February 17, 1912 - September 4, 2010
A Service of Celebration of her Life and Faith
Saturday, September 11, 2010
By Dennis S. Hankins
In the gospel passage today, Jesus speaks of preparing a place for us. Grandma told me a few years ago she wanted this passage read at her funeral.
St. John 14:1-7
There’s No Place Like Home
It’s a familiar phrase; one that will help us to reflect on Grandma’s life, her love for us, and her faith.
No one can live 98 1/2 years and not create in the lives she has touched, a host of stories and memories that all of us cherish this day. These memories were created by Grandma and Grandpa, memories of how their lives and their love touched our lives. To us they opened their hearts and their home. For us they prayed, and I believe they will continue to pray for us. Prayer warriors don’t die, for they serve a living God; they know him who is the Resurrection and the Life.
So today is a day of celebration; a celebration of a life lived in simplicity and joy. Simplicity: because Mary and Dale McCollum did not need nor want the latest gadget or technology to make them happy. They were happy because they had each other, and Imogene and Carroll and their three talented and beautiful grandkids. In fact, Dale spent a lot of his time repairing the old tractor, because, well because it cost too much to buy a new one. The old one kept on pulling the plow and the planter just fine. Joy: because they both shared in a mutual faith and trust in Jesus Christ, remaining faithful and committed members of the Pentecostal Assembly Church of Mt. Carmel, Illinois, until old age overtook them.
Upon retiring from the farm, Grandma and Grandpa moved into town and took residence in a mobile home near their daughter, Imogene, and son-in-law, Carroll, and precious grandchildren. But life threw them a curve, and they lost their dear daughter after her long and hard battle with cancer. Grandpa lived out his days there, as Grandma tenderly cared for him.
As age continued to take over, and Grandma’s needs increased, Carroll and Agnes provided her much needed support. It is a grateful family that says thank you to them for all the ways they gave of themselves to assist Grandma in her waning years. And to the staff of Way Fair, we also say thank you for the daily care and attention they gave Grandma.
It was a particular honor to have Grandma live with us for about 3 1/2 years. Living with us, Grandma loved to help by peeling potatoes and folding clothes. Our three older kids taught her how to roll the papers for their paper route, and she looked forward to doing that everyday. She got to know Debbie’s piano students who came through our front door, and enjoyed visiting with them when she got a chance. Our home became her home.
There’s no place like home; this phrase certainly describes the kind of relationship many of us remember with Grandma and Grandpa McCollum. You see, they lived on a farm. Their family business consisted of planting corn and beans, raising cattle, and chickens. In time some of those chickens became Sunday dinner! How did those chickens make it to the dinner table? Dressing the chickens, I think is what they call it. I’m sort of a city boy, so I’ll leave my wife Debbie, and Dennis and Donna to their memories about this.
Grandma liked telling us about the good old times. For example, when Grandma and Grandpa got married, they had $25 between them; Grandma had $20 saved up and Grandpa had $5.00. Grandma’s engagement ring cost $10 and her wedding ring cost $5. Married in 1932, their first car was a one seater, 1927 Chevrolet Coupe. And their first corn crop brought 19 cents a bushel. And they were married for 56 years!
And as farmer and farmer’s wife, they prayed for it to rain upon the newly planted crops. And then they prayed again for the rains to stop so they could harvest the crops they had planted. One of my favorite stories is how Grandma could hear above the roar of the tractor, Grandpa singing to his heart’s content while plowing and planting the fields.
A lot of memories were created visiting Grandma and Grandpa at the farm. Swinging on the old red porch swing, the grand kids sat with Grandma and Grandpa and made pictures out of the lazy summer afternoon Illinois clouds. There were Sunday afternoon singings, celebrations of birthdays and anniversaries, and Grandma and Grandpa were there. Wherever the Gospel Melodies sang, they were there. And if you wanted to have a little reprieve from it all, well, you would go out and visit them at the farm.
There’s no place like home.
When I first met the Hoffee’s it was through Grandpa and Grandma McCollum. Being around the Hoffees and the McCollums was like being at home. My first date with Debbie happened at one of those Sunday afternoon singings I mentioned earlier. And everybody was there, including, you guessed it, Grandma and Grandpa.
I ate my last supper as a bachelor at, now your ahead of me, your right, at the farm. Grandma fixed a good ole country supper, and we visited in the living room. There was no TV, no computer, no email to check. Now, I can’t go a day without checking my email, while I keep getting invitations to join Facebook. I’m on Twitter, but I’m not sure how to Tweet. But Grandma and Grandpa ended their day like they began it for 56 years; they read the scriptures and prayed. And even when Grandma couldn’t remember how old she was, she could still quote the scriptures that lay hidden deep in the memory of her heart.
So you see, for me on the eve of being married to Debbie, being at Grandma and Grandpa’s house couldn’t have been more like home. I saw in them the same love for the Lord, they held to the same values and convictions that I grew up with. Grandma’s cooking was like being at home.
In every sense of the word, we can describe Grandma as a homemaker. She was always making something new; a dress, a new sport coat for Grandpa, or clothes for the grandkids. Quilting, embroidering, stitching and sewing, canning and preserving; all are the fruit of her gracious and talented hands; hands guided by a heart of love for her family. We all remember her dinners at the farm and the cakes, cookies and cobblers that followed. Any desert, whether square or round, Grandpa liked them all, and we did too.
Her devotion to the Lord included her love of teaching the small children for many years at the Pentecostal Assembly Church in Mt. Carmel, IL. And she and Grandpa had a heart for the orphans and the hungry kids of the world. They also enjoyed rich and enduring friendships at their church. By God’s grace and help, those many friendships will be renewed in a far better place.
As we honor Grandma today and hallow her memory in our hearts, lets think a little bit more about another home. For sure, our homes here, made by the families we grow up with, creates memories, important memories we pass down to our children. These memories are indeed the foundation of the memories we keep on making. But there’s another home I’m thinking about; the home Grandma talked about. She talked about it because all of her life she spoke of Jesus as her personal friend. In him she placed her faith, and in his name she prayed, taking everything to God in prayer. She believed God would do more than she could ever ask him.
The Sainted Apostle Paul speaks of being baptized into Christ, which speaks of a deep and personal relationship with Jesus. This immersion into Christ’s life I am speaking of is Grandma’s testimony; a testimony that inspires us to be sure that Jesus is our friend, too. This close and abiding presence of Christ in her life helped her to believe there’s a place Jesus calls, “My Father’s house.” This is why she could speak of heaven as going home.
I want to believe it may be like the birthdays, Sunday dinners, and anniversaries we remember having out at the farm. This reunion however, is more than earthly words can describe, and words to describe what form it takes may escape us now. But I can’t help but believe, that somewhere near the green pastures and the still waters, Grandpa and Grandma and Imogene will find each other.
You see we are pilgrims. Here we have no abiding city. The farm now belongs to someone else, but the memories are ours forever. What we have here is not forever. And people who think and talk like this speak of a particular kind of hope; a desire for a homeland, a better country, that is a heavenly one.
Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. A home.
Among all the angels and saints and the whole company of the redeemed, Grandma McCollum will find her new home. And in that place, there is no need of sun or moon to shine upon it, for Jesus, who was Grandma’s light in this life, will be forever her light there.
We do not grieve as others do who have no hope; For we believe him who said, “I go to prepare a place for you.”
Truly, there is no place like home!