Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Larger than Life

This post is the eulogy my wife Becky wrote and delivered at the funeral yesterday for Florence Lion. You might not have known Florence, but I suspect that there is a Florence somewhere in your experience who suffered heartache during her life but kept giving and kept smiling.

Funeral Service for Florence A. Lion 
 April 16, 2012 – Chapel, Manassas Baptist Church

 We are gathered here this morning to celebrate the life of Florence Lion, a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, sister, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, cousin and friend.  Born on Flag Day in 1919, the year that the 19th Amendment was passed giving women the right to vote, Florence saw an amazing amount of change in the 92+ years of life that God gave her.  The world changed around her with inventions, the administrations of 17 presidents of the United States, two World Wars and locally, the growth of Manassas and Prince William County.

All of this changed, but Florence did not.  Until her final breath, she remained the sweet person that all of us as family and friends loved.  Those of us who knew her at Manassas Baptist Church knew that her warm smile preceded her.  Short in stature, Florence stood tall when it came to her faith and the ways she demonstrated it.

For years, she was a fixture in our nursery hallway, where you could find her rocking our bed babies and singing to them or down in the floor with our toddlers, smiling at them and telling them that God loved them.  This was her place of service until she was in her seventies and I’m sure that there are hundreds of adults today who benefited from her loving care when they were preschoolers at our church.

Florence sang in our Sanctuary Choir and our Joyful Noise Senior Adult Choir.  Faithful to both groups, she sang strongly and with an expression on her face that said, “I believe what I’m singing!”

A cheerful giver, Florence took her financial responsibility to her church seriously.  When I helped in the church office as a teenager and a young adult, I was asked to record the amounts that were given on Sundays by members who used offering envelopes.  When I got to Florence’s envelope, the amount was always listed as both dollars and cents.  After several weeks of seeing these, I realized that she was tithing her income, not only down to the dollar, but to the cents as well.  Florence had made a pledge to God and she honored it completely.

All these commitments were important, but the strength of her faith and the ways she demonstrated it were what shone through to everyone the most.  Because she was left to raise three boys as a single parent until she met and married Jack Lion, Florence was sensitive to other single moms in our congregation and would ask them how they were doing and if they needed help.  She cared deeply for her friends and provided food and support when they were needed.  As a result, her church community was there for her when she needed it, especially following the loss of her sons Martin and David when each of them was only 45 years old.

I’ll always remember her comment to Dan and me as we stood beside her at Baker Funeral Home following David’s death.  “The church” she said, “has been here for years to help me raise my sons, and now they’re here to support me as I give another one of them back to the Lord.”

I was stunned and amazed at this statement: here was a mother grieving the passing of the second of her three sons and yet her response to this loss had no bitterness, just trust in the One who had given her and her children life, and appreciation for all those in her faith community who had nurtured and loved her children.  From that night on, Florence Lion was one of my heroes.  A hero is defined as somebody who has shown an admirable quality such as great courage or strength of character or somebody who is admired for outstanding qualities.  Florence qualified on both counts.

These last years in Manassas and then in Fort Mill, SC with Mary as her companion and caregiver have been a modern-day “Ruth and Naomi” story and allowed Florence to be in a home setting until the day she reached her heavenly home.  Failing health and diminished abilities did not change the sweetness of her personality.  She wondered why so many people sent her birthday cards or flowers one summer when I visited her at home and she marveled at how her church family celebrated with her when she turned ninety.  Her humility was another lesson that I’ll always carry with me.

In closing, I’ll share an insight from a pastor who spoke at the funeral of a member of his congregation.  He gave the birth and death dates of the person and then said, “There’s a dash in between those two dates, and all that the dash signifies is what’s important.”  

I agree with him today.  Florence Lion (June 14, 1919 – April 10, 2012).  May each of us here today give thanks to God for the dash and for all that Florence meant to us and to the Kingdom of God.  We will miss her, but we rejoice that she is now in the presence of the Lord that she loved and served so well.  Florence Lion, new in Christ.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, she sounds like an amazing lady who lived through some serious history. Thanks for sharing this, Dan.