FUNERAL FOR GEORGE WEGMANN, JR. – ST. MARY’S LUTHERAN CHURCH
July 27, 2012 – Kenosha, Wisconsin
Good Morning. I just wanted to stand up here for a couple of minutes to tell you about one of my fondest memories I have of my father… When my mother went into labor with me at Saint Catherine’s Hospital, my dad was sitting in the waiting room for hours. This was back when they didn’t let the father go into the delivery room like they do these days. During this time, the nurses changed shifts and no one bothered to come and tell my dad that I was born. My dad eventually went to the nurse’s station and asked how my mom was doing. The nurse said “Oh! No one told you? Your wife had a baby girl!” My dad then started to cry and said “I finally got my baby girl!”
My father loved me as his baby girl every day of his life. Now, as he goes on to his eternal life with God in Heaven, I’m sure he’s looking down on us now, happy to see just how many people really loved and cared for him. Thank you all for being a part of his life, and for being here today. We love you dad. Peace be with you.
Text: John 6:58-63
Ninety Two. Just imagine. Well, we don’t have to imagine. We will have to rewrite that verse in the Psalms about “three score and ten, and maybe four score if we are strong enough”. More and more people are living through and past nine decades. And they say in a short while, living past 100 will be common place.
It is an “Amazing Grace” to live nearly a century. Those I have known have all displayed a remarkable view of life. They seemed to have an understanding of the incredible “glory” written in the Revelations, like the verses we just shared; a vision of heaven not so mysterious as it is to those of us who are farther away. It’s an amazing grace coming out of a patience with life. Approaching and passing 90 it seems we finally understand what Jesus was saying when he asked, “Why are you so anxious about so many things?”
We youngsters find anxiety to be a way of life, and the younger you go the less patience we seem to find. Children have almost none at all, demanding everything “NOW! We live with such urgency. We work so hard to “make a living”, when the truth is “life makes us”. George and others know something we have yet to find.
Still, to understand God’s “amazing grace” Jesus says we have to approach “like children”, willing to trust, ready for change, searching for “new”. To get older is not just resignation, giving in, taking life as it comes, “whatever”. Rather through the years it is God’s gift that we discover the grace that flows in power, moving through life with us. Peace like a river, carrying us on.
I got a letter this week from a friend in Madison. Her name is Anita, and it happens that she also is 92. I did her husband’s funeral about 25 years ago. She writes in her own hand 2 or 3 times a year. This time she told me about a shooting that happened in her trailer park where she has lived for over 50 years, and how it has stirred up a fear in her that is so foreign to her view of life. And she also expressed the great joy she has in lots of folks who hold her in their daily conversation, so that even now she knows her life is full of grace.
There is a place in Marks gospel where Jesus heals a blind man, and Jesus says, “Do you see anything?” And the man says he looks and there appears people, “like trees walking”. I caught a glimpse in Anita and in George of humanity like a forest, and some of us grow so long and rooted and tall, protecting all us young saplings (not to mention “Saps” sometimes), as we find our way. They know the flow of grace, up through from their feet, out to the living and still growing ends, leaves of knowing grace and celebrating it. They bare the marks of hurt and healing and the strength of no longer needing to be anxious about every wind or storm.
George’s life includes the story of the Great Depression growing from boy to young man, and World War II — first hand. I caught my breath when Rick and Mike and Sandy told me how George had come away from Pearl Harbor just days before December 7, 1941. They said he never talked about it much, but how would you talk about such a thing? And he went back into battle in the Pacific for another six years.
Then he had to take on a world gone crazy out of the 60’s and 70’s, and right up to now. It is not just the pace of life that has changed, but much of what we casually call “crises” ain’t nothin’ to where George has been. Yes, there are some older folks who bare life with a kind of bitterness, but not George or my friend Anita. Life has not made them hard, but gentle, and able to see in the midst of all the awful stuff — like in Colorado — the gift of observing the good in every day, every person. And Jesus says, in those words from the gospel of John, that we ought not expect to find “amazing grace” in the stuff of the flesh, the stuff that fills our days with anxiety and fear. It is far deeper than that. It is of the SPIRIT.
We always think of the “spirit” as being so mysterious and intangible, but I wonder if the work and power of the spirit rather becomes more real and more actual as we pass more and more days and years behind us. I can imagine George right now saying, “I knew it! I knew it!”
We can pray that we don’t have to wait until we are 92 to get it, to see and grasp the invitation of amazing grace. “Praise God from whom all blessings flow; praise him all creatures here below; praise him above the heavenly host — including George; praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.