Sunday afternoon I was asked to speak at the funeral of my old neighbor, Joy Harwell. They lived next door to us for 13 years in Clemson. We loved her and the whole family. And this is my tribute to a very great lady and her family.)
We come today to honor and remember the special life of Joy Summers Harwell. Our history with the Harwell’s goes back 41 years. They were our neighbors and moved into the house next to ours in 1975. Neighbors. Maybe we were nosy neighbors. Maybe they were too. We were close. We know all about them and their family—and they knew all about the Lovette’s. We watched Karil and Kristi grow up. We met Kurt when he came home from college and we would see him on holidays and during the summers.
They had moved from Oklahoma and somehow they never really got all the Southwest out of their shoes. Lynn worked for the University—Joy was the Mama and joined the Foothills Real Estate Company and sold houses from 1976 to 1997. She must have been very good because she was the President of the Tri County Board of Realtors. She and her family were members of the First Baptist Church. Years before a guy named Lynn walked into her office in Amarillo and neither one of them knew that would be the beginning of a marriage that lasted 61 years.
So many things were important to her. Good cook, fine Mama, faithful wife—good neighbor, good friend. Kept an immaculate house even though she worked full time and tried to keep her kids in line. In her earlier years she sang in the church choir, played the piano, enjoyed gardening, and was a good friend.
Speaking of cooking one day when Lynn was farming he wanted her to make two pies. Lemon meringue and Chocolate. At lunch he ate a piece of the lemon pie and that evening when he came in he said he thought he would have a piece of that chocolate pie. Dead silence in the kitchen. Finally Joy said: “There is no more Chocolate pie—I ate the whole pie.”
Another time Lynn told Joy, “Reckon we could have some variety in this menu—instead of just potatoes and meat.” Joy got the message. That night she served green potatoes she had decorated with cake coloring. And she brought Tapioca pudding out except it was pink. I don’t know what Lynn said but it might not have been appropriate for this occasion.
How do you measure a life? Daughter…sister…wife…Mama…grandmother and so many other layers of her life. Many of you here could add your own special Joy stories. You know it is a very strange thing—but in this place of death—our minds turn to life—and not just life in general—but life in particular—Joy Harwell’s life. The Apostle Paul said it well: “Finally beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” We think about all the things of her 82 special years and we thank God for Joy’s journey and for her life.
But we would be remiss without saying a special word to those that sit on the front rows: Lynn, Karil, Kristi, son-on-law Herb and two grandchildren: Michael Lynn Tyler and Christopher Scott Tyler. And to us all who come to surround this family.
I think this story is appropriate. High on the hill was a monastery where priests prayed and worked and lived. And at the bottom of the hill farmers worked their land. And one day a farmer asked one of the Priests, “You know I’ve always wondered what you all do up there all day behind those walls in the monastery. It must be great just praising God and praying all the time. Tell me about it.” And the Priest said: “What do we do? We fall down and get up and we fall down and we get up.”
And this is the message of the Gospel—Joy knew that. Upon those hard, hard days—when she didn’t think she could do it—she got up and started all over again. And so did Lynn and Karil and Krtisti and us all. We fall down…but thank God we don’t have to stay down. We get back up and start again.
Why? Jesus told his disciples: “In this world you will have tribulation but I have overcome the world—and so can you.” Our Lord told them in that first sermon he ever preached in his hometown: “I have come to heal the broken hearted.” And when later he taught his followers on a hillside he said: “Blessed are those that mourn for they shall be comforted.” And then in an Upper Room when he knew his time was limited and his days were running out—he told them, “Let not your hearts be troubled…neither let them be afraid…” Why? He said that even though he was going away he would send the Holy Spirit to be with them. I like the way he put it: “You are not orphans…but you are children of the Heavenly Father.”
One of the best stories he ever gave was about the boy and his father. The boy left home and his Father did not know if he would ever see him again. And night after night, month after month he wondered about his boy. Where was he? Was he cold? Was he safe? Where was he? And on day, Jesus said the old Father looked at the window and could not believe what he saw. His son…whom he never thought he would see again was coming home. And when the boy got close the Father the old man stretched out his arms and took him on.
Joy Harwell fell down and got up and fell down and got up. And that was not the end of the story. When she slipped away so quietly into the mystery last Sunday morning there was someone on the other side whose arms were outstretched welcoming her saying, “Joy, Joy, Joy.”
And this is not only Joy’s story but ours as well. After we fall down laden with grief and so many other things—worries and frets—there are those strong arms that take us all back and lead us on.
At the end of his on long, hard journey Paul wrote: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship,or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
So family—you will fall down—but you will get up yet again for the love of God stretches out his arms and takes you in—and us all. Thanks be to God for a woman well-named Joy. Joy. Joy. Joy Summers Harwell. And for a Father whose arms are outstretched to us all.
--Roger Lovette / rogerlovette.blogspot.com