A Service of Love and Memory
E. Marie Leisey
September 3, 1988     Honey Brook, PA
Meditation by the Rev Dr Randall A Leisey

I am a bit embarrassed about being the one chosen to speak on this occasion because I am aware that there are literally hundreds of "E. Marie stories" that might be told. My embarrassment is that I have probably the worst memory in the family, and I can't remember even a tenth of the stories that could be told. I trust, therefore, that you will be gentle with me if I do not bring to our common remembrance your favorite of a host of stories that could be told about the woman whom we have gathered to remember and offer thanks to God for her life amongst us.

Actually, the gift of memory is a precious gift, and I suspect that each of us will have moments well into the future when we smile to ourselves as we remember something that E. Marie, the matriarch of our family, did or said at some point during her many years amongst us. We thank God for our gift of memory. But we also thank God for the gift of faith that Grandmother Leisey was given. There is no one who knew her who did not know that she was a faithful Christian all of her life. Even in the latter years which she spent in Pottstown she was a constant and active participant at Grace Lutheran Church. In fact, Brother Hoffert, whom we thank for being her faithful spiritual leader and pastor during her years in Pottstown, told me that she participated in the Adult Bible Study Class. That fact indicates that there was never a period in her life when she wasn't growing in her faith and attempting to apply the lessons of the Christian faith to her life.

For such a person, it is therefore appropriate to choose what I call one of the heavy duty, industrial strength passages from the scriptures; one that summarizes the essence and importance of faithful living. Hear now the words from just such a passage. (read 1 Corinthians 13)

Even though there were times when Marie Leisey could be like a noisy gong or "clanging cymbals", the overriding characteristic and spiritual gift in her life was her ability to love. "Love never ends", and that gift of love will be carried forth into the ages by her family- and others who were touched by her life. Grandmother was one of those natural, selfless lovers whom we are fortunate to meet and know in this sojourn we call life; she was one of a kind. I mentioned her faithfulness and her passion for the Word of God as found in scriptures, but the scriptures are merely ancient words unless we allow our lives to be instructed and guided by them. And Marie did just that. That is one of the things which set her apart. She reflected God's love in many ways throughout her life. She was a woman of faith; and she was a person filled with hope. But she was also a woman just overflowing with love. "So faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love."

With a life so well-lived it would be easy for me to develop those three themes, "faith, hope and love" and talk about how those important Biblical concepts were manifested in the life of Marie Leisey. But I am not going to do that. I just want to plant those three words in our minds that we might each ponder them and remember and preach our own Memorial Service to ourselves on those three themes.

Rather, I would just like to reflect for a few moments on the goodness of God to have given us all of the years of Marie that we were granted.

Marie was the talker, the social person, the dominant personality in the Leisey household. I always had the impression that she was the initiator and the motivator of the household. She was the one with the gift of high energy, so much so that I can remember a time when the grandchildren had nicknamed her "Ethel, high octane". I can recall Sunday afternoon visits in her home when she would talk for hours, every once in awhile turning to her husband and asking, "Isn't that right, Al?" And I always thought what a perfect match these two were for each other because he rarely said anything; he always allowed her to have center stage. And so when she asked, "Isn't that right, Al?" His pat reply was always, "What do I know?"

She was a strong and courageous woman who endured much and yet saw that her family survived the great depression and somehow got everyone through the World War intact. She never had much materially, but she gave everything she could spare and more to her family members. She understood the importance of family. She knew, perhaps innately, that if she paid attention to the ever-so-important task of caring for the family, that she would in her own small way improve the world. The family was the crucible of the human experience and she did her tasks of loving nurturing and encouraging as well as anyone. And I have the sense that she did it with seriousness but also with a sense of humor. I remember how she would refer to her sons as her angels, so that the neighborhood nicknamed them "Mrs Leisey's Angels".

The fruits of her role as mother are self-evident. Her sons and all that they have contributed to this world gave her a great deal of satisfaction and pride. She loved her sons immensely. And she extended her love and concern to her grandchildren and great grandchildren as well. Christmas was never complete without a small package of handcrafted items from Grandmother.

She always sent a note apologizing that she could not afford to give more; but the truth is that she gave much, much more than she ever realized. She was a selfless lover, one who continued to reach out to us over and over again during the course of her long life. And indeed God has been good to us in granting us 85 years of Marie Leisey.

Oh, now I am not going to pretend that she was perfect. Of course she wasn't. She could sometimes irritate and bother us with her opinions or biases or directives. But as we think back, one of the things that I remember is that whenever we were at different places in our thinking, she was wise and curious enough to want to know what we thought. Do you remember some of her favorite ways of starting a sentence? She'd say "Now, tell me..." or she would tell us what she thought and believed and then she would say, "What do you think?..." Ultimately, even though she sometimes seemed unswerving in her direction and opinions, the truth is that things were usually negotiable.

She liked to challenge us, and it was probably good for us that she did. Her exterior was sometimes tough, but her heart was always soft and loving and filled with concern for us. It is hard to believe that she is really gone. She played such a large role in our family that it is going to take some time for us to adjust.

Do you remember how she seemed to have few qualms about death? She spoke about her inevitable death fairly frequently. I can remember when I was 9 years old she said that she hoped that she would live until I was 18. She made similar statements fairly frequently, all through the years. There was never any fear of death expressed. She knew where she was going to spend eternity. The irony for me is that she lived not only until I was 8 but until my son was 18.

I even think the goodness of God was reflected in the way in which she died. Fortunately it was a relatively peaceful and pain-free death. God saw to it that the sons and family members were given sufficient warning that the end was near, thus giving us time to adjust to that inevitability. And those who were able, came and attempted to return some of that love which she gave so freely to us. But ultimately, love cannot be repaid or returned, it is to be passed on. And that is our legacy; to pass on the love of God that was so freely reflected to us by Marie. Marie's legacy is that she has passed on to the safe harbor of God's kingdom, where she is cradled in the everlasting arms of the one who loves her perfectly, the one who will care for her eternally, the one who has healed her completely so that she is able to run and not be weary, the one whom she worshipped and followed and loved all of her life.

Indeed, we have been blessed immeasurably by her life amongst us.

And the same God who has cared for and will continue to care for Marie, offers to care for us in our time of bereavement and loss, as well.

Indeed, love never ends.