Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Funeral service for Jane Herde Best Russell

Sermon for Jane Best Russell Funeral
First Christian Church
Stillwater, OK
Sermon Texts: Genesis 2:18-25
John 10:11-18

Statement of the Gospel: Jesus Christ is our eternal companion – through life and death. In many ways Jane Best Russell was a product of her generation. Being born in the early 1920’s and living through the Great Depression and World War II, those events left their mark on her and her personality. As such, she was very thrifty. She saved everything! Whether it was scratch paper to cross out what was written on it to write a new note, or reusing windowed envelopes and writing addresses above the windows, or serving leftovers for meals on end (even 3 green beans!), and of course being a member of the clean plate club was a must!, she was thrifty. In fact, her family labeled it “Herde Thrifty”.

While it doesn’t make much sense to us in our throw it away, make everything disposable culture, it was a part of what shaped Jane’s generation. When Jane and her sister, Doris, went off to school, they went with one party dress between the two of them (could you imagine trying to tell a college student that they had to share a dress).

Hard work was another marker of her life and her generation. She worked very hard, juggling work, family, and even projects her first husband, Ted, would bring home from work! Growing up on a farm in Billings, OK had prepared her well for hard work!

There were also a couple things that made her unique to her generation. Jane began college and then when the US entered WW II she went to work in Wichita for the War Manpower Commission. However, when many of her contemporaries did not go back to school, she did and finished her degree. In doing so, she postponed marriage until she was 28 and began a family later. She was very much a career woman!

Her relationships have also made her unique. She was married to Ted Best for 50 years when he passed away in 2003. Later on that year she rekindled a romance with Charles Russell (Perhaps to be called Jane Russell? Always concerned about her figure, and always the way her hair looked – even in the hospital. Voted “Best lips” in High School) that had begun back in the 40’s before she met her first husband. They were married in 2004. Her children were grateful for Charles – it is difficult to be alone.

Indeed, in the Genesis text that we heard earlier, we hear the first time God calls something “Not good.” Here is the human being in communion with God and in the garden with everything needed to sustain life. Yet, God observes, “It is not good for the human being to be alone!” In the story, human loneliness becomes the impetus for the shaping and naming of all the animals – which don’t quite do it

for companionship!

So, God divides the human being making male and female – companions to each other. We don’t have to be alone. We are not meant to be alone. It is fundamentally a part of who we are to be in relationship with others! Which is, most often, a joy! What a great thing to be able to share our lives with each other, to be affected by each other, to love and to care and to serve and to experience the care and love and service of others; to share life with each other is a real gift!

It is those relationships that mark Jane’s life, more than her being a product of or unique to her generation. It is her relationship with her first husband Ted that lasted 50 years, her relationship with Charles that paused for more than 50 years…After Ted died, Jane sought advice from Charles about how to cope as Charles had experienced the death of a spouse twice (you don’t stay married to someone for 50 years and not need a little help coping when they are no longer with you). Charles began writing Jane once a week. And Jane would look forward to receiving those letters – almost running out to the mail box checking to see if the letter had come. Then he began calling her every day at 4:00. Jane would get nervous as 4 p.m. would approach if she wasn’t at home. When the call came, she would lay on her bed and talk on the phone and twirl her hair, just like a teenager – giddy with excitement over talking with a boy! [Poem “A Kiss in the Kitchen”]

Her love for her family: She was incredibly protective! Worried about Jan driving to Dallas – Jan has her own children! But she probably didn’t miss a beat when Jan reminded her about a trip Jane took with a bunch of her girlfriends to NYC…when she was 26.

She would continue her care, as the family remembers, by sending random stuff with people as they left the house – stickers, an extra bottle of mustard, $20, or possible a ½ eaten chocolate bar! Just to be able to share something with those she loved; to be able to share life with them! [“Little Hands” Poem about her grandson]

Jesus says, I am the good shepherd, I take care of my sheep. It is Jesus who is companion in life – just as our companions in our life are flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, so God joins us in flesh to walk with us, care for us, even lead us. As we have companions in life to care and share, love and experience, so God shares life with us through Jesus Christ our eternal companion. He is the

Good Shepherd walking with us in life and even through the boundaries of death. Knowing us, caring for us – Knowing Jane and caring for her – as she lived and even now in death. Jesus calls her by name and Jesus calls us by name. It is that relationship that sustains us in life and even in death. That is our hope for Jane and therein lies hope for us as well.

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