My Sister Priya’s Funeral

11219073_10152742496397301_2075473635208849002_nThe last couple weeks have been difficult for our family. We do need your prayers. My sister Priya, of 43 years, took her life. She has always struggled, and there were many factors over the last weeks that led her to despair over her life. We are grieved, but not without hope in Jesus. During the funeral, the pastor of Redeemer Lutheran Church in Willmar, MN allowed me to address the congregation. I appreciated his allowance, and I wanted to share my message with any readers as well.

Thank you, pastor Greg, for letting me take a few minutes to share some words with the congregation here gathered on this difficult occasion.

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ.

On behalf of our family, and from my heart I would like to share a few thoughts.

First of all: Thank you. Thank you for being here to support our family, yes. But we want to say thank you for more than that. We want to say thank you for your love for and friendship toward Priya. The economy of her heart was huge. She gave so much. She was, in so many ways, an overflowing fountain of God’s love. We all were amazed and thrilled by how God blessed us through her. But the needs of her heart were great as well. She needed your love and care, and you were there for her in so many ways day in and day out over so many years. Her friends here at Redeemer, her JOPPA friends, and so many others, were the currency of her life. You meant the world to her. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Every act of kindness and love toward her is not forgotten, not by us, not by Priya, and certainly not by the Lord.

Priya, as you know, did not have an easy life. At about the age of one year, she was left by her parents on the steps of a South India hospital.  Sick with Polio, she was taken in by nurses and cared for – and eventually came to our family. But that was just the beginning of many challenges. Her burdens were many. Some burdens you know. Some we know. Many only God knows. Ultimately it is impossible for us to truly know the secret despair of her heart and how the devil so cultivated it in her mind. The terror of our sinful condition can be overwhelming for even the most faithful among us. From what we can know, it seems like her despair overwhelmed her last Monday evening and she took her life. This is so devastating. But it puts us all on our knees and we cry out “Lord, have mercy on us all.” We look to Jesus, the Good Shepherd and say as we all walk through the valley of this shadow of death: “Lead us to the green pastures and still waters… show us the goodness and mercy that follows us all the days of our lives… lead us to dwell in your house forever.”

We might find ourselves today remembering Priya’s life by the manner of her death. May it not be so! Her sin was great. But dear friends in Christ, let this remembrance of Priya’s death be drowned in her baptism and buried with Christ in his tomb. Our lives as Christians are not defined by our sins. Our lives are defined by the victory of Christ Jesus our Lord, risen from the grave and ascended. Our lives are defined by HIS love and forgiveness, not by our doubt and sin.

We all love to see the picture of the little girl walking with her father, reaching up and clinging to his one finger. Every father treasures these times – and this image is what we often imagine our relationship with our Heavenly Father to be. But in real life it is not enough – either with our earthly father or heavenly father. In the safe gardens of life a father can enjoy that little hand gripping his finger. But when there is danger, or a busy street needs to be crossed, that little girl’s grip is not enough. Her father will immediately reach down and envelop her whole hand with his firm grip and bring her to safety.

Dear friends, I was there when Priya was Baptized and stepped into eternal life. I was there when she was adopted into the Family of God and when her Heavenly Father received her. You and I are witnesses to her confession of Christ and her love for Him. We know how she clung to her Heavenly Father’s finger. But in the storm of life and in her weakness her grip slipped on the finger of her Heavenly Father. But thanks be to God our relationship is not defined by our weak faith and sins. Her Heavenly Father’s firm hand has gripped hers and HE carried her to the safety of His bosom.

This is no wish upon a star. This is the firm promise of God in Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners. Blessed be the Lord.

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you all the days of YOUR life. Thank you again for your love and care.