Chapter 21–The Holy Spirit Arranges Maxine’s Funeral

In Spiritual Stories by Gary



Arrangements for a funeral seldom go as planned.  For Maxine’s funeral the Holy Spirit guided the entire process and brought the right people to the right place at the right time.  This is that story.

The Holy Spirit Arranges Maxine’s Funeral 

As we began arrangements for Maxine’s funeral it became apparent the Holy Spirit was at work again in the life of Maxine and I, even though Maxine was living in the next life.

Back in April Maxine was feeling well enough for us to attend church.  This year was the 50th anniversary of St. Timothy.  Maxine was a member of the planning committee.  She had spent hours and hours documenting membership by decade.  As part of the celebration, previous pastors were invited to return and deliver a sermon. The Sunday was April 24, my birthday.  The guest pastor was Pastor Victoria.

Pastor Victoria had a special connection to our family.  She had served her internship at St. Timothy when she was finishing seminary.  I was a member of the internship committee.  During her internship Pastor Victoria experienced some traumatic events in her life.  The internship committee, the congregation, and Pastor Victoria all worked together to help her deal with those events.  It was a life changing experience for all of us.  I gained great respect for Pastor Victoria as a person and as a pastor.

Pastor Victoria lead a youth group to Chicago for mission work. Our youngest daughter Karmin was part of that youth group.  Karmin and Pastor Victoria developed a friendship during the trip.  Maxine and Victoria had late-in-life career changes.  Both were 50ish when they decided for a career change.  Maxine from a mother and wife to a registered nurse; Victoria from a mother and wife to a pastor.  Both struggled and had to work very hard.  Both earned accolades for their efforts and success.

As Pastor Victoria’s internship was ending, St. Timothy’s pastor resigned.  Pastor Victoria was the first choice for a new pastor.  Lutheran rules prevented intern’s from becoming pastors in the church where they served the internship so it was not to be. Pastor Victoria was called to a congregation in south central Wisconsin.  From there she had been called to a congregation in Denver, Iowa, about 30 miles from St. Timothy. Maxine and I were unaware Pastor Victoria had returned to the area.

Pastor Victoria preached a sermon that went straight to my heart and soul.  Maxine and I sat in “our pew”, holding hands and soaking in every word.  It would be the last time we sat together in that church.  I wrote the story “Rocks in My Pocket” as a result of that sermon and the events of that day.

Maxine died on a Saturday night in June.  On Sunday we made the necessary phone calls and began to plan her funeral.  Her funeral would be handled by the Dahl-VanHove-Schoof Funeral Home in Cedar Falls.  They handled Kim’s funeral and provided our family with much support.

Pastor Fred was the pastor at St. Timothy.  He stopped at the house after he finished the Sunday services.  Pastor Fred and his wife Pastor Claudia were leaving on vacation. It was a vacation that had been planned for a long time and monies had already been spent on the vacation.  They could not cancel their vacation because of Maxine’s death.  He offered the name of another pastor to lead the funeral.

I did not recognize the name of the pastor.  I was concerned.  I disliked funerals where the pastor was not familiar with the deceased.  Maxine and I had been members of St. Timothy for 30 years.  I did not like the idea of a “stranger” conducting her funeral. Maxine deserved someone who knew about her strong faith, her fierce independence, and her unconditional love.

A light bulb just popped in my head.  It was the Holy Spirit at work again.  I asked Pastor Fred if it were possible for Pastor Victoria to conduct the funeral.  He said it was if she was available.  However, he knew she was leaving town that day for a conference.

Pastor Fred contacted Pastor Victoria and she agreed to conduct the funeral if we could wait until Thursday.  She provided a cell phone number to contact her.  I called her and we made some basic arrangements while she was driving to the conference. The funeral would be scheduled for Thursday.  Pastor Victoria would meet with the family late Wednesday afternoon at our home in Hudson.  We agreed this was to be a celebration of Maxine’s life.  There would be no whining about a life cut short or any of that stuff.

Pastor Victoria asked that we think of things we want to say about or remember about Maxine. I told everyone and asked them to write down their thoughts to give to Pastor Victoria.

The arrangements with the funeral home were essentially identical to those of Kim’s funeral.  The model of Kim’s casket was still available and we selected it for Maxine. Both of them liked oak wood.  The flowers were ordered.  The visitation would be in the same room as Kim’s.  We agreed to have a picture presentation of Maxine’s life.  I scanned photos and created a PowerPoint presentation.  Galen was able to bring his laptop from work to display the presentation.  We agreed to put a decal on the top of the casket vault.  The decal was a picture of a fishing dock on a lake.  The picture was very similar to the view of the lake in Birchwood, WI where Maxine and I spent wonderful times in the fall of the year.

Pastor Victoria met with the family on Wednesday and was a great comfort to us.  She conducted the funeral with reverence, grace, and poise.  Pastor Victoria read, word for word, our remembrances of Maxine.  They brought tears and smiles to our faces.  Pastor Victoria and Maxine were kindred spirits.  Maxine had to be smiling as a female pastor of the conservative and traditional Lutheran Church lead the funeral to celebrate her life.  I am sure Maxine was happy with the celebration.

So way back on April 24, we had no idea the reconnection with Pastor Victoria, as a guest pastor, would lead us to Pastor Victoria leading a funeral service to celebrate Maxine’s life.  We had no idea the Holy Spirit was putting things in place for events yet to come.  So as the day of the funeral came, I was once again amazed at the work of the Holy Spirit.  The Holy Spirit guided us through a series of events that strengthened us during a time of deepest sorrow. Thank God for the Holy Spirit.

After the funeral, Pastor Victoria stayed in touch.  She decided to start a Remembrance Service at her church, St. Peter.  The service would remember those that had passed away in the last year.  She extended an invitation to me.  The service would be held between Thanksgiving and Christmas.  About 75 people attended this first time service. Pastor Victoria was overjoyed.  The service was a meaningful time and a sharing time for all that attended.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit who guides Pastors to try new things and take first steps to share the message of God’s grace in new ways.

Remembrances of Maxine:

From Gary

I remember Maxine as the most loving person I have ever known. She was kind and gentle to everyone.

I will remember Maxine as the spiritual backbone of our family.  In good times and bad, she guided our family to grow and develop ourselves spiritually.

I remember Maxine as a strong willed and persistent person who worked hard to get what she wanted.  In high school she started after me 6 months before I knew who she was.  We met in February 1962 and on Valentines Day of 1962 I asked her for a date. She captured my heart.  We have been together 43 wonderful years.

I remember Maxine as a person who was always 5 minutes late so she kept all her clocks 5 minutes ahead.  Her mother warned me about this on our first date.  Her mother said she wanted to meet the boy that could get Maxine to be ready on time.

I remember Maxine at age 48 starting college to obtain a Bachelors degree in nursing. She did so with the same strong will and persistence she lived life with.  While being a mom and a wife, she amazed her children by obtaining the highest grade point average in the entire family.

The entire extended family will remember Maxine for her home made bread rolls and cinnamon rolls at Thanksgiving and for her home made caramels at Christmas.  Many a night she worked late into the night to make sure there was enough for everyone to share.  The love and caring that went into those delicious smells and tastes will not pass this way again.

I will remember Maxine for her knowledge and love of nature. She was a tom boy and spent a lot of time in the woods when growing up.  She knew every tree, every flower, and the song of every bird.  Her bird feeder and the animals in her back yard were a love and a joy to her.  In her last days she got enormous joy in watching the birds and squirrels at her back yard feeders.

I will remember Maxine as a person with infinite patience. While most of us kept track of time with watches or stop watches and talked of microseconds, she used a calendar keep track of time.

I will remember Maxine as being true to the Norwegian proverb that a Norwegians heart is as soft as her head is stubborn.

I will remember Maxine as a person blessed by God to always be satisfied with where she was at, with what she had, and with what she was doing.

Whether it was an ambulance call with the loss of someone else’s child or the loss of our own child I will remember how hard we could hang on to each other for support.

I will remember how Maxine could use a 30 year old fishing pole, a cheap reel, and her Norwegian patience to catch the most fish year after year after year.

From Karmin
I remember mom’s care. We were all spoiled by it. When I was in college and even after I moved to Maryland, whenever I got sick I picked up the phone and called mom. Her diagnosis and treatment was always better than what the doctor’s might have said. Just hearing her voice was half my cure. She was constantly reassuring me I didn’t have the latest epidemic I’d read about online or in the paper.

I remember when mom worked at the nursing home. I never really wanted to go to school before she got home in the morning. Many mornings I would be pulled from bed by the phone ringing. When I answered it was to mom singing “Good Morning to you…” to make sure I was up and out of bed.

She was always there too for cooking advice, which I desperately needed. Even at 5am when I called frantic that I had just destroyed the egg casserole for the teacher breakfast she could help me through her sleepy eyes and reassure me that, “yes, it really was supposed to look like that.”

I remember the countless hours spent in front of the television with her watching “Days of Our Lives”. Some days it might take 3 hours to get through the show because she’d keep falling asleep and have to rewind. I always told her how ridiculous the show was and what a waste of time it was, but I never got up and left while I show was on. I even remember calling from college a couple of times for updates, so I think in the end she made me a soap opera junkie too.

I remember watching my parents endless love for each other.  That is real love to its fullest.  And I remember thinking how lucky I was to have parents so in love and be able to experience that kind of love everyday of my life.  If anyone can feel half of the love they have they should consider themselves lucky.

I remember all the love, the hugs, the tears she wiped away, the lessons she taught me, the looks she gave me, and the endless times she was forced to mutter… “leave your sister alone.” to one of my siblings (sometimes all three at the same time) but she never looked up or missed a beat. I cherish every moment of these thoughts.

I love you mom, Karmin

Thoughts from a dear friend – Brenda Weber:

Some of our best memories are of the famous pizza nights, after confirmation class. We went to the Stratton’s for order out pizza.

Maxine’s love of sunsets was contagious. She said you can go anywhere in the world but Iowa has the best sunsets because of the clouds.

Her joy of flowers, birds, and small creatures was known by everyone.

I remember best the simple pleasure she got from the walks we took through the Green Belt, a cat bird calling, the blue bells in bloom, the first time either or us saw a May Apple in bloom. The walks we took reminded her of her youth and the walks she took as a young girl near her home.