Eulogy: Florence’s Gifts

By Ruth Kutrakun

My mother, Florence DeShazer, was a unique woman. While I’m confident she is happy now in Heaven with Jesus, her Savior, and Jake, her beloved husband, her passing leaves us with sorrow. We will miss her beautiful spirit and her special gifts.

Florence loved us all. She loved life and fought hard in her final years to live a bit longer so she could connect with us, pray for us, and love us. Six years ago, at 90, her heart stopped and we almost lost her. She fought hard with the discipline and fortitude of her early athleticism to recover and she willed herself, through God’s grace to have more time. As always, she lived each day with purpose. I think Mom taught us her best lessons in her final years, and I want to reflect on this today.

Recently, after several sleepless nights, I asked Mom what she thought of to pass the long hours. She replied that she sang hymns, quoted scripture, and prayed for family and friends. She made mental lists of the many different cities she lived in, names of all the best baseball players, and her top ten highlights of life. I was definitely interested to know what was on that last list and so I asked. Some of what she listed, I expected; meeting Jake, marrying him, going to Japan, starting 23 churches, and leading her neighbors to Jesus. I was a bit surprised to notice, however, that she listed playing for her high school in the Iowa State Ladies Basketball State Championship game and CAJ winning the Far East Basketball Tournament before she mentioned the births of any of her children. I know this didn’t mean that us kids were not a big deal to her, she just really loved sports!

Florence was a master list maker! She had a list of family member’s birthdays and anniversaries. She sent us all cards and for the kids, she slipped in $5. Another important list my mom made every year was her Christmas mailing list. She started it in November and worked diligently on hand addressing each envelope. I found her mailing list of 100 family and friends from just this past year. Many of you, here today, were on that list and enjoyed her encouraging correspondence. Just a few weeks ago, mom asked me to help her update her Rolex address file. As I read the names on the cards, she joyfully told me details of the people listed. Certain names, however, she sadly informed me were no longer living and asked me to remove the card. When I expressed concern about throwing many of these addresses out, she assured me it was fine because their next address was heaven and she knew how to find them there.

Then, she described to me a beautiful image. She said getting ready for Heaven was like setting sail for a long journey on a big ship like the ones we used to travel in to Japan. As you prepare to leave, those you are leaving line up along the dock and throw brightly colored streamers that you hold tightly. As the ship moves out, tears flow. You don’t want to leave, but eventually, the streamers stretch and break and you are on your way. As the ship approaches your destination, you begin to think of family and friends on the other side, waiting for you. When your ship arrives, you cry for joy as you see those loved ones lining the dock. They throw out their streamers to you and help pull you close as the ship docks.

Mom had many loved ones throwing out their welcoming streamers from Heaven. She was excited to see Jesus, her mother Alice, and her sister Margaret. She said when she saw her husband, Jake, that she just wanted to hug and kiss him. So, we can be happy for Florence today because she has reached her final destination. Her long and remarkable journey is over. She lived joyfully, purposefully, and lovingly. In living and dying, she taught us well. I can sum up Mom’s final message to us in 5 lessons:

Lesson #1: Have Faith. My mother had faith in God. She believed God’s word. One of her favorite verses was Matthew 17:20, “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” Without this faith, she would have never had the courage to go to Japan as a missionary and to entrust her five children to a new culture and language. She seldom worried. It was important to her to share her faith and many neighbors she had over many addresses in Japan came to know God because of her faith. My father called Mom, “My brave little wife.” She never stopped being a missionary because every time she saw us, she wanted to know, how is your relationship with Jesus? Are you in fellowship with other Christians? Are you seeking God’s will in your life?

Lesson #2: Seek Purpose. Mom’s faith led to her purpose. She understood and answered God’s call to be a missionary before she met my father. Mom and dad shared a great love story, but my mother would not have followed my father anywhere if he had led her away from God’s purpose for her life. She found her perfect marriage partner because both of them shared a common purpose in ministry and experienced abundant blessing and fulfillment.

Lesson #3: Live Joyfully. In addition to faith and purpose, mom was joyful. She loved life! She knew how to celebrate family holidays, church potlucks, shopping at thrift shops, playing basketball, and watching baseball. You could sit for hours talking to my mom. She could tell stories and remember all the details. She was always ready to play a competitive game of Scrabble or Skip-bo and never turned down a bowl of ice cream.

Lesson #4: Love Unconditionally. Whether you were one of her children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, a sister, a brother, a student, a pastor, a friend, or a caregiver, you were a part of Florence’s family. You experienced her ability to listen deeply and understand. You know she cared about you and the details of your life. She loved your visits, your phone calls, your cards and letters. You had a place in her heart.

Lesson #5: Pray. Florence was a Prayer Warrior. I am sure that she took a list of prayer requests with her to heaven and has audience with Jesus even now. My name is on that list, and so is yours. Mom will be telling our stories and her prayer requests will cover all the details of our joys and our sorrows, our strengths and our weaknesses. She was listening, so she knows the details and she remembers the details when she tells a story. So, Jesus is hearing our stories, and we are well represented.

Florence’s most profound gifts to us were faith, purpose, joy, love, and prayer. They were her gifts. She offered them freely. She wanted us to have these gifts. Chose with me, today to honor her memory by strengthening your faith. Rededicate yourself to God’s purpose, live joyfully, love unconditionally and commit to prayer. Keep it simple. You can do it. She’s in Heaven, but she is still praying for us.