We gather this afternoon to celebrate the life and mourn the death of Robert Jackson.
We draw our comfort today from the clear and sure words of Jesus Christ,
I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; 26 and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. (John 11:25-26)
The Apostle Paul wrote with equal clarity,
Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 23 But there is an order to this resurrection: Christ was raised as the first of the harvest; then all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back. (1 Corinthians 15:20-23)
Though our sadness and sense of loss is great, it is not the sadness of despair. Our sadness is tempered by a sure hope that though we part for a season, by the grace of God we will be reunited, restored, and given a life better than what we can even imagine in the present.
Please pray with me,
Our Father we come to you numb. Everything has happened so quickly that our minds and hearts have not fully caught up to reality.
Comfort us in this time of loss. Renew a fervent faith within us. Grant that as we remember we be led to appreciate and give thanks for Bob’s life that you have given to us. We also ask that you use this time to help us to look to you. Help us to take stock of our own mortality. Lift our eyes above the activities and distractions of this world to see the much bigger and clearer picture of life. Renew and refocus our hope even in the midst of our tears.
We ask this in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Mr. Robert O. Jackson, 88, of LaHarpe, Illinois passed away Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 11:11 P.M. at the McDonough District Hospital, Macomb, Illinois.
He was born February 16, 1922 in St. Mary, Illinois, the son of Orville and Ethel Pittenger Jackson. He was raised in the St. Mary, Illinois community and attended the Oak Grove School.
On May 26, 1947 he married June Bouseman in Minneapolis, Minnesota. She preceded him in death on February 25, 2006. They were married for almost 59 years.
Bob served in the US Navy during World War II. The family lived in Fountain Green, Illinois for many years, moving to LaHarpe in 1986. Bob worked for Bouseman Auto Supply, worked for a few years as a car salesman for Fred Gibb Chevrolet, and worked at Western Illinois University for almost 25 years. He worked in various places on campus before becoming a stationary fireman in the heating plant. He retired from WIU in 1987. While the boys were still farming Bob would come out to help on the farm on his days off. He didn’t mind work.
Bob was a member of the LaHarpe American Legion, the Lion’s Club and a former member of both the Fountain Green and LaHarpe fire departments and he served as the secretary of the fire district board of trustees.
He is survived by two sons, John (Sharon) Jackson of Great Bend, Kansas and Roger (Marilyn) Jackson of LaHarpe, 4 grandchildren, 3 step-grandchildren, 4 great-grandchildren, 9 step-great-grandchildren, 2 sisters-in-law, 1 brother-in-law and several nieces and nephews.
He was preceded in death by his wife, June, 1 son, David Jackson, 1 daughter, Cathy Caraway, 1 brother and 2 sisters.
Robert Jackson was a guy you couldn’t help but like. Bob was a quiet guy with a warm smile. Bob didn’t have a lot of education in terms of diplomas. However, he was a very smart man. To his credit he went back later in life and earned his GED so he could get a better job at WIU. Bob was paid attention to life. He took everything in and seemed to learn from everything he took in. Nothing seemed to bring him greater joy than to share the things he loved with his kids, Grandkids and Great-Grandkids.
He loved nature. For a while he kept honey bees. Bob was fascinated by the bees and he loved eating honey. His Bee Keeping did get him in trouble one day. His bulls were getting a little too close to the bees so Bob went out to reinforce the fence to protect the bees and ended up climbing a tree to get away from the Bulls who apparently didn’t like him being out there!
Bob loved and studied trees. One of his traditions was to plant a tree for each Great-Grandchild. He could tell you the kind of tree from a leaf or just a piece of bark that came from the tree. He was fascinated by the variety of nature that he saw in the trees and various kinds of grasses. John remembers a time when he and dad tapped a Maple Tree. John’s not sure how he learned how to do this but his dad knew just what to do.
Bob also loved birds. He was fascinated with the differences and mannerisms of the birds. He derived joy from simply appreciating the variety of creation. He loved reading Bird books and watching the birds with his binoculars.
There were times Bob would find a big patch of mushrooms while he was out. Instead of harvesting the mushrooms himself he went home, gathered up the Grandchildren, and then took them out to the patch and let the kids “discover” the mushrooms. He stood back and watched it all with joy. It was these kinds of simple pleasures he enjoyed the most.
Bob enjoyed wood-working and over the years made lots of shelves, bookcases, stools, bird houses and other useful things. Since he was a perfectionist there were many good projects he never finished. Bob made the new Roman numerals for the clock on the Carthage Courthouse. He enjoyed bringing his kids and Grandkids into the shop to teach them how to make things. He would show them how, explain why, and then let them try it. We always think of June as the teacher of the family but Bob did his share of teaching also.
He loved his family and especially loved babies…all babies. It wasn’t necessarily that he wanted to hold them . . . he was just fascinated by them. Once again he appreciated the wonder of creation. He was never happier than when the family was together. The family remembers fondly the many times they cooked out around a fire. One thing about Bob, he could make a fire anywhere at any time . . . and they were always BIG fires.
If you had a splinter, a loose tooth, or some other kind of problem Grandpa was the one who would fix you up.
He enjoyed reading. He especially liked Westerns and read many Louis L’Amoure books. He enjoyed reading the Smithsonian magazine. He enjoyed geography. And for some reason he liked to collect and hoard wheat pennies. For many years he had stacks of shoe boxes filled with Pennies. The family didn’t know why he collected all these pennies but they did learn that they should not “borrow” any of those pennies.
Bob could get frustrated and even mad on occasion. Much of the time he was just mad at himself. For example, he wasn’t the best driver. He drove fast (when he wasn’t driving too slow). Once, Bob got into two accidents in one day! He had an accident came home and then promptly backed into someone else! He also had some run-ins with garage doors. A few times he had garage doors come down on his car (which would flip the anger switch). One time he was responding to a fire call and pushed the garage door to open it and put the car in reverse and hit the gas. Unfortunately, Bob hadn’t noticed that the garage door was already open when he pushed the button. So he ended up going through the door. I’m guessing he wasn’t in the best of moods when he arrived at that fire.
Then there was the time he was going to sit up all night to get the raccoon that was eating all the strawberries. He had his gun and his flashlight. He waited and never saw the raccoon. When he finally gave up to go inside and was startled by something. The raccoon was right next to Bob apparently keeping an eye on him! Bob was so surprised that the raccoon had no trouble making a clean escape.
Let’s see, and there was also the time he wanted the grandkids to ride some mules. They didn’t want to do it and he became frustrated (he had planned something fun for them to do and they didn’t want to do it). Bob figured he would show them how much fun it was so he got on a donkey. Within just a few blocks Bob had been thrown and landed on his head!
Then there was the he intended to train the dog not to bite the tire of the bicycle. To make a long story short the dog was essentially run over and Bob went over the handle bars like Superman and landed on his face. He got up and said, “I told you I’d train that dog.”
Bob and June were quite a team. They did many things together. People joke and say Bob was June’s chauffer. June invited people over to the house and Bob welcomed them. June wanted to go someplace and Bob went with her. June was social, Bob was more on the quiet side. I always had the sense that Bob considered himself to be a very lucky man. Consequently, it was hard for him to watch June decay, suffer, and not be able to help her.
When June was finishing up her education Bob took care of the kids. He didn’t do a lot of cooking but everyone got feed. He made lots of biscuits and gravy, chipped beef on toast and chili. His favorite dish to bring to gatherings was his apple salad.
Bob and June regularly watched Jeopardy together. We’re not sure whether Bob enjoyed watching Jeopardy or whether it is simply what June wanted to watch! Bob was not a big church-attender. During his years at Western Bob volunteered to work Sundays and holidays so the younger guys could spend those times with their families. These last four years since June died have been really difficult for Bob.
Bob had a great sense of humor. He was “sneaky funny”. He loved giving people a hard time. Once he thought something was funny he could giggle for a long time. Everyone knew his warm smile and warm “hello”. He had a wonderful twinkle in his eyes that revealed his joyful and warm heart.
In these last few years John and Roger encouraged their dad to get the kind of car he wanted. They told him “you can’t spend all your money anyway.” So, Bob went out and purchased a new Buick. John admired the car and noticed he also had a nice new John Deere mower next to the car. When John commented with surprise that he had made two significant new purchases Bob’s response was, “You said I could never spend it all and I’m going to try to prove you wrong!”
One of Bob’s favorite outings was a trip with the “boys” to the Rib Shack in Galesburg. He started making that trip back in 1952. It was always a special and fun time. The family did a good deal of traveling over the years. Bob and June wanted their kids to see and experience things. Brian and Carla were a prominent part of the family.
In these later years Bob enjoyed going out with the Thursday group who met to have dinner together. He was grateful to continue to be included in the group after June died. Bob enjoyed the Lion’s club and I always saw him up working at the Clubhouse for the Lion’s Breakfast.
Bob Jackson was a quiet man. You could hang out with him for hours and he might never say a word. If you called his home he answered simply with “Yep”. That was your signal to start talking. In fact, even when he called you he might say I thought I’d see what was going on” and that was the signal for you to start talking.
He was a quiet man but also a leader. He didn’t lead with motivational speeches or flow charts; he led by a strong example. When he was on the school Board in Fountain Green the school burned down. Bob made sure the kids didn’t miss any class and within a year a new school was built. Bob served faithfully on the fire department and was instrumental in getting the Fountain Green station established.
The gist of these recollections is that Bob Jackson was a solid, consistent, hard working, content man. He was a person of deep character. We forget that his life was not free of hardship. His family had hard times as he was growing up. As a dad he had to bury two children after they both died suddenly. I know that watching June decay and die was the hardest thing he ever had to do. Bob had heartache and he carried his scars, but he kept going. He died suddenly and quietly . . . just the way he would have wanted it to be. We’ll miss him more than he would ever believe.
Death can be numbing. It can leave us feeling desperately alone and like life is futile. As a result some people simply throw themselves recklessly into life intending to have as much “fun” as they can until they die. They work to be successful, they experiment to find happiness, and they reach the end of their life empty and afraid.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The Bible calls us to something better; something hopeful and wonderful. Jesus knew his death was approaching and he spoke to his friends and disciples,
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go and prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. You know the way to the place where I am going…Jesus said, I am the way, the truth and the life, no man comes to the Father except through me. [John 14:6]
Jesus knew his death was going to leave His followers (and His friends) stinging from their sense of loss and confused over their purpose and their future. Jesus’ words were words that continue to give confidence and hope even today. Listen to what He says.
First Jesus tells His disciples to “believe in God, believe also in me.” How you view life, and how you view death is determined by your belief or lack thereof in God. Those who say there is no God are left with the unhappy conclusion that man is simply a cosmic accident. There is no ultimate meaning to our existence. We live, we die, and that’s it. It is a very bleak picture.
Even if you believe in God I must ask: “Who is this God you believe in? Is he a god of your own imagination or popular culture or is it the God who has revealed Himself to us in the Bible and in Jesus Christ?” It seems reasonable to me that a God who created us would want to have a relationship with those He created. He would want us to know about Him.
Jesus tells us that this life is not all there is. He said “in my Father’s house are many rooms . . . I go to prepare a place for you.” Jesus said He is preparing a place for us and He will come and take us to that place when we die. I picture Bob leaving this life holding the hand of Jesus!
Jesus told us that Heaven is real. As you read through the Bible Heaven is described as a place where pain, frustration, discouragement, physical limitations, and imperfections disappear. It is described as a place of reunion and productive, fulfilling and meaningful activity. It is a place where we know God fully and for the first time we are fully known and understood.
Jesus explained to the disciples that there is only one way to get to Heaven: Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me”. Many today rebel at these words. They say they are narrow-minded and too exclusive. But the invitation is not restricted. Jesus invites everyone to turn to Him as Savior and Lord. However, not everyone will do so.
Let’s be clear. The Bible teaches that not everyone goes to Heaven. In fact, it may be safe to say that the majority of people do NOT go to Heaven. There are always those who say, “I want to go to Hell because that’s where all my friends are.” They miss the point. When God’s love is replaced by God’s wrath there will be nothing good about Hell. The bond of friendship which we cherish – comes from God . . . it will be gone in Hell. The delight we feel at the pleasures of the world – come from God . . . they will not exist in Hell. Joyous laughter . . .gone. Taste buds….gone. Amusements . . . gone. There is NOTHING heavenly about hell.
The problem is that the Bible tells us no one deserves heaven. Imagine registering for a class where getting a score of 100% is required to pass. It wouldn’t matter if your scores were in the 20’s or 90’s both would fail. The first point you lost would guarantee your failure in the class. The Bible tells us that because God is holy and sinless, only those who follow Him perfectly will gain Heaven by their merit. Some people do live better lives than others . . . .but no one lives a good enough life. I believe Bob Jackson is in Heaven . . .but not because he was good enough to earn it.
Yet there are still some people who feel they live pretty good lives and therefore God will surely give them Heaven (since they have earned it). What they fail to understand is: sin is not only doing what is wrong; it is also the failure to do right. We sin when we do not honor God or when we ignore Him in the way that we live. We can sin in word or in thought.
Let’s suppose you only sinned 3 times a day (which would be an extraordinarily good day for me). If I could maintain that consistency, (never having a really bad day, week, month etc.), that would be 21 acts of sin in a week. In a year that would be almost 1100 acts of sin. By the time you were 60 years old you would have committed 66,000 acts of sin and rebellion against God. Let that sink in a little bit. Let me remind you that this would be a person that was extraordinarily better than most of us! The point is that you might think of yourself as a “good person” but you are seeing things clearly. Even if God gave us a truckload of “do-overs” (which He doesn’t) we would have used those up a long long time ago. We need help and we need it badly.
The Bible tells us that Jesus came into the world to point the way to God. He willingly gave His life as payment for our sin debt. In other words, He was executed in our place.
But how is it possible for one man to pay for the sins of millions who believe? Let me answer that this way: How many secret service agents would give their life to protect the President of the United States. The answer is: all of them. And how many soldiers would give their lives to protect the President? Thousands of soldiers would give their lives to protect the Commander in Chief. But why? Why would you protect this one man if it cost the life of so many others? What makes this one man more valuable that the many? What makes him so valuable is the office or position that he holds.
If you had a bunch of hostages would you trade all those hostages for the President of the United States. You would if you were smart. The one man’s office is worth more than the many hostages.
Jesus as the Son of God (the highest office there is) traded His life for all those held hostage by sin. It is because of the value of His position as Son of God that He can trade His life for many millions who will entrust themselves to Him. But why would He do it? It’s because He loves us more than we realize.
Jesus is the only way to Heaven because He is the only one who can pay the price for our sinful failures. All the other religions in the world may be well meaning but they are designed to only help us score a little higher on our “test scores.” However, when passing is 100%, doing a little better doesn’t make any ultimate difference. You still fail.
So, does everyone go to Heaven? No. Jesus said whoever believes in Him will live even though He dies. He doesn’t impose His gift on anyone. He extends and invitation, we must receive His gift. So, we are confronted with two questions: What does it mean to believe in Christ? Did Bob Jackson believe in this way?
According to the Bible, believing in Jesus involves several things
- First, it means we recognize that we are lost without Him. It means we must admit (to ourselves and to God) that we have failed to meet God’s standards. If we don’t admit we have a problem, we can’t get help.
- Second, it means acknowledging Jesus as the only One who can save us. It means we must believe the facts about Jesus. It means believing He was the Son of God, He lived a perfect life, He died in our place, and He rose again three days after He had died.
- There is one more thing: You can truly believe all this however and still not have a saving relationship with Christ. Not only must we believe what is said, we must also be willing to bet and build our life on this belief. We must personally surrender to him. We must embrace Him as our King, our Lord, our guide, and our Master. When Jesus called people we are told they “left everything and followed Him.” Jesus tells us that the true believer is the one who lives differently because of their belief.
Anything less than this kind of belief is just being religious. You can have an “experience” and still not be a follower of Christ. You can know and say all the right words and still not be a follower of Christ. True faith is active and life-changing.
The second question is: Did Bob believe in this way? I believe he did. Roger and Bob went to a Promise Keeper rally one time. When the speaker asked people to declare their faith in Christ, Bob did so. I talked to Bob once and I don’t remember whether it was in a hospital waiting room or in June’s room at Wesley Village. I asked him about his spiritual state. He told me that he knew where he was going because he trusted Jesus Christ as His Savior and Lord.
I believe Bob wanted to be a church-goer these last years of his life but he simply couldn’t hear what was being said. He felt conspicuous and isolated in church. The good news is that we are made right with God not by doing religious things, but by truly trusting Christ. I believe Bob had that kind of trust. Consequently, I believe he is with Jesus, June, and many others in Heaven.
Three things I encourage you to get from all of this:
First, in this time of sadness I hope you will realize that we grieve, but not as those who have no hope. We know where Bob is. We know he is home with the Lord who guided and gave strength to his life. We believe that the one who marveled at creation throughout his life has now met the Creator. We believe he has been reunited with those family members who have gone before. We believe he is more alive now than he has ever been. The smile is broader, the laughter is fuller, and the sparkle in her eye is unmistakable. Our grief should be for our loss . . . not Bob’s. He has lost nothing and gained everything.
Second, I hope you will take this time of stark reality to do a personal inventory of your life. Where do you stand with Jesus Christ? Do you think you are “good enough”? Do you think you are “too far gone?” Are you putting your trust in your church membership or your family association? Are you betting you life that there is nothing beyond the grave? If any of these things are true I invite you to put your faith, trust, and confidence in Jesus. I, on His behalf, invite you to receive forgiveness, new life, and the assurance of Heaven. You can do this right now. With a simple and sincere prayer you can say, “Lord, I need you. I turn to Jesus as my Savior and I ask you to help me follow Him as my Lord and Master.” Jesus said, “Anyone who comes to me, I will not cast out.” If you come truly and sincerely you will be forgiven. You will become a child of God and the Lord will make a place for you in His house.
Make that choice and then spend the rest of your days getting to know the Lord who loves you more than you can know. Start living the new life that God intended you to live. Discover the contentment that Bob knew. Start looking forward to Heaven.
One more thing, if you trust Jesus as your Savior and Lord . . . tell your family. Let them know that you have been forgiven and are headed to Heaven because of what Jesus has done for you. If you will do this, then if something should happen to you; if your life were to end suddenly like Bob’s life did; your family won’t be left wondering. They will know and they will draw comfort from your testimony. More importantly, if you share your belief, your family may also come to trust Jesus, and then you will be able to die with the peace and joy of knowing you will see them again.
Family reunions even at sad times are great. The time always goes more quickly than we would like it to go. Often there are tears as everyone gets ready to head off in their different directions. What makes the pain bearable is the hope of seeing each other again. We draw comfort by anticipating and even scheduling a reunion to come.
Today we say good-bye to a father, Grand-father, Great-Grandfather, neighbor, and friend, Robert Jackson. We are saddened by the separation but we cling to the promise of Jesus. We draw comfort from his resurrection from the dead. And even now we start looking forward to the reunion to come.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, we ask you to comfort us by the work of Jesus in dying for us and in rising from the grave. Help us to believe in You. We ask that you would help us to believe You enough to see beyond the hurt to hope. Help us believe enough to stop running away from you and start truly following you.
I pray for this family. I ask that you give them opportunity to stimulate and share the wonderful memories they have of Bob. Help them to remember things they had long forgotten and to cherish things they had previously overlooked. Draw them together in your grace. Help them to find time to share with each other the hope that they have found in you.
We seek your strength, your comfort, and your transforming love, and we do so in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen