Naomi Lewis

We gather here this morning to remember and give thanks for the life of Naomi Yetter Lewis.  We also gather to seek the Lord’s comfort and grace in this time of loss.

The word of the Lord says,

In the book of Habakkuk the prophet expresses a faith which should be a model of our own:  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 Apostle Paul write, “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.”

Will you pray with me?

Our Father, in our time of loss we turn to you for hope and perspective.  You are the giver of life. You are also our basis for hope beyond this life.  Lord, we ask you to help us this morning.  Help us to remember the life of Naomi Lewis.  We ask you to also help us to remember the hope that we receive from the gospel.   We ask these things in the name of Christ.  Amen.

Naomi Lewis was born March 27, 1909 in Fountain Green Township, the daughter of Maurice and Estella Hobart Yetter.

She married Paul Henry Anderson on August 15, 1931.  He died September 11, 1949.  On July 1, 1956 she married LeRoy “Lee” Lewis.

She and her husband Lee owned and operated I. & N. Sundries in LaHarpe for 12 years.  Mr. Lewis died April 18, 1968.

After Lee’s death, Naomi worked for Brayton Chemicals in Burlington until she retired. She remained good friends with the Brayton family until long after her retirement.

Naomi was a member of the LaHarpe Home Extension, Carthage Historical Society, M & M Club of Blandinsville, the Outlook Club of LaHarpe and the Philathea Class of the Union Church of LaHarpe.  She was an active member at the Union Church.

Naomi served as President of the former Women’s Rest Room Board in LaHarpe.

Naomi was very interested in family genealogical work and helped to bring the Hobart family genealogy up to date.  She was working on updating the Yetter geneaology.

She is survived by her son Paul Yetter Anderson and his wife Beverly of LaHarpe; one step-daughter, Betty Allen of Oquawka, two stepsons, Alfred Lewis of Oquawka, Robert Lewis of Mendota; several step-grand children and step great-grandchildren; one sister, Elgin Hardisty of LaHarpe and several nieces and nephews.

She was preceded in death by her husbands; five brothers: Lewis, Jennings, Harry, Ross, and Fay Yetter; and two sisters, Alma Rich and Mabel Huston.

It is difficult for us to remember the healthy Naomi Lewis.  She has been dying literally by inches for many years.   I remember Naomi when she was still driving and using a walker, but just barely.  It has been good to be reminded about Naomi’s life.

We looked in Naomi’s yearbook and discovered that Naomi sent three years at the high school in Fountain Green and then finished her High School career in Blandinsville. Naomi helped publish the “Fountain Green News” and she was the editor of her High School year book her Senior year.  According to her yearbook she was involved in the debate club and the basketball team.

In her marriage to Paul Henry Anderson she found herself moving frequently.  When Paul was in the service, Naomi and P.Y.  lived in Burlington and she worked at the Witte Drugstore.   As job changes occurred the family moved to Gladstone, Blandinsville and finally to LaHarpe.

Naomi was a very active woman.  She much preferred to be outside than in. She wasn’t big on housework . . . she would rather work with a hammer and nails.  She could make just about anything.  She bought the house that is now the LaHarpe District Office.  When she purchased the home it was two stories and needed new siding.   She tore off the second floor and rebuilt the roof and shingled it.  She tore of the old siding and put on new siding. She was independent and self-sufficient.  She always had a spotless yard.

Paul died in 1949.  Naomi worked for Jay Porter in LaHarpe for many years. She determined that she would not consider re-marriage until her son Paul had finished his education and moved out of the home.  When “Yetter” went into the service, Naomi married Lee Lewis. She and Lee purchased and operated the L.N. Sundries Store in LaHarpe.  Many people talk about how intimidated they used to be to go into the store because of Naomi’s strong presence.

Shortly after Lee died in 1968 Naomi sold the store and went to work for Brayton Chemicals in Burlington.

Naomi had many interests.  One of her interests was genealogical work.  She was very interested in the Majorville Church where her family attended when she was young.  She often went to the cemetery to keep it up.  She would get some help and go out and trim trees and everything else.  Even when she was unable to do the work herself she would drive out with people to check up on the cemetery.

Naomi was a pack rat.  She saved everything and anything.  She liked to travel.  Naomi traveled to Arizona several times.  She traveled to Jamaica and Hawaii.

I don’t think I am being disrespectful, just honest, when I say that Naomi was an outspoken woman.  If she didn’t like something she told you.  If she had an opinion on an issue you would most likely hear about it.  She was a woman who felt people should earn their own way. She was not one to give handouts to others.  I’m sure it was difficult for her to be so dependent on others.

Naomi’s illness began as a weakness that just continued to spread.  Naomi went to scores of Doctors and no one was ever able to figure out what the real problem was.  Naomi moved out to the building across from the muffler shop to be near Paul.  In 1993 she decided that she needed to go into the Nursing home.  During that time she continued to decay but for most of those years her mind remained sharp.  Naomi always seemed to know what was going on at the Nursing home and the community.  She served on the resident council for many years.

Naomi was remarkably healthy except for her disease.  This last year the flu went through the nursing home and Naomi was the only one who didn’t get it . . . and she refused to take the flu shot!

Though it must have been horrible to be stuck in a body that kept you imprisoned, Naomi didn’t give up.  She tried to find ways to remain active.  She liked taking trips in the van.  Since she couldn’t read the papers any more, she used to listen to the papers read through a radio service offered from Macomb.  She always came out to Sunday worship and often to the Bible Studies.  She could have passively accepted her fate but kept fighting up to the end.

Naomi was not always an easy person to deal with.  Yet her family never deserted her.  They tried to meet her needs in any way they could.   Paul and Bev took good care of Naomi for many years and still continued to care for her with regular visits every week.  It is hard to imagine Naomi having a better son and daughter-in-law.

When I think of Naomi’s circumstances I remember the words of Paul,

But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. 10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 11 For 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. 12 So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. [2 Cor 4:7-12]

The apostle Paul reminded us that we are living in bodies that are like “jars of clay”.   They are temporary and fragile.  The Bible never implies that life will be easy.  In fact, the promise seems to be otherwise.  Paul talks about being hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted, and struck down.   I think Naomi Lewis would tell you that she understood what Paul was talking about.  Her body was very fragile.  From my perspective, Naomi refused to be crushed; refused to despair; and she refused to be destroyed.

But Paul’s message is not simply that “life is hard and then you die”.  Paul was affirming something so much more.  Paul wanted us to understand that in the difficult times of life we have a power from God.  The Lord gives us the ability to endure what appears un-endurable.  In the midst of tough circumstances we have hope.  Even though the world knocks us down, the Lord gives us the strength to get back up.

At just 5-foot-10 and 202 pounds, Walter Payton was not a particularly big running back for the National Football League. But he set one of sport’s greatest records: the all-time rushing record of 16,726 yards. During his twelve-year career, Payton carried the football over nine miles!

What is truly impressive, though, is that he was knocked to the ground on average every 4.4 yards of those nine miles by someone bigger than himself. But he kept getting up, and he kept getting up, and he kept getting up.

That’s the way I see Naomi . . . she was a woman who kept getting knocked down, but she continued to get up, she continued to fight, she continued to try to make the best of her situation.  Yes, she was grumpy at times but that wasn’t from her disease, it was just her personality! She faced the trials of life with determination and I believe with faith.

The apostle Paul reminds us that this life is only a down payment on a life that is to come.  The life we live now is like the triage of eternity; it determines who will enter the kingdom of God and who will not.  Whether we face the trials with faith or despair reveals the true nature of our faith.  I wish I could tell you that I was positive about the nature of Naomi’s faith, I can’t.  What I do know is that she loved her church, she loved to attend the worship times at the Nursing home, she always made an effort to come out to Bible Study, she always thanked me for the prayers I prayed with her.  From the evidence of her life it seems to me that Naomi’s faith was real.  I think she really did trust Jesus as her Savior.

Naomi was not a perfect person . . . far from it.  But we are not saved because of our goodness, we are saved because of God’s grace.  And if Naomi’s faith was firmly in the Savior who died in her place, she has found freedom and joy.  If she had stopped relying on her efforts and entrusted herself fully to the one who loved her since before the creation of the world, then her death is not the ultimate defeat . . . it is victory!  The limitations of this world have given way to the freedom and a joy of Heaven.  The negative has given way to the positive.  The frustrating things have been replaced by fulfillment.  Her scowl is replaced with a smile.  Naomi is not only more alive than she has been in years . . . she is more alive than she has ever been.  If we could talk to Naomi right now and ask her if all the suffering was worth it I believe Naomi would say, “it was indeed”.

It’s easy for us to feel a little guilty today.  There is a part of us that is glad Naomi died.  We hated to see her suffer and we are glad she is no longer suffering.  This makes us feel ashamed.  But it shouldn’t.  We have been losing her a little at a time for years.  Naomi has finally been set free.  She has been released from her prison.  Her jay of clay body has given way to a permanent body that is without flaw or potential for decay.

I encourage you today to remember and learn from Naomi’s life.

  • Learn the value of hard work . . . realize that you can do most anything if you are willing to work hard
  • Remember the key to overcoming obstacles is to keep fighting
  • Learn the value of your health and celebrate it
  • Realize that life is more fun and people enjoy you more when you are kind
  • Remember that the limitations of this life are temporary; they can destroy us or refine us, the choice is up to us
  • Remember that all of us live in jars of clay.  At any moment that jar could break, so we must not put off the ultimate issues of life

Today is a day to remember and a day to hope.  It is a day to celebrate a life that was and a day to celebrate a life that shall be.

Please pray with me:

Our Father, we turn to you again on this day of remembrance.  We thank you for the memories and for the unique person Naomi was.  She certainly added flavor to our lives.  We ask you to warmly welcome her into the Kingdom you have prepared for her.  We also ask that you would help us as we seek to begin to prepare for that day ourselves.  Build in us a faith that is real, a faith that will stand in the time of testing, a faith that will lead us home.

I ask your blessing on this family.  I thank you for Paul and Bev and Elgin.  I thank you for their faithfulness over the years and ask that you comfort and provide for them in the years ahead.  I ask all these things in the name of our wonderful Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.