16 July 2011

Funeral Homily for Imogene Kroeger

Sharon, family and friends of Imogene Kroeger,

It seems so wrong to begin that way. I should be saying, Tom and Sandy, family and friends. To bury your children is enough to quench the joy of many a mortal soul and leave them utterly sad for all their days. But not Jean - not because she didn't love them - heavens! You know how much she did. But she was a woman well acquainted with hardship and pain. It was woven into the fabric of her life from the time her mother was taken from her in that tragic car accident, to the difficult years of being taken in by a a family that raised her with food and shelter, but not a lot of affection and love. From the difficulties of living through multiple moves and multiple tornadoes to the hardships of Ed's many sicknesses and long sufferings. Yes, Jean had a tale of woe that could equal Job's. And yet.

And yet was there ever such a joy-filled, loving and hopeful woman? And how on earth did she come to be that way? Our readings hold the answer.

You see, she wasn't only like Job in having to bury her children, she was like Job in the hope of resurrection. She didn't face death alone - not hers, not Ed's, not Tom or Sandy's. She faced death with her Redeemer, her Jesus. She rejoiced that He had borne all her sins - and theirs! - to death on the cross, that He had left them buried behind in the tomb, that He had risen from the dead - and would never, ever die again. And she knew that He had promised to raise all the dead and to give to all who die trusting in Him a crown of everlasting life. In fact, that was her confirmation verse (Ed's too): "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of everlasting life." Faithful unto death she was. She could stand at graveside after graveside, with tears in eyes, and yet know peace and victory in her heart. She knew that HER Redeemer lived and that He would stand again on this earth and even after her flesh had been destroyed, yet she would see God. With her own eyes. And she knew that same promise held for all baptized believers.

And so, like Paul in our second reading, she rejoiced in the love of this Jesus she had come to know. She knew that that there was absolutely nothing in this world that had power to separate her from the love that the heavenly Father had given her in her Jesus. And she wanted everyone to know that love. You know how she kept after you if you stopped going to church - she wasn't content with that. Not one little bit. And it wasn't because church was something that was a drudgery to be borne and you should step up to the plate and do your duty. Heavens, no! For Jean, it was because the joy she had in her Lord's love was something she just could not even begin to imagine living without and she couldn't imagine a one of you living without it either. It was the source of her peace, her comfort, her joy - she'd listen to the promises of His Word and treasure them up in her heart, she'd come to the table of Jesus and He would feed into her His body and blood, just as He had since she was confirmed all those years ago, and she'd taste the peace of sins forgiven, be renewed in the hope of death destroyed, be filled with an unshakable hope, wrapped in a love that sustained her whole life.

You see, she knew she had a home. When you've lost your home at such an early age and then more than once after that, having a home you cannot lose becomes a huge thing. So today's Gospel reading - Jesus going ahead to build a home where there are no more good byes, where His children are gathered around the family table and enjoy the feast forever. She knew His cross and resurrection had done that: build a home where she knew she'd find her Ed, her beloved Nelly, her Tom and her Sandy and so many of her family and friends. When I first came to St. Paul's she and Ed were busy at work strengthening that hope in folks who needed it the most: they went out to the nursing homes every week, gathered the folks together, read them my sermon (I think she felt she had to do that), and then also some poems or pieces she found particularly meaningful (and I think she REALLY like doing that). They'd sing together and she'd try to stir up in them the hope that filled her own life: the sadnesses aren't forever! You have a Lord who has prepared a place for you! He will raise you from the dead just as He was raised! Don't be sad, don't despair, don't give up. We have a Redeemer who lives! That's what Jean sought to impart to them - her own unquenchable hope and joy.

And all that life of love with her Lord - well, you know how it took a poor miserable sinner (as she freely confessed herself to be) and transformed her into a person who delighted to lavish hospitality and kindness. After Ed became homebound here, I used to bring them communion. Jean said: "Come here last." I was a bit perplexed. What could she mean? So I came last, and lo and behold, after we finished communion and our devotion, she asked: "Have you ever had a whiskey slush?" I hadn't, but it became a treasured part of our visits: sitting with them after communion over a glass of whiskey slush and laughing and talking and getting to really know one another. Yeah, I could tell you stories about you grandchildren that I learned as we looked at pictures together and enjoyed glimpses of both past and present. It was amazing. She'd done a beautiful crocheted piece with Kroeger in it. I admired it on one of those visits and then that Christmas what should she give me but a crocheted Weedon - and it was after working with her hands cost her dearly - arthritis and all. I'll not forget the countless kindnesses and love that marked her. She was truly an icon of what the grace of God in Christ can do when it grabs hold of a person and immerses them in the hope of eternal life, the joy of forgiveness of all sins, and simply imparts to them a share in God's own kindness and love. The sufferings and sorrows only serve to polish the jewel - they can't destroy it!

So dear friends, rejoice this day! Her faith was absolutely right. And she was right to be joy filled even when her heart was breaking and her eyes brimming over with tears - you can be too. For the Lord who claimed her as His own in Baptism, fed her with His own body and blood, he will raise her from the dead, even as He keeps her soul now in His own safe-keeping till that joyous day, and to Him be glory with His Father and the Holy Spirit, now and ever and to the ages of ages. Amen.

Imogene Lucille Kroeger, age 91 of Ivanhoe, TX, died Sunday, July 10, 2011, at her residence.
She was born on Friday, September 05, 1919, in Edwardsville, IL, the daughter of  Jonah Blaine and Laura Palmer (nee Manning) Haynes.
On Sunday, March 24, 1940, she married Edward Karl Kroeger who passed away on April 27, 2000.
She was a member of Saint James Lutheran Church - Allens Chapel, TX. She was a former member of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Hamel, IL; a former member of the Ladies Aid at the church; a former member St. Pauls Golden Agers; a former member VFW Auxiliary Post 1241, Staunton, IL.
Imogene was born in Edwardsville, IL; she later was a cashier at various super-markets in Illinois, California and Kentucky for 28 years.  Before her husband passed away they did volunteer work at Hitz and Hampton Homes of Alhambra, IL for 8 years. She moved to Texas in 2001 to be closer to her son and daugther in-law.
Survivors include:
Daughter In-law - Sherron Fay Kroeger, Ivanhoe, TX
Son In-law - Robert L. Stine, Flora, IL
Grandchild - Penny Lee Bauer
Grandchild - Dell Ray Kroeger
Grandchild - Donde Kray Kroeger
Grandchild - Galen Lee Stine
Grandchild - Donald Ray Henson
Eleven Great Grandchildren
Four Great Great Grandchildren
She was preceded in death by:
Father - Jonah Blaine Haynes
Mother - Laura Palmer Haynes (nee Manning)
Husband - Edward Karl Kroeger (died 4/27/2000)
Daughter - Sandra Kay Stine (died 3/11/2010)
Son - Thomas Lane Kroeger (died 3/13/2006)
Brother - George Wesley Haynes
Brother - Edmund Calvin Haynes
Brother - Albert Elsworth Haynes
Sister - Mary Jane Kohler
Sister - Thelma Irene Haynes
Sister - Nellie Mae Blankenship
Sister - Minnie Wieduwilt
Sister - Lillie Belle Pratt
Sister - Maragret Marie Prior
Sister - Cynthia Hope Dalton

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