Geraldine Dearborn Funeral
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
On November 17th, 1958, Geraldine Christian stood right here and exchanged her wedding vows with Kenneth Dearborn. But it was not the first time she would be here in front of Trinity Ev. Lutheran Church in Friesland, nor would it be the last. Like many of her relatives, this is the church where she was baptized, attended Sunday school and worship, was confirmed, married, and would some day have their funeral. Even though she would not be a member here her entire lifetime, this church and its connection in her mind with God was something important to her.
Since Geraldine was my aunt and I have become the unofficial keeper of the family archives, I have handed down to me information and photos about Aunt Geri which go back to just after her birth and extend until now. Some of these things happened before I was born. Some of them I experienced first hand on the times she would come to visit or our annual trip to Prairie du Chien in the Fall to visit her. My last visits with her would have been after my family moved to Wisconsin 19 years ago and she (when still able) would come to our house for Thanksgiving or she would visit me at Wyalusing State Park for Camp Wyalusing. The past years have been difficult for here and anyone’s ability to interact with her because of Alzheimer’s. Nevertheless, we all have fond memories of her and the rich life that she enjoyed.
Some key dates in her life (as with many of us) are connected with the church or churches we as Christians visit and/or are members of. One of the first experiences would have been our baptism when we were brought into the family of God through this sacrament. As we grew older, we learned what our baptismal vows meant and we confirmed them at our confirmation. Among the professional photos in the family archives are the posed Confirmation pictures taken at that time. We may still have the hymnal or Bible we were given at that time. Some have perhaps even saved the flower they wore — such is the nature of family archives.
But these things do not last. “The flower fades and the grass withers away, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.” Books become tattered and worn or outdated. The flowers we wore fade away. The clothes we wore become useless because we outgrow them or their styles change or they become worn out. PAUSE . And the person we were when we were confirmed changes too.
Physically. Aunt Geraldine since the time she was confirmed at the age of 13 would grow, mature, and thrive for many years after that day in 1954 when she was confirmed. You know firsthand or are aware of the many things she enjoyed and did well. One insight into her life is the short story she wrote about the “fishing trip”. Her creative Christmas letters from “Peaches” are memorable. But like the flowers of the field and the grass her body became subject to age and disease. It saddens us to know that she suffered from early onset Alzheimer’s and how it severely limited her abilities at a fairly young age.
Spiritually, Aunt Geraldine changed since the time she was confirmed as well. These changes can be summarized by her confirmation verse. At our confirmation the officiating pastor will place his hand on our head and pronounce a blessing on us based on an appropriate Bible verse. You may recall your own confirmation verse and use it to guide your life. Aunt Geraldine’s was this: (NIV)
11 For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. 12 It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age,
The first verse reminds us of an important spiritual truth: Out of his undeserved love for us (grace), God offers salvation to all people. Aunt Geri believed that God had saved her through his son, Jesus Christ. (summary). She had been brought to faith and confessed it publicly. After her confirmation she continued to be involved in the community of believers and was faithful in her use of the means of grace and in expressing her faith in Jesus.
The second part reminds us of our response to salvation. We aren’t saved just so we can go to heaven when we die. We are saved so that we can live for Jesus while we are still on earth. I think we would all agree that even though Aunt Geraldine would still sin from time to time, her life was more defined by being self-controlled, upright, and godly as she lived for Jesus.
In reading her confirmation verse, I read a few passages more which apply to the latter years of Aunt Geri’s life and her future. In some ways, her situation became hopeless. The prognosis was not good. She suffered from a disease for which there is no cure and which cannot be stopped. It marches forward inexorably and with predictable results. It seems as though the vibrant young girl and talented woman she became was lost forever, shrouded in forgetfulness and a loss of awareness. St. Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians ring true: “If only for this life we have hope, we are to be pitied more than all men.” But we don’t have hope for just this lifetime. Titus continues with these words:
13 while we wait for the blessed hope—the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, 14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.
This is the hope that we have as Christians. Hope that those who fall asleep in Jesus will experience at their death the joys of heaven immediately and are enjoying them right now. Hope that when Jesus returns will will bring with him those who have fallen asleep, their bodies will be raised, reunited with their souls, glorified, and enjoy eternal salvation because Jesus Christ gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own — now, and into eternity.