(This is the gist of my comments this morning for my mother's memorial..(Just received the youtube address from my nephew = https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=eBuPD-bZ81A&feature=youtu.be)
Jennifer – "Surely the Presence"
Well good morning! Thank you and bless you for taking the time and making the effort to come and celebrate the life and home going of my mother. And thank you for your prayers for our family in these last days especially.
As wonderful a privilege as it has been to know the colorful and iconic Helen Nash for as long as we have all known her, it is a far greater privilege to know the living God of the universe. And one of the glorious attributes or ways of God that I have so grown to appreciate over the years is that He routinely does the unthinkable and the highly unlikely. This is revealed in many ways in the scriptures, but one that has particular relevance to my mother is that way or work of taking a poor, forsaken, weak and vulnerable person and making her a rich, much loved, fruitful and very influential person. Psa 113:7-9 says of our omnipotent God, “He raises the poor from the dust And lifts the needy from the ash heap, To make them sit with princes, With the princes of His people. He makes the barren woman abide in the house As a joyful mother of children. Praise the Lord!”
God routinely sets His loving eyes and pulsating heart on a person, way before they are formed in the womb, and determines that He will pour out His grace on them, and use them to accomplish His purposes - irregardless of their challenging circumstances. No depth of financial poverty, lack of education, lack of family stability and health, or any other weakness can deter Him from fulfilling His purpose in and through that person.
You may not know this about my mother, but she was born to a very poor single mother, and never met or laid eyes on her biological father until she happened to notice his obituary (They knew his name) and Dad drove Mom down to Berry’s Funeral home to see him for the very first time - lying in his casket.
Growing up in the depression was bad enough, but when you are born to a poor mother, without any aid whatsoever from your father or anyone in his clan, and when your mother’s parents are as poor as Mom’s mother’s parents were, well life can be quite desperate. Mom’s mother in fact was so poor when my mother was a baby, that for a period of time she could not afford to purchase milk, so she would run to work, and then run home and nurse her baby, and then run back to her job. My mother and her mother lived with her mother’s parents in a very basic home in a poor neighborhood. And my mother’s uncle and aunt lived there as well, along with another uncle.
Mom later lived for a time in Akron, Ohio where her mother had moved to find work, and her mother eventually met and married her first and only husband. Then some years later Mom moved back to Knoxville and had the opportunity to live with her Aunt Geneva and Uncle Woody. Mom experienced two firsts with them at around the age of 16. She was able to have her own bedroom, and she had her first ever Birthday party.
So how does a woman who was born and raised without a father, and whose stepfather had gambling and drinking problems, and whose grandfather was a scoundrel, and who was dirt poor - end up in her later years traveling to or through most of the states in the Union, multiple trips to various parts of Florida, multiple trips to California, and one grand trip to Hong Kong and China? How does such a woman with only a high school degree – raise three sons, and live to have an active part in the lives of all of her 7 grandchildren and all but one of her 16 great grandchildren? How does such a woman have such an enduring impact on most everyone she ever met? Well God had plans for my mother,…great plans; and when He devises a plan, He fulfills it.
But Mom had to participate – right? Yes she did. So how did that come about? Well, it certainly was not an ideal living situation when she lived on Mimosa in her grandparents’ house as a child. Her grandparents nor anyone else living in that home knew God and her grandfather was not an upstanding character by any means. But the Bible says of God that He (and I quote) “….made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, …” Acts 17:26,27; and it just so happened that down the street and partially down an adjoining street was a church called South Knoxville Baptist Church; and at some point in either Mom’s late elementary or early high school years - - she began to attend this church, that Danny, Billy and I and a number of you here grew up in. And at some point she responded to the good news about Jesus Christ as it was preached in that church; and Mom began a relationship with this God who had chosen her before the foundations of the world to be His daughter - in that church.
Some social scientists such as David Blankenhorn, who wrote the classic, “Fatherless America” believe fatherlessness is the greatest defining factor of the unraveling of our society. And in many ways I would agree with him. But our God as Psalm 68:5 says is a “Father of the fatherless.” And He over the years became my mother’s Father. It was He who made my mother able to function in such a dysfunctional sin stained extended family that she grew up with whether here or in Akron, Ohio. And the fact that this God who had enjoyed the bliss of unbroken perfect fellowship with His Son and the Holy Spirit for all of eternity - - being self sufficient in every way and needing nothing from anyone or anything - - my mother never got over the fact that this eternal, holy and perfect God chose to do the only thing that could be done to provide a sure fire way for my mother to be right with Him - - and to be cleansed by Him and to be granted the right to spend eternity with Him - - He sent His Son as the ultimate sacrificial lamb to satisfy the justice and the wrath of God towards sinners. My mother never got over that kind of sacrificial love. And as many of you know, she spoke of it often to those who would listen, sometimes to those who had no choice but to listen such as with doctors and nurses in the emergency room, where she visited often in the last nine months of her life.
Mom, like all of us I suppose, saw some things in the kingdom of God more clearly than others. One thing she saw clearly was that every person on the planet was created by God, made in His image, Jesus died for them and thus they had, …you have… tremendous value. Jesus put it this way to His disciples once, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they?” Much more! So much more!
Well thanks to Mom,….. my brothers and I have been together a lot this year, mostly sitting together in doctor’s offices, or her room in the rehab center, or at her assisted living apartment, or in vehicles going to and fro or grabbing meals together. And we have reminisced often about how this woman who had to put up with Dad, and cook and clean up after us, and talk to our school principals, and fulfill her duties at the TVA; … and who could list all of the responsibilities a hands on mother and wife has?? - - this woman always, always had time for our relatives (close and distant ones) and our friends and neighbors. Our home had an open door policy, and Mom welcomed everyone into our home or into our yard or basketball court, and made them feel special. In later years they would entertain and love on many at their cabin on Cherokee lake.
Every nurse, aide and staff person at Trinity Hills Assisted Living was significantly touched by this caring woman and wanted us to know it. I was walking the hallway one evening last week, and an African American lady first asked me if she could help me with anything, and then when she figured out I was the left coast son of Helen Nash, she said, “…you know I told your mother about my upcoming trip to Africa, and she asked me to make sure and show her pictures of my trip when I return…and it looks like I’m not going to be able to do that now”. Whether it be one’s skin color, or the long hair and droopy pants and tie dyed shirts of the hippy years, or one’s sexual orientation, or whatever it was about someone that a lesser person would stumble over – my mother knew God loved them, and who was she not to do the same?!
You won’t believe this, but my mother liked to laugh. And she got great joy out of helping others laugh and at least temporarily forget about all the things in their lives that might make them want to cry. One of her favorite Bible verses, and one that she reminded me of ever so often when she felt I was getting too serious about sin and holiness or whatever was Proverbs 17:22 “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.” If you have never been on a long car ride with my mother….That woman could change the atmosphere like none other with her endless jokes, stories, rhymes, etc. Perhaps one of the reasons my Dad lived so long was because Mom kept him laughing…
Well one of the reasons my mother got to visit so many different places in the Southeastern part of the country is because she and Dad would ever so often be invited to go on trips in Don and Betty Mirts’ massive R.V. along with the Owenby’s and sometimes their son Les Mirts. (Lynn Mirts says the reason he didn’t get to go was because someone had to stay behind and work!). Well Les told me that as they were returning from one of their trips they discovered a major snowstorm had hit Knoxville, and ten inches of snow was on the ground. Somehow Don got their motorhome back to their house, but there was no power and no one could get their car out of the neighborhood. So they all just had to live together for 3 more days in a freezing house with very little food. Les went on to say, “You can only imagine your mom in that setting. It was like having full time entertainment. We had a blast!”
I think I will end with this. My mother in her latter decades became a woman of prayer. She gradually learned that there was a whole lot in life that only God could do, problems that only God could fix. And though she never overcame her tendency to worry, were it not for one of her favorite verses, it would have been much worse. Philippians 4:6,7 reads, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” My cousin Melissa shared this in a reminiscing email re: Mom’s prayer life: “ I have been pondering as of late my thoughts/memories of your precious mother. I wanted to share them with you to give her honor and to let you know how thankful I am to be her niece. She was a prayer warrior. She prayed for our family daily through the years! Oh how I’m going to miss her daily prayers! She has challenged me to be a faithful prayer warrior for our family.”
My mother lived a full life and almost reached her 96th birthday for one primary reason: The living God of the Bible invaded her life and saved her and kept her and forgave her and loved her, and at the perfect time received her into His loving arms.
Do you know Him? Have you asked His Son Jesus – the Lamb of God and the Savior of the world to save you from your sins and bring you into a forever relationship with the living God? Mom wanted to make sure at her funeral we gave you a chance to do so. If you are not absolutely confident that He is yours and you are His, I’m going to pray a prayer and you can make it your own by just praying along with me. “Father, I believe you love me and sent Your Son Jesus to die so that I might live. Thank you for allowing sinful evil men to nail Him to a criminal’s cross so my crimes and sins could be forgiven. Please receive me into your forever family. Forgive my sins and cleanse me from all unrighteousness by His precious blood. I ask it in His name. Amen.”
Prayer for those in the room/memorial service
Now Father, we ask you to comfort us. We rejoice that you have delivered Mom from this world that we have corrupted by our sins, and from her frail body that was so weary and spent. But we are still here, and now without her. Please comfort us in our grief. Show us how to mourn when that is necessary. Continue to reveal Yourself to us. Revive us. Help us to end our race well. We ask it In Jesus’s name. Amen.
Jennifer share and sing “God be with you till we meet again”