Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily

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Title Sermon Date Liturgical Scripture
Pentecost 10, year A August 17, 2014 Proper 15, Year A Matthew 15:10-20, 21-28
Pentecost 9, year A August 10, 2014 Proper 14, Year A Matthew 14:22-33
Pentecost 8, year A August 3, 2014 Pentecost 8, year A Matthew 14:13-21
Pentecost 6, year A July 20, 2014 Proper 11, Year A Romans 8:12-25
Pentecost 7, year A July 20, 2014 Proper 12, Year A I Kings 3:5-12, Romans 8:26-39, Matthew 13:31-33
Pentecost 5, year A July 13, 2014 Proper 10, Year A Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23, Psalm 65:9-14
Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily July 13, 2014 Burial of the Dead, Rite II Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3
Pentecost 4, year A July 6, 2014 Proper 9, Year A Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Pentecost 3, year A June 29, 2014 3rd Sunday after Pentecost, Year A Romans 6:12-23, Matthew 10:40-42
Pentecost 2, year A June 22, 2014 Second Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7, Year A Psalm 69:8-20, Romans 6:1b-11, Matthew 10:24-39
Trinity Sunday, Year A June 15, 2014 Trinity Sunday, Year A Genesis 1:1-2:4a, 2 Corinthians 13:11-13, Matthew 28:16-20
Pentecost, Year A June 8, 2014 The Day of Pentecost, Year A Acts 2:1-21, I Corinthians 12:3b-13, John 20:1-23
Easter 7, Ascension Sunday, year A June 1, 2014 Seventh Sunday of Easter Acts 1:6-14
Easter 6, year A May 25, 2014 Sixth Sunday of Easter, Year A 2014 Acts 17:22-31, John 14: 15-21
Easter 5, year A May 18, 2014 Fifth Sunday of Easter, Year A 1 Peter 2:2-10, John 14:1-14


Genevieve Davis’ Funeral Homily

Sermon Date:July 13, 2014

Scripture: Isaiah 35:1-10, I John 4:7-8,11-12, John 14:1-3

Liturgy Calendar: Burial of the Dead, Rite II

PDF version 

Along the waterfront walk in Norfolk, Virginia, lies the Armed Forces Memorial.  The memorial consists of sheets of bronze, lying on the ground, looking as if they have been blown there by the wind.  And each sheet of bronze contains a letter written by a soldier who served and died in one of the wars that our country has experienced. 

Robert A. Baum wrote his letter in 1943, during combat in World War II. When I read it, I instantly thought of Genevieve.     

“This is the one game I’m going to beat I know.  When I played baseball I never wanted to sit on the bench, always wanted to play the whole game.  And here too, I’m going out every time, and while I’m playing this game, I’m going to play hard and win.”   

This paragraph sums up Genevieve’s  approach to life  She  never sat on the bench by choice, and she always wanted to play, and we would all agree that she played the whole game, and played it well.   

Genevieve never allowed tragedy and  loss to determine her outlook on life or to take away her determination to make the best of  life. 

Genevieve’s mother died when she was only fourteen. 

She suffered through the loss of the family’s beloved Bell Town when AP Hill came to Caroline County and then she helped her family make a new life on the farm on the Rappahannock, and she loved the view of the river that ran next to this new home.   

Genevieve’s  son Jimmy  died in his twenties, and Conway died far too young.   Through it all, Genevieve never sat on the bench, but continued to live with enthusiasm, even though she had questions about these losses, especially the loss of her husband and son. 

Having been on the go and busy all her life, Genevieve found her limited mobility in the last years of her life to be another big loss, but she still managed to stay connected to the world, even when she could no longer leave her home easily. 

So if all of this loss didn’t determine Genevieve’s outlook on life, then what did?   

For one thing, she was always busy being generous.   She was busy preparing places for others, regardless of the cost to herself.  When her mother died, the responsibility of raising her  three  younger siblings fell on Genevieve.  She cooked for the family and took on the household duties that keep a family functioning.   

Even after she married, Genevieve kept taking care of her father. 

And then she prepared a place for her own children and loved them and cared for them and taught them all about the true meaning of hospitality through the example of her own life.   

And then she loved her grandchildren with her outsized love, and taught them, and then even her great grandchildren.   

Even in this last part of her life, when she was mostly homebound, Genevieve continued to prepare a place for people, welcoming family and friends with open arms.  I could never visit Genevieve without receiving a big hug and the demand that I should have something to eat or drink while I was there.   She wanted to feed everyone who came to see her.   

Genevieve knew that kind of generous love is from God, and mostly everything she did she did out of love.   

Only a few days before she died, Genevieve told Cookie and Linda and Gena  to love one another and to take care of one another.  And she asked Johnny to look after everyone—still thinking of others, and caring for them even as she lay dying.   

She lived out this verse from I John that the family chose for this funeral today. 

“Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God….because God is love.” 

Of course, Genevieve was no angel.  She could be embarrassingly direct.  All of the men here today with beards know that Genevieve did not approve and told anyone with a beard more than once to “Cut off those whiskers, man!”   

Everyone here probably has a story about Genevieve and her directness.  But even though she would tell it like it was, she still loved the recipient of her comment. 

She often said to me, “Girl, you need to put on some lipstick so you can catch a man!” But even though I already had a man  with whiskers and never took her advice about the lipstick, I knew she loved me anyway.   

Even beyond the grave, Genevieve continues to love those she loved here in her lifetime.   

The Bible tells us over and over about God’s amazing and steadfast love for each one of us, love that reaches farther than the most distant stars, love that lasts through eternity and never ends.   

And our love for one another never ceases either.   

Even though we are eventually and  inevitably separated from one another by a veil of death, this veil is thin and we continue to feel the love of the one who has died. 

In the church, we know this continuing presence of love with us as the communion of saints, those who have gone before us and are still loving us beyond the grave.   

The prophet Isaiah tells us about this love in God’s presence–weak hands made strong, and feeble knees once again becoming firm.   The lame leaping like a deer.   Fear vanishing.   

And just as God has gone before Genevieve to prepare a place for her, as she did for so many in her own lifetime, God goes before us to prepare a place for us as well. 

God led Genevieve and leads us too, on the Holy Way, and by traveling on that Holy Way now and in the life to come , we get to see the glory of God, find everlasting joy and gladness, and the sorrows and sighing of this life at last will flee away forever. 

Heaven—everlasting joy and gladness in God’s presence. 

In closing, I want to share with you one more letter from the Armed Forces Memorial, because this letter also reminded me of Genevieve—and her ability to find heaven and goodness  in the midst of tragedy and to share that everlasting joy and love with those she loved so deeply in this lifetime.   

Quincy Sharpe Mills, holed up in the trenches of France during World War I in June of 1918, wrote to his mother about the beauty of the trenches.  Flowers had come up, vines had grown along the barbed wire, and even in the midst of this chaos, birds sang.   

On a small piece of land completely surrounded by the trenches, six trees grew, two birches and four wild cherries, and at the base of one of the birches was a flourishing wild rosebush. 

Quincy crawled out of his trench, making sure to keep his body down against the ground, and made it to the birch tree.  He picked some of the roses. 

His letter to his mother closes with these lines. 

“Here are some of the roses for you, and also some daisies and yellow asters from the edge of one of my trenches.”

With these simple flowers, this soldier shared with his mother a little gift of the beauty he had seen even in the tragedy of war, a hint of the joy and gladness he had felt even in the mist of loss, a little glimmer of heaven and hope that he had found in the desperate life of a soldier in the trenches. 

Five weeks later, Quincy was killed, but his simple gift of flowers picked along the trenches  remains to inspire all who have the opportunity to read his poignant letter to his mother.   

Genevieve has left in her wake many gifts, both big and small, for all of us—hints here and now of the everlasting joy and gladness that is to come for all of us when at last we too are in God’s presence.   

And in gratitude for all we have received from her in her lifetime, let’s give her life continued meaning by staying in the game and playing hard, by preparing places for one another with generous hospitality, by sharing what we have with one another, by feeding each other, and most of all, by loving one another, because truly, love is from God, for God is love.   

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