Category: Memorial Service
Speaker: Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
“DYING AND RISING”
Burial of Joan Shoemaker
1 Corinthians 15
April 19, 2018
Rev. Dr. Steven E. Albertin
The long ordeal finally has come to an end. Joan died late in the evening last Wednesday, April 14, 2018 when she quietly breathed her last. May she rest in peace. However, when we look back on all the suffering of the last several years, we cannot help but feeling that her long slow death began with creeping dementia that has slowly been sapping the life from her for years.
I do not know when you, her family and friends, began to sense the onset of this long and slow decline. But that was not the day Joan died either. She actually died December 20, 1936 at her home church in Ohio. How could that be? She went on to live more than another 8 decades. On December 20, 1936 Joan died because that day she died . . . and rose with Christ in the waters of her baptism. Joan has been DYING AND RISING ever since.
Today as we commend Joan to her eternal rest. We thank God for gifting us with Joan. However, let us use her Baptism into Christ as the prism through which we view her life. Why? Because Christ was the prism through which she viewed her life.
But before I do that, let us look at all those lives who were blessed over these 88 years by Joan. It all begins with Bill and their 56 years of marriage. Bill still fondly recalls their first blind date at Purdue. He lived in a fraternity across the street from Joan’s sorority. He took Joan out to see a movie. He embarrassed himself and thought he might have sabotaged his relationship to this coed he had his eyes on when he leap frogged over a parking meter. Well, obviously we know that it didn’t, There were many more dates at Purdue and many nights dancing to the music of the big bands which they both dearly loved. Bill says that Joan really loved to dance.
On December 26, 1951 they were married. Bill very soon had to leave her behind for the war and Korea. He was gone for two dangerous years as a forward artillery observer. That certainly was a challenging way to begin their marriage. Joan returned to live with her parents in Lakewood, Ohio, never sure that Bill would survive his dangerous duties. Eventually, thank God, they were reunited. Bill went on to his career in banking and Joan became a science teacher in Zionsville and Carmel in addition to getting a degree in library science and spending many years as a worker in and supporter of the Hussy Mayfield Library in Zionsville. Joan and Bill were blessed with four children, two sets of twins. Wow! That must have been demanding parenting. But Joan, ever the educator, was proud of her children, their good grades in school and that they all graduated from college.
Joan was committed to serving her community through the Psi Iota Xi sorority, the Zionsville Women’s club (where for years she kept the history of the organization) and the Zionsville Library Guild where she served through the difficult transition of tearing down the hold high school gym to make room for the new library addition.
During my years as her pastor, I came to know a quietly independent woman who was dedicated to Bill and her children. Joan loved to cook and bake those pumpkin and mince meat pies for the holidays. But she also loved to go out to eat with Bill and her friends. In these later years Bill says that he just enjoyed the camaraderie with Joan, dining out and just going out for a drive in the afternoon. Most of all, Bill says, “She let me play golf. She knew how much I loved golf and she was happy to let me play.” Bill affectionately says, “She was my best friend.” During these last difficult years Bill lovingly sacrificed time, sleep and energy to care for his dear wife.
Joan will be missed. You all have wonderful memories, all gifts from God. But today it is all clouded by the suffering Joan had to endure the last several years as the dementia and other health problems slowly sapped her life and limited her to a life of increasing dependence.
Bill, I don’t know how you did it all these years. Your tireless and faithful dedication to caring for Joan’s most basic needs, helping Joan get the most out of every day and the many nights of interrupted sleep and lack of rest . . . were amazing. I saw how difficult it could be. Your patience was tested. Several times in the last several years you would bring her to church on a weekday afternoon. The three of us would meet in the sanctuary of Christ Church. I would enjoy those visits with you and Joan, even as those visits became increasingly difficult and frustrating for Joan. I would share Scripture. We would pray. I would offer you both communion. Those were tender and memorable moments for me. I saw how much Joan loved her Lord. I saw how both of you thirsted for the love of Christ. I saw the tenderness with which you, Bill, treated your beloved Joan. It was inspiring to witness your affection for one another. It was sad to see Joan slowly slip into increasing dependence and isolation. It seemed like a long, slow death.
However, today let us remember that Joan’s dying actually began on December 20, 1936 when she was baptized. The worst that could ever happen to her, . . . happened. She died when those waters cascaded over her body but she did not die alone. She died with Christ. When you die with Christ, you also rise with him . . . in advance, before it actually happens.
It is lot like this. Are you familiar with the “Who Dun It?” style of murder mystery? Agatha Christie is famous for using this formula in her murder mysteries. Novels, film and popular crime solving TV shows such as CSI use the same formula. It begins with a crime. A murder is committed, but we don’t know “who dun it.” As the plot unfolds, one suspect after another parades before the viewer. Finally, in the last chapter, the last scene, the last five minutes, the brilliant detective, Inspector Poirot or Sherlock Holmes or someone like them, exposes the culprit: “The Butler did it!” Crime solved. Mystery ended. Questions answered. Story concluded.
However, suppose we went to the library to check out an Agatha Christie murder mystery we had never read. Suppose that instead of starting at the beginning of the book, we cheated. We read the last chapter first and then went back and read the story from the beginning.
Or suppose we recorded an episode of “CSI” on our DVR. When it came time to watch it, we cheated. We watched the last five minutes first, and then went back and watched the entire episode from the beginning. In both cases, we would literally have changed the story. It would no longer be a “Who Dun It?” because now we would know from the beginning who was the murderer and how the story would end. You would experience the story in a new way. We would have a new story.
That is the Gospel. That is the Christian life. That is what happens in every Christian Baptism. That is what happened to Joan when she was baptized. God cheated for her and gave her a new last chapter. At her Baptism she got in on THE LAST CHAPTER . . . FIRST!
At the beginning of every Christian life, whether as an infant held in her parent’s arms, as a child holding the hands of his godparents or as an adult weathered by years of living, God invites us to die and rise with Jesus in the waters of Baptism. There God cheats sin, death and the devil and gives us Jesus’ LAST CHAPTER FIRST so that we can be confident of where the plot of our life is headed.
Joan was given that new last chapter on December 20, 1936. That was the day she died. That was the day she was also raised to a new life. Trusting that promise, she spent the next 80 some years creating a new “story line.” She no longer had to live in the dark, in suspense and unsure of “Who dun it?” She knew the plot. She knew where she was headed. She was free to smile and practice the kindness and care that so many admired in her.
In the waters of Baptism we too received the risen Christ. Christ’s “last chapter” became ours. Therefore we get to live our stories differently from what they would have been if Christ had not been raised. Confident of our “last chapter,” we no longer need to live in fear, always having to look out for ourselves because no one else will. We belong to a new community and a new family, where God is our Father and Jesus is our brother. We live hand in hand, loving and supporting one another, fearlessly unafraid, utterly selfless, because we have received THE LAST CHAPTER FIRST. Ever since the day we were baptized, we have already been dying and rising with Christ.
Joan Shoemaker spent her life dying and rising with Christ. Today we rejoice that the last chapter of Joan’s story has been completed. She is with Christ and with all the saints and the company of heaven. Maybe they are all enjoying a piece of her pumpkin pie.
Thanks be to God.