suspect everyone here has a story, a memory, an impression of Merticese that will stay with them for a long time.
As we reflect on the life of Merticese Slover I am drawn to these words of the prophet Habakkuk.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. The Sovereign Lord is my strength’ he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on to the heights.
The reason I love this text is because it seems to describe the attitude of Merticese Slover. Mert had lots of reason to get discouraged. She could have been discouraged or angry that she was stricken with Polio. Instead she worked hard to be able to walk. She could have considered herself an invalid but instead she worked to live a full and active life. She could have despaired when she had to go into the Nursing Home but instead she made it her home, got involved, and viewed everyone who worked there like they were family.
Merticese trusted God. To the best of my knowledge she didn’t ask a lot of questions she just moved forward believing that God knew what was best. She continued to be joyful in God her Savior even in the tough times.
The words of Paul are appropriate,
What then shall we say? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies; who is to condemn? . . . What shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness or peril or sword? . . . No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us”
Mert’s very life reminded us that there is something more to life than what we see. This is the very thing we need to remember today. As we look at the lifeless body of Merticese, it is tempting to think her life is over. It’s not. Only her earthly life is over.
The Bible tells us that those who place their trust and confidence not in their own goodness or their own religious deeds but wholly and solely in Jesus Christ will live even though they die. Those who believe that Jesus died for them and rose to open the door of eternal life to those who trust Him will find like Paul that “to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
Merticese lived well. She squeezed everything she could out of her life. She enjoyed the journey. However, this is not why I believe she is in Heaven. She is in Heaven because she trusted Christ as her Savior and Lord. Consequently, I believe she is enjoying this final destination even more than she enjoyed life here on earth.
Today Merticese is enjoying a family reunion far superior to any she enjoyed on earth. Today she is freed from all limitations. She can walk, run, dance, jump and kneel before the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Today she sees clearly, knows fully, and is experiencing a joy that is unimaginable. Today she has the opportunity to ask all her questions . . . but I suspect she doesn’t need to. She has met Jesus and understands that she has been loved since the creation of the world. I think when you finally meet Christ and understand His power, His love, and His wisdom, you realize that His ways are perfect even if they are past finding out in this life.
Today we mourn. A person of energy, experience and life has left us. Understand that our grief is not for Merticese, but for ourselves. Today is her graduation day. We should rejoice with her like a parent rejoices for their child on their graduation day. You are happy for their achievement even though you know in your heart that it means loss for you.
Today is a day to reflect. We should reflect on our own faith. On what are you basing your hope of salvation? Do you think you have earned Heaven with the way you’ve lived? Do you think you will be granted Heaven because you are religious? Do you believe that because you are a church member you therefore are part of the Kingdom? If you answer yes to any of these questions then you are headed in the wrong direction. The Bible is clear: “It is by grace that we are saved, through faith, and this is a gift from God, not of works, so no one can boast.” (Ephesians 2:8,9) There is no way to earn Heaven. We are like people attempting to swim to Hawaii from San Francisco. Some of us will swim farther than others. Some may even be extraordinary swimmers. Not a one of us can swim the distance necessary.
Today we must trust Jesus to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He has died for our sin. He has risen so we might have new life. Today, we are called to trust Him and Him alone. If you have not done so, I encourage you to do so today.
We should also reflect on the life of Merticese. Consider all the things she taught us.
- A handicap is something that is more mental than physical. If you have the right attitude you can do much more than others could believe.
- Acts of kindness can be simple to extend but they can completely change the one who receives the act of kindness.
- Any job doing is worth doing well.
- We are never too old to stop learning and trying things
- Sometimes the simple pleasures are the most valuable.
- Family is precious . . . it is worth the work to keep in touch.
- A strong faith is ultimately much more valuable than a strong body
Remember these lessons. In your sadness grab hold to Jesus. If you do, I believe you will see Merticese again. I warn you, you may not recognize her at first because she will be so active. Don’t worry if you don’t recognize her, I bet she’ll recognize you.