We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Rose (better known as “Rosie” or “Aunt Rosie”) Lee Welch. We seek comfort for our loss and renewed hope. So we turn to the Word of God.
For his unfailing love toward those who fear him is as great as the height of the heavens above the earth. He has removed our rebellious acts as far away from us as the east is from the west. The LORD is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him. For he understands how weak we are; he knows we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die. The wind blows, and we are gone as though we had never been here. But the love of the LORD remains forever with those who fear him. His salvation extends to the children’s children of those who are faithful to his covenant, of those who obey his commandments! –Psalm 103:11 through Psalm 103:18 (NLT)
Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my fathers 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.
These and many other passages of Scripture fill our hearts with hope even in the midst of sadness.
Will you pray with me?
Father, we bow before you this afternoon with a desire to find your comfort and strength. It was just a few days ago that Rosie was celebrating Christmas with her family just like she had for so many years. It is hard to believe that she is not here any more.
Lord, we ask that you would help us to give you thanks for Rosie’s life. Help us also to renew our hope and confidence in you. Remind us of your promises. Remind us of Heaven. Give us enough of a sense of the eternal that we might be able to bear the bitter burdens and tasks for the temporal world.
Lead us in our remembering that we might grieve, but not without hope. We ask this in the name of Christ, our Lord, Amen.
Rose Lee Welch was born on July 20, 1932 in Fulton Co. Illinois the daughter of Wayne and Mabel Smith Welch.
Rosie was raised in Bowen Illinois. When she was younger she worked in the bowling alley that her father owned in Carthage. Her main employment however was as a telephone operator in Carthage. She really enjoyed her job and the people she had the chance to meet. She lived most of her life in Carthage and just this year moved to La Harpe.
Rosie was a member of the Carthage United Methodist Church.
She died early Thursday morning, December 27th.
She is survived by her sister, Connie Swisher and her husband Wayne, of La Harpe, and several nieces and nephews whom she loved greatly.
She was preceded in death by her parents, one brother Bill Welch, a half sister, Wanda Voightlander and a nephew, Jason Swisher.
Rosie Welch was a woman who had never married, never had any children, and yet seemed quite content with her life and the freedom that she enjoyed. Rose’s mother died not long after Connie was born and Rosie became like a mother to Connie and like a Grandmother to Connie’s children.
Aunt Rosie was included in the various Swisher family vacations. One vacation the family had to take two cars to the Wisconsin Dells because Rosie was heading to California after the vacation to visit her brother. Wayne and family drove with Rosie for an hour and a half to help her find the right road that should lead her easily to where she needed to be. They had worked hard to make the directions as uncomplicated as possible. As the Swishers headed back to camp in the Dells they felt good about their efforts for Rosie. . . . that is until some time later she passed them on the Inter-State! She was going the wrong way! They had to flag her down and straighten her out again.
From what I understand, Rosie could be a little eccentric. She loved to collect dolls and had 1000 of them in her home. When she saw a sale it wasn’t enough to buy one sale item . . . she always bought in bulk whether it was toilet paper, green beans, or clothing. I’m told that Rosie could not possibly enter a store without buying something. Usually she bought lots of something.
Rose was a breast cancer survivor. She battled diabetes and suffered from osteoporosis. She loved to sew and watch old movies. One of her favorite vacation spots was the Ozarks.
Rosie had a good sense of humor and loved to spend time with and have fun with the kids. Becky, Rod and Jason knew that they would always have fun with Aunt Rosie. She was the one who was quick to get them some pop, or a pizza, or do something fun together. The kids say Rosie helped them learn to say and to spell “Pop” before they learned to say, “Mom”. She loved to spoil the kids with piles of gifts at Christmas. They may not have always been valuable but there were always a bunch of them.
Rosie was a person who was always aware of what was going on. She noticed those who were struggling and quietly would lend a hand where she could. She wasn’t loud or boisterous but she didn’t miss much. She loved her friends. She diligently sent Christmas cards to everyone she knew. She was the kind of woman who was kind and generous to everyone she met. Everyone liked Aunt Rosie.
Rosie and Connie were very close. They were closer than sisters. Connie generally stopped to see Rose most days after work. Theirs was a special relationship.
When she reached a point where she just couldn’t take care of herself any more and went into the Nursing home. At first, she thought she would hate it. But Rosie adjusted. She enjoyed being around people and really had a good time playing BINGO. She loved her visits with Connie and enjoyed the times when they would go for rides to Dollar General or other outings.
She was a spirited woman who brought life and joy to her family and to so many others and she will be missed by all who knew her.
Anytime someone we love dies we feel like part of us dies along with them. The future we had hoped to share is lost. The good times together are only a memory. Part of us does die with the death of everyone we love.
Grief is normal and appropriate. Tears are our friends. Max Lucado writes,
Those tiny drops of humanity. Those round, wet balls of fluid that tumble from our eyes, creep down our cheeks, and splash on the floor of our hearts. They are always present at such times. They should be, that’s their job. They are miniature messengers; on call twenty-four hours a day to substitute for crippled words. They drip, drop, and pour from the corner of our soul, carrying with them the deepest emotions we possess. They tumble down our faces with announcements that range from the most blissful joy to darkest despair.
The principle is simple; when words are most empty, tears are most apt.
Tears and sadness are an appropriate response to a major loss in life. So I encourage you to grieve fully. There is no reason to be ashamed of your sadness. Grief is not anti-Christian. Those who love others, grieve when the ones they love are gone. It will take time to work through your loss. So give yourselves that time.
But as we grieve we must remember that we are not to grieve like the rest of men who have no hope. It is true that we lose something when someone we love dies . . . but it is not true that it is the end.
The Apostle Paul wrote,
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 built by human hands (2 Cor. 5:1)
Paul is writing to Christians. Only Christians have the promise of Heaven. But Rosie was a woman who loved God. I can’t speak from firsthand knowledge about her faith, but you can. And from your words it is safe to say that Rosie is with her Lord.
The Bible explains that anyone who puts his or her faith, confidence and trust in Jesus Christ for eternal life and for guidance in this life, will be in Heaven. They will be saved not because of their goodness but because of the goodness of Christ. When Jesus died He died for the sin of all who would believe in Him. When He rose from the dead He opened the door of eternity to all who would follow Him.
The promise of the Bible is simple and straightforward. This life is not all there is. When the earthly body dies we are given a heavenly body. I honestly don’t know what that means. I don’t believe we become like angels. I doubt we have wings and sit on clouds. But even though I don’t know what the heavenly body is like I do know this: there is life beyond the grave. This is not the end.
I know several things about the life to come. First, Heaven will be the place where our Lord is. In John 14 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. (John 14:1,2)
Heaven means being with Jesus. It means being able to spend the rest of our life with the person who loves us the most and the person who has meant the most to us in life.
Second, Heaven will be a happy time. In the book of Revelation we read,
3 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. 4 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.”
The limitations that so frustrated Rosie are gone. The times of loneliness are gone. The times of sadness are gone. Rosie is now with the Lord and is experiencing a joy that she never dreamt was possible in this life.
Sometimes we have the feeling that the person who died is just as sad as we are. We picture them in Heaven weeping for us. Perhaps we picture them watching us and hurting for us. But I don’t think that is an accurate picture.
First, we are told that there will be no mourning in heaven. Rosie has no reason to mourn . . . and every reason to celebrate. She is with Jesus. She has been reunited with believing family members; she is freed from the limitations and pain of this life. She is not mourning; she is like a child in Disney World. Everywhere she looks there is wonder and joy.
Second, the Bible tells us that when we get to Heaven we will no longer see through a glass darkly. In heaven we will understand. We will understand who God is. We will understand His plan. And even if those who die are able to watch us (though for the life of me, with all of Heaven before them, I don’t know why they would continue to observe earth), they will not grieve or mourn even when we are going through difficult times. They will not worry or fret because they will see God’s glorious plan. They will see the purpose in the time of trial. They will see where God is taking us.
My point in telling you all this is really quite simple. We need to remember today that our grief is for our loss . . . not Rosie’s. You may regret that you did not know she was going to die. You may wish you had had one last opportunity to tell her that you love her. You may wish all kinds of things. But in your wishing please understand that Rosie would not come back to this life for anything. She has seen Heaven. She has experienced the riches of God’s kingdom. She has seen the Father. She would not leave Him.
Rosie is o.k. You took good care of her. And God will take good care of her too.
So what is left for you to do? First, remember well. Take time to celebrate Rosie’s life. Remember the good times. Don’t be timid about sharing your memories. Yes, they may bring a tear, but they will also bring a smile and joy. You will mourn that she is gone but you don’t have to forget her. On the contrary, make it a point to remember her.
Second, Look forward rather than back. If you are looking behind you when you are driving your car you are going to get in trouble. If you are looking behind you while you are walking you will run into something. If you spend your life in the past you will miss the present.
Savor the present. Enjoy the people who are around you. You know how temporary and fragile life is. Squeeze everything you can from each day. Stop waiting for some future day to enjoy life. Do it now. Live each day so that you will have no regrets if this day were your last.
Imagine the future. Spend some time imagining Heaven. Imagine what Rosie is doing. Try to catch a glimpse of what eternity will really be like. Lift your head and look forward.
Finally, make preparations for your future reunion with Rosie. It is important that you are attentive to your own faith. Make sure that you are trusting God and His promises. Be certain that you trust His grace rather than your efforts. Build your relationship with the Father. Share your heart with the Lord in prayer. Be honest about your heartache, your questions, your struggles. Seek God’s wisdom in the Bible. Learn to listen to His promises and His instruction. Make time to worship with God’s people. We need the support that those around us can give. We need to be together in His house. If we make our faith sure we will have no fear as we face our Heavenly reunion.
It’s an odd time. There is profound sadness even in the midst of sure hope. There will be days when you are confident and doing well . . . and there will be other days when your heart aches from separation. The Lord will see you through, if you let Him.
So, we do mourn the death of Rosie Welch. You are going to miss her. But we also hold on . . . we hold on tight to the promise of God that those who place their confidence in the death and resurrection of Jesus will also “live even though they die.”
Our Father, we thank you for the life of Rosie Welch. Thank you for her spirit, her eccentricities, her love for life, and her faith. We ask that you keep her memory fresh and vibrant in our hearts and lives. Thank you for her influence.
Help us, our Father as we seek to grieve hopefully. In the sad days comfort us. Help us to hold on to your promises not as abstract truth but as the very fuel of our lives.
Comfort this family in their loss. Be especially close to Connie. You know she has lost a special friend. Prop her up and give her strength.
Father, make our faith real. Help us as we prepare for eternity. And when it is time for us to join You in your home, we look forward to meeting You and those we have lost at the door of Heaven. Keep us until that day, we ask in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.