2 Corinthians 1:3-4
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.”
As a pastor, the events that I look forward to the least are funerals and burials. But perhaps I shouldn’t feel that way. It’s perhaps the most significant in the life of one who has surrendered their life to Christ. The transition to total rebirth has truly taken hold in their life as they are welcomed to their eternal dwelling place. I got to witness that yet again when we laid to rest our beloved sister in the Lord, Teresita Gonzales – dearly loved mother of Jenelle – just yesterday at Glen Oakes.
The blog this week will seem like a eulogy, partly an encouragement, but mostly exhortation from God’s word. Much of what will be here are reflections that I shared at her memorial service yesterday.
You can say that love is seen, heard and felt in the little things we do for each other. I certainly witnessed this in the life of Tita Tessie. The first day my mother and I came to visit in the apartment where Scott (Jenelle’s husband), Jenelle, and Tita Tessie lived together, we brought some food to share with each other. Scott and Tita Tessie were home but Jenelle was not around as she was still at work. This was the time when we were preparing to look after Tita Tessie while Scott and Jenelle were getting ready to spend some much-needed time away together. As we sat down to share a meal, Scott began to eat some of the food we brought. I noticed very quickly that it drew a worried look on Tita Tessie’s face as if she was concerned about something. In a few short words she motioned to Scott with her hand rather weakly but emphatically, “Please save some for Jenelle.” [I guess she knows very well about Scott’s hearty appetite.]
More than the request, what I heard in rather simple terms is how much Tita Tessie loves her daughter. What got impressed upon me is that she didn’t care much about whether or not she would have some of the food we brought, but that we had better save some for her daughter.
In the next few days that we got to spend with Tita Tessie, we would spend some time around the dinner table – where much of our fellowship with her took place! Go figure! Tita Tessie loved food but she loved friends more and family even more. Over the course of a week back in September leading up to her 65th birthday, we heard her share her thoughts and wishes about Scott and Jenelle as if she was verbally expressing her last will of sorts. “Please make sure they are in a growth group,” was one of her requests. As a pastor and brother in the Lord, I took that to heart. Making sure that Jenelle and Scott are in a caring community environment has taken on a new meaning for me personally. I felt that request was bequeathed as one would leave an inheritance to their children.
I told her that she should have dinner at our place before she leaves for the Philippines for her extended Christmas/New Year’s vacation. She did not hesitate and looked forward to it. She told me though, that she would like Jenelle and Scott to be there too. I certainly didn’t plan to exclude them, but she just wanted to be sure. It’s as if I heard her saying again, “Please save some for Jenelle.” And Scott too, of course.
I am still grieving over her death but also rejoicing in the loving memories she left us with. Some of you know her more and longer than I did. I only met her back in July but my family and I connected so well with her ever since, especially my mother. My mother often visited her, cooked her food, and shortly looked after her, given her bout with diabetes. Tita Tessie impressed me as someone who loved life. She loved to eat. She loved to smile. She had an adorable laughter. I loved making her laugh. She loved Jenelle deeply. The way her family surrounded her with care and compassion created in me a vision of a woman who was loving and well-loved – who earned a deep respect from her entire family.
We also had the privilege of celebrating what would be her last birthday back in September 22nd, which was also her 65th. It was a very moving and memorable time as I spoke to her about the abundant life that God has poured out on her. It was probably the most ironic message she had ever heard, as she battled a debilitating disease. I’ve also had conversations about her faith in Jesus Christ; being assured of her salvation and the unspoken excitement that all of her sufferings will one day be overcome with the triumphant welcome of her Savior.
God’s plan for her was simple: God wanted to be with her in heaven through the recognition that she had nothing within her that could get her to heaven. Jesus Christ already paved the way for her to have eternal life. All she needed to do was to recognize that she was a sinner and that she needed to surrender her life to Christ and believe in Him. Tita Tessie was ready to go to the next step towards eternity. She had a bright outlook. She felt uncomfortable about her condition, but she was prepared to welcome the eternal joy that God had in store for her.
Just two months after she turned 65, God called her home. Heaven is now Tita Tessie’s home because she is now family – God’s child. I tell you this because God’s plan for Tita Tessie is not exclusive to her. This is also God’s plan for all of us. May this be the perfect time for all of us to consider where we are and where we need to be in relation to God’s plan of salvation.
These are days of grieving – I understand that. Tita Tessie has died, and we hurt. But these days can also be about hope. Today we can trust in Christ. Today we can believe His promise. He said, “Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live. Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25)
We will all come to the end of life. We will all face death at some point. And Jesus’ words will never change. I urge you today to call on Jesus… to say to Him, “Yes Lord, I believe.” Ask Him to forgive you, trust in Him and turn away from your sins. And when you do, a miracle will take place. You will receive the promise of eternal life.
Tita Tessie gave her life over to Jesus while she was still alive. Because of that, she gets to keep it for all eternity since God saved her through her faith in Jesus Christ. You need to give Jesus your life, just like she did.
As I think about what the days will be like for Jenelle, may I ask you to please save some of your time for her? Would you please save some of your comfort for her? Would you please save some prayers for her? We would be fulfilling Tita Tessie’s wishes…and most of all giving glory to God who asks us to comfort those with the same comfort we’ve received from Him.