January 12, 2018 The Funeral of Geanive “Jenny” Hansen

 

Isaiah 25:6–9, Psalm 23, Revelation 7:9–17, John 14:1–6

The Rev’d Dr. Jeffrey S. F. Nelson+

In the name of Jesus, who is Resurrection and who is Life. Amen.

When we gathered the other day to share stories and remembrances of Geanive, the overwhelming image that came to me as I listened was “home.” Story after story of her and her life pointed to a woman who, in everything she was and everything she did, worked to create a home for everyone whose lives she touched, particularly her family. When I think of home, I think of a secure place in which all are welcomed as they are, nourished, and loved unconditionally. A part of creating such a place is to provide all that is needed physically to help people be welcomed, nourished, and loved—things like food, shelter, and clothing—and this Geanive did with skill and gusto. She was an excellent cook, for example, taking the time to can the vegetables that Edwin lovingly grew in his garden, and creating good and nourishing meals for the family. And she sewed—could she sew! She would make clothes for the family, particularly for the daughters, making matching dresses for them and herself, and creating patterns if need be for the work. Her expertise with the needle was confirmed in her work outside the home in which she worked with fabric in various places around town, in her role as a judge in various sewing contests, and, I am guessing, in her work with 4-H. Finally, you lovingly called her “the boss,” and so she was. How could she be anything different with a household of seven to manage and for which to care? She had to be organized, directive, and knowledgeable because she knew you would come to her for advice and information—a “library” you called her, full of remembrances and information on which you could depend. Home.

But home is not merely about providing the physical needs of those who reside there; home is also about providing for emotional and spiritual needs. In story after story, and in her obituary, she is remembered as an “amazing wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother” and as a “beautiful woman.” These things say volumes about the kind of person she was: a woman who loved her family and friends fiercely and unconditionally; a woman who had the ability ride the ups and downs of married life through 69 years of steadfast devotion to her beloved husband, Edwin (she even took care of Edwin while she was in the hospital, making sure he had food to eat, and holding his hand to comfort him though she was the patient). This is a picture of a person who knew that home is more than the sum of the physical comforts one can provide—a person who understood the intangibles that creates bonds between people so that home is not so much a place, but a bond that is created in love one person to another. This seemed to be Geanive’s greatest gift: to create home wherever she was and with whomever God placed in her life.

It is not surprising, then, that home seemed to be a theme in her life even as she was preparing to leave this life. For a while before she died, Geanive experienced visions of her parents, calling out to and for them. I have known this to be a common occurrence among dying people and I take it to be a vision of the great cloud of witnesses—the beloved faithful of our lives who have gone before—bidding us come and join them in the presence of Jesus, who promised that he would prepare a place, a home, for us with God. This is Jesus’ promise to us as people of faith. We are not left alone; there is not nothing beyond the grave. Rather, we are promised life, eternal life, in the presence of a loving God in whose presence we find our true home—a home which we will share with our beloved family and friends who have gone before, it is true, but a home with we will also share with a great multitude that no one can count “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,” past, present, and future, and with angels and the Lamb—our Lord Jesus—gathered in the presence of God giving endless praise to the One who loves us fiercely and unconditionally.

In the meantime, those of you left behind must cope now without Geanive in your lives. This will not be easy. You will miss this amazing, beautiful woman who created home for you in this life. You will want to taste her home cooking once more; you will want her to knit sweaters with puppies on the back for great-grandkids, you will want to go to her for advice, but she will not be there, and that will be hard. But know this, while she is not here, physically present in this world any longer, she lives in the home created for her by her loving Savior, Jesus; and she waits in that home until the time when she, like her parents before her, will bid you come and claim the home prepared for you in the presence of a loving God. In the meantime, take comfort in the fact that God will wipe away the tears of your grief and be with you in the days, weeks, and months ahead until the memory of your beloved Geanive ceases to be a reminder of your painful loss and becomes beautiful memories that will sustain you for the rest of your days. In this way, she lives with you in your home here on earth until you join her in your home with God. Amen.

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