Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rest in Peace Doris Alfrieda Simpson

Doris Alfrieda Simpson was born March 13, 1919 in Detroit, MI daughter of the late William Pankratz and Alice Louise Neumann Pankratz. On November 25, 1937, she was joined in marriage to James Morrison Simpson, a marriage that lasted 63 years before he died in 2000. To this marriage were born a son, David, three daughters, Carole, Cathy, and Karen. She leaves to mourn, her family, grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren and many friends. All her siblings preceded her in death. Doris Simpson was received into God’s Kingdom through baptism, was confirmed, and was a member of Christ Lutheran Church in Detroit before moving to Clarksville where she became a member of Grace Lutheran Church in 1963. She served on the Altar Guild and was active in the congregation until illness prevented her.

One of the great things about being Pastor in one place for a long time is that the people you bury are people you know and this is one of the bad things as well. I met Doris from the beginning of my time here. The well kept shock of white hair, well put together –usually in a suit, and driving a great big car – the most vivid memory a white Cadillac that matched her hair and her style. She was forever a happy person with a smile that both welcomed you in and betrayed the years of struggle with her husband’s many health concerns and the ups and downs of a Detroit city girl who ended up in Tennessee.

If you asked Doris how she was, she was always “Peachy.”
And if you expressed to her your worries or fears, she would always respond, “Do your best and let God do the rest.” These might sound rather simplistic and shallow but nothing could be further from the case. Happiness and contentment are a choice you make – not the result of circumstances but a decision about how you will address them. Doris knew well the challenges and struggles that had touched her life and family but she chose to live in contentment and peace with her Lord always by her side and her heart focused upon His gift of joy.

Do your best and let God do the rest is not some moralism but an honest admission that you cannot control what life brings you nor can predict what the future might offer. But you can control your response to what life places at your doorstep. You do your best - whatever the circumstance - and you lay both your labors and your lack at the foot of the cross where our Lord finishes our feeble beginnings.

Cathy spoke to me of Romans 8:18 and how this passage had been comforting to a family watching as Doris was finally slipping away. “For I consider the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing to the glory waiting to be revealed to us in Jesus Christ...” During the moments of vigil by the bedside of a mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and friend, these words bring us hope and consolation. What we endure today will give way to what God has prepared for us in joy – that is most certainly true.

As I thought about this and about the ever cheerful face of Doris, my own mind went to another passage from Romans. Turn a page back and St. Paul addresses our peace with God through faith with these words...

We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts in Jesus Christ by the Holy Spirit...

Doris lived a long life. 90 years and most of them content – even happy. This was not due to the ease of her life. Just the opposite. Her joy came amid suffering. Amid other things, Jim’s accidents and wounds so many and so often created sorrow and heartache and anxiety. Yet her heart was focused on joy and she knew peace through them all.

Her suffering became a school that built up her character in faith. She was always in Church where strength and peace fed and nourished her. At the communion rail where so often I said to her, The body of Christ given for you Doris, she received the strength of sins forgiven and life born in hope. Her character was a character of faith, created by faith, and nourished by faith.

Her character, shaped by her knowledge of God’s grace in Christ Jesus, bore the fruit of endurance. When her beloved husband Jim came near the end of his life, she did her best and let God do the rest and she got through it. When memory began to fail and she had to leave her home for a new one, she did her best and let God do the rest and she got through it. We learn in Christ that enduring is its own victory, that we do not have to overcome as long as we are not overcome in faith and victory is, indeed ours.

And in the end it was hope that she has left to us and hope that has received her now, into the arms of her blessed Savior, who called her by name once in baptism and now calls her by name face to face.

Lessons of faith come to us in many ways. Sometimes they come in the form of people we know. The challenges before us will not overcome us if we give them our best and place our trust in the Lord. The sufferings that touch our lives cannot steal away a joy that is rooted and grows in Christ and not in the circumstances around us. The character that marks a noble life is not born of rank or pedigree but of a people who wrestle with life’s struggles using the resources of faith and hope. The endurance that seems so fragile is in and of itself the victory of faith that will not give in to despair and refuses to define life by its disappointments. The hope that we have as Christian people is not some pie in the sky when you die hope but the real hope of a people who daily wrestle with disappointments and darkness yet we live in the light of Christ. So that these momentary sufferings are not worth comparing to the everlasting joy and peace that God has prepared for those who love Him.

So rest Doris... in the arms of Your Savior... rest and be at peace... God is with you... God is your Savior... now and even forevermore.

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