Remembering her birthday: Joann Beard, RIP

February 9 is my mom’s birthday. It’s kinda been a rough morning. Still mourning, I guess. My family misses her.

My mom’s death certificate states August 30, 2023. It’s wrong. I was there. Actually, death came seven minutes before midnight, August 29. The nurse sent from the mortuary to fill out the paperwork showed up at my parents’ home several hours after Mom “shed her mortal coil,” as the poets would put it. August 30 was fine for filling out the form. It was just seven minutes off. In the provocative scheme of eternity, the paperwork was no big deal.

Eighty years. That’s what my mom, Joann Beard, was given to soak up the joy and anguish of life. She fought for every moment. My family was grateful. We miss her.

First thing this morning, I listened to a song from Blind Gary Davis (1896-1972), a minister and blues artist. “Well now death don’t have no mercy in this land/ He’ll come to your house and he won’t stay long/ Look ’round the room one of your family will be gone/ Death don’t have no mercy in this land.”

Death may, indeed, not have mercy – but joy and comfort are found in friends and family in the shadow of death. In my faith tradition, death does not have the final word.

My mom lived a vibrant 80 years and tenaciously battled cancer for the last 20 years. My parents were married for 60 years. We remember her love of life, her spiritual vibrancy, and her extraordinary gift of hospitality. At her passing, our family received messages of love sent from friends and loved ones from near and far. We are thankful to have been in her presence during the final hours on her path to eternity. She was treasured in life and will live on in our memories and in the great everlasting.

At her funerals (one in California, one in Pennsylvania), I read from John the Revelator and the Book of Revelation. There is an elegant passage that proclaims: “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

The part about wiping every tear from their eyes was a bit tricky to read while I was weeping from behind a pulpit in a sanctuary.

During the funeral in California, we had a choir of Tongan friends sing during her service. It was decades ago when our family was introduced to the Kingdom of Tonga – an island nation 5,400 miles from the West Coast. Our church in California was home to a Tongan congregation when I grew up there. We were so grateful for their presence at the funeral and their unforgettable melodic offering in a foreign tongue.

When our family visited Maui, our home church was Honolua United Methodist Church – 8 miles north of Lahaina. It is primarily a Tongan congregation and we consider it knit to our hearts. My parents celebrated the renewal of their vows at this church during their 50th wedding anniversary.

Mom and Dad travelled all around the globe – but no place brought Mom peace like Hawaii. It fed her soul.

Several years ago, the band U2 released “All That You Can’t Leave Behind.” The very title was an interesting concept about the spiritual life. After all, you can leave behind your shiny Cadillac, vacation condo, and your pile of cash. And, you will. Your soul, however, is different.

On the song “Walk On,” Bono sings, “You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been / A place that has to be believed, to be seen.”

We are invited to change our vantage point to perceive this alternative reality. To map the heavens, we turn to the telescope. To diagnose what is happening inside the human body, we depend upon the X-ray machine. To surmise what is coursing through your veins, we utilize a microscope. To visualize the unseen Kingdom of Heaven, we are invited to embrace a vision of faith.

My mom had a vision of faith. Not everyone does – but my mom did.

At her funeral, I closed with a few passages from the Book of Common Prayer.

“Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world; In the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you; In the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you; In the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you. May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.”

Although it was compiled in the 16th century, I find this historic text brimming with eloquence and beauty.

“Into your hands, O merciful Savior, we commend your servant Joann. Acknowledge, we humbly beseech you, a sheep of your own fold, a lamb of your own flock, a sinner of your own redeeming. Receive her into the arms of your mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace, and into the glorious company of the saints in light.”

In loving and eternal memory of Joann Beard. On behalf of my Dad and Sister, may her life be remembered with joy.


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