Joanie, Bill, Gerry, family and friends of Ramona Prante. I had to begin with the reading from Isaiah about the feast, because I can’t even see your mom without thinking of her sitting at that kitchen table and I don’t think a SINGLE time that I visited with her that she didn’t somehow bring up how much she liked cooking for you guys. Goodness sakes, her pies were legendary, no? And she was most happy when she had you all gathered there at home, laughing together. Her family.
It was, as you know, the answer to her prayers. For when that cancer struck her so many years ago and disabled her life, she had one prayer: let me see my children grown, O God. And He abundantly answered that prayer. Not only seeing you all grown but your children and even unto your children’s children.
And yet which one of you had not noticed that despite the joys of being together as family, something inside your mom died when Bill was taken home. Oh, she’d still laugh, but there was always something of her left outside that laugh. And you all, each one in your own way, strove to reach her and to touch her and to somehow bring healing to that wound she carried in her heart. But none of you had the power to do it. There was only One who could - and THAT is what Isaiah celebrated in that first reading. That God was planning on throwing the feast to end all feasts, the party better than any party, the ultimate home-coming feast of God’s children where death itself would be destroyed by God so that it could no longer ever tear apart those whom love had joined together.
So Ramona went through these last six years with their various trials and hardships, always with an eye toward the final Feast, always with her heart there. She was so ready to go and be with her beloved Bill, to be in the presence of her Jesus and to be done with the weariness of life in this fallen world. “To depart and be with the Lord is far better” St. Paul said and you know that she’d “amen” that without a hesitation.
But Christians don’t believe that in death our souls fly off to heaven and so we’re done. No. We believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. And so even as we are sure of Ramona’s soul being gathered into the presence of Jesus and with the saints who await the day of His glorious return, we are also certain that THIS body, right here, will be raised from the dead. Changed from mortal to immortal, from perishable to imperishable. This body will not be forgotten.
Think of it for a moment - how many lie now in the dust of the earth. So many - people that were known and loved by others who now are dust too. But this we hold to and it is our sure confidence: that no one baptized into Christ, no one into whom HE has fed His most precious body and blood, will ever be forgotten. That Day, that glorious Day of His return, HE will stand again on this earth and the dead He will summon and His people will live again. He will call Ramona, and this body will waken from the sleep of death and she will be whole, whole like she’d longed for. Her soul comforted now in Christ’s presence, but her body and soul that day, changed in the twinkling of eye by Him who bore her every sin to death on Calvary and rose from the dead Himself, leaving death in shambles, as we heard in our epistle. Darlene, you were there the last time in this life that I was privileged to give to Ramona the Savior’s body and blood - that precious Sacrament is His guarantee to her: “Ramona, I will never forget you. I have given my life for you. You WILL live with me forever. I promise this to you and seal the promise with My own blood.”
So Jesus says of his beloved in today’s Gospel: “My sheep hear my voice and I know them and they follow me and I give them eternal life and they will never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” Not even death itself will prove mightier than Him who has made Ramona His very own. She is His sheep and in His keeping and that, when you take it to heart, can fill you with peace today even amid your tears.
She’s already enjoying something of the feast that Isaiah described, and now she waits with all the saints for its final fulfillment. And I do not doubt that she is praying nonstop for each of you that she loves so much, that you be kept in the faith and brought to that table too where the goodbyes are forever gone and where the family gathers together as one in Him who died and rose again and to whom with His Father and the Holy Spirit be all honor and glory, forever and ever! Amen.
Ramona F. Prante, 72, of rural Worden, died at 10:40 a.m. Tuesday, March 13, 2012 at Anderson Hospital in Maryville. She was born Tuesday, March 5, 1940 in New Douglas, daughter of the late Charles C. and Emma (King) Row.
She married William H. "Bill" Prante on Jan. 12, 1957 at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. He preceded her in death on Monday, Jan. 9, 2006.
Mrs. Prante spent 15 years doing house cleaning for many area families and individuals. She was a member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Hamel. She loved her family and enjoyed baking and cooking for all of them. She is survived by one daughter, Joanie L. Mertz, her husband Tom of Staunton; two sons, William "Bill" Prante II, his wife Lynda of Worden, and Gerald "Jerry" Prante, his wife Sandy, Staunton; seven grandchildren, Thomas Mertz and his wife Rachel of Edwardsville, G.T. Prante and his wife Amy of Fairfax, VA, Tammy Buffington and her husband Cory of Staunton, Andrea Prante of Bethalto, William Prante III of Worden, Matthew Prante of Worden, Katherine McQuillis of Worden, five great-grandchildren, Jacob Mertz, Katelyn Mertz, Carson Buffington, Liam Slagle and Elizabeth Prante; one sister, Darlene Lewis and wife of Charles of Troy; two brothers, Marvin Row and his wife Frances of Gilberts, and Charles Row of Troy, brother-in-law, Elmer Prante of New Douglas; sisters-in-law, Leona Albrecht of Staunton and Vera Prante of New Douglas; and numerous nieces and nephews.
She was preceded in death by her parents, Charles C. and Emma (King) Row; husband, William H. "Bill" Prante; brother, Billie Row; and sisters-in-law, Karen Row and Jean Row.