Today, June 27, 2012, was the funeral for my grandmother, Ethel Pauline (Haynes) Mix. The pastor at our home church, The Rev. Rebecca Edwards, officiated the service while I preached the eulogy. These were my basic notes. These are speaking notes, so grammar wasn’t my concern. And as always, I can spell pretty well, but am a lousy typist, so be gracious!
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Some of my favorite memories about Grandma Mix are how she shared her emotions:
- If Grandpa had been away too long, or was frogging around in the barn or the basement for what she thought was too long, she had a summons: “YOOOO-HOOOO!”
- If she was interested in what you were saying, she simply said “oh?” or “well…”
- If she was ever so slightly disgusted, it was “hhhwwwWELLllll!” OR the show stopper itself: “Well, good NIGHT!”
- If she was REALLY fired up and ready to just bust loose, you could sometimes catch her counting… “1-2-3-4-5-.” She believed counting to 10 would always help you get your anger under control. BUT Sometimes, there weren’t enough numbers. And she was still ticked. Those were the times when I can still remember Grandpa Mix saying, “NOW ETHEL… you know the one thing you’re never supposed to do when you’re angry is don’t you??” She would curtly say “WHAT?!” and with a smile on his face, he would simply reply, “Laugh!” and she would lose it and start laughing… and say “Well good night!”
In Psalm 116:15, we read:
“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.”
In Revelation 14:13, we read:
“Then I heard a voice from heaven say, “Write: Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on.”
“Yes,” says the Spirit, “they will rest from their labor, for their deeds will follow them.” ”
Ethel Pauline Haynes Mix
July 7, 1918 to June 24, 2012
When we want to honor someone who has lived their life and then died, we highlight the year they were born (and for Grandma that would be 1918) and then put a dash followed by the date they died (2012 in our example). Seeing those dates, 1918-2012, are supposed to help us understand how long and blessed a life the deceased was able to live.
There is a great poem that talks about how that dash in between those two dates is such a poor summary of an entire life, and it challenges us all to live our lives in such a way that our ‘dash’ has great meaning. But this morning, it’s those two dates that really capture my attention.
Ninety-three years! Almost a century!
Grandma Mix was born at a time when
- a 30 hp Touring Car could be bought for about $2,000.00,
- a Steinway piano for $550.00,
- a nice woman’s nightgown was 98¢ and
- an evening gown went for about $37.00.
- A daily newspaper was 2¢,
- a Sunday paper was 5¢ and
- a ticket to a Broadway show would set you back somewhere between 75¢ and $2.50.
When Grandma was born,
- Irving Berlin hit it big with his song “Oh! How I Hate To Get Up In The Morning.”
- The United States was averaging about $291 million in surplus.
- World War I, the “Great War” to end all wars, was in its last few five bloody months, ending on November 11, 1918.
- An influenza epidemic broke out that would kill 25 million people worldwide, 500,000 in the U.S. alone.
- Life expectancy of a girl born at this time was estimated to be about 54.6 years.
It’s that last statistic I want to draw your attention to: A girl born in 1918, it was calculated, ought to be able to live until about their 54th birthday before they died.
Grandma REALLY beat the odds! By about 4 decades!
I remember back in 1982 that Grandpa Mix worked with the rest of the family to pull off a surprise 45th wedding anniversary party because no one expected Ethel Mix would still be alive 5 years later for their 50th anniversary! This past Saturday Grandma Mix saw the 75th anniversary of their wedding day! And Grandpa has been gone 18 of those years.
Time and time again, we thought Grandma was going downhill and maybe it was time to rally the family. And every single time, until this last week, she beat the odds and, as Aunt Bonny remarked at one point, Grandma was like the Energizer Bunny!… STILL GOING!
In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 3, we read, there is a time to be born, a time to live… but we also read that God has also established a time for death… a time when each of us will die. For Ethel Mix, that God-appointed time came early on Sunday morning, June 24th, 2012.
How do you gather together the essence of a life well-lived?
One day about a decade and a half ago, I was asking Grandma about some of what made her tick, what made her unique. You know, what’s your favorite color (she said PINK), her favorite animal (she said she didn’t have a favorite… but had always had a DOG), favorite music (country western or hymns), favorite author (Grace Livingston Hill), favorite vacation (she said the trips to California with John), and her favorite place (She said “wherever home is.”). I also had asked her about her favorite food and there I got a story:
My favorite food’s always been potatoes. When I was growing up, I’d always have potatoes. Then if we had desert, I’d have desert… and then I’d have another potato to wash it all down.”
And to just make sure there was no misunderstanding, she added: “I always liked potatoes.”
At one point, I asked if she had a favorite Scripture and she said she didn’t, although later waivered and said “maybe Psalm 23… I like the psalms.”
She didn’t claim to have a favorite song, but back in the 80’s she and grandpa were telling Aunt Nancy and I about Grandpa (John)’s grandmothers’ funeral and how they had played (or sung) “When it’s Good Night here, It’s Good Morning up there.” And then, almost as an aside, she said: “I’ve always wanted Beyond the Sunset at my funeral.”
You know… I’ve heard that song on Gaither videos, but I had to go look it up.
There are four verses to that old hymn. Each one speaks of another realization of what Heaven is like after each of us dies… and goes Beyond the Sunset.
“Beyond the sunset, O blissful morning, when with our Saviour heav’n is begun.
Earth’s toiling ended, O glorious dawning; beyond the sunset when day is done.”
This first verse talks about those first few moments of a Christian “waking up” in heaven and realizing that our life here on earth was just nothing compared with the time of eternity in Heaven with Christ. Waking up and realizing that all of the work and struggle of this life is now gone… and an eternity of rest and joy awaits those who know Jesus as Lord.
The apostle John, in the Revelation that ends our Bible, saw a similar sight, a ‘new morning’ in Heaven, like this…
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared. And the sea was also gone. 2 And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven like a beautiful bride prepared for her husband. (Rev. 21:1-2, NLT)
Nothing will be the way it was here in this life. No more Hopelessness… just Hope fulfilled! Bliss! Joy! The beginnings of your life in Heaven!
In verse two of Beyond the Sunset, the description of Heaven goes on:
Beyond the sunset, no clouds will gather; no storms will threaten, no fears annoy;
O day of gladness, O day unending, beyond the sunset, eternal joy!
In John’s Revelation, we read almost the exact same sentiment:
3 I heard a loud shout from the throne, saying, “Look, the home of God is now among his people! He will live with them, and they will be his people. God himself will be with them. 4 He will remove all of their sorrows, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. For the old world and its evils are gone forever.” (Rev. 21:3-4, NLT)
I can see the attraction for Grandma in these passages… She was born before the Great depression and had a sense of what ‘normal’ was like. But shortly after her 11th birthday, everything that could go wrong did. The stockmarket crashed. People began to know what it meant to have to do without. When she and Grandpa married in 1937, they were still in the depths of the Depression.
She once told me about a time shortly after they were married when she was feeling so lonely while Grandpa was out working. She said:
When we lived up Eleven Mile, I remember the telephones weren’t very good. So one day I wrote a letter to my mother… we were so poor at that point that it took several days to save up the 3 cents I needed for a stamp, but eventually I got three cents and walked down and bought a stamp and finally mailed the letter off to my mother. That was the hardest up we ever were…”
This woman had learned how to save that which was precious… You couldn’t take it for granted that you’d have everything you needed down the road… so you’d better save some.
As a kid, I loved going to Grandpa and grandma Haynes’ general store because they had SO MUCH of anything you could possibly want or need. But going to Grandma Mix’s was almost like being in that store. She literally stockpiled food, supplies, and necessities… just in case.
Most of us in this room that were ever in her house (and especially those of us who helped move Grandma out of her apartment or before that moving Grandpa and grandma off the farm) knew that part of Grandma… there were cans and cans of food that had been saved “just in case” (to the point where they had outlived their expiration date by years and sometimes even decades).
And most importantly, you always had enough toilet paper…
But that song’s second verse, and our second passage of Revelation 21 also promise that there will be no more tears…
Grandma knew that dimension of life here on earth as well, didn’t she?
The loss of babies, the pain of losing a son to cancer in his 20’s, caring for him and later both Grandpa and Grandma Haynes as they approached the end of their earthly lives, and then Grandpa Mix in 1994.
She knew what it meant to have troubles… she knew what it meant to have tears…
And the promise that neither of those go with you into Heaven, warmed her soul and spirit with expectation. No more clouds, no more tears, no more fears… just gladness and joy.
Verse three of Beyond the Sunset goes like this:
Beyond the sunset, a hand will guide me to God the Father, whom I adore;
His glorious presence, His words of welcome, will be my portion on that fair shore.
The song talks about being guided and introduced face to face with God Almighty, the Father of us all… and hearing Him welcome us… In Revelation 21, John gives us a peak at that moment:
5 And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making all things new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.” (Rev. 21:5, NLT)
Ethel Haynes Mix knew that God Almighty had given us a written record of what we could expect and what we could look forward to… and she trusted Him and His record. One of my favorite memories is still being there when Grandpa, Grandma, and Aunt nancy would be sitting in the living room and Grandpa would open the Bible and just start reading.
It’s like the Bible was the letter of introduction to the Heavenly father, helping her understand what she could expect.
The final verse of Beyond the Sunset, goes like this:
Beyond the sunset, O glad reunion with our dear loved ones who’ve gone before.
In that fair homeland we’ll know no parting-beyond the sunset for evermore!
John’s Revelation continues:
6 And he also said, “It is finished! I am the Alpha and the Omega — the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give the springs of the water of life without charge! 7 All who are victorious will inherit all these blessings, and I will be their God, and they will be my children.
The song speaks of the “glad reunion” with “dear loved ones who’ve gone before” and the joy that there will never again be a separation for those who know Christ.
The apostle called it the “finishing” of all that was before.
This woman we called “Mom” or “Gramma” or “M&M Gram” knew what she could expect… and longed for that day.
But she also longed to come to the end of all things, beyond the sunset, and find her family there with her at the end of their journey.
She knew the joy and expectation, but she also wanted to be surrounded by her loved ones.
You know, the Bible’s pretty clear on that as well… for any who REPENT of their sins and trust in Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, we too, will find our place where grandpa and Grandma now are… beyond the sunset. God won’t force you to go there. As sinners none of us can get there… but of we give up our sin, then we will find that welcoming presence when our days end guiding us to God… and the glad reunion this woman before us is now experiencing.