Beverly Jean Fairman
May 24, 2014
St. John Lutheran Church, Fraser, MI
Starting something new can be a nerve-wracking experience. I know it was for me. I graduated seminary in 2008 and spent my first 5 years as a pastor teaching Old Testament and New Testament classes in a Lutheran High School. About a year ago, I began my time serving here at St. John as the associate pastor. It was an overwhelming experience. There were a lot of new names to learn, a new schedule to adjust to, and new expectations to deal with. I remember my first round of shut in visits. It was a bit intimidating visiting so many people in their homes, people whom I had never met before. Many of those visits have become second nature to me now, but I won’t soon forget my first visit with Bev. I’m not especially talkative by nature, especially in unfamiliar settings. For most of my first visits, I would introduce myself, share in some small talk, celebrate our Lord’s Supper, and then I would leave. Most of these visits lasted little more than 30 minutes, but my first visit with Bev was completely different. I was there well over an hour before I realized how much time had passed. We got lost talking about theatre and her favorite memories and experiences at plays. She shared her memories of the good old days when people knew each other in the neighborhood, when your neighbors would come over and sit on your porch for a visit in the evening while the kids played outside. Maybe that’s why it didn’t really surprise me to hear from her kids this week that mom could remember the name of every family on her old street in Harper Woods, the very people she would gather with on those summer nights.
I also heard how she was an avid reader who consumed a new book each week; how she loved her garden, her dogs, and her Dancing With the Stars; how she enjoyed watching Judge Judy so much that she went by the name Judge Bev when it was her turn to give advice or oversee a dispute. I had so many wonderful memories shared with me that I have no doubt she was a woman who was deeply loved by her family, and one who loved her family deeply. But the one story that jumps out at me most is the story of her and Wayne’s 50th Wedding Anniversary. The two were married December 27, 1941, less than 3 weeks after the attack on Pearl Harbor. They did not have a wedding reception, just a small simple ceremony before Wayne shipped out. There was a war on, and they wanted to do their part. When he returned, they began their family together, and buying a house and raising kids took precedence over a party celebrating their union as man and wife. Time went on, as it does for all of us, to the point that as their 50th Wedding Anniversary grew closer, word got out that they had never really even celebrated their wedding the first time. Their 50th Anniversary morphed into a wedding reception of sorts, half a century in the making. She had waited for that party. She was a good and faithful wife for 50 years. She was a good and faithful mother. She was a good and faithful neighbor. But she had to wait for that party, a wait that finally ended. She got her party.
Well, another wait ended for her last Sunday afternoon. Last Sunday afternoon marked the end of the period of waiting that began for her when she was baptized in 1947, for in 1947 she became God’s child and was promised a seat at the Heavenly Banquet, a banquet that the prophet Isaiah tells us is filled with rich meat full of marrow, and of aged wine well refined. She was no stranger to waiting for a celebration, she waited for one for more than half of her 91 years of life. Today we are here because her wait is finally over. Today we are here because she has arrived at the heavenly banquet. Today we are here because she finally got her party.
Now, please don’t hear me saying that her time on this earth was a burden in her waiting. I’m confident that her wait, like the wait for many, was no doubt filled with wonderful memories, with family vacations and kids’ graduations. But it was waiting, nonetheless. And as much as it was filled with wonderful memories, it was also filled with heartbreak, with burying her dear husband 5 years ago, with grieving the loss of so many friends, with struggling to make it through the many tough times this life has to offer. Her struggle is over now. Her wait is over now. Now, she is with her Lord. Now, she has arrived at the feast.
It is a feast for which she had been preparing for many years. Each time she came to the altar of our Lord, or when we pastors would bring the Lord’s Supper to her home, she was being given a foretaste of the feast to come, sort of sampling the menu of paradise. She was being given a glimpse of the heavenly reality as heaven was brought to her through the body and blood of Christ himself. Through that blessed sacrament Christ lived in her, the same Jesus Christ who is living though he was dead. He shared his life with her, and now we rejoice that she is alive in him. Though her body may for a time be laid to rest here on earth, her soul lives on in Christ. What comfort is to be found in that knowledge. What joy there is in the resurrection.
Today those who love her probably feel a glaring absence. It is an absence that will be felt next Thanksgiving when someone else has to make the pies. It is an absence that will be felt when next season’s Dancing With the Stars lineup is announced and you wonder what mom would have thought. You wonder what grandma would have said. It is an absence that is the inescapable result of sin’s grasp on this creation. Sin has corrupted this world, corrupted what our Lord filled with life. Our Lord created this world to be filled with birds and fish and livestock and plants and all the creepy-crawly things that creep and crawl on the face of the earth, and when our Lord was done with it, there was life everywhere you looked. Sin corrupted that. Sin brought in death. But our Lord would not be bested by sin, no our Lord is a God of life – so much so that he came into this dying creation and lived. He came into the dying creation and brought life. He brought Lazarus to life though he was dead. He raised the small girl to life though she was dead. He himself lived even after the world killed him, for he is a God of life! He still lives, and because he lives, we know that we will live again one day too. We know that Bev will live again. Or do you not know that all who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death. If we have been united to him in a death like his, we will certainly be united to him in his resurrection. We will certainly be brought with him into paradise, for that is the reason he came. That is the will of the Father, that all would look to Jesus and believe in him, and that they would be raised up to life on the last day. Take comfort in knowing that Beverley Jean Fairman, baptized in East Detroit in 1947, looked to Jesus, believed in his salvation, and she will be raised to life on the last day.
And what a life it will be. What community it will be. It will be right up Bev’s alley. Life in perfect communion with God and with each other – life as it was intended to be. I don’t know if your neighbors will stop by for a cup of coffee in heaven, but I do know that we will live in the peace and joy of loving relationships with the people around us, the other people who are gathered together in the new heavens and the new earth to the glory of the Father. Yes, those of us here today have some waiting left to do. We have families here who need us, jobs to work, people to love. Like Bev waited for her wedding reception, we too are waiting to be brought into the marriage feast of the Lamb in his kingdom which has no end. But as we wait, may we be strengthened in the confidence that because Jesus is risen from the dead, we shall live also. May we have the strength to meet the days ahead in the assurance of the hope and expectation we have of being reunited with Bev and all who have gone before us in the faith. Because Jesus lives, Bev has been brought to the feast. She got her party. May our Lord Jesus continue to live in us through his Word and Sacrament that we may be brought to the celebration too.