We gather this afternoon to mourn the loss and to celebrate the life of Vera St. Clair.
We find strength for difficult times such as this in God’s word. Jesus said,
“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.” (John 14)
2 Cor 4:7-12 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. 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. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.
And David wrote these powerful and familiar words,
[Psalm 23] The LORD is my shepherd; I have everything I need. He lets me rest in green meadows; he leads me beside peaceful streams. He renews my strength. He guides me along right paths, bringing honor to his name. Even when I walk through the dark valley of death, I will not be afraid, for you are close beside me. Your rod and your staff protect and comfort me. You prepare a feast for me in the presence of my enemies. You welcome me as a guest, anointing my head with oil. My cup overflows with blessings. Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever.
Will you pray with me?
Father, we bow before you this afternoon and ask you to comfort us. We acknowledge you as the one who gives life and the one who determines when life in this world shall end.
Lord, Vera’s death was not unexpected but we confess that it hurts more than we thought it would. At this time when those around us are celebrating, we feel a hollow emptiness. You know that this has already been a difficult year. We really need your help.
Help us to celebrate the spirit that was Vera’s life. Help us to see beyond today to the life that you have promised is beyond the grave. In our sadness please point us in the direction of hope. We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Vera May St. Clair was born February 10, 1920 in San Diego, California the daughter of Andrew & Ella (Nelsen) Sowle. He mother died at the age of 35 when Vera was five years old. She was raised by her grandparents.
On November 5, 1938 she married Roy L. St. Clair in Burlington, Iowa. He preceded her in death on October 23, 1998.
Vera spent her early childhood in Nebraska, moving to the LaHarpe area as a teenager. She and her husband had operated the St. Clair’s Coffee Shop in LaHarpe from 1950-1957. They then moved to Macomb for a short
while and in 1962 they moved to Beaverton, Oregon where they resided for 25 years before returning to Macomb.
Vera was very proud of the fact that one of her ancestors came to America on the Mayflower. She was a member of the General Macomb Chapter of the D.A.R. and was also a member of the Society of Mayflower
She is survived by 2 daughters,
Ella Jane Rishell of Sedro Woolley, Washington, and Sharon Kay Twaddle of Colchester, Illinois,
1 sister Marguerite Hansen of Curtis, Nebraska,
and 9 great-grandchildren.
Besides her husband she was preceded in death by
1 brother, Art Sowle
1 sister in infancy,
and 2 grandchildren, Vicki Haney and Joel Mesecher.
Vera St. Clair was a woman who grew up in a difficult circumstance. She was active as a teenager: she sang, she yodeled, danced, rode horses, and even broke horses.
At the age of 18 Vera married Roy St. Clair and the two of them were partners for sixty years. They did everything together. They both believed in working hard. They worked to provide for their family . . . but they also worked because they took great pride and satisfaction in productive labor.
Vera was a remarkably talented woman. She could sew, quilt, crochet, cook and do most any kind of craft you could imagine. Vera was the kind of person who could make a dress without a pattern . . . and do so quickly.
For many of the family Christmas will always be a special time because of all the ornaments that are on the tree that Vera made.
She loved to garden, can, and bake. What she loved most about these things was being able to share what she made with others. Vera was always interested in feeding you. Even in the Nursing home she wanted to be a good hostess. She told everyone where the pop machine was!
Vera was a good cook. Some of the things people looked forward to the most was her Eclairs, Banana Cream Cake and her Zucchini bread.
The fact is that Vera was so good at all of these things that it made it hard for her to teach someone else . . . it just all made sense to her and so she was rather impatient with those who didn’t see as she things quickly.
Vera had a playful spirit. She was always looking for a way to have some fun with people. For example, she knew that Sharon didn’t care for deer meat . . . so she would do everything she could to sneak deer meat into the meal. She knew Carl didn’t like Sweet Potatoes so she made a sweet potato pie and told him it was pumpkin pie . . . she never did tell him the truth!
Vera had a clear sense of what right and wrong was. If she felt you were doing something wrong, she would tell you.
- Once she went up to tell Tim’s baseball coach that he had just as much right to play as the rich kids.
- She hated it when someone didn’t return a shopping cart.
- And she felt children will become what we tell them they are. Consequently, she felt it was always important to tell a child that they were good and that they were loved. She felt an emphasis on the negative would lead to a child who acted that way.
Vera seemed to be a woman of faith even though she never got involved in the church. She read her Bible and was often heard to say, “God never gives you more than you can handle.”
She was a realist about life. She faced issues squarely. When it was time for her to go to the Nursing Home she was the one who made that decision. When she knew she couldn’t drive anymore she said she might as well get rid of her car. When she knew that she wouldn’t be able to go home again, she talked about the need to sell her home. She didn’t complain about it . . .it wouldn’t do any good to complain. . . .instead it was better to deal with it.
To Vera, her family was the most important thing to her. She would recall how her yard never had any grass or flowers because the kids were always trampling them. But when the kids were gone she would have traded the grass and flowers for the kids playing there once again.
Everyone in the family knew that if you had a need, Vera would be there for you. She would do whatever she could to help you in whatever situation you were in. She would travel to where she needed to be and stay as long as necessary.
Life was about family. She hurt with those who hurt and rejoiced with those who had reason to rejoice. She gave her all to whatever she did.
Vera’s step-“grand-daughter” wrote this about Vera.
Dedicated to Grandma (Vera St. Clair)
On a cold winter day,
I remember in a special way
Never forgetting her is my vow.
Knowing she’ll forever be with me somehow
This will be an easy vow to keep,
because my love for her is so deep.
And although her soul has reached the sky
In my heart she’ll never die.
This last year has been very difficult for Vera. First, she lost Roy, the love of her life. And then, like the rest of her family she suffered when Vicki unexpectedly died. The fact that Vicki was 35 and left a five year old daughter was not lost on Vera.
Vera St. Clair continued to fight this year. She took her treatments and she even went home twice. The first time she had the whole family over for dinner. But the disease in her body gradually took life from her.
Vera wasn’t flashy. She wasn’t looking to stand in the spotlight . . . but she was a woman who made an impact. She was a woman of character and her values and spirit have been passed on to her family. And that is the most precious gift of all. Indeed, in our heart she will never die.
* * * * * * * *
Any time someone we love dies we are forced to deal with ultimate issues of life. When someone we love dies we now have to confront issues such as “what is the purpose of life?” And “Is there anything beyond the grave?”
These questions have always been there. But now they take on a personal importance that cries for us to address them.
Some will tell you that death “happens.” It’s just the way it is. Death is determined by the “luck of the draw”. We live and then we die . . . and that’s all there is. It’s a very hopeless way to look at life. It means that life is basically meaningless.
There are others who believe that there is existence beyond the grave. Many believe in a form of reincarnation. We live and then depending on how well we lived we are recycled into a more advanced or less advanced existence.
I suppose that sounds intriguing. However, there is no evidence at all that this is the case. It is hypothesis . . . A theory that cannot be tested or verified. It also strikes me as being very de-humanizing.
The other alternative is that there is a life beyond the grave. It s a life where wrongs are righted, good is rewarded, evil is punished, and where everything that is wrong about this life is removed.
This theory was defined most clearly by Jesus. He and his followers were the ones who tell us the most about Heaven and life beyond the grave. It was Jesus who proclaimed this to be true.
It’s important to note that this was not only taught by Jesus . . . it was verified by Jesus. If Jesus had taught these things and died it would have been a theory that would be just like every other theory . . . . the interesting reflections of a man that can never be verified.
But the key difference is that Jesus, though He died, returned from the grave. He was seen by hundreds. He visited with His disciples. He taught from experience. . .and experience that others could verify.
Jesus not only taught about eternal life and then verified this teaching with His own resurrection . . . He taught that the way for us to know eternal life beyond the grave was to trust Him.
By placing our trust in Christ, the wrong we have done is paid for in Christ’s own death. We are given a new heart and new desires. We are given “tickets” to eternal life.
The question we ask today is a simple one . . . who will you trust? Will you trust your imagination? Will you trust someone else’s imagination, or will you trust the man who rose from the dead?
Honestly, I don’t know much about Vera’s faith. I do know that she felt life was not arbitrary. She believed that “God would never give you more than you can handle. She believed that Roy was nearby. She looked forward to what lay beyond the grave.
Her faith was private and maybe it wasn’t highly developed . . . but it seemed to be there.
If that’s the case, then there is comfort. Vera and Roy are together again. They are with Vicki and with the many others who have gone before them. And they will celebrate this Christmas not only together, but with the one who’s birth changed the world.
So, today, I encourage you to look beyond the sadness. See what is ahead and make the changes you need to make to get your heart right with God.
I pray that you will also learn and remember the lessons that Vera taught us,
- That whatever is worth doing is worth doing well
- That the things of life should never come before, or be cherished more, than family.
- That the greatest satisfaction in life comes from sharing and giving of ourselves to others.
- That when painting the bathroom you should always start with the ceiling
- That the best way to make a friend it to feed them
- That facing life honestly is not always easy, but it is always best.
- That God will never give us more than we can handle (with His help) . . . even though we may feel overwhelmed.
- That you should always return your grocery cart
- That a pet that is faithful and true deserves a little Baskin and Robbins once in a while
- That you should never take yourself or life so seriously that you can’t have a little fun along the way.
Simple truths that can make the difference between a life that is enjoyed from a life that is merely endured.
So we hope for a day when we shall see a healthy, vibrant, playful Vera again. But don’t be surprised if you don’t see her right away . . . . she’ll probably be in the kitchen.
These words might be words spoken by Vera, Roy and Vicki. . . .
To Those I Love & Leave Behind
When I am gone, release me, let me go.
I have so many things to see and do.
You must not tie yourself to me with tears.
Be happy that we had so many years.
I gave you my love.
You can only guess how much you gave me in happiness.
But now it’s time I traveled on alone.
So grieve a while for me if grieve you must,
then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It’s only for a while that we must part.
So bless the memories within your heart.
I won’t be far away, and life goes on.
So if you need me, call and I will come.
Though you can’t see or touch me,
I’ll be near and if you listen with your heart,
you’ll hear all of my love around you soft and clear.
And then when you must come this way alone,
I’ll greet you with a smile and say,
Will you pray with me?
Our Father, increase our faith. Grant that we might see beyond this world to the life that you have prepared for us. Help us to trust Christ who gave His life for us. Help us to find confidence in His resurrection. And yes, help us to prepare for that future day ourselves.
Father, bring comfort to these weary hearts. O Lord, fill them with precious and wonderful memories. Help them to find joy even in the midst of pain.
We now entrust Vera St. Clair to You. We ask that you would give her mercy, grace, . . . and the life that comes only from You.
We ask these things in Jesus’ name. Amen.
Now May the God of Life bring life, hope and faith to your weary hearts