Friday, September 02, 2005

Michael's Funeral


A week ago, Evan's close friend (and the friend of Matthew and Sophie as well) died unexpectedly. Michael suffered from a form of muscular dystrophy. Not quite two weeks ago, he had surgery to straighten out his feet. Three days later he passed away, probably due to a blood clot in his leg which broke loose and travelled to his lung. I wrote two entries remembering Michael in my former blog.


Earlier this week, Michael's dad, Eric, called me and asked me to represent our congregation at the funeral, by compiling and reading stories/memories/thoughts about Michael which were significant to his church family. Michael's funeral was this morning, and this is what I read:


Michael was an important member of the Westminster Reformed Presbyterian Congregation. We had the privilege of watching him grow up in our church family. Our last enemy, which is Death, dealt an unexpected blow in separating us from this child of our congregation. This is a time of mourning for us, but also a valuable time of reflecting on the love God has poured out upon us through His precious promises of the resurrection and eternal life in Jesus Christ. It is a time of remembering how God has blessed us through the gift of knowing Michael.

Michael was still a young boy when God chose to bring him home. The children of the congregation counted him as a friend. He enjoyed the company of even the youngest. The A_____ family remembers one year old Makara getting up on Michael's lap and warming up to him quickly which he seemed to enjoy as well.

We will always treasure the memory of Michael whizzing around the church property in his wheelchair with an entourage of boys. Many of the boys even call Michael their "best friend." They would search together for interesting rock specimens and sometimes they would pretend that a cement platform was their workbench. They'd smash open the rocks to examine the insides and smash leaves to make "paint". The boys also liked to play army together, and Michael drove the tank, of course! A year or two ago, the boys liked to pretend that they were hunting aliens and monsters. Michael enjoyed the colorful life of the imagination which is unique to childhood.

The highlights of the boys' playtime centered around their forts. For the past two years, the boys have constructed different structures behind the church parking lot with varying degrees of success. The boys had as much fun working as they did playing in what they built. Michael became the project director, telling the others where to put the boards. The boys also elected him fort president. A fort was never completely finished on the church property while Michael was alive.

Two weeks ago, however, Michael attended the Horn Creek conference and without debate, his favorite activity was the building of a fort behind the Mini-Lodge. Evan, Michael and Matthew found a circle of scrub oak with open areas inside. Eric and Shannon helped the boys turn it into a large fort with walls and a roof. They tied ropes to the front board to create a door and hung a horseshoe over the entrance. Eric also fixed a board across the crooks of two oaks, making a small bench. They found a stump to use as a table. They even made some ink out of soot and water and wrote "The Fort" over the entrance. The most wonderful aspect of this fort was that Michael could drive his wheelchair inside. What a blessing that he was able to enjoy the fulfillment of his plans!

Last Sunday after the church service, the boys of the congregation assembled yet another version of the every-changing fort project. On their own accord, they created the beginning of a memorial to Michael by hanging some pictures inside. May they ever treasure his memory.

Michael's family has been an example to us over the years of patient love as they cared for his needs. The family, and Michael himself, never displayed anger at his handicapped condition. Instead they had an attitude of humble reliance on their Heavenly Father whom they knew loved Michael more than they even could. Joanne wrote the following about the family: "One of my first memories of Eric and Shannon was at one of our church camp outs. Michael was probably two and running around keeping them busy. They were taking him to the doctor in the next week or so to see if he had MD. They seemed to know he had it, but they were so calm and matter of fact about it. That was my impression throughout Michael's life. His parents were thankful
for their son, they loved him as he was, and they trained him in the ways of the Lord in the hopes that he would be with Him one day. I admire their courage and strength."

We will also always remember the time and effort that Eric and Shannon put into extremely creative costumes for their children for the Reformation Day Parties. Remember Michael as the world? as the Star of Bethlehem? as a mad scientist? as the owner of a hamburger stand, complete with the stand? Eric and Shannon made sure Michael had fun like everyone else.

Michelle has always been close to Michael and a loving older sister. Robert recently recalled a time when Michael was still walking, but would soon have to be in a wheelchair. The kids of the congregation were called up front for a Christian Education presentation, but though Michael tried to step up onto the platform, he could not do it. Michelle quickly came alongside him and helped him up that step. This is just one example of her love in action.

Cheryl taught Michael for the past two years in his Christian Education class. She remembers that during the first year of class, Michael was easily distracted and sometimes had a difficult time paying attention as is the case with many boys, but last year she noticed a new maturity in him. He showed an increased interest in God and His Word and participated more in discussion with good and thoughtful comments. Josh, his classmate and friend noted that Michael knew a lot about God's Word, undoubtedly in great part from the faithful teaching of his parents.

Other people noticed an increasing maturity in Michael, especially in recent months. Bill, Michael's grandfather, shared with me that Michael did not usually sing in the church service due to his shyness. Lately, however, Bill was very pleased to hear Michael quietly singing Psalms with the congregation. Eric also shared with me that Michael always slept with the light on...until he came home from Horn Creek On his first night home, Michael told his dad to turn the light all the way off, because he was no longer afraid of the dark. Finally, Shannon, with her mother's heart, told me that she rejoices in the knowledge that the youngest member of their family is now the most mature and complete, filled with the knowledge of God in heaven!

We may miss the whirring sound of Michael's wheelchair navigating around our church building, but we would never wish him back in it. When Conner heard that Michael had passed away, he prayed, thanking God that Michael is now dancing in heaven instead of riding in an ambulance. T.J. drew a picture of Michael, imagining him playing soccer in heaven. We all miss him, but we look forward to the day when we will be worshiping Our Lord alongside Michael in the New Heavens and the New Earth.

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I would like to thank those of you who prayed for me concerning the writing down of these memories and also the reading. I sensed God's guidance in the composition and also His peace as I read. I cry easily about small things since becoming a mother, but even more so about something of the magnitude of the death of a twelve year old boy. This morning, however, God helped me to keep my tears in check for the most part so that I was able to read clearly. Thanks again for your prayers.


Michael's aunt made a nice program for the funeral service. She scanned in some of Michael's drawings to decorate the front cover:




On the back cover, Eric and Shannon wrote the following:


As we look back, we don't remember Michael ever having one favorite Psalm, because he loved to hear all of the Psalms. When all of our children were little, Dad would sit in the living room singing the Psalms as the kids lay in their beds adjacent to the living room. As time passed and the kids got older, Dad stopped singing to the kids in this manner. The night before Michael passed on; he was still in much pain from the surgery on his legs. After getting settled into bed, Dad once more sat out in the living room and sang the Psalms to him. Dad's desire was to comfort Michael and ease him off to sleep. Michael had told his sister, Michelle, that he liked it when Dad sang the Psalms. We chose to sing the Psalms at Michael's service because we wanted to share with everyone the Psalms that were a special part of Michael's life especially when we gather together each Sunday morning. Each psalm has a special meaning. (Click on the Psalm title if you'd like to see the Scripture.)


Psalm 116A was chosen because it gives us a picture of one who has been overcome by death on every side and yet is freed from the bonds of death and now walks with God. Just as God saved his only begotten son from the grave, He now saves us who call on Him. We believe this to be true of Michael, and now he lives and walks with God.


Psalm 104 recognizes that it was the Lord who created the earth and all that is in it and it was He who placed it in order. We chose this Psalm, because Michael was always very curious about all of creation. From the creepy crawling bugs and spiders to the majestic heavens, Michael would always ask questions and then try to answer his own questions followed with the words, "Huh Mom?" or "Huh Dad?"


Psalm 45A is a victory song. It pictures Christ as King going forth in victory over all who fight against the King. We picture, that as Christ had victory over death and rode forth, we see Michael, in Christ, having victory over death and he too riding forth, not to be king, but to live with the King of Glory.


Psalm 146A is a Psalm that gives praise to God and shares the hope and blessings of those who choose Jacob's God to be their aid. Michael chose Jacob's God to be His God, through Jesus Christ, and our hope is that as we share Michael's life with you, that you too will be moved by God to put your hope and trust in the the Lord Jesus Christ. May God bless all of you and keep you. Amen.

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It was a blessing to sing those Psalms, so full of meaning.


I don't have the text of Pastor Bob's sermon, but it was a hopeful gospel message challenging us to trust in Jesus for our salvation and for the hope of the resurrection. He quoted again from Psalm 45: 5 "Thine arrows sharpened are, Men under Thee to bring, To pierce the heart of enemies Who fight against the King." (from the Psalm book) He pointed out that we all were/are enemies of Christ the King, fighting against Him, and denying His Lordship in our lives. Christ came to earth with arrows, not poison arrows as it were, but life-giving arrows to pierce our hearts with the knowledge of His gospel, the message of salvation from sin and death.


I praise God that His Name was glorified in Michael's life as well as in his death and I wanted to share this with you.

1 comment:

Melkhi said...

Copied from Homeschoolblogger:

Sep. 3, 2005 - Thank you, Melissa

Posted by Nellie (24.3.15.190)

I never had the privilege of meeting Michael, but I thank you for sharing about him. I, too, cry easily since having children, and the tears were running down my face as I read about his funeral. Praise the Lord for faithful parents, for the simple but clear faith of a beloved child, and for the commitment and love of a congregation!
Thank you for sharing, Melissa.
Nellie McMahan


Sep. 4, 2005 - Wow

Posted by BeckyH (4.225.192.31)

Melissa, thanks for sharing your heart and being willing to speak for the family. You said a lot of great things, and honored God throughout.