First Person Life


In Memorium

Dan's post One more saved at Necessary roughness brought to mind the passing of my mother (Neuroblastoma [cancer], Fall, 2002), my maternal-grandfather (Aortic Aneurism, Summer, 2004), and my maternal-grandmother (stomach cancer, Summer, 2005). With their passing, I have no living ancestors.

Being an only child, it also makes me quite lonely.

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I had the mixed blessing of spending the last days and hours with both my mother and my grandmother. These are probably the most wrenching memories I'll ever have -- formative for my future vocation, no doubt, but "real life" is a grueling teacher.

I was also privileged to spend the last weekend of my grandfather's life with him. He died in the middle of the week immediately after me and my family visited.

It's good for me to remember them, but it hurts too. The joy of the resurrection still seems distant sometimes.

By the same token, I'm indebted to all of them for the legacy of faith that they left with me. My father (died of metastatic lung cancer, Fall, 1991) converted from Roman Catholicism when he married my mother, so Lutheranism is from my mother's side of the family.

My grandmother had asked me to speak at my grandfather's funeral. In her last days, she also asked me to speak at hers. Below are the messages I prepared.

Richard Andrew Voelker April 25, 1918 - June 22, 2004

Born April 25, 1918 in Knowlesville, NY, Richard Andrew Voelker was the loving son of a Christian mother. Through her influence, his faith grew and he was able to touch many lives with the love of Jesus Christ.

Through his faith, God blessed so many of us here today. And as a faithful witness to Christ, he was a model to be emulated.

As a father and grandfather, he was supportive and forgiving. I often think of him as a father to me. And not only because he and my grandmother often accidentally referred to each other as “your mother” and “your father” when talking to me. But while my relationship with my father left something to be desired and was cut short by his death, he stepped in and filled that role in my life.

Of the many memories I cherish, one is of him teaching me to ride a bicycle in the driveway on Manor Lane.

Others include the many hours we would spend together after school when I would walk to their house and we would sit and talk.

He was also a model husband. For 57 years, he was faithful and loving to his wife Pearl.

All marriages have their ups and downs, and theirs was no different. But for 57 years, they worked hard and continued to love each other in spite of whatever circumstance arose.

No time has that been more evident to me than the past few years.

Several years ago, my grandmother was in a car accident. Complications from that accident resulted in a prolonged hospital stay, surgery, and rehabilitation. But he was ever the constant companion, supporting her and taking over many household chores, never seriously complaining and always trying to be the best husband he could.

And after they lost their daughter, my mother, Jo Anne to cancer in November of 2002, his own wife was diagnosed with cancer. And through surgery and chemotherapy, he cared for her, comforted her, and helped her cope with the effects of her treatments.

And even to the end, he was thinking of her. The one regret that I know was that he would no longer be able to care for his beloved wife.

He knew that by being a good husband, he was upholding the model that marriage is supposed to be. Namely, the relationship between Christ and His bride, the church.

My grandfather's greatest joy was in serving the Lord and being about God's work. He supported his church financially through his tithe, and felt blessed that the Lord generously supplied for all his needs, beyond his expectation.

He also enjoyed God's creation through many different activities.

He always liked the time he spent tilling God's earth and gardening. And he felt blessed to be able to improve and maintain his home himself.

He enjoyed fishing and boating with his son, Doug.
They began with a small inflatable row boat and when they finally gave it up, they had a sixteen foot motorboat. They spent many hours in the canal and on Lake Ontario fishing and pleasure boating.

He wouldn't trade for anything the time with his friends like Ken Berner and their fishing trips together to Canada.

He enjoyed God's green earth as a charter member of Shelridge Golf Club and spent many happy hours on the greens – none of which to my knowledge pre-empted Sunday morning worship.

And he felt blessed to be able to travel throughout the U.S. including Hawaii and Alaska. And to make trips to Europe and the Holy Land.

In later years, his greatest pleasures were to continue to walk with God. Whenever health permitted, he and my grandmother would attend Church.

It was a blessing for him, and me, to be able to attend church together in this sanctuary last Sunday. And I know many of you were blessed by his presence here as well.

And, until it was no longer possible, he enjoyed Wednesday morning Bible class and Saturday Morning Gideon prayer breakfast.

He dearly loved his sister, Lois as well as his sisters-in-law, Evelyn and Mavis.

He was very much saddened at the passing of Mavis, in March of this year.

Evelyn and her husband Harold were best friends and he was greatful for their help in so many ways.

My grandfather, Richard Andrew Voelker, born April 25, 1918, living a full and faith filled life of 86 years until June 22, 2004, touched many lives and will be sorely missed by those who knew him.

But he would not have us dwell on what we've lost. If we look at his faith and his life, we know he would have us remember that our parting need only be temporary. And because of his faith in Jesus Christ, he is truly home now.

And I know without a doubt that his prayer for us would be that God would grant each of us the faith to say that Jesus Christ, true God and True man died and rose again to save us from our sins and that we may all know the peace of God which surpassess all understanding and that it would keep our hearts and our minds in this same Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pearl Ruth (Heim) Voelker, September 28, 1926 - August 29, 2005

Pearl Ruth Heim was born September 28, 1926 to Joseph and Selma Heim and baptized into the Christian faith on October 24. She grew up with her two sisters, Mavis and Evelyn, and was confirmed in November, 1939.

Pearl married Richard Voelker on June 26, 1947. In their 57 years of marriage, they modeled what it means to “love, honor, and cherish” one another, “for richer and poorer and in sickness and in health.” They were separated by death on June 28, 2004.

Through trials and difficulties, their marriage was sustained by their faith in God and their fidelity to one another. In the joys and triumphs, they never failed to praise God, recognizing that it is from Him that all blessings flow.

Throughout her life, she followed the advice of her confirmation verse, Psalm 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.” She drew strength from her faith in “God's care, secure in His love for [her] and trusting in the salvation purchased for [all of us] through Christ's suffering and death.”

She assured that this faith was passed on to their two children, Jo Anne, who was received into glory in November of 2002, and Doug, who resides with his wife, Margaret in Middleport.

Pearl loved and was concerned about all of her grandchildren, step-grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and step-great-grandchildren. In speaking of them shortly before her death, she said, “They brought great joy into my life.”

Of her sisters and her brother-in-law Harold she said, “I was blessed with many good times and I appreciated all they did for me.”

Pearl found great comfort and hope in Holy Scripture and especially enjoyed Wednesday morning Bible Study. She also felt it important to share God's Word with others and supported Gideon's International. She enjoyed attending Saturday morning Gideon's Auxiliary Breakfast.

Like any good German Lutheran in Western New York, she enjoyed the game of Euchre and especially enjoyed the regular games she played with her cousins.

Anyone who knew Pearl at all, knows that she loved cats and had an extensive collection.

Nobody could say life was easy for Pearl. She grew up during the great depression and knew the value of a dollar. In her late teens, our country was at war and she learned first hand about sacrificing for your neighbor. Several years ago, complications from a car accident resulted in a prolonged hospitalization, surgery, and rehabilitation. Nearly three years ago, she lost her daughter to a rare form of cancer, Pearl herself was diagnosed with cancer and just over a year ago, she unexpectedly lost her husband.

It may seem strange to discuss the difficulties she endured in her life as we gather today. But throughout all of this, she remained steadfast and immovable in her faith. She endured these trials patiently, trusting in God's unfailing love. Herself being firmly convinced of St. Paul's words, “that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, no things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Her delight was certainly in the Lord. And those that knew her well know that through her family and friends; through her church and work; through trials and joys she received from Him the desires of her heart.

Pearl Ruth Heim Voelker was born September 28, 1926 and lived nearly 79 years until she was received into Glory on August 29, 2005. She will be sorely missed by those who were granted the blessing of knowing her.

But she would not wish us to dwell on her or our own loss. To those among us who share her faith in Christ's redemption and know Him as both savior and friend, she would assure us in the same way she assured my wife during our last visit by saying, “I'll see you again.”

With her husband, she shared the prayer for all of us that God would grant to each of us the faith that she had. Faith to “trust in the salvation purchased for [us] through Christ's suffering and death.” And she would leave all of us in the comfort of knowing that she “died in this faith and has now joined her Lord in eternal glory.”

May God make this so for all of us. Amen.


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