Posts Tagged ‘Funeral’

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield (see http://anabel.com.au/about)

Psalm 5:8-11 – WHAT I LEARNED FROM A RECENT FAMILY CRISIS  

I’ve been reading Psalm 5 and have been trying to understand something of King David’s prayer, not expecting to see an example of it in my family.  

It takes faith to believe that God will grant us victory over everyday difficulties, but it takes greater faith to trust God when we go through suffering and loss. Victory comes, but often in ways we don’t expect. Our family recently reminded me that…. 

  1. WITH GREAT FAITH COMES GREAT SACRIFICE 

I know that God often answers our prayers in the ways we desire, but I know also that He allows that some of His people will suffer.  

David can’t put words to the crisis he faces when he says in Psalm 5:1 (NLT), “O Lord, … pay attention to my groaning…”  

Our daughter, Rachel (River) and Son-in-law, Joel, travelled home from Africa after preaching the gospel to countless crowds, only to discover that Joel’s Mum, Elaine, had collapsed and was now on life support. As they rushed to the hospital, their prayer was that she be restored to full health. I walked and talked with Joel at the hospital and he knew that it would take even greater faith to refine that prayer and make a decision to take her off life support.  

God invites us to have that kind of faith, to trust Him, even when we go through various trials. At first, not everything we might desire is in His purposes for us, but as we align our desires with His purposes, there is victory. 

  1. KEEP MOVING AND TRUSTING

As we spoke to Joel, he said he didn’t want to face his Mum’s funeral. It was all too big. But at the funeral, he spoke about how the Bennett family doesn’t back away from difficult situations.  

He has a path for us to take. We don’t stand still. Psalm 5:8,12 (NLT) invites God’s direction and protection in a crisis.  He finds a way where there is no way. It says “Lead me in the right path, O Lord, or my enemies will conquer me. Make Your way plain for me to follow …. For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.”  

King David, but also the Bennett family reminds me that in a crisis, it is not always easy to see the way ahead. Jesus directs us when all around is perilous. He’s there, ahead of us, encouraging us to keep moving and trusting.   

When my heart is following God then it may be difficult, and there are circumstances that may cause me pain, but He gives perspective and it will be plain, simple, straightforward for me to follow the right path. There is heartache but at least there is no confusion when God is leading.  

When I pull away from Him it can become very confusing and difficult and I am defeated. Life gets complicated when I am not in that place of relationship with God, dependent upon His guidance. My only responsibility is to move forward in dependence on His grace, not back away. 

  1. GRIEF IS THE PRICE OF LOVE. 

As members of the family and many of the Church family gathered around Elaine’s bed at the hospital, communion was shared. My Son-in-law and other family members spoke. Joel’s Dad said Elaine breathed her last breath just as the service concluded. The Pastor at the funeral service said that grief is the sacrifice we make when we love someone.  

The well-worn words of Romans 8:28 (NLT) come to mind, “… we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to His purpose for them.”   

Later, at the funeral, Joel was the last member of the family to speak and he wrapped up all that needed to be said, simply and beautifully. Among other things, he said,  

  1. PRAISE GIVES YOU HOPE IN THE MIDST OF DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In the midst of a crisis, David was able to pray, “Because of Your unfailing love, I can enter Your house; I will worship at Your Temple with deepest awe” (Psalm 5:7 NLT).  

The funeral service was amazing. A celebration of life with beautiful praise music and worship. We were proud of Joel, of our daughter Rachel who stood beside him, and of our grandchildren who took part in the service.  

At the end of his tribute, Joel expressed how his Mum would have wanted, above all else, that people come to know Jesus.   

In the light of sadness and loss, I see such strength of character developing. Even in the midst of pain, there is a maturity that emerges.  

  1. THERE ARE STILL OPPORTUNITIES FOR JOY

I am reminded that for the Bennetts, and particularly my grandchildren, as they learn to navigate the paths of victory in the midst of pain, that the words of Romans 5:3-4 (NLT) will accompany them through life… “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.”  

Psalm 5:11 (NLT) says “But let all who take refuge in You rejoice; let them sing joyful praises forever. Spread Your protection over them, that all who love Your Name may be filled with joy.”  

I look back at the photos from the funeral, beautiful photos taken by a sensitive friend, Bel Litchfield, and I see Joel and his family singing and praising together.   

Julie and I have always encouraged Joel and our grandchildren to take refuge in God. In doing so, even in the midst of pain, the paradox is that they will find joy and natural praise will overflow.  

  1. LET GOD TAKE THE FORCE OF THE BLOW

 

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Photo by Anabel Litchfield

In some photos I see Joel and Rachel with their arms protectively around their family, shielding them but also helping them to face the challenges of grief.  

Psalm 5:12 (NLT) says “For You bless the godly, O Lord; You surround them with Your shield of love.” 

Once more I am reminded that Christ protects me and there is security and joy in Him. Challenges still come but I am in His hands. When I am dislocated from a relationship with God I am exposed to attack from the circumstances of life.   

When I face the battles of life, I am protected as I take refuge in God. He is my refuge, my shield, and He takes the force of the blows.

Bennetts, Julie and I are so proud of you. We love you. 

Pastor Ross

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COMMITTAL AND TRIBUTE TO COLIN MALCOLM SHEDDEN

Created by Ross Cochrane for the funeral of Colin Malcolm Shedden using Animato, Imovie and Paint.net

Just before Christmas, on the 23rd December, my Father-in-law died, the man I most respected in the world. On new years Eve we gathered in a Church with close to 300 people to say goodbye to a man we all loved and cherished. In the middle of holidays, still they came to say goodbye and pay their respects.

Colin Malcolm Shedden; Dad; Pa; Great Pa was a Christian accountant. Everyone knew he was a man who lived out his personal faith in Christ. He even kept a Bible on his desk, and was not ashamed to lead people to a personal faith in Christ, if the opportunity presented itself. His identity was characterised by Faith, Family and Fun. In the past we have laughed and celebrated together as a family until we cried, and yesterday we cried together in grief at his loss as we celebrated his life.

Accountancy relates well to being a Christian. Since maths was such an important part of his life, let me count out the ways.

1. ABSOLUTES

An accountant is one of those practitioners, who work according to a given set of rules of maths and measurements. Clients disclose information to him and he helps people manage finances and tax so that they can make wise decisions for the future.

He took his Bible even more seriously than his calculator. The Bible gave him absolute laws with which he could assess his life. Aligning his life and character with God’s Word he was able to make wise decisions for his marriage, business, family and Church. His life was centred around Christ and the serving Christ through the Church.

2. TRUST AND INTEGRITY

You have to trust your accountant. Colin was a man we knew we could trust implicitly. He was an honest man who took his Christian ethics seriously in his business and his business prospered because he was a man of integrity. David carries on that legacy.

3. PLANNING

He planned for the future, even planning out his own funeral service. He always lived with the expectancy that Christ may return this year. Bible prophecy was very important to him and he would share every article and book he read on the end times with me and others. The Herald of Hope was always offered. He planned ahead for life and eternity.

He wanted 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17 read at his funeral.

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (NLT)

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. 14 For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 15 We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. 17 Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. 18 So encourage each other with these words. 

4. PROFIT AND LOSS 

The two main reports in accountancy are the Profit and Loss account and the Balance Sheet. Dad would say “what would it profit a man if he should gain the whole world and lose his own soul.”

He was always so excited to hear when one of the family had responded to Christ. I loved his conservative values and he not only balanced the books but balanced fun with faith, and love with integrity. He regarded the greatest asset of his life to be knowing Christ and serving Him.

5. INVESTMENT 

His investment into the life of this family is his legacy of Faith, Family and Fun.

He continues to invest in our lives. He has been to me the finest example of a Christian husband, father, grandfather that I have ever seen. His consistency, his love, his character, his faith.

We placed tributes on the casket and took time to say our goodbyes to Colin, Dad, to Pa, to Great Pa in our own way we all gave thanks to God for his life.

Someone said If you want an accounting of your worth, count your friends. I am richer for having known and loved my Father in law. We all are.

“Lord we commit our Colin into Your hands. We thank You for his life and the privilege of knowing him and loving him”

 Pastor Ross

SWAN LAKE REQUIEM

Posted: July 4, 2011 in Uncategorized
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TRIBUTE TO THOSE WHO HAVE PASSED AWAY RECENTLY

Swarn Lake Requiem

Rebecca Warren writes beautifully. One phrase that stood out as I sat reading her article made me think about a funeral I have conducted recently. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”. 

 http://beckslovelyblog.blogspot.com/2011/04/resurrection-in-dark.html

So let me begin with those words. “In the exhausted depression that too much grief can bring”, there where sorrow tries to hum its requiem, I still can picture the faces of those who have recently passed away, and I hear the joyful music of their influence, dancing its way around my heart.

What song can you sing when there are two different melodies, one sad and one joyful melody, competing with each other? What can you sing when eternity envelops our existence and draws the life of someone away, someone you have loved?

Not even the most experienced of musicians can adequately capture on a manuscript the musical score of what plays inside our heart when someone dies. The crescendo of an old and well-lived life seems to falter until all voices are silenced, and we are left feeling hollow and empty.

A few days ago, there I was once again, as the Chaplain of Shalom, with an empty manuscript, feeling that I was unskilled, but ready to create a tribute for someone who had recently passed away, hoping that it would be like an orchestral piece for a ballet or a beautiful song to honour a life well lived.

At those times, I need God’s help. He has created the original score for all our lives. He is the Master Musician. We all need His help when He comes to compose the finale of our time on here earth. 

Psalm 139:16 says that “all the days ordained for me were written in God’s book before one of them came to be.”

As a Chaplain working in an overtly Christian organisation, I always try to encourage people to put their faith in Jesus Christ, who has died for our sins and offers us the gift of eternal life to those who have faith in Him. I have found that faith in Him is a great strength to those who face the final stage of their lives. I think we all need His help and strength, but especially then. 

All we can do is say goodbye when someone dies, but faith in Christ gives me hope for the future for my own life. Psalm 30:11 says…“You have turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give you thanks forever”

Pastor Ross

Matthew 13:36-43 – WILL I SEE MY MUM IN HEAVEN? – Part 12

Will I see my mum in heaven?

I watched the news in the last few weeks as a nation reels in the horror of the aftermath of an earthquake. The devastation of a category 6 earthquake brings everything to it’s knees, buildings awkwardly buckle and crumble as if submitting to a warlord. Darkness falls like a smothering blanket over the city as the electricity grid fails. Debris falls, the dusty malformed tears of a city, the victim of a stroke. She looks contorted and twisted as she struggles in vain, convulsing with each aftershock, trying to stay alive but unable to move, her eyes wide and blinded in the dirt.

A woman is plucked from the wreckage of a collapsed building but nothing can save the twisted misshapen, struggling city from the crushing reality of over 160 deaths. Hell walks the darkened streets of Christchurch, New Zealand and faces are haunted with fear, shock and grief. Their eyes look for someone to tell them that this is not happening, but somehow they know that life will never be the same.

There was no warning. Sudden, unexpected. No-one can tell when death knocks menacingly at the door. She dies, not in the streets of Christchurch but a sea away, in Australia. There is no front page news of this devastating event. Only a lonely ad somewhere in the funeral notices of the local paper. My mum dies of a massive stroke (cerebral haemorrhage) in the early hours of the morning as Christchurch is still reeling from the aftershocks. As I hear this news I cannot believe that this has happened until my sisters and I go to view her body, and I see that she is not there. Just an empty shell. She has departed into eternity. We conduct her funeral a week later.

And all of us are left with unvoiced questions about eternity, questions we don’t really want to think about but which linger in the shadows of the mind. WHAT HAPPENS TO PEOPLE WHEN THEY DIE?

Jesus speaks of HEAVEN as a place where “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom” and HELL as “…the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:42-43 NLT).

IS MY MUM IN HEAVEN? If I am honest, I can’t answer that question. I have to leave it in the hands of God. I trust Him to make the decisions of eternity. Did my mum come into a personal relationship with Christ as her Lord and Saviour? I know that I shared with her about how Jesus died for our sins on a number of occasions. Did she ever decide inwardly to trust in Christ? I know that she would pray at night, but was she saved out of the wreckage, plucked from the roof before her life collapsed, before all that was left was shock reverberating in the emptiness of our hearts?

The world didn’t know it but it was experiencing an earthquake of unbelievable magnitude when Christ died. He was reaching out to save us from our precarious condition. When Jesus died on the cross for our sins there was an appropriate blackout that covered the earth which in the physical environment described what was happening spiritually as He was judged for my sin (Mark 15:33).

The only light that not only dispels the darkness but also causes no shadows is one that comes from within, an inner light. God is described as light and some would unkindly say of Christians that the lights are on but nobody’s home, but that’s cruel and patently untrue. No matter how odd Christians are, foolish to many, CHRIST DWELLS WITHIN. 1 John 1:5-7 (NLT) says “…God is light, and there is no darkness in Him at all. So we are lying if we say we have fellowship with God but go on living in spiritual darkness; we are not practicing the truth. But if we are living in the light, as God is in the light, then we have fellowship with each other, and the blood of Jesus, His Son, cleanses us from all sin.” John 8:12 (NLT) Jesus says “I am the light of the world. If you follow Me, you won’t have to walk in darkness, because you will have the light that leads to life.” The invitation is right there.

When the Bible describes those who go to heaven, it says “we will be like Him (Christ), for we will see Him as He really is” (1 John 3:2 NLT). The only way Jesus can describe to me what heaven is like is to say “…the righteous will shine like the sun in their Father’s Kingdom.” (Matthew 13:43 NLT). Although I can’t quite imagine shining like a celestial lightbulb, the contrast and choice is clear – DARKNESS, shell shocked and stubbornly unbelieving among the rubble of a collapsing world, or LIGHT; reaching out to a loving hand, and to salvation from the ruins of the devastating effects of my sin.

I choose LIGHT. Will I see my mum in heaven? Will I see you there?

Pastor Ross

THE CANVAS OF HER LIFE – ELSIE COCHRANE (1931-2011) 

My Beautiful Mum, Elsie CochranePete, my brother in law organises for her paintings to be in the Chapel half an hour before the time when we would celebrate the life of Elsie Cochrane, my Mum, and he hung them on the walls. Beautiful, large expressions of her life. 

Susan Boyle sings “How Great Thou Art” as people were still filling the chapel to overflowing. 

“Welcome to this ART GALLERY of our Mum’s works. We wanted to pay tribute to Elsie Cochrane’s CREATIVITY as a PROMINENT ARTIST as well as a loving Mother, Grandmother and Great Grandmother, and faithful friend to many of you here today.

It seems a bit strange that as a CHAPLAIN in an Aged Care Facility that I find myself leading the funeral of my own Mum. That seemed inconceivable a week ago. Still does. 

All of us are here because we have a connection with Elsie. She has touched our lives in various ways, and the COLOURS of her influence will remain with us. 

What can you say when your Mum dies? Death is a one way street into eternity.

Not even the most experienced of artists can adequately create with paint on canvas or poet can express in words on paper what we feel inside. The TUBES OF PAINT are squeezed dry. The words seem somehow hollow and empty. And yet we are here, with EMPTY CANVAS and unskilled hands ready to paint a portrait of our Mum, in bright and beautiful colours like the canvases around you. 

In order to do that we will need a bit of help, so we are going to ask the MASTER ARTIST to give us a hand. After all GOD painted the original portrait of Mum in eternity past and He knows her better than any of us. 

The Bible says in Psalms 46:1 (NLT) God is our refuge and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalms 103:13-14 (NLT) says, “The Lord is like a father to His children, tender and compassionate to those who fear Him. For He knows how weak we are; He remembers we are only dust. Our days on earth are like grass; like wildflowers, we bloom and die.” 

Elsie and her children, Ross, Toni and Lauren

This day is a time to CELEBRATE THE LIFE OF ELSIE COCHRANE. 

Don’t MISUNDERSTAND me. The last few days for my sisters and I has been a PALETTE filled with the DEEPER, SOMBER EARTH TONES OF GRIEF, …and WATERCOLOURS at that. So this is also a time to be impacted by the reality of eternity and realize that God is SENSITIVE to those of us who areHURTING. 

Psalms 34:18 (NLT) says that “The Lord is close to the BROKENHEARTED; He rescues those whose spirits are CRUSHED.” 

Psalms 90:1-12 (NIV) says “We are the clay, you are the potter; we are all the work of your hand.”The length of our days is seventy years– or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away. Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom” 

My son Ben, comes to the front and reads from Psalm 139:13 

“For You (God) created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written inYour book before one of them came to be.” 

Elsie, her children and some of her grandchildren, Rachel, Ben and Hope.

We sing Amazing Grace and TONI and LAUREN, my sisters, take up a PAINTBRUSH, and paint a picture of our Mum, Elsie Cochrane.

First Toni picks up her palette and paints her part of the portrait.

FOR MY MUM

“Its 8am.  I sit down at the computer and call Mum on Skype.  “Hi Tone darling, I knew it would be you,” she’d say.  “How did you know that?”  “Because I’m psychic and who else would ring me at this ungodly hour of the morning!”  “Spot on,  me,  I’d say”.   

This is how we would open one of our marathon talkathons.  We could TALK  the pants off a kangaroo,  sometimes two and a half hours of intense ramblings would find us still in our P Jays coming up to lunch time.  “Well I guess we’d better get off this phone”, she’d say.   I’m going down town, I haven’t had a shower and Ken will be here to pick me up soon.   Just before you go though, did I tell you about”………..and a half hour later, Ken is asleep on the couch. 

My Mum was my true friend.  She loved me unconditionally and she gave me her time.  She made allowances for me.  She was understanding but would always tell me in no uncertain terms if she thought I was being ridiculous. 

We were Shopaholics whenever she came to Sydney.  We loved anything unusual and beautiful.  We’d drive up the mountains, park the car and Do Leura.  Zany little café’s were our forte.  We’d get “wired” on our decafe cappuccinos.  I will miss that. 

She was always encouraging and intensely proud of my achievements.  She strived for excellence in all that she did and was passionate for her art, her garden, music and her family.  She was my Rock in my darkest moments and I know I was her Rock likewise.  She is always my Mum and I will miss her terribly.”

Lauren my sister shares

My mum accepted all things that came before her and always made the best of every situation thinking not of herself but of her family. 

 I remember when i was 14 years old and wagga at the time was experiencing a shocking heat wave. After sweltering all day in a classroom at school, I was dreading the long miserable hot walk home from Mt Austin high school to Hunter Street. Back in the early 70’s we didn’t have luxuries of refrigerated cooling like we do today. Just the old stand alone water cooler on wheels, but back then it was a luxury and I planned on gluing myself in front of it when I got home.

 As I walked out of the front gate of school, to my surprise, I saw mum across the road sitting in her little grey two door Morris miner waiting for me with a bucket to full of cold water and wash cloth to cool me down. ” Don’t think I will be doing this for you every day Lauren”. It’s too bloody hot to be sitting here! But she did, she was there the next day and the day after that!

My mum had a wonderful sense of humour with an effervescent laugh. She could always make me laugh, even when I was in one of my horrid teenage moods.

When I was recovering from a burst appendix in hospital, she made me laugh so hard; I burst a few of my stitches. The doctor was not happy, either was I!

Mum was with me through the birth of my daughter Hope and played a huge roll in her up bringing. Being a single mum at times was difficult for me. My mum was always there for Hope and I. I could always rely on my mum particularly when it concerned Hope. She had a very special bond with her and I thank her from the bottom of my heart for being such a loving thortful caring generous nana to hope.

My mum was a very stylish woman right up to the end. She always looked beautiful and modern she always looked younger than she was. I was very proud of her and how she looked when I met up with her in the market place. I remember being so proud when ever I introduced her to my friends or work colleagues always hear them commenting afterwards “oh your mother is beautiful” or “Is  that your mum wow she is so pretty”.

I take comfort in the fact that my very last words I said to mum was “ I love you mumma” and waved her good bye.

I pray she is in heaven with god and she has been given her energetic artistic spirit back again. I’m going to look forward to magnificent sunsets from now on  ‘cos I know my mum will be painting them just for us. Love you mumma.xx

Hope, Lauren’s daughter, sings a beautiful song.

In my hand, a legacy of memories
I can hear you say my name
I can almost see your smile
Feel the warmth of your embrace

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

Never thought this day would come so soon
We had no time to say goodbye
How can the world just carry on?
I feel so lost when your not at my side

But there is nothing but silence now
Around the one I loved
Is this our farewell?

Sweet darling you worry too much
My child, see’s sadness in your eyes
You are not alone in life
Although you might think that you are

So sorry your world is tumbling down
I will watch you through these nights
Rest your head and go to sleep
Coz my child this is not our farewell
This is not our farewell

Another grandson, David, Toni’s son, shares.

“Hello everyone, I am David Macarthur-King second grandson of 4 to Elsie Cochrane. Most of my adult life l have been away however I’m sure Nan understands.

And that’s probably the greatest gift my Nan gave to me, was her unwavering understanding. Drawing picture’s and painting art as a boy, in between climbing the highest tree whenever l would visit, she understood that l didn’t understand any boundaries and that was okay. Nan was all about trusting that I could be more than what I was and that my limits were expandable. Nan knew that I would learn to be understanding of boundaries, one day.

I always felt loved and cared for in her presence and her home. Nan nurtured my mind and fed my heart, and always made the best scones because aside from Art, she understood that the way to my young heart was through an exceptional scone. She was very thoughtful — indeed she allowed me to wash the dishes quite a lot when l was little. We will all have special memories of Nan, or Mum, or Elsie, but for me Nan taught me the love of appreciation for all things in life and to never settle for anything but the very best scone.

These are the gifts Nan gave to me — to share time simply and with love. To appreciate that I can just be me, and that‘s good enough, and to accept that sometimes life may serve you bad art without understanding, but somewhere, someone is enjoying Nan’s. That comfort is lessened for us today, but Nan‘s passion, and love, lives on in us. lt’s up to us to love each other as she loved us, with quiet acceptance and understanding.

Thank you Nan, I love you and goodbye.”

My son Ben shares. 

A reflection in the form of a video slideshow of Mum’s life is shown. I originally went to have this professionally produced but the guy came back with something which fell far short of what I wanted to depict my Mum’s life. I made my own, just impressions painted on a screen of Mum’s life. 

I have been extremely busy for the last few weeks and I had thought “I must ring Mum” but I didn’t make the effort until Monday night, at about 9.15 pm, when Julie, my wife, handed me the phone and said “Why don’t you ring your Mum” So I did. 

We spoke for about 50 minutes that night and she seemed happy to talk about what was happening in her life, about her granddaughter Hope and Hope’s new boyfriend, about my sisters and about her health. 

She asked me about my work as a Chaplain and I told her about how I had conducted 3 funerals within 2 days recently and how difficult it was to make each one personal. 

I said that I wasn’t afraid to speak to people about ETERNITY and how many people are MORE than willing to talk about dying when they come to an AGED CARE FACILITY. As a Chaplain I always TRY to encourage people to PUT THEIR FAITH in Jesus Christ personally. I have found that faith in Him to be a great strength to me during this time. I think we all need His help today. 

Mum spoke about how good she was feeling of late. Her health was good and she was enjoying life. She asked me, as she often does, if I will ever take up painting again. I told her that I was writing and illustrating a book on the computer of late and that she would get a copy as a Christmas present this year. I guess I will dedicate it to her. 

When I asked her if SHE would ever paint again, she told me that she hadn’t given up painting. She just lacked motivation to get something started again. 

My Mum and Me, Ross

I didn’t realise that this would be the last conversation that I would ever have with my Mum. At the end of those 50 minutes I cut the conversation short because I was tired. The last thing I said to her was “I love you Mum”. I am so thankful that Julie, my wife, handed me the phone that night and suggested I ring my Mum. I think God arranged for me to have that conversation. 

Our Mum was a fine ARTIST, and it is my task to paint you a picture of her life. 

ELSIE SWAN was born in “Windooree” private hospital, 53 Gurwood Street on the 19th June 1931, one of 7 children. 

Some of you may know that Wagga was experiencing a huge flood in 1931. My grandfather Dave Swan had to drive his very pregnant wife Alice into town. He had to get out of the Sulky at Lake Albert to check the depth of the water to see if they could get through. Mum could have been born in that sulky.  

Of course Australia has just been through some more incredible flooding and there has been a terrible earthquake in New Zealand recently. It seems Mum’s entrance into and exit from the world was surrounded by CATACLYSMIC EVENTS. Perhaps that’s why Mum always liked to paint in such DRAMATIC colours. 

Let me first paint some BROAD BRUSHSTROKES of her life. 

Elsie lived on a dairy farm with her parents at Gregado. She rode a horse with her sister, Letty, to the Gregado School, that’s if Tommey, her horse, would let them stay on. He had a habit of shaking them off at the gate and they would have to catch him all over again. 

Mum used to laugh about Tommey. She was not the best horse rider and one day when she was supposed to round up some cows, one cow just refused to co-operate. Tommey just bucked her off and rounded up the cow for her. He figured he could do the job better himself. 

After finishing the Black Friars CORRESPONDENCE course Mum completed her INTERMEDIATE in Wagga. She loved the dances at Gregado and playing tennis and she worked as a telephonist in Gregado. 

On the 23rd of July 1949 in the Methodist Church, she married our Dad, Roy Cochrane. 

Our Mum was a wonderful cook and I remember most Sundays we would have a roast Chicken feast. Toni, my sister, says that Dad made the mistake of saying one Sunday that part of the chicken was still frozen. This didn’t go down well Mum and he received a roasting himself, and the next time she served chicken she placed a frozen chicken on his plate and said “Here, eat this!” 

We’ve been reading Mum’s diaries of those early years, filled with hard work, and good friends, tennis and camping and eventually 3 children, Toni, myself, Ross, and Lauren, arguably her most creative work.  

In the early years of her marriage she lived in a little lane called LAMPE AVENUE in what amounted to a 2 room house and kitchen area, with a lean-to out the back and a copper for hot water and bath. We had only one powerpoint in the house. I loved growing up there and missed it greatly when we moved to a housing commission home at 27 Hunter St in Wagga. Since then someone has had the hide to pull that little house down and build an apartment. Pat Davey, Mum’s lifelong friend, who is here today would remember many stories from those days. 

For many years Mum was a professional dressmaker. She also worked in the Plaza theatre for a time. 

Mum and I studied fine Arts together at the Riverina College of Advanced Education and she went on to get her degree. She taught fine art at the University and Tafe College. She also taught DISABLED STUDENTS as well as teaching numerous PRIVATE STUDENTS through the years, some of whom have gone on to be prominent artists themselves. Over the years Mum has exhibited her work in many places including a combined exhibition which she did with me here in Wagga. 

This is perhaps her FINAL EXHIBITION and she would be pleased to think that you have come to see her work. AND NO, THEY ARE NOT FOR SALE.  

In 1981 Mum and Dad divorced and she moved to Ashmont. She remained friends, however with Dad until his death. She has lived in Ashmont Avenue for 25 years. Her landlord loved driving by and seeing her beautiful garden, splashes of colour from roses and numerous other plants decorating the premises and inviting your eyes to pause and enjoy them. She loved her garden. 

She also loved a variety of music ranging from Neil Diamond, John Farnham, Susan Boyle, Andrei Reau TO PINK. Her granddaughter Hope introduced her to Pink, I’m sure. She loved listening to Hope sing the songs of today. 

Mum actually attended Hope’s birth. She has loved being a grandmother and great grandmother. She recently came to Sydney and we all got together for a great day where she got to meet Rachel and Ben’s children. She also loved being a DAUGHTER HERSELF to her own Mum who lived to 108. Mum, Letty, Nana, Ken and others loved spending time at the Wagga Market Place where they all became well known and loved by the shopkeepers. 

During her time in Ashmont she met Ken and he has been a faithful friend to Mum for many years. His friendship enriched her life. Thankyou Ken. 

Our Mum has been able to travel to a number of countries and these trips have been inspiration for many of her artworks. She traveled with Pat Davey to Europe. She traveled to America, and Lord Howe Island, and to Tasmania with Letty in a Holden Barina. Letty remembers that they laughed a lot. Many other places fill photo albums. Although we have numerous photographs of these trips there are very few of them with her in them. She was more interested in TEXTURES AND COLOURS AND SHAPES for series of paintings which followed. 

I came across some notes Mum wrote for an interview with RVN, the local TV station, she was going to have for an exhibition. She wrote “Comments for RVN interview (I guess I won’t say any of this)…. The longer one paints or the more experience one has, the more difficult painting becomes. Rather than whipping up a painting as the result of “inspiration”, it is more a battle of wits – painter versus paint, brush and canvas.

The most frequent comment I have (from people) is “so long as you enjoy what you’re doing.” Well yes at times I do but often I loathe the piece I’m working on to the extent that I would like to tear it to shreds. Only later when I’ve taken the work to its limits, when I’ve resolved the painting and put it away for a time, am I likely to grow to like it. The ones that cause the most trouble – those I’d like to hack to pieces, are often my better pieces when resolved. 

I very rarely feel so attached to a piece of work that I can’t part with it, canvases are ripped off frames or repainted if they remain in my workshop after an exhibition.  

I work very long hours. I live alone so I can work into the early hours of the morning in my workshop if I want to and often do. I sleep very soundly but should I wake in the night with an idea I keep my note book handy and I jot things down. Inserted later – I said none of this but the interview was the best I’ve had. It was shown at the exhibition several times.” 

Another time she wrote, “Broke my hand 30th Sept 1986. Chirp (my budgee) died during operation 4th Oct 1986. Hand in plaster from 16th October – 27th November. Completed 3 mixed media paintings while my hand was in plaster (with great difficulty). Unable to stretch canvas and begin work in earnest until after Christmas 86. 19th January. Completed 7 paintings, six floor pieces. Work flowing, enjoying freedom from other commitments. Money short for materials as I’m unemployed during holiday period.”  

Elsie had a heart condition called HYPERTROPIC CARDIO MYOPATHY and on Tuesday morning 22nd February, 2011, at the age of 79, God painted the last brushstroke of her life here on earth.  

I walked into her workshop a few days ago and was suddenly overwhelmed with grief for her loss and thankfulness for life. The canvases still stood against the wall ready to be painted. The tubes of paint, paintbrushes, pottery, and numerous tools of her trade silently stood as if saying “What do we do now?” and I cried for their loss and mine. 

Her garden and the quality of her works and all those who have felt the touch of her influence say “Well done.” We love you Mum. 

 

Elsie and some of the great grandchildren - Levi, Arielle, Zion and Rome.

Elsie Cochrane was a sister to John, Nell, Kath, Chick Letty, and Lilly. She leaves behind 3 children, Toni, Ross and Lauren. 6 grandchildren, Jeremy, David and Matthew, Hope, Ben and Rachel, and 8 great grandchildren. And of course all of YOU who have come to her exhibition today.

We would like to give you a memento of her work. We found some canvases which had been water damaged at the bottom, so we have cut them up in the size of a large bookmark to give to each of you. There is a picture of Mum on the back and Julie has written “In recognition of the colour and texture you have added to Elsie’s wonderful life, we would like you to have, as a keepsake, this portion of her artwork. This memento will also serve as a reminder of the beauty with which Elsie has touched all our lives, with love, Toni, Ross and Lauren and their families.”

Would you stand with me as I pray. “Lord we commit Elsie into Your hands. We thankyou for who she was and what she meant to us, and the privilege of knowing her and loving her.  

May the Lord bless you indeed abundantly beyond all you ask or think. May the Lord extend the sphere of your influence in positive ways as you grow to know Him more and more. May the Lords Hand be with you guiding your hand as you reach out to others. May He protect and keep you from evil that you may live a life that pleases Him.  May you honour Him more and more in your life. May you know His peace and forgiveness and the assurance of eternal life. In Jesus Name we pray, Amen. 

Neil Diamond sings “Yesterdays Songs”

The casket is carried to the gravesite by Peter, David, Jeremy and Matthew, Ben and Jim.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 says “There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:

a time to be born and a time to die, He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end.
 

We’re here today to LAY TO REST Elsie’s body and to say our final goodbyes. The Bible says that OUR BODIES are made of the DUST OF THE GROUND and to the dust of the ground we will all return. But we are MORE THAN DUST. God breathed life into these temporary bodies, and as I just read GOD HAS SET ETERNITY in the hearts of men. These bodies serve us only as the TEMPORARY DWELLING PLACE. It is all together fitting and right that we miss Elsie but now is the time to let her go, to give her into God’s hands. 

We take time to place some flowers on Elsie’s casket. Mum always said she wanted plenty of flowers.

Earth to earth, ashes to ashes and dust to dust,
knowing full well that Jesus is the resurrection and the life.

I sing the Benediction. 

The Lord Bless you and keep you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you, and be gracious to you. The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, and give you peace.

Genesis 23 – WHAT AM I SUPPOSED TO DO WITHOUT YOU?

Staking a Claim in a Promise

When dementia had taken it’s course, Bess (not her real name) was left with just a couple of words, but one word which she used to respond to almost any situation was the word “AMAZING!” After a lifetime of words, what a great word to have on your lips at the end of your life. Matthew 12:34 (NLT) says “whatever is in your HEART determines what you SAY.” By declaring life to be AMAZING Bess was not defeated by NEGATIVITY. Of course we sang AMAZING GRACE at her funeral.

In Genesis 23 Sarah’s life could also be summed up by the word “AMAZING” yet there were times when she was defeated by negativity and doubt. “Amazing!” describes the hope given to Sarah of having a son when she was 90 years old. It describes the laughter she felt welling up within her as she was overwhelmed by the joy of such a miracle when Isaac was finally born. She WAS AN AMAZING PERSON. In 1 Peter 3:5-6 she is used as an illustration of what it means to be someone who is truly beautiful. In Hebrews 11:11 she is listed as one who leaves behind an AMAZING LEGACY of faith and confident hope in the promises of God.

I wonder how Sarah responded when Abraham told her that God had told him to sacrifice their only son. Some suggest that the traumatic events of Genesis 22 shocked Sarah so much that she died before her time? I don’t think so. My grandmother died at 108 years old. Sarah dies at 127. She dies of old age, don’t you think? Abraham is even older at 137 years of age. For Isaac it must have been like living with his great grandparents. Imagine Parents Day at school? “No, this is my Mum.”

What am I supposed to do without you? How will I cope with the death of the one I love? I thought about this fleetingly when my wife, Julie, went into hospital recently for an operation. It’s not a thought anyone wants to dwell on. It is predictably heartbreaking for Abraham when Sarah dies. Many years, many adventures together. Now she is gone. “Abraham mourned and wept” (Genesis 23:2 NLT).

When we were living in the Whitsundays a Pastor told me that you will always feel like a stranger and a foreigner in a place until you buy a house and a burial plot. There’s something to that, taking ownership over a given area by saying “I intend to live and die here!”

After expressing his initial grief, in the midst of his pain, Abraham takes responsibility and makes an important decision in terms of appropriating what was his inheritance. He BUYS A PLOT OF LAND. Sarah is the first to die in the promised land. Buying her burial plot is STAKING A CLAIM in the promises of God.

This is the first and only land Abraham owned in his lifetime in Israel, a burial plot. Interesting. I could make some analogies about dying to self before you enter into the promises of God but the analogy would be pushing it.

When Abraham purchases this land from the Hittites, it is also interesting how he describes himself. In Genesis 23:4 (NLT) he says to the Hittite elders “Here I am, a stranger and a foreigner among you. Please sell me a piece of land so I can give my wife a proper burial.”

Abraham is financially well off. He is well respected. He is called a PRINCE (Genesis 23:6), so perhaps he is already a leader among them. They also recognize him as a FRIEND (Genesis 23:15) and offer him the very best land for free, but he sees himself as a STRANGER, and refuses to accept land that will cost him nothing. In Genesis 23:13 he pays 400 pieces of silver and in Genesis 23:18 “it was transferred to Abraham as his permanent possession in the presence of the Hittite elders at the city gate.” God sees him as owning the whole country!

Perhaps the invitation for me is that when I am facing the grief of loss and I find myself asking “What am I supposed to do now?” that’s when I have an opportunity to stake a claim in the promises of God as found in His Word, the Bible. They are my permanent possession. Yes it will involve a cost to make such a decision but it will also shape my destiny and life will continue to be painted with the colours of what can only be described as “AMAZING!”

Pastor Ross