A Eulogy for Lucy, by Mary Frances Smith

Two weeks ago, we went to Starkville for Elizabeth’s aunt’s funeral service. Aunt Lucy had lived a difficult life, yet her hope and trust were in the Lord Jesus Christ. My mother-in-law, Mary Frances Smith, wrote the following eulogy for her sister. It is not only a beautiful retelling of Lucy’s life, but also a powerful illustration of how God works through suffering to remind us that we all need the grace of the gospel, even (especially!) in those moments when we don’t think we do. And it reminds us how much those with special needs have to teach us.

Lucy’s name means LIGHT. Lucy taught us things we did not even want to learn, took us to places we did not want to go and helped us see things we would not have seen. Lucy showed us this life on earth is not “IT”… It is not Heaven here and now. We live in a broken world. Some things will never be fixed, made right or whole as we desire them to be.

From the very beginning, Lucy had labels attached. Some of these were: cerebral palsy, autism, early childhood schizophrenia, manic depressive, schizophrenia, different, a square peg for a round hole. She hated not fitting in. Lucy had a deep desire to be normal, whole, accepted, well, significant. She had dreams, aspirations never met. She had God given abilities but also God given limitations.

Lucy made us yearn for Heaven where all tears will be wiped away, death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore…(Rev. 21:4). Lucy showed us that the “Infinite God is personal” (see Paul Miller, A Praying Life, p. 114, 122).

Sometime during Lucy’s moving in and out of mental hospitals, God gave her a regenerate heart. God showed Lucy that she was a sinner. She needed Him. She prayed and asked Jesus to be her Savior. She knew we could not get to Heaven apart from trusting that Jesus had died on the cross for our sins. Change occurred. She loved Jesus and she knew Jesus loved her. She got a new label: “Child of God,” very loved by Him, very special.

Lucy did not get well, her situation did not change but God entered into to her circumstances. He used the afflictions, pain, suffering to change her and us too. The Holy Spirit lavished her with The Father’s love. God provided her with gifts.

God gave Lucy the gift of her Mother…A faithful mother whose love would not quit, even when Lucy was very difficult to love, even when in the worst of times Lucy threatened Mother’s life. Mother loved her and loved her well to the very end. Mother gave her a few new labels: “#1, best friend, companion, best part of my day.”

God gave Lucy the gift of Art. This was a way for Lucy to relate, communicate with others, to become significant. She got a new label: “Artist.” At first the art was a thing of pride and competition for Lucy. At the end, art was a joy, a tool for showing love and giving to others.

God gave Lucy the gift of Serving. This Church [First Presbyterian Church in Starkville] allowed her to help in the kitchen working with others to prepare for Church meals. She became a great worker. She had never been willing or able to help like this before. This work gave her such joy! She got several new titles: “Servant, best ice tea maker.”

God gave Lucy the gift of you [the saints of FPC Starkville]. All the kindness and love you gave her made a difference!

God gave her the gift of Mental Illness. Lucy came to the place where she could say that she was grateful to God for what He had done for her in her mental illness. This need and weakness had driven her to God. She said that if she had been able to follow her own plans, she would not have known Jesus. She gave herself a new label: “Winner of the High Prize.” John Piper writes, “The best gift God can give us is himself.”

Lucy also taught us that perseverance and courage are necessary. Lucy suffered from isolation and a life time of mental illness. While she was at Whitfield, good behavior was rewarded with cigarettes. Smoking had a calming effect on her and she became a chain smoker, years and years of chain smoking. Cancer came, then surgery to remove the larynx. She never smoked another cigarette. Radiation followed surgery. For the second time in her life, Lucy had to learn to talk, this time without vocal cords. She excelled in this and therapist and doctors gave her another label: “Best ‘no larynx talker’ we have ever heard.”

The cancer never returned; however, Lucy began to suffer from the effects of radiation. A benign tumor grew on her spinal cord and her neck bones became soft. Her neck could no longer hold up her head. Major surgery was done to remove the tumor and stabilize her head. Then more surgery was needed. She developed COPD. When we were there for the surgeries, we saw her faith and felt God’s grace. At times, I felt like I was on holy ground. God brought doctors, nurses, perfect strangers to bless her, pray for her, encourage her, love her. It was a blessing to just stand nearby and get some of the spillover.

Lucy lost the ability to live independently. It was a severe loss. She lost the ability to serve at Church and even attend Church, another deep loss. She moved to Starkville Manor and praise God, she loved it there! She loved the people, the patients, the staff, the visitors and volunteers who came to cheer and comfort. Lucy found a new way to serve. She sat by the front door and punched in the key code to open the door to let people enter and exit. She got a new label: “Door Opener, helper.” She could love and be loved for it. While living there, she was named “Queen of Starkville Manor” at a valentine celebration, another label: Queen

Lucy was losing her ability to speak. She could not make people understand her. She became a note writer. This is a note Lucy wrote and left at Mother’s house last week. Her note reads: “I did my breathing treatment, the(n) exercised, the(n) took a pill for pain, then I came over here—At last I feel so so much better you have to hang in there & don’t give in to it.”

Personally, Lucy let me see that I am a very great sinner and desperately need a very great Savior! Lucy needed to be loved. She needed a very loving sister. There were many periods in my life when I did not love Lucy like God wanted me to love her. I found it difficult to love and accept her. So, Lucy showed me up for who I am. I am the broken one, the mess, with wrong values, priorities, and ways of seeing things. My label: GUILTY!

But God! Like Lucy, I am a child of God and He is teaching me what to do with my guilt. I have named my sin and I have asked God to forgive me for not always loving Lucy as He wanted me to, for not respecting her dignity, for not seeing her as He does. I have confessed that my sin might have contributed to her brokenness. God is teaching me not to carry that guilt around but to hope in His Word and promise: “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (I John 1:9). I am believing that Jesus’ blood really does atone for this sin. He has removed that burden of sin from me.

When writing this, I realized that I needed Lucy! I needed to be her sister. I needed to have my face right up there in it all, all the brokenness, suffering, pain, mess, all the grace, the sweet gifts, all the love and blessings. I needed her help to see it all, so that it would break open my hard heart, so that God could help me see my need for Jesus. I need for Him to change me. I am so grateful for the dear Savior Lucy and I have. Tender mercies!! New label: Precious sister.

God wanted to teach us…take us places…help us see things we would not have seen. Lucy’s name means light. Like the moon, Lucy did not make the light. She just reflected the light, the light of Christ, the light of life (John 8:12). Can you imagine the light Lucy is reflecting now as she is in His presence (Rev. 21:23-25)!!!

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