Hospice Community Memorial Service

Today we come together to remember before God our loved ones, to give thanks for their lives, to renew our trust and confidence in God, and to seek his comfort and blessing.
Let us pray…….
Almighty God, as you bring us face to face with our own mortality we thank you for making each one of us in your own image and giving us gifts in body, mind and spirit. We thank you now as we gather together to honor the memory of these dear loved ones whom you have given to us for a season, and whom have now transcended this earthly plane. We pray that you will comfort us in your love and mercy, and show us the true path of life and the fullness of joy in your presence, now, and forever more.  Amen.

Ecclesiastes 31 There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
2 a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
3 a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
6 a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
7 a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
8 a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.
9 What does the worker gain from his toil?

10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men.

11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live.

13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil - this is the gift of God.

14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it.

Imagine that you had a bank that credited your account each morning with $86,400. You could carry over no balance from day to day. So every night, whatever part of the money you didn't spend would be lost forever. What would you do? Draw out every penny every day, of course, and use it to your advantage!
Well, you and I have such a bank, but instead of money, we are given time! Every morning the eternal bank credits your account with 86,400 seconds. Every night it counts as lost whatever of this time you failed to invest wisely. This bank carries over no balances, it allows no overdrafts. Each day it opens a new account with you. If you fail to use the day's deposits, the loss is yours. There is no going back. There is no drawing against tomorrow.

Recently, my 22 year old nephew, who bears my name, drowned in a tragic boat accident and was lost at sea in the Caribbean. That experience that my brother’s family is going through brought into focus my own memories of many years ago when my own son was hit by a car while riding his bicycle and subsequently died four years later as a result of his injuries. How senseless and tragic it is when someone leaves this life prematurely. A life is lost and many are left behind to pick up the pieces. But no matter if our loved was younger or has lived a long full life, it still hurts, we still grieve. And I assure you, that in time it will get better. You will get through it. You will learn to live and love again. God is an ever present help.

It is not until some of us are bereaved that we start to examine what is important in life. The loss of a loved one not only challenges us with our own mortality, but also causes us to question how we have used and are using our time. Each new day we are given 86,400 seconds.
We have about 40,000 seconds left in this day. How will you and I use what remains?
The Bible reading from Ecclesiastes, made famous by the song 'Turn, Turn, Turn' by the Byrds in the sixties, reminds us that there are times to do certain things. But for many people, their time was shorter than they might have expected or hoped.
Some people think they will never die, like James Bond. He has been going and going, and going….like the Ever-Ready bunny….. for many years, being played by different actors. Sean Connery is my favorite. The theme to one of the movies, 'Die Another Day', features the line 'I guess I'll die another day'.  That type of confidence and complacency is for the movies. Like the young person who feels invincible in his powerful sports car or speedy motorcycle. It is not real life. There is no guarantee, well, as they say, except for death and taxes…and for us……higher gas prices and hurricanes!

We have a firm hope and confidence, that when our loved ones go to be with God they receive new, perfect resurrection bodies and are no longer subject to suffering, death and sadness. We hope for eternal bliss.
Multimillionaire John D. Rockefeller was asked once how much money it took to make a person happy.  His answer was, "JUST A LITTLE MORE."

A woman who won $1 million playing a Pennsylvania Lottery scratch-off ticket earlier this year won another million on the same game earlier this month. Her win in January allowed her to pay off her mortgage and her children's mortgages, buy a new Cadillac and put away money for her grandchildren's education. Money can buy a lot of things, but it can’t buy you love. It can’t buy peace, and forgiveness, and peace.
We try to fill the God shaped hole in each of us with wealth, possessions, power, popularity, drugs, drink, ……but these things do not bring long term satisfaction and joy.
Learning to live with the knowledge that “each day is a gift” is the true secret to joy and contentment.
At Hospice we try to emphasize that it’s not so important how much time one has left, but rather how does one live to the fullest with what time may be left. May we embrace that philosophy as our own.

An elderly lady walked slowly into a life insurance office during the worst part of the Great Depression. She wanted to know if she could stop paying the premiums on her husband's life insurance policy.  "He's been dead sometime now," she said, "and I don't believe I can afford making the payments any longer." The clerk behind the desk looked up her husband's policy and discovered it was worth several hundred thousand dollars.
This poor lady was wealthy, but she had no idea. May we use wisely the wealth of time that we have been given. Let us not wait until our time is short to realize that we should live like we were dying, make every moment count, and be grateful for the life we have, no matter what our lot may be. May we all take joy in the fact we were blessed to have spent precious time with our loved ones recently departed.

Gen. William Nelson, a Union general in the American Civil War, had fought many battles in Kentucky and survived. But don’t you know that once, while he was relaxing with his men, there was a brawl and shots rang out. The general was fatally shot in the chest. He was caught totally unprepared. As his men ran up the stairs to help him, the general had just one phrase, "Send for a clergyman; I wish to be baptized."
He never had time for religion as an adolescent or young man.  He never had time as a young soldier or after he became a general.  And his wound did not stop or slow down the war.  Everything around him was left virtually unchanged -- except for the general's priorities.  With only minutes left before he entered eternity, the one thing he cared about more than anything at that moment, was his acute sense of mortality.  It was his desire to connect with the eternal spirit. Thirty minutes later he was dead.  

What would you do if you had only a few minutes or hours to live? This was a question that faced hundreds of people on three airplanes in America on September 11, 2001. Many of them with mobile phones tried to warn others of the impending danger. Many others called parents, partners and children to tell them now much they loved them. The news was full of tearful conversations between loved ones, or messages on answering machines.

In a world full of busyness and material goods this highlights the supreme importance of relationships. Today, relationships are replaced by possessions; we have neighbors not knowing one another, disposable relationships with little or no commitment, relationships that are sacrificed for work, and relationships that are strained for any number of reasons.
Virtually each of you is here today because you have had a relationship ended by the death of a loved one. Those who are left behind often feel that they didn't make the most of their relationship with their loved one, or that they wished they had said certain things to them while they were still alive.

A survey of elderly people asked if they had any regrets. The most common regret was not taking more risks, not making more of their lives. Others regretted not being more assertive, not having more self-discipline, and not spending more quality time with their family. It is noteworthy that money was considered insignificant by the vast majority.
In the movie "Braveheart" William Wallace, played by Mel Gibson said, "Every man dies. Not every man really lives." Death is something that we do not face up to easily, even though it will happen to each of us. The events of September 11th remind us of this. For thousands of people it started as a normal day at the office, or traveling on a flight, something that is an everyday occurrence in the United States.
"Every man dies. Not every man really lives." Let us not be content just to be alive, but let us determine within ourselves, each day, at every moment, to truly live! And to live our lives more fully because of the love and energy that each of our departed loved ones contribute to our living. Amen

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