I’ve been in a bit of daze lately because my cousin closest to me in age died by suicide. If you have read much here, you know that I have struggled with suicidal ideation, so I know where her head went. I just wish we could have pulled her back. In the days ahead, we’ll be doing stuff to honor the memory of Jami, but I wanted to post this message from her funeral first. Her mother and sisters (and eventually her dad) asked me to conduct her funeral. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but this is the message I gave that day.

Scripture: Lamentations 3:22-23
Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed,
    for his compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
Preaching a funeral is never easy. Preaching a funeral of a young person, someone with over half of their life left to live is probably one of the most difficult tasks someone in ministry has. That difficulty is in no way comparable, though, to the pain and sadness that the family must endure. For the hurt, the pain, associated with the unexpected passing of Jami will never go away, it will simply dull, becoming a scar that never fully heals. The memory of Jami will always bring with it a sadness that she is not present.
As we look at our Scripture verse, we find a similar sentiment at work. Lamentations, as the name suggests, is a book of lament, of pouring out the pain and hurt and sadness that comes from things going terribly.
Lamentations was written by the prophet Jeremiah. Jeremiah also wrote the Book of Jeremiah, which directly precedes Lamentations in the bible. Both Lamentations and Jeremiah are written in the midst of the complete upheaval of the life of not only Jeremiah, but all of Israel. You see, Israel had made some bad decisions, had done some bad stuff, and had turned away from God. The result of this was that the city of Jerusalem, which was the capital city of Israel and their religious center, their most important place, was being overtaken and destroyed by Babylon. Lamentations makes no bones about the fact that this is terrible. In fact, in the book, God is silent, the suffering is presented as undeserved, and the idea of future redemption is really not present. In all, there is simply the present hurt and pain that comes from incredible loss.
And Jeremiah is the one to tell and write these laments. He is known as the “weeping prophet,” someone who is in pain for the people he sees around him, who loves the people enough that he takes on their issues and their problems. He intercedes on behalf of the people to God and speaks the truth of God to the people, even when it is quite unpopular and causes hurt. He is often taken advantage of and put into terrible situations (whether being abused or beaten up or simply discarded) because he is who he is. He cannot help it and it causes him much strife.
And, here, we find a soul similar to Jami. Jami and Jeremiah are both people who would give and give for another person and that often meant they were taken advantage of, they were hurt, they carried pain. They were both “weeping” people, people who felt the pain in the world in an acute way.
But they were also people of love. And we can say that Jami loved deeply. If we take but one example, we can look at her relationship with her nephew Lucas. Lucas is a hefty little boy and Jami was a very tiny woman. She was not strong. However, there was a period of time where every night Lucas would fall asleep on Jami and lay there until her arms would fall asleep. Jami was not strong enough to carry him up the stairs and so Jessica or Chad would do so. However, it was Jami’s willingness to sit there and be with her nephew, to put him to sleep. It was an act of beautiful love echoing that of the way God the Father loves all creation.
Similarly, Jami loved those who are less fortunate. She worked in many of the area nursing homes in the dietary departments. She did various jobs in those departments at odd and varying hours. One thing about nursing homes, though, is not many people want to be there or think they should be there. As well, there are a number of people who either cannot feed themselves or make a large, disgusting mess while doing it. And Jami spent her career helping people that many did not want to help. I’ve spent a fair share of time in nursing homes and assisted living facilities and they are tough places. People can be rude, crude, difficult, and the like…and that’s just the families and, at times, the staff. But Jami was there and present and willing to be a light in a place that shone much darkness. She did not always like it, but there she was.
And now she is not there, she is not here anymore. And we are left with that burden. The burden of feeling her loss. But this poem sent to her mother, Shellie, by Jami’s cousin in Florida, Ashley, gives a right perspective on how Jami may feel:
It’s Called: I’m Free
Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free
I’m following the path God has chosen for me.
I took His hand when I heard him call;
I turned my back and left it all.
I could not stay another day,
To laugh, to love, to work or play.
Tasks left undone must stay that way;
I’ve now found peace at the end of day.
If my parting has left a void,
Then fill it with remembered joys.
A friendship shared, a laugh, a kiss;
Oh yes, these things, I too will miss.
Be not burdened with times of sorrow.
Look for the sunshine of tomorrow.
My life’s been full, I savored much;
Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.
Perhaps my time seems all too brief;
Don’t lengthen your pain with undue grief.
Lift up your heart and peace to thee,
God wanted me now – He has set me free.
Now, I do not believe that God wanted Jami enough to take her from us. That is not how God works. I do believe, though, God suffered with Jami and was there for Jami and accepted Jami into loving arms.
And as we sit here and mourn, God does the same for us. God sits with us in our pain, God allows us to be angry and feel hurt; but God also opens His arms and accepts us into them just as he did his Son Jesus of Nazareth, as he has countless others, and as he has Jami. That is called grace. And so now we sing Amazing Grace.