Funeral sermon for Mildred L. Forte

Welcome home, Millie. Welcome home.

I mean welcome home to Good Shepherd, of course—to this building and this community that was your church home for so many years. 

A little bit of your spirit has lingered here, even when you were in Florida, so there’s been sadness but also some joy in memories shared as we prepared to lay you to rest. 

So I mean welcome home to Good Shepherd, but in a greater sense, I also mean welcome to your true home, your home in God. 

Where George has been waiting for you these past few years.

Where, as we heard in the reading from the book of Revelation, “death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”

Because whether you found yourself in Florida or here in Bucks County, this is the home you’ve been traveling toward all your life.

Today’s first reading, from the book of Proverbs, isn’t one of our usual funeral readings. Millie’s son, George, and I were communicating long distance, making some plans for this service, and he asked in an email if it could be included. 

“THIS is exactly our Mother!” he wrote.

He sent just the citation, not the text, and so I had to go and look it up. I don’t know if I’ve ever laughed out loud before while looking up funeral readings.

Yes, it did sum Millie up exactly. 

The part about willing hands working wool and flax brought to mind the beautiful afghans Millie made and donated to Good Shepherd to be auctioned off. Several lucky winners here have told me over the past few days that they still treasure those afghans.

“The heart of her husband trusts her,” it also says, and I thought of the tender love she and George seemed to share. Their love wasn’t just good for them and their family, it was a blessing for all of us, in the sense that it was a model others might emulate, and—in a way—a reflection of God’s love for us all.

I remember the time Millie and George came up during the sharing of blessings and Thanksgivings to say they were celebrating their wedding anniversary—if I recall correctly, it was their 65th. I know I’ve told this story before, but I still think of it whenever I think of them.

I asked if they had any advice to share, and George said, with his quiet little smile, “I do everything she says.”

I don’t know if that was true or not, but their devotion was something we all admired. 

The last line in the reading, the one about “a woman who fears the Lord,” can be perplexing, but I see it as the most important of all.

What does it mean to fear the Lord? If you knew Millie, it’s hard to imagine her cowering in fear of God.

But this doesn’t mean that kind of fear. It’s a response to the love of God that has many different aspects, including awe, respect, reverence, honor, devotion, and the desire to demonstrate our gratitude for all the gift of life living in a way that is always pleasing to God. Living a good life.

What does it mean to live a good life? It’s a life that puts faith at the center, a life that’s focused on the love of God and draws everyone else around us into that love. Millie’s connections with others were part of that … the way she loved to provide hospitality was part of that … her generosity was part of that. Even her warm smile and the twinkle in her eye that went with it were part of that.

She knew that life was good, both the life we know now, and life eternal. Life is a gift we’re given to make the most of while we are here, knowing that it’s just the beginning, that we are on our way to true life in Christ. 

That ultimately is the point of our entire lives—that journey to God—and now, for Millie, that journey is ended.

And so our tears mingle with gladness today as we remember those words of Christ that we heard in the Gospel from John:

“This is indeed the will of my Father, that all who see the Son and believe in him may have eternal life; and I will raise them up on the last day.”

So welcome home, Millie. Amen.