A Homily at the Burial of Louise Connor

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In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

If Louise Connor had her way this morning, I am certain she would tell me not to waste time talking about her, but instead to spend the time well talking about her Lord Jesus, whom she loved with her heart and with her soul and with her mind. I hope she’ll forgive me if I do some of each. To talk about Louise is to talk about Jesus, because Louise was an iconic figure in the true theological sense of the word iconic: someone whose life and faith made the image of Christ visible to us, tangible among us, as Father Laird says, “Jesus with skin on.” You look at an icon, of course, but you also look through it and beyond it to see Jesus Christ made manifest in a particular way in the particular life of a particular saint. And Louise was a saint: not in that mushy, sentimental way that people often mean when they say about someone, “Oh, she was a real saint.” No, Louise was a saint in the biblical sense; she was a great sinner — as are we all — saved by the even greater grace of God through Christ in the unity of the Holy Spirit — not perfect, but redeemed by the perfect sacrifice of Christ. She never got over that. She never forgot that. She never let you forget that either.

How many times, I wonder, did I hear this conversation in the narthex before or after service? “How are you today, Louise?” someone would ask her. “Oh, I’m pretty good for an old lady,” was her standard response. And then, after a shared laugh, she would most often get to the deeper truth, to the real answer. “How are you today, Louise?” “I’m blessed,” she would say, and then she would tell you about the faithfulness of her Lord. I read Psalm 1 and I smile when I think about that “old lady” who knew just how blessed she was:

1 Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners,
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
2  but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3  He is like a tree
planted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:1-3, ESV throughout).

His delight is in the law of the Lord, the psalmist says. Her delight was in the law of the Lord. Her delight was in the Lord himself we might well say about Louise, and on his faithfulness she meditated day and night.

I once asked Louise this question: If you could pass on anything you’ve learned about the Lord to the next generation, what would it be? I said I was asking on behalf of the next generation, but I was really asking for myself; I covet the wisdom of the elders. Without missing a beat she answered along these lines, “How good the Lord is, and how faithful. He’s always been with me. He’s my friend and I love him and he loves me.” Do you remember Enoch, Methuselah’s father? This is all we know about him, and all we really need to know:

Genesis 5:21–24 (ESV): When Enoch had lived 65 years, he fathered Methuselah. 22 Enoch walked with God after he fathered Methuselah 300 years and had other sons and daughters. 23 Thus all the days of Enoch were 365 years. 24 Enoch walked with God, and he was not, for God took him.

Without doing violence to this Scripture, I think we can say:

Louise lived ninety years and walked with God; and she was not, for God took her.

Louise fell asleep in the Lord Saturday morning. But death did not take her; God took her to be with him because they had walked together many years. “How good the Lord is, and how faithful. He’s always been with me. He’s my friend and I love him and he loves me.” This is how Louise described walking with the Lord.

For the past several months Louise had been in residential care. On those Sunday afternoons when I visited her, she always greeted me with a smile. I was happy to see her and she was happy to see me. But, she was really happy to see me when I brought Communion — the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ — to share with her. We turned the bedside table in her room into an altar: white linen cloth, silver paten and chalice. I wonder how many times in her decades on the Altar Guild she had done the same thing. We turned her room itself into a sanctuary. And it was very crowded and noisy there, because it was filled with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven singing:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might,
Heaven and earth are full of your glory,
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

And Louise joined in the heavenly worship. I mean Louise really joined in the heavenly worship. I am a bit of a liturgical stickler: priests should read the words of the liturgy as written and follow the rubrics as given. And so should the people. Regular print “belongs” to the priest. Bold print “belongs” to the people. It all belonged to Louise. She would often read the whole service right along with me, because it mattered to her; every word of the liturgy mattered to her, every part of the story of God’s love for her in Christ mattered to her. That delighted my heart, and I can’t help but think it delighted the heart of God. After every Eucharist she would say, “You have no idea what this means to me.” But I think I did. It was there in her eyes. It was written on her face. It was clear in the devotion with which she received the bread and wine, the body and blood of Christ.

At each of our regular Eucharist services we hear the Summary of the Law:

Jesus said: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.

This summary presents as a paradox to an old math guy like me. If I give all my love to the Lord — all my heart, all my soul, all my mind — then what is there left over to give to my neighbor? But love has its own calculus and is not restricted by the rules of our arithmetic. The nearer we come to loving God completely, the more filled we are with his love for others. We do not diminish love by giving it away freely. We replenish the treasuries of love. So, it is no contradiction to say that Louise loved the Lord — deeply, whole-heartedly — and her family, her friends, her church. She often told me as much. And, she wrote it down in a journal entry.

I thank you Lord for your love and care. I have walked with you all my life. Thank you for Dunkin my dear dog. Thank you for all my family and dear ones. I am so blessed by you Lord.

I will leave it to you to decide why she mentioned her dear dog Dunkin before she mentioned her family and her friends. Dunkin was probably there by her side when she wrote that, just waiting for their morning or evening walk. You couldn’t be around Louise any time at all without hearing about Dunkin and her family. Von, Pat, Louise: she loved you deeply. And, I think past tense isn’t appropriate here; she loves you deeply, as she does her grandchildren, her great-grandchildren, and her extended family. When I visited her, she proudly showed me pictures and told me stories. Louise loved her Lord. She loved her family. She loved her church. She loved her dog Dunkin. The Lord was first. The order of the others…well, I’ll let you decide.

I haven’t spoken much about Louise’s personal life; that is a story whose details are more rightly told by others. I can say this: it was not always an easy life. Louise knew what it was to struggle, to work hard, to hurt. She was tough and resourceful and resolved — a strong daughter of the Depression. She was a devoted care-giver to those she loved and to some she lost. I imagine she was a fierce and loyal friend. If her children are any indication, she was a good mother. I know she was a faithful and dedicated member of the church.

The words of St. Paul to his young protégé Timothy seem a fitting epitaph for our dear Louise, and with them I close:

2 Timothy 4:7–8 (ESV): I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved his appearing.

May her soul, and the souls of all the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace and rise in glory. Alleluia. Amen.

About johnaroop

I am a husband, father, retired teacher, lover of books and music and coffee and, as of 17 May 2015, by the grace of God and the will of his Church, an Anglican priest in the Anglican Church in North America, Anglican Diocese of the South. I serve as assisting priest at Apostles Anglican Church in Knoxville, TN.
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1 Response to A Homily at the Burial of Louise Connor

  1. Jeff Hodgson says:

    Thank you, John, for honoring Louise with these thoughtful words.

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