Remembering Donna

February 1, 2008

As I sat on the platform of this massive church in White Rock, British Columbia, a strange thought occurred to me: “I’ve been here before”. This wasn’t a deja vu experience. I actually had been in this place before, both situationally and actually. 29 years ago, almost to the day, I stood in the pulpit of the same church (albeit in a different building on the other side of town) and delivered the eulogy to my grandmother who was a member of Peace Portal Church. Now, I was about to deliver the final message for my sister-in-law, Donna, who passed away after a 6-year battle with cancer.

I had already listened to one of her co-workers extol her virtues working as the Executive Assistant in a local school. What a wonderful person she was to all the teachers, students and principal. They all called her Mom, and they lauded her cookies and listening ear. I heard my own dear wife give her remembrances of her sister. I was so proud of her as she was able to do so with the torrent of emotion threatening to carry her downstream. As she said “I am losing my friend, my prayer partner, my mentor and guide through the teenage years (Donna was the older sister). Then Donna’s oldest daughter got up on behalf of the kids and told us in intimate details what we always suspected: they had won the Mom lottery with Donna! Even when her greatest fault was revealed, it amounted to little more than doting on the girls while Dad’s back was turned. Seeing her kids now and how successful they are at life, I doubt this did them any harm.

Finally, Donna’s husband had his close friend read his own remembrances. I realized as he read the simple, heartfelt and tear-producing words, that I would have to get up and follow this. I have preached somewhere around 150 funeral messages in my time, but none that gripped my heart as profoundly as this scene.

I glanced at the clock and realized it was up to me to wrap it all up in 15 minutes. Those who have heard my sermons know that they are best measured by the calendar, and not the clock. However, God helped me improvise my planned out thoughts and I just focused on my wonderful sister-in-law that I am going to miss so much.

Here is one story I didn’t get to share, so I’ll do it here. Years ago, a young british preacher lost his wife also to cancer. He had four children under the age of 10 and the weight of this was ponderous and overwhelming as he prepared to go to the cemetary for internment. His 10-year old son was acting as marshall over the other three to help dad. The littlest boy, 3 years of age, was unaware of the awful nature of the scene, and thus was playing by the side of the road. He saw carriages coming by and he jumped out of the way of the shadows. As he did this, he got further and further away from the funeral party. His brother was disgusted by his lack of propriety, so he went over and grabbed his arm and dragged him back to his dad, scolding his brother for not honoring their mother’s memory. Dad noticed the scene and asked what was happening. His oldest son gave an accurate report and then broke down crying. “I am going to miss mother so much” he sobbed.

At that moment, light passed into the pastor’s soul. He took his oldest son and showed him the passing carriages and their shadows. “Son, do you remember the 23rd Psalm?” “Of course Father.” Dad went on: “Do you remember what valley the psalmist passes through?” His son thought for a moment and answered, “The Valley of the Shadow of Death”.

“That’s correct son. This is what we face today. Just as you know that no shadow can harm your brother, he doesn’t see it yet. He is too young. And the death your mother has experienced is the same. She has only been struck by the shadow of death. The Lord has her in his care now. She cannot be harmed by the mere shadow of this world’s death. But we are like your little brother. We are too young in eternal things to grip its meaning. To us, the shadow of death feels dark. To your mother, it hurts not a bit.”

I am comforted by his words. To me, Donna’s death is a dark shadow. To her, it passes away in the light of the brilliance of Jesus’ Presence.

You see: She believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. She will have life forever.



  1. What a lovely and eloquent eulogy. Thank you for sharing.

  2. Cool look at the 23rd Psalm; I don’t think I will view it the same as I used to. Thanks.

    Very sorry you and your family are going through a tough season of loss.

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