Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

On July 15, 2020 my dear 94-year-old mother-in-law, Jean Kiger, passed from this life to the next. A tiny, tough, wonderful woman, Jean had recently survived harsh falls, COVID-19, pneumonia and blood clots. Eventually, though, her body finally gave out, and following a long goodbye of two weeks with her unresponsive and unable to communicate, eat or drink, she breathed her last breath this side of heaven while my wife, Linda, held her hand.

For years Jean had most details of her funeral planned. She wanted by oldest son, Brian, to sing Because He Lives and It Is Well With My Soul. She wanted my youngest son, Jason, to read an adaptation of Psalm 23 Jean selected and typed up for us. She wanted me to do the eulogy, leading the funeral and graveside service. Linda volunteered to welcome everyone to the funeral and share some initial personal reflections about her mom. It was a family affair on August 3, 2020 from beginning to end in conducting the funeral in St. Louis, Missouri. My sister-in-law, Jill, helped with several details in preparing for the day, and far more friends came out to celebrate her life with us than we expected in the middle of a pandemic. Jean would have enjoyed it.

I thought it would be nice to share in a blog post the eulogy and the graveside service I led for her. You can find the full funeral program here.

Until we meet again, Jean. We love you. We miss you. We will see you soon on that glorious day when all of God’s children are gathered around our Lord Jesus Christ.

The Eulogy

I hit the mother-in-law jackpot when I married Linda over 41 years ago and got Jean in the deal for free. I have to admit that I was at first a little intimidated by Jean. Linda and I had gotten engaged during my junior and her senior year at William Jewell College and we went to St. Louis for a “meet the in-laws-to-be” weekend and to inform them of our engagement.

Jean and Chuck

They were, of course, very gracious and welcoming, but I was still intimidated by them both. Chuck could have beaten skinny little me to a pulp with his wooden leg if he wanted, and Jean seemed so strait-laced, so prim and proper. I figured I could outrun Chuck, but I wasn’t at all sure I could outsmart Jean if push came to shove. 42 years later I now know beyond all doubt I could never outsmart Jean. The lady was sharp!

As the years passed and we had so many wonderful times together, my original intimidation gave way long ago to admiration, appreciation, gratitude and thanksgiving for who she was as a person, as Mom, Grandma, Mawmaw, friend, and as a fellow believer in Christ. There are so many positive things I could say about Jean, but I’m going to focus on 3 that jump foremost to mind as the qualities I will always remember with a smile.

One is that Jean had a wonderful sense of humor. She was just flat-out funny! She enjoyed laughing and I cherish the memories of her burying her head in her hand, closing her eyes and bouncing a little as she silently laughed at whatever struck her funny. She would tell us stories of things happening at her retirement home, Treyton Oak Towers. Some of the things she’d share would just be the fun times and goofiness of fellow retirees enjoying one another. Some of what she laughed at was driven by the realities of growing old. And if someone was beginning to act and talk more than a little crazy as they got up there in years, she would just say, “She’s as looney as she can be.” She didn’t mince words.

For years, Jean would regularly send us humorous emails. I kept them all and went back a few years in preparation for this eulogy and laughed at several things she sent, like the photos of signs on restaurants and funny memes that said things like:

  • No senior citizen discounts: You’ve had twice as long to get the money.
  • Push. If that doesn’t work, pull. If that doesn’t work, we must be closed.
  • This business guarded by shotgun 3 days a week. You guess which 3.
  • Teach your kids about taxes. Eat 30% of their ice cream.
  • My daughter wanted a Cinderella-themed party, so I invited all her friends over and made them clean my house.
  • I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may update your Facebook status.

Jean’s humor came through cards she would send on birthdays and other occasions. She sometimes used her creativity to write a short poem to include with the card. Many times the card itself was funny. Linda found one she sent to her friend Norma in 2000 that has a caricature of an old lady on the front and it says, “Once a sex symbol, always a sex symbol.” On the inside, it says, “What a relief it is to know we have nothing to worry about! Happy birthday.” It was signed, “Jean 2000.” Then her friend Norma sent it back to her in 2001 on Jean’s birthday, crossing out Jean’s name and signing her own and adding “2001.” And so the tradition began and every year the card went through the mail twice as they added their name and the year until its final trip from Norma to Jean in 2014. They would occasionally add a post-it note on the inside. The top one says, “Aren’t you glad wrinkles don’t hurt!”

So I appreciate Jean’s humor that she carried with her throughout all of her days.

Jean with her mom, Lucille, and daughters, Linda and Jill

In addition to her humor, I am thankful for Jean’s extreme love and devotion to her family. She loved her daughters, Linda and Jill, and really would do anything that she thought was needed and good for them. When her grandsons, Brian and Jason, came along, she cherished the role of Grandma. Linda and I perhaps faded a little in importance after that because, after all, grandchildren are far more fun than children. The things she made for Brian and Jason, the time she spent with them, the photos of them she cherished the rest of her life – all these point to her love of family that never wavered.

Then if we fast forward to another generation, the addition of having Abby and Jackson as great-grandchildren was a joy beyond description to Jean. She marveled at both the beauty and behaviors and fun times she enjoyed with Abby and Jack. She took great pleasure in seeing things she made for Brian and Jason like a card table tent and the blue alphabet book we have with us today enjoyed by Abby and Jackson a generation later.

It was always a pleasure to have Jean with us at my family’s gatherings at my parents’ farm in Winchester, KY or at my daughter-in-law, Lauren’s, family gatherings in Louisville whether for a random dinner together or one of our annual traditions like Polar Express Night where we all wore pajamas and drank hot chocolate and watched the movie.

I don’t think there is anything Jean would have said “no” to if asked for the good of her family. She loved us. She was extremely generous toward us. We are indebted forever to her and eternally thankful to God for that example of what it means to be a wonderful Mom, Grandma, Mawmaw and mother-in-law.

The third and final quality I want to call out and praise Jean for is the most significant because it is eternal in nature, and that is Jean’s faith in Jesus Christ. Jean knew the Lord and lived her life in faithful service to him. She was not a Christian in name only, but as a deep matter of the heart.

Jean sitting in the church nursery at age 90 with great-grandchildren Abby and Jackson

Jean joined Third Baptist Church in St. Louis in 1952 at the age of 26. She was a faithful member until moving to Louisville in 2007 where she joined Walnut Street Baptist Church. In both churches, she loved serving in the children’s ministry, continuing to sit in the nursery to care for her great-grandchildren until she was 90.

The photo inside your program today is of her with Abby and Jackson in the nursery at Walnut Street. Anyone who works with children in church for over 60 years is surely a saint of the highest order.

What really impresses me about Jean’s faith is that she was so incredibly consistent in all the 42 years I knew her. She didn’t waffle and have good days and bad days as a follower of Christ. She knew what she believed and why she believed it. She loved the Lord. She loved his Word. She loved his church. She lived in accordance with what the Word of God teaches day in and day out with a consistency that I can only envy but never duplicate.

Jean loved reading inspirational and educational Christian books. She loved great preaching and couldn’t tolerate mediocre Bible study or worship. She faithfully tithed to the church through her final Social Security check and would not remotely consider failing to give less than that 10% tithe back to the Lord from whom all blessings flow.

Jean’s first great-grandchild, Abby, wearing a cap Jean crocheted.

Her faith and love compelled her to serve others through the church and elsewhere. She made over 1,750 crocheted baby hats that were distributed through Missouri Baptist Hospital. She made quilts for the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of friends and family. She served for 8 years volunteering at St. Alexius Hospital in the chaplain’s office. At Treyton Oak she loved volunteering in the general store. She assisted with the Infant Resource Project at Walnut Street helping to supply baby clothes, diapers, and needed items to new moms. All of these were in addition to her 60+ years of children’s ministry in her two beloved churches. Jean was a giver, especially to children.

Jean’s faith was incorporated into her love of travel, including the Holy Land among her many journeys with church family and friends. The olive wood nativity set that graces our mantel each Christmas was a gift that Jean brought back to us from that trip. The photos of her riding the camel in the slide show was one of her great memories from the trip.

Jean was an excellent student of the Bible. To her, the Bible wasn’t just something to sit on a shelf at home. It was to be read and understood and cherished and hidden in one’s heart that we might not sin against God. In fact, she passed along to us a few months ago this set of Bible study notes she made while she was still Jean Hoffman. She hadn’t yet married Chuck when she wrote this. I don’t know who graded it, but she got an A+ on it. It’s on “Bible Numerics” and looks at numeric structures in the Bible – things like uses of various numbers throughout the Bible and what they mean.

For example, in the section of her notes about the number one in the Bible, she writes that it is a symbol of divine unity and then she wrote: “one God, one Bible, one way to be saved, one human race, one church, one Spirit, one hope, one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one chosen nation, one Satan, one mediator.” She notes the oneness of God’s promises from Joshua 23 and the one thing most needful – knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ – from Luke 10.

Jean enjoying her camel ride in Israel

Jean’s faith was real. It is eternal. And because of that, her faith has now become sight. What she saw through a glass dimly this side of heaven has become crystal clear and she now sees perfectly. What was until July 15 a confident assurance of one day seeing her Lord face to face is now a precious reality.

In one of Jean’s notebooks, she wrote out Psalm 73:26 – “My health may fail and my spirit may grow weak, but God remains the strength of my heart. He is mine forever.”

Jean was ready to be with her Lord. She was ready to put behind her the days of failing health, COPD, poor hearing and eyesight. She was ready to say goodbye to occasional falls and painful woes that come with old age.

I love the description that Randy Alcorn uses in his book The Treasure Principle where he tells people this: Imagine that your time on this earth in all its entirety is one tiny little dot up on a wall. All of your years fit within that dot. Even Jean’s 94.5 years fit within that dot. Then stretching out from that dot and going all the way around the room and then looping over and over again and never ending – that is eternity. Our time on this earth is but a tiny dot at the start of a never-ending line. Alcorn tells us to live for the line, not the dot. Jean lived for the line of eternity and not just for the dot of the present. All who turn from their sin and place their trust in Jesus Christ will live with him in joy throughout that never-ending line.

When Jean retired after 25 years of work at Brown Shoe Company, she wrote a poem. Most of the verses would only be meaningful to those at Brown Shoe because they dealt with daily work specifics and inside jokes that only her work colleagues would understand. But the first and last verses of that poem apply to our time here today, so I close with Jean’s own words from 1992:

I’ll miss you all more than you’ll know
But I feel that it is time to go.
I’ll miss the parties and the fun
And celebrating birthdays with everyone.

“Must have tomorrow sure”
Will be a thing of the past.
The rat race for me
Is over at last!

Indeed, the trials of this life have passed for Jean. Those of us left behind for now mourn because we’d rather have her with us than to be separated. But if our focus is on that long line of eternity and not just the tiny dot of time we now experience, we realize that it won’t be long at all before all of God’s children are gathered to him in a new heaven and a new earth and there we shall be forever and ever, time without end, amen.

The Graveside Service

Jean planned many details of her funeral years ago. She typed up some of it on this sheet I’m holding – scripture verses, vocal and instrumental music. She knew she wanted Brian to sing. She wanted Jason to read scripture. She asked me to do the eulogy. Earlier this year when she reminded me again that I was to do the eulogy, I said to her, “Are you sure you want your son-in-law to have the last word because that could be risky?” But she said she did, so here we are.

Fortunately, no human really has the last word upon someone’s death. God does.

Jean and Chuck with their Bibles outside Third Baptist Church, St. Louis

One of the scriptures Jean wrote on this sheet was Romans 14:7-9. Here Paul says, “For none of us lives for himself, and no one dies for himself. If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord. Christ died and returned to life for this: that he might be Lord over both the dead and the living.”

And then the true last word of what happens to this world is found in Revelation 21 where we learn about what is to come with God’s new creation:

“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. I also saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared like a bride adorned for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice from the throne: Look, God’s dwelling is with humanity, and he will live with them. They will be his peoples, and God himself will be their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; grief, crying, and pain will be no more, because the previous things have passed away. Then the one seated on the throne said, ‘Look, I am making everything new.’ He also said, ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’ Then he said to me, ‘It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will freely give to the thirsty from the spring of the water of life. The one who conquers will inherit these things, and I will be his God, and he will be my son.’” (Rev. 21:7-9)

Later in the chapter we read about “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, arrayed with God’s glory.” (Rev. 21:10-11)

We’re told that John in this revelation “did not see a temple in it, because the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it, because the glory of God illuminates it, and its lamp is the lamb…Nothing unclean will ever enter it, nor anyone who does what is detestable or false, but only those written in the Lamb’s book of life.” (Rev. 21:22-23, 27)

We gather at this place to commit Jean’s ashes to the grave. One day, when our Lord Jesus Christ comes again, her earthly body will be resurrected to a perfect, glorified body where she will live with all of God’s people in this new Jerusalem. We can rejoice today in the certainty of that promise and in the reality that God always, always keeps his promises.

Jean’s hand resting in Linda’s as Jean took her final breaths in this life

Wedding Reception

Cutting our wedding cake – May 26, 1979

On May 26, 1979, Linda Sue Kiger and I said “I do” to each other at her home church – Third Baptist Church – in St. Louis, Missouri. It’s been quite a ride and continues to be. I am thankful for her for so many reasons, but below is one for each of our 40 years together. Except for the first two, they are in no particular order:

  1. She is a faithful follower of Christ.
  2. She is a faithful wife who I can count on ‘til death do us part.
  3. She is the hardest working person I know.
  4. She is happiest when serving and giving to others.
  5. She is Mom to our two wonderful sons.
  6. She is Nana to our two awesome grandchildren.
  7. She is cook, caterer, and kitchen hostess to hundreds every year who get the benefit of eating her delicious food.
  8. She never pretends to be something she isn’t.
  9. She speaks her mind.
  10. She can read a person’s character like an open book.
  11. She seeks no glory for herself.
  12. She hates evil and hypocrisy.
  13. She’s smarter than me.
  14. She loves me in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, for better or for worse, in good times and in bad.
Wedding Party

Our Wonderful Wedding Party

    1. She has managed our finances for the past 25 years after I got tired of doing it the first 15 years of marriage.
    2. She loves doing yard work and says it’s therapeutic for her.
    3. She loves our church and can’t imagine being a member who doesn’t serve it in many ways.
    4. She supports me in major decisions that impact us both.
    5. She has no desire to impress others with material things.
    6. She’s frugal in whatever she buys.
    7. She quickly became a fan of UK basketball and Ale-8 when we were dating in college.
    8. She does my laundry without complaining.
    9. She’s handier around the house than I will ever be.
    10. She puts up with my obsession with my dog, Callie.
    11. She has the common sense that I lost somewhere along the way.
    12. She can remember names of people and their stories far better than me.
    13. She loves, respects, and lives in awe of God’s creation.
    14. She loves and honors her Mom.
    15. She considers dinner at Qdoba and a walk around the mall as a big night out.
The Getaway Car

Our getaway car – the Big Green Machine thanks to Best Man Wayne Grooms

  1. She has many strengths that complement my weaknesses.
  2. She appreciates my humor (most of the time).
  3. She always has pure motives.
  4. She doesn’t cut corners to make things easy on herself.
  5. She knows American history and the Constitution and has little tolerance for those who respect neither.
  6. She loves MeTV more than any other TV channel.
  7. She takes extra food from her cooking jobs to homeless shelters to feed the hungry.
  8. She has no fear.
  9. She loves students and would happily mother them anytime, anywhere.
  10. She loves opening our home to friends, family and guests from around the globe.
  11. She has put up with my shenanigans all these years.

Anyone who knows both of us knows that we are very different in some obvious ways, but those are mostly external differences and are superseded by these more important things that unite us:

  • Nothing is more important to us than our Christian faith.
  • That faith and the truths contained in the Word of God form the lens through which we view, understand, and respond to the world around us.
  • It is the basis of our shared fundamental values that determine what we think, say and do, and how we interact with others.
  • It is how we can live in a changing and sometimes uncertain world with complete confidence in our future – not because we are in control, but because Someone Greater is and we belong to Him.

Happy 40th anniversary, Linda! Thank you for being my partner forever. I love you. Here’s to the adventure yet to come…

July 2016 New Home

July 15, 2016 – Our new home and new adventure

Mom & Dad's wedding day, Dec. 24, 1952

Mom & Dad’s wedding day, Dec. 24, 1952

I have been blessed in more ways than I can count in my life, but at the top of the list is the love and example shown by my amazing parents, Jack and Virginia Ross. Today they celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary – quite an accomplishment these days.

They never cease to amaze me, from Dad taking care of their 60-acre farm, to Mom cooking up her regular, tasty dishes for others and keeping their big, old pre-Civil War home spotless, to both of them starting their days at the local YMCA spending time on the treadmill, their 79 years of life and 61 as husband and wife keep going strong. They are the picture of kindness and generosity to all, especially to family and friends.

Still courting, Thanksgiving, 2010, Charleston, SC

Still courting, Thanksgiving, 2010, Charleston, SC

Some gifts we receive can never be repaid. Parents like Mom & Dad are that kind of gift. If I were to begin this moment saying “Thank you” and said it every second for the next thousand years, it would not – could not – be enough.

Thank you, Mom & Dad, for your unending love, encouragement and support for me and for all of our family and your many friends.

I love you! Happy anniversary.