By: Michael Matthew Mercer
On behalf of the family, I would like to extend a thank you and our gratefulness for you presence here today. It is obvious by your attendance today and your constant connection with Frances that she was truly loved by many. Of course she would all desire for us to not make a big fuss over her. Please pray with me!
"Every string has an end. We are fearfully and wonderfully made but not made to last for ever."-MeeMaw Dec. 19, 1919-Jan. 25,2011.
These are the words that Frances spoke this past fall, when she knew the inevitability of her death and departure from this world. That one sentence does a pretty great job of describing her in a word…perspective. I have never met someone who had such an eye and heart of God. She saw things not through the lens of this world, but through the lens of God. Perspective is my word for Frances and many of you if you had to pick one, might pick one of these:
There are many more to share. It is probably easier to say what Frances couldn’t do or didn’t do rather than all the things she did in life. She used her 91 years on this world to do the most good for the most people. This was seen through her service to Central Church and then Southwest Central Church of Christ and also her work for Braes Interfaith Ministries and the little behind-the-scenes activities that blessed so many. She also blessed her family by staying by their side and cheering them on with whatever life may have thrown at them. And I can confidently say that Frances treated her in-laws as if they had always been in the family, she wasn’t just Leah’s memaw, she was mine as well. No matter what Frances was a kind, selfless person. You could never outgive Frances. She wanted God’s best for everyone she met and always respected his leading, his will, his coincidences.
I want to take a moment to share the voices of Kay, Susan, Ralph, and other family members who shared about their mom and Memaw.
I always thought that cornbread dressing ( is there ANOTHER KIND?) was supposed to be cut from a pan like a brownie. The gravy was supposed to sit on top, not be all mushed together, like Luby's dressing.
Nobody could make biscuits like my Mom. They were small, about the size of a dollar and you could eat six or so pretty easily. I tried to get the recipe once from her so I could learn, but there was no recipe, she just "knew how" and to this day, I have never been able to duplicate them.
She sewed all my dresses for my sister and I on a treadle sewing machine. I remember I liked to sit on the floor beside the sewing machine and watch the treadle run. I didn't have a "store-bought" dress until one Easter. My Grandfather said he would buy Easter dresses every year for my sister and I so to JC Penny we went. I thought I was in heaven, getting a store-bought dress. I don't know if I ever appreciated all the work that went into making a dress, until I tried it one time.
She loved to go to Galveston, even just to watch the water. But she didn't seem to mind getting sandy like I did.
When we drove from Houston to Long Beach each summer to see my Grandmother ( in an un-airconditioned car) she always wanted us to look out the window and see things-- the beautiful sky, the desert, the mountains.
She never wanted us to be late anywhere or to put anybody out, ever.
She didn't drive and when we were growing up, we sometimes walked the twelve blocks to the bus stop and went to town. We would go to the Downtown Library(maybe that's the only one there was then) and bring home books in the summer time. The Little House on the Prairie series was our favorite. Regarding Mom's mode of transportation, she learned to drive a car at age 63, but riding the bus was what she preferred and she continued to do that until she was 89.
She loved to watch fireworks on 4th of July, but all we were ever allowed to have was Sparklers.
She loved Christmas and a real Christmas tree. In more recent times, she reluctantly accepted a small artificial one, but I know her heart wasn't in it. She liked to make little bags of home-made Biscotti and give them to neighbors and friends, who looked forward to Memaw's biscotti.
No matter how big the problem, she usually would say at some point, " it'll all work out ok," and you know, I guess she was right.
I did not really feel like the only son-in-law to Mrs. B., as I called her. I felt more like a son because the love that flowed from her was a deep motherly love. Even in the midst of her illness she expressed a genuine concern for me during some rather petty, in comparison, medical problems. I was touched deeply about a month ago when I visited. She held my hand and said, "I have been concerned for you". She meant every word and her love touched me in my core. Her love has touched many producing much fruit that will last a lifetime and beyond.
When one of Meemaw's grandaughters was a little girl, she remarked to her mother," Meemaw can take the littlest thing and make it so interesting." If you know Mom, you can relate to the truth of this statement.
Mom was an artsy craftsy person. Quite often friends, neighbors, and people from church would bring over their art projects that hadn't turned out quite like they were supposed to. She would say, "Oh, this is fine. It just needs a little touch up here and there", and then she would turn it into what it was supposed to look like. I've thought of how God has at times done that with my life. When I have brought Him the broken pieces, He can turn it into something beautiful by the touch of His hand.
A couple of years ago, Mom told me about a dream she had and said she had this dream quite often. She would dream there were other people in her house, not in a bad way, but that her husband, parents, or sister were there in her house. In her dream she would think, "I've got to get out more towels and the big coffee pot." Sometimes it would be so real to her that she would actually get up in the morning and start to get out the big coffee pot until she realized there was no one there but her. I think on Tuesday she was able to get out the big coffee pot for all her family and friends that have already gone before her.
She was a good mother and good wife
She was the daughter, wife, and mother of elders in the church
Combination of interested, engaged, and curious. A genuine learner of her world, culture, family, and God. She pursued interesting things from this life. She would listen to books on tape when she lost eyesight, she never gave up on expanding her mind. She not only found different things to be interested in, but also excel in them in every way. The one thing that she couldn’t do was slow down or allow ailments of life to rob her of the experiences God had created for her.
She was engaged deeply in the life of her church. She was an excellent student of the Bible.
She had a gift for colloquial idioms. She was the queen of these…we called them memawisms
She was not a typical or traditional mother-in-law. She broke the mold by drawing me into the family as her own. I’ve always admired her independence and perseverance following the death of her husband and best friend. She was so creative, she could make a legg’s pantyhose egg into a Christmas ornament.
My hero A woman of great stature, morals and principles. She lived each day to the fullest. Through dark days and life’s challenges she persevered finding the silver lining. A go-getter. She was a champion of life and a champion of MY life.
MeeMaw is guided by goodness. She made everyone feel special, cared for, included and safe. She loved freely and unyielding.
And it is the family and loved ones of Frances that I speak to next. We are fortunate as followers of Jesus in that we know the end of this story. And the end is, that this is not the end for Frances. However, for us that are still here on this earth we will greatly miss her presence and all these wonderful things we have known and heard again today. Grief is a gift from God. He acknowledges the brokenness of this world and allows for pain and dark times. And yet he desires for those who lose to take time to mourn for that loss.
Even when Jesus knew he could bring the dead back to life, he too became overcome with emotion when he came upon those mourning and weeping for his dear friend Lazarus. John 11:32-36
32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33 When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you laid him?” he asked. “Come and see, Lord,” they replied. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!”
Just like we learn from the author of Ecclesiastes there is a time for every season
1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens:
2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot, 3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build, 4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance, 5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing, 6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away, 7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak, 8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.
Kay and Herb, Susan, Ralph and Mindy, there are times now and times coming that will be difficult. There could be anger, discouragement, or lack of understanding. That’s okay. God is big enough for your questions and he longs for you to share those with him. Right now we are sad, not because of lack of assurance, but because we will miss our mom, memaw, and friend. We will miss her biscotti. We will miss her pulling out an article out her purse that she found amusing. We will miss her quick whips under her breath. We will miss her witty treatises. We will miss her hugs, her love, and her gentle yet affirming reassurance. We miss them today and as life continues we will miss them again.
Tears and pain are not necessarily a negative thing. Mourning is called on by God in scripture. Hurting is part of the brokenness of life. God is calling out back to us during our cry for help and absorbing our personal pain, mixing it with his Holy intent and creating a longing for home that is eternal and true.
May we learn how to grieve better than any other religion and as my friend in Ministry said the other day May we as Christians die better than anyone else because of our expectation of the true Messiah and just King.
And in our grief we cry today, cry tomorrow, and we will cry again. God is calling us to weep with those who weep and mourn with those who mourn. Let our lament shout as loud as our praise, because God is God whether this life is great or whether this life is bleak.
And yet even when full of sorrow we are also full of hope.
We do know the end of this story. And not only do we know it, but like Frances we want to live for it. Frances didn’t live to die, she lived to live forever. She has seen that reward. Her body that lies here today will rise again and be made perfect. She will have a perfect stomach, perfect eyesight, and a perfect heart. Jesus died on the cross that we might have life abundant here on earth and life forevermore with him in heaven. Today Frances has seen both, life abundant on earth and now life forevermore in heaven. And we can confidently say: I Corinthians 15:54-58
54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”
55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?”
56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
58 Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.
Frances’ life was not in vain, it was for Christ she lived and now through Christ she will live again.
28 Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. 29 He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. 30 Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; 31 but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.
"Every string has an end. We are fearfully and wonderfully made but not made to last for ever."-MeeMaw Dec. 19, 1919-Jan. 25,2011. We are not physically made to last forever, but we are spiritually redeemed to define forever.
Frances, Memaw Bivins will be remembered forever and now she has entered her reward where she has joined her husband Ralph, her parents, and other family to live forever in heaven. And in our sorrow now and our coming to joy later we long to join them in this revelation song together in heaven: “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, and is, and is to come.”