"Always There" – Funeral Sermon

This past Monday evening, I had the honor of being with Anna’s family when she died. It was about 8 PM when I arrived to the ICU and around her was her family. As I introduced myself to some of the family that I had not met before, they began to share stories with me about their mother, their great grandmother, their mother in law. Over the course of this week I have heard story upon story about the life which Anna lived. Today if I were to try and relay all the stories that have been told, we would be here for a mighty long time, and neither could I do justice to her full life’s account. But over the last week there were some special stories that her children shared with me that I would like to share today as I believe it tells us not everything there was about Anna, but certainly a true perception of how her children understood their mother.

The children said that while growing up, they never thought of themselves as growing up poor. Their mother and father always provided for them and would always try to get the very best for them. However as they reflected now on their growing up years, they saw the truth of how they grew up. It was not that they were not poor, but rather it was because of a mother and a father who worked very hard to give them the best life that they could have. When describing their mother, the words such as compassionate, giving, supportive, disciplined, were the common themes present in their stories.

The children told me time and time again that their mother would always talk about them, and have things done in their birth order: Billy, Mike, Bob, Anne, and Rita. And so, as a way or respecting this order I too will tell their story in this way.

Bill mentioned a story about one Christmas morning that he remembered waking up at 1:00 AM. As he got up out of bed, he heard something going on downstairs. So he came down the steps from his room and there was his mother placing oranges and a few other trinkets in the stockings that were hung. He said to her, Momma what are you doing? Stalling for a little time to think, she immediately asked him, “What are you doing out of bed?!” Bill said that he thought he had heard some jingle bells and thought Santa was here. And thinking quick on her feet Anna responds, “Well he was here, but he knew that there were children awake in the house and so he told me to put these things in the stockings and he had to run!” That next morning when Bill woke up on Christmas morning, he remembered getting exactly what it was that he had asked for.

Mike’s memory of his mother was a more recent memory. The story was simple, but very too the point. Over the last year or so the children took turns taking care of their mother. And as he spoke about his time with her every Thursday and Friday he would always remember the joy that he had in reversing the care that she had given to him all these years. He said it was such a small act of kindness to make, compared to all the blessings and times that she had taken care of him.

When speaking with Bob about his mother, he immediately connected the sacrifices that his mother made in order for him to receive his college education. He knew that she was working over time by typing papers for W & L students so that she could support him while he was in college. He remembered that not only was she there supporting Bob financially so that he could have a better life, but also that she would send care packages to him while he was away in school. Care packages of letters, cookies, and his favorite and it sounded like his whole dormitories favorite was when she would send him a care package of chicken.

Anne mentioned a story about another Christmas. She told me that one Christmas there was a ring that she so desired. Her mother told her time and time again prior to Christmas that it was just too expensive and that they could not afford such a ring. On Christmas morning, to Anne’s surprise their laid a shoebox with her name on it. As she opened the shoe box there laid a pair of her mothers old shoes. However, there was something different about the shoes. There was a box on the toe of one of the shoes and sure enough was this ring, too expensive for her mother to buy, but given in love.

Rita, the youngest of the five tells me another story of her mothers self giving. Years ago, when Rita’s mother in law passed away, she tells me this story about her mother coming all the way up to Philadelphia where she lives to help her around the house during that time. Rita fondly remembers Anna coming up and cooking that entire week, and even had time to clean. Now it wasn’t just a quick clean or just straightening up around the house, but it was the type of cleaning that Anna would clean her house when they were kids. She was down on the floor, on her hands and knees and would scrub the floor. After finishing an area she took her hand and swiped the ground to see if there was any dirt left.

Now over this past week, it was not just her children that have been grieving the loss of Anna. For some it was their Momma “Dink” and others it was their Na-Noh. And for even others is was a sister in Christ through her church. However it was that you knew Anna, in some way or form Anna has made an impact on each of your lives. Either by the way she cared for you or by sharing some part of her self with you. However, in some form or fashion, Anna has made you a different person as a result of her life.

Throughout all the stories I have heard, from family, from friends, the key theme that ran through it all was that if your were in need, Anna was there. It had been made mentioned that if any one of her kids had brought over guests, it didn’t matter how many it was, they were welcomed and she was ready to bring them in. And today, we that knew Anna hit a very hard reality, Anna’s physical presence is no longer here on this earth. This for many is the hardest adjustment in life, to lose someone that has meant so much to you. But the faith and the truth, and the hope that we as believers hold onto is that Anna has not died, but rather has been resurrected in Christ’s victory over death. In her Baptism she was clothed in Christ, and it is through the passing away of this life that she has been resurrected and remains alive in God’s Glory. The love and compassion that those who knew Anna saw, was truly the love, the compassion, the forgiving, the discipline that our Heavenly Father shares too with us. Anna knew what it meant to give the good gifts to her children and to all those around her, And now we must have faith, that if Anna, who was human, who had sin could give such good gifts, that our heavenly Father will give us the gift of his Spirit, his Spirit that is named the great Comforter, the Advocate, The Spirit of Wisdom and Understanding, the Eternal spirit of Life. Although Anna is no longer physically with us, the Spirit of Christ that resided with her, still remains, always there, always present in the Grace of God.

May we keep the memories of Anna B. Claytor alive in our hearts and the Spirit of Christ in the forefront of our lives.

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