Memorial for Jean Merrill, died November 12, 2006.
“Cheerful” is the first word that comes to my mind about Jean Merrill, my beloved mother-in-law. Mom was cheerful and delightful for several reasons. First, she deeply loved and enjoyed her husband, Paul. He was always a great source of her joy. Second, she loved people and especially her family. Third, she found delight in music, especially in performing it. For many years she was the organist at Gospel Echoes Bible Church and knew every hymn and chorus by heart. This involvement in the church’s life overall was a fourth reason for her cheer. Worship, teaching, church attendance, and Christian service were integral, meaningful, and consistent parts of her life. Fifth, and most importantly, she loved her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, and always endeavored to live faithfully and prayerfully before Him for the glory of God. She knew “the joy of the Lord.”
Mom enjoyed the small things in life as well as great blessings. She was always interested in something: a new song, a new book, or the proper interpretation of a Bible verse. She was never bored. She loved scouring through Bible commentaries and Bible Study helps. It was fitting, then, that she managed the book table and later the book store at Gospel Echoes Bible Church. Whenever anyone had a question about a particular subject, Mom would work hard to recommend just the right book. She had verses from the Bible pasted throughout her home and hid the Word in her heart, as well. She collected many teaching tapes and loved to listen to the Psalms on tape. Rebecca and I would often send Mom and Dad tapes of our messages, knowing she would listen to and savor every word. She was always interested in our lives and wanted to learn from us as well as give us her wisdom.
Mom’s cheerfulness was also born of her generosity. She was always eager to please and serve her friends and family. One incident, among many, stands out to me. When Rebecca and I were first married, Mom and Dad noticed that the U-Haul trailer that was to take our belongings from Eugene, Oregon, to Madison, Wisconsin, looked far too big for our little 1976 Gremlin to pull. So, they decided to hitch it to their truck and drive out to Madison themselves so I could drive the Gremlin without being encumbered by an overstuffed caboose. Mom and Dad also contributed generously to Christian ministries, including all the ministries I worked for before finally moving into the world of guaranteed salaries.
I also remember Mom as stately and striking in demeanor, posture, and gait—just like her daughter. She was a class act. In the early 1990s, Mom and Dad lived part-time in Eugene, Oregon, where Rebecca and I were living while I was in graduate school. This afforded us much time with them for several years. I remember seeing Rebecca and Mom at the church we all attended striding swiftly through the lobby on their way to some important destination: mother and daughter—sleek, graceful, beautiful, and unforgettable. One of the parishioners even dubbed Mother “Momma Gams.” (For you young people, “gams” means legs.)
While the last few years—and particularly the last few months—of Mother’s life were discouraging and difficult, we still saw her old personality shine through at times, penetrating the layers of pain, weakness, and heartbreak. But right now, Mother is far more than merely cheerful; she is ecstatic, exultant, elated, and ebullient, basking in the radiance of the glorious God who lovingly saved her, guided her, and brought her safely to heaven’s far shore.
And better yet, all who know Christ as Lord will one day dance and sing and play and work and worship along with Jean Merrill in a resurrected world of boundless beauty before the very throne of God. And we will do so forever and ever: world without end. Amen.