We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Reva Elder. We also gather to encourage each other by affirming the great hope of the Christian faith – life beyond the grave.
We turn to God’s Word to find comfort and hope.
God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging. [Psalm 46:1-3]
1 I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
2 My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
3 He will not let your foot slip—
he who watches over you will not slumber;
4 indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
5 The LORD watches over you—
the LORD is your shade at your right hand;
6 the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
7 The LORD will keep you from all harm—
he will watch over your life;
8 the LORD will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore. [ Psalm 121]
I love the hope that is given to us by the Apostle Paul,
For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5 God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.
6 So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 8 Yes, we are fully confident, and we would rather be away from these earthly bodies, for then we will be at home with the Lord. [ 2 Cor. 5:1-8]
Let us pray,
Our Father, we have such strongly mixed emotions today. On the one hand we mourn. We have been enriched by the life of Reva Elder and we are saddened to think that she is gone. On the other hand we confess we almost feel a sense of relief. It seems to us like Reva has actually been gone for a long time. He body has remained but the person we know has been long compromised from the weight of years and physical problems.
In both cases, we need you. We need you to help us to remember the vital, fun, and caring woman that we all loved. Help us this day to remember not how Reva died, but how she lived. We also need you to give us perspective as we face our loss and the mortality of our own lives. Please remind us of your promise and your greatness. We ask in Jesus name. Amen
Reva Elder was born June 15, 1908 in Colusa, Illinois, the daughter of George N. and Myrtle Holmes Lincoln.
She graduated from Colusa High School in 1926 and worked as a clerk at the LaHarpe Post Office, retiring in 1973. On March 20, 1931 she married William V. Elder in Quincy, Illinois. He preceded her in death on July 17, 1978.
She enjoyed music, flowers and traveling, visiting all 50 states. She was a member of the Shadrack Bond Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Order of the Eastern Star, LaHarpe Senior Citizens and the LaHarpe Union Church where she served as a Deaconess and belonged to the Philathea Class, was a regular part of the Thursday morning Bible Study and served in various other capacities. She also served as Secretary of the LaHarpe Community Council.
She is survived by one granddaughter, Brenda Briney and her husband, Scott of Geneseo, Illinois, 2 great-granddaughters, Beth and Laura Briney and several nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her husband and daughter, Shirley Elder Shutwell.
Over the past several years Reva has declined greatly. It’s safe to say that she “hasn’t been herself”. As a result, we have a tendency to most clearly remember her as someone who was decaying. Today we want to remember just a little, the way she lived. Reva Elder was a woman who lived life to the fullest. She loved her family, loved music, loved to travel, and she loved her church, her community and her Lord.
Reva was a loving mom. At times she may have spoiled her daughter, but she was doing so out of love. She was a great Grandmother. For many years Brenda lived just a couple of houses away and she often came over to get breakfast at Granny’s house. She always enjoyed her visits from Shirley, Brenda, Beth and Laura. She loved the fact that there were 80 years between her and Laura. She looked forward to the holidays because it meant family time. She and Brenda took a trip to Hawaii together.
From what I gather, she had a good relationship with Bill. They traveled a great deal together. When Bill went fishing, Reva went along and just sat and read magazines. They just enjoyed being together.
When Bill died (38 years ago) Reva could have given up and stopped living. But she didn’t. Reva and Gladys Worden took many trips together. They went on two cruises. One was in the Caribbean for 2 weeks and the other was around the Hawaiian Islands for a week and they stayed on the islands for another two weeks. They went to the World’s Fair in New Orleans and in Knoxville TN. They went to Branson many times to see the show. They traveled to Chicago to see “Cats” and “Evita”.
Reva and Gladys went on a number of mystery trips. On one trip they went to Ohio and when Reva turned the key to her room, she found it occupied.
Gladys and Reva also went to Switzerland. They had a great time seeing lots of the sights. I’m told the bathrooms were so small that you had to back out of the shower before you could dry off. At one of the stops there were pay turnstiles and (picture this in your head) one of the girls went over the top and the other went under.
Reva went on a helicopter, rode in a hot air balloon, and took advantage of every opportunity to see something new. You had to love her spirit.
Reva was also a part of the first immersion baptismal service I ever conducted. We had discovered the baptistery in the church and decided we would have a baptismal service. On that particular day the baptistery was very cold (we didn’t know how to heat the water!) Coming for baptism was a teenager and then three older ladies: Elva Shutwell, Mable Huston, and Reva. At this point (1984) Reva would have been about 76 years old. It was very cold but it was something Reva said she had always wanted to do.
Reva played cards, attended Bible study and even led the Nursing home Bible Study for the church for many years. She enjoyed the Senior Center and helped in different ways. Reva served the church in many different ways. She frequently shared some musical piece with me. She enjoyed the Foggy River Boys and lots of the other people she heard at Branson in addition to people like George Beverly Shea. She had wide and rich musical interests. When I was a young pastor Reva was always one of those who was quick to encourage. I considered her more than a parishioner. She was also a friend.
I must say, she was a resilient lady. On at least two times I was pretty sure that I was going to have to start writing her funeral. Each time she surprised us by coming back. This time she finally got to go home.
When I think of Reva Elder I think about the words of the Apostle Paul: “For me, to live is Christ, to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21).
Paul wrote these words from prison. His future was uncertain. He wasn’t sure whether he would be executed or released. He shared the debate going on in his head: to live would mean continued fruitful labor; to die would mean going to be with the Lord.
Reva understood what it meant to rejoice in the Lord always. She seemed to constantly be giggling and when she was really tickled, her laugh was infectious. She savored life even as she looked forward to death. I never thought of Reva as afraid to die. She had placed her trust in Jesus Christ. She knew she could not and would not be granted Heaven on the basis of her good intentions. She knew that her hope of Heaven rested in the work of Jesus on her behalf. She knew that He died for her sin and that He rose again to open the door of Heaven to her and to anyone who would trust Christ.
As we let Reva go, it is important that we think about our own relationship with Christ.