We'll Get Through It
Dear Family and Friends: What can we say as we sit here starring into the deep pit of the grave? What can we say in the face of death taking away our mother, grandmother, love-one, and friend? O sure, she was 87 years old, so what did we expect? O sure, her health was failing and her sharp mind too, so isn't this really a relief? It is still a loss, a sadness, a separation. And what can we say in the face of this? We can say, "We'll get through it."
I don't know if you noticed this about Miss Lera, but when she recounted the difficult times of her life, she almost always brought them to an end with the phrase, "But we got through it..." Let me tell you from the woods of east Texas to the City of San Antonio, to her homes in Austin, Miss Lera went through a lot. O she would be quick to say, "We had our good times," but her stories always came back to the sorrow, the sadness, the difficulties. But they were not the ones I expected. Although Miss Lera lived through both World Wars and the Great Depression, her hard times weren't global but personal.
She told me of a hard childhood, of growing up fast and taking on responsibility. She told me of the painful loss of her first husband early in life, and then still more pain when she lost another husband later in life. As she told her stories, it felt like I was descending into ever darker regions of a pit. But then all of a sudden Miss Lera would say to my relief, "But we got through it..."
And what got her through? Did she attribute her getting through to her toughness, her goodness, her faith? Nope, only to God's grace. Quite often her "we got through it" was followed closely by "God got us through it" or "The Lord brought us through it." Now you might think that a normal, expected response, but it wasn't to me. You see the Lord never seemed to deliver Miss Lera spectacularly, gloriously, or miraculously. He brought her through life much like He brought her through death. Slowly, bit my bit. We prayed on Saturday, after ending artificial life support, for the Lord to take Miss Lera speedily. But what happened? Hours went by, a day went by, and then days went by, and there Miss Lera lay suspended between heaven and earth.
Now while this was going on it did not make any sense to me. Why didn't the Good Shepherd bring His sheep all the way home? What possible good could be served by keeping her not really in this life and not really in the next? Let me tell you I was frustrated with God, maybe even a bit angry. It is a bit hard to think of this and say, "We got through it," yet this is what Miss Lera consistently said about her life even though she never spoke of God doing anything dramatic or amazing to bring her miraculously through.
Miss Lera told be about kneeling under the east Texas stars and begging the Lord to intervene in the situation. He did not speedily. She spoke of being beside herself when her first husband was stricken ill begging God again for help. But she was not instantaneously delivered from that situation either. And here at the last those of you who went with Miss Lera through selling her house, relocating to the Clairmont, and numerous hospital stays, know that God's grace did not suddenly intervene to make all the hard things go away or even get better.
Still Miss Lera would maintain she got through it by God's grace. There were bitter things in her life, yet she was not bitter toward God. She still looked towards His grace in Christ to deliver her. But you know she struggled against this grace too. She knew the grace of God got her through all things, but she also knew what she wanted and knew what should be done. She wanted to remain in control. Even though she was almost blind, could walk only slowly, still when I visited her at the Clairmont, she was very dignified and in control. She treated me as if I had just happened to be in the neighborhood and dropped by for a visit, rather than I was there to bring her Holy Communion as a shut-in.
Miss Lera struggled against God's free grace in that she wanted to make sure to cross every "t" and dot every "i" that she could. But in the end, she couldn't anymore. The last time I communed her was June 5. Then she finally came to the point of saying that she couldn't control everything and that she was basically helpless. She cast herself on the grace and mercy of God which had been getting her through all along. Not only would God have to get her through, He would have to dot the "i's" and cross the "t's." And He did. He who had taken care of all of Miss Lera's sins on the cross, He who had baptized them away on December 18, 1955 and He who gave her the Body and Blood of Christ for forgiveness on June 5, 2000, did the last detail of sending His angels to carry her soul home on Wednesday.
Miss Lera is safe, happy, and relieved in heaven knowing now just how wonderfully God has gotten her through. But you, her daughter, grand-children, loved ones and friends, are left behind where you don't hear angels singing or see the glories of the redeemed in heaven. What can I say to you? I can say, "You'll get through this." The Good Shepherd did not leave Miss Lera in the dark valley of the shadow of death, and He won't leave you either. The Builder who has made an eternal house for Miss Lera in heaven will not leave you out in the cold rain of grief. The Jesus who prepared a place for Miss Lera in heaven by dying on the cross for her sins has also prepared a place for you there, and He too will come to you and for you through Word and Sacraments even as He came to and for Miss Lera.
But learn from how the Lord Jesus brought Miss Lera through life and death. Seldom did His grace work speedily, mightily, or brightly. He worked in the still waters of Baptism washing away her sins and satisfying her thirst for everlasting life. God worked in the small voice of Pastors forgiving her sins. He worked in the gentle and humble Body and Blood of Jesus which He gave to Miss Lera in Holy Communion. Through these is how our Lord would work in all our lives bringing us through not only this loss, but the next sickness and finally all the way through the pangs of death. These means of grace don't normally work spectacularly, quickly, or brilliantly, but they do work certainly. They do really give what they say: forgiveness, life and salvation.
Miss Lera believed that. She trusted in what God had done to her in baptism. She clung to His Word that sent her sins away. She gladly received the Body and Blood of Christ given and shed for her. She longed to be in Church on a regular basis, but her infirmities would not allow that. But now God in mercy has brought her through to where the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven are. Now at last she sees the glory, the joy, the beauty of what God all along was bringing her through too. Lera can now say, "I got all the way through it." God in His mercy will bring you through too. Amen
Lera was born May 11, 1913 to John and Myrtle Kirk of St. Augustine, Texas. She was baptized and confirmed in the Lutheran faith, December 18, 1955 here at Trinity. She died June 14, 2000 age 87 years.
Lera was preceded in death by her husbands Israel R. Sheldon and Roger Larrabee; her father and mother; sister, Nelwyn Kent; and two brothers.
She is survived by one daughter Lera Carolyn Sheldon Furlough of Austin; two grandchildren, Samantha and Jonathan Furlough also of Austin; two sisters, Ruth Berry of Livingston, and Martha Garet-son and husband Robert of San Antonio; one brother Robert Wilburn and wife Lou of San Antonio; as well as numerous nieces and nephews.
Interment will be at Memorial Hill Cemetery immediately following services.