My Mom was buried on Friday, September 3, 2010. Per her request, the burial was first and was attended only by family and the Pastor.
Afterward there was a memorial service. We, her children, were invited to share about Mom. Todd and I were unable to attend because we live in other countries. We did however, write some thoughts which the Pastor read for us. And although I am sure it was incredibly difficult, Paul and Joel each managed to read their own tributes. I am proud of both of them for that. We are all missing Mom so badly. Knowing that she was dying didn't make her actual death any easier. Paul and Joel each worried that they would become too emotional to get through their tributes, but they both very much wanted to deliver it themselves.
Here is what was said:
A Tribute to Mom
My mom was a phenomenal mother and wife. When I think of the wife described in Proverbs 31, I realize that you could substitute ‘Shirley’ in all of the appropriate places and it would not seem out of line at all.
Mom was always busy taking care of her family, the people in her church, and the needy. Yet, she always made time for her God. While we were growing up, we knew that when mom was in her room and the door was closed, do not bother her. She was spending time with her God and did not want to be interrupted.
I frequently tell people that I grew up as Beaver Cleaver. My mom and dad were Ward and June. I cannot imagine what a parent could do that would be a more perfect upbringing for a child. My life as a child and teenager is one big happy memory. Don’t misunderstand, she held us accountable for wrong, no matter how small. Any large offense was passed to dad. With 3 sons in 4 years, there were lots of offenses. However, I never felt wronged by mom and dad. Rather, I learned about justice, and the relationship between action and consequence.
I have never had a hard time understanding ‘Unconditional Love’ because that is all I have ever known. For me, it is easy to relate to God, because my mom and dad modeled him to us everyday.
As an adult, while mom and dad were still my mom and dad, they became my friends. I could discuss anything with them and leaned on them for solid objective advice when I faced big decisions.
In these final 4+ months since mom first was stricken, my mom’s character shined through even brighter than ever before. For those of you who do not know, my mother died because her aorta ruptured. It tore in a series of “events”. Each time the pain was excruciating. I believe my father told me that one of the doctors told him that this is the worst pain the human body can feel. When it first happened in April, the doctor described it to her like this – “you were fine and then all of the sudden you had very intense pain in your back, right between your shoulder blades. It felt like a jagged knife tearing at all of your muscles. It was take your breath away kind of pain. So bad that you could tell anyone the exact moment on the clock when it occurred and you will never forget it.” Mom said “Exactly”.
A second event like that happened the day before Mother’s Day. I sent my siblings an e-mail that afternoon. Let me quote -
“I have been with her all day. I have been reading to her from the Psalms. Sometimes I just read random chapters. Other times she requests a particular one. She always looks so peaceful when God’s word is read. Every time I get done reading a Psalm, mom says “That’s a good one. I really like that.” When I get done reading, she starts praying. That always makes me cry because you would think that she would pray about her condition. But instead, she always prays for each of us and our families, dad, her church, the nation, etc. Then she will say something like, “Father, if you are ready to take me, I want to come home now.”
When someone dies, there are two basic paths that a service such as this can take. One is to mourn. The other is to celebrate their victory over this earth and that they are now with Jesus. I have cried a lot over the past several days. Now, I choose to celebrate. We celebrate with her and for her. And we look forward to being together with her in heaven in the near future.
Mom is HOME now.
I hope that her life and the life of my father inspire all of us to emulate what they have done, and how they have lived. God would be proud of us if we do.
My Mom - Joel Wilhelm
Mom lived a life of dignity, by which I mean she was gracious and humble, kind and thoughtful. She possessed what I would call a timeless grace. It showed in the way she kept her house, the way she treated others as better than herself and in her countless acts of kindness.
The Lord worked on her in a powerful way in the late 60's, and the rest of her life was devoted to her family and to serving Jesus. She worked hard at prayer and learning more from God's Word. Some of my earliest memories of Mom are of the light shining out from under her door in the mornings, very, very early. She rose before dawn to pray and study. It seems to me that this happened every day when I was growing up. Her Bibles were underlined, annotated and devoured!
She was largely responsible for praying me back into the Kingdom after I spent many years in rebellion to the Lord. Mom was one of the hounds of heaven, always pursuing me with Scriptures in her letters to me, always asking how I stood with Jesus, and praying for me.
The Psalmist says that the righteous still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green. This was my Mom. She served in Love Inc. and here at Bethel. Her heart bothered her for many years and yet it was the last thing she wanted to talk about. The last four months were a painful struggle to the end, but she did it, she ran the race set before her finished the course.
Her parents died when she was a teenager and she worried that she would not live to see me graduate. She prayed and asked the Lord to live as long as I needed her. She didn't know if that was 18, 20, 30 or some other age. When I had to leave her for the last time in April, I was very upset. She told me that the future was always glorious for the Christian, and that I had my own family to look after now. I can't say that I don't need her any more, but I thank God for the 37 years that he gave me with her as an example.
Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again. Mom has died, she will rise with him and we will be together again.
D.L. Moody, a famous evangelist who lived in the 19th century said “Someday you will read in the papers that Moody is dead. Don't you believe a word of it. At that moment I shall be more alive than I am now. I was born of the flesh in 1837, I was born of the spirit in 1855. That which is born of the flesh may die. That which is born of the Spirit shall live forever.”
So it is for my Mom. Today we celebrate the fact that she is more alive than she ever was here on earth in her mortal body.
A verse from scripture that clearly reminds me of my Mom's humble heart and deep love for God is Jeremiah 9:23-24: "Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth. For in these things I delight, declares the LORD.” "
Proverbs 31: 28-31 says "Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: “Many women have done excellently, but you surpass them all.” Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised.
Give her of the fruit of her hands, and let her works praise her in the gates."
Today I rise up and call my Mother blessed. Her last words to me, written on a card, were: "Don't know what lies ahead, but will look for you as we gather round the throne of the Lamb. We are "kept by the power of God." I Peter 1:5"
Farewell dear Mother! Your memory is fragrant upon earth, your works will perpetuate your legacy, your spirit is retired to those that are perfect. I follow, though sinning, tired, and sighing. One motive more I have to quicken me in my way, that I may meet my loving, beloved, holy, happy Mother there, gathered around the throne of the Lamb!
My Mom talked with God.
As a girl she went through confirmation in the Lutheran Church. When she received her first communion she was unsure about God, and as she was handed the elements she silently asked God to show her the truth.
Because Mom's parents died when she was young, she lived part of her teenage years in an apartment with other girls. Her roommates went home for the holidays but Mom had no home to go to so she remained in the apartment, alone and lonely. At Christmas she told God she didn't want to spend another holiday alone. Shortly afterward she began dating my Dad and they were married by October. Mom never had to spend another holiday alone.
Approximately 10 years into their marriage, Mom and Dad moved to a home in Minneapolis, where one of their neighbors was Dr. J. Edwin Hartill, a professor of Bible at Northwestern College. Dr. Hartill's wife befriended Mom and led Mom to the Truth she had asked God for when she was confirmed - - Mrs. Hartill led Mom to a personal relationship with Jesus. After that Mom met other women who were new Christians. Together they studied God's Word and had prayer meetings. Our living room was often filled with Mom's friends. They poured out their hearts to one another and then together they brought all their cares before Jesus.
Throughout my life I have been comforted by the knowledge that my Mom was praying for me. And I can tell you without hesitation that she prayed at one time or another for each and every person in this room. She had focused prayer times for each of her children - - one day of the week belonged to each of us. Mom prayed for Dad. She prayed for her pastor. She prayed for her friends and their families. Mom prayed for my friends and for the friends of my brothers.
During the past 4-1/2 months Mom prayed "Father, I am in the valley of the shadow of death, but I am not afraid". The reason she was not afraid is that her years of praying had taught her that her God was trustworthy. He had promised never to leave her and she knew He would not. And she looked forward to talking with Jesus face to face.
I miss my Mom terribly. I am heartbroken at the idea that I can not talk to her anymore. But Mom taught me that I, too, can talk to God.