The Light of Home
A funeral homily delivered by Rev. Peter T. Atkinson
March 7, 2016
for the funeral of Eleanor Virginia Rowe Allman
at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church, Gordonsville, VA
Genesis 1: 1-5
Matthew 5: 14-16
Let us pray,
Help us to see despite our eyes
Help us to think outside of our minds
Help us to be more than our lives
For your eyes show the way
Your mind knows the truth
Your being is the life.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, 2 the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God[b] swept over the face of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.
14 “You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid.15 No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.
The Lord did not waste any time. Before he made anything else, he made the light. He spoke, saying let there be light and it was good. He hung the stars as lights in the sky. He led his people, a pillar of flame, lighting up the night, shining, leading the Israelites to the home that he had made for them. Light is a symbol of God’s righteousness, God’s protection, God’s truth, God’s revelation, God’s providence, even of God’s own Son, who said, I am the light of the world, yes the light came into the world, and he was the light of the world, people who had been walking in darkness had finally seen a great light, a lamp unto our feet and a light to our paths, a light shining through darkness, shining so bright that in him there would be no darkness at all. . . and it is in his image that we are made, to be a reflection of his image, a mirror to His light, shining bright, a light reflected directly from His light to and for the world, forever to be placed upon a hill, on a lampstand, giving light from our homes, through, and out of our homes, for all the world to see, so glory can be given to God. For 100 years, from all I have been told, Virginia Allman believed this to be true, and strove always to live her life as a shining light, and this is why she loved lighthouses. She saw in them a symbol of her simple faithfully lived philosophy of life, caring, hospitable, solid, and shining.
Picture if you will, the sea, rough, vast, flowing, and dangerous, mysterious in its depths, treacherous, especially in its rocky shallow edges, on one such edge is a rock foundation, strong and prominent; secure on that rock, hanging out over the edge, on an exposed promontory, is a house, simple, elegant, quite strikingly beautiful, fashionable, and meticulously decorated, a tall steeple like tower stands atop the house, and in that tower, above that house, fastened to the rock is a light, shining in the darkness. Like the stars that God himself hung in the sky, it guides the weary traveler, safely home. It is the first light of home he sees, welcoming, hospitable. . . and constant.
These are the words and this is the image that three generations of Virginia Allman’s daughters used to describe her to me. She believed that the light of her life, all the talents she had been given by God, her very self was to be used, and shown, given, for the glory of God, to the weary travelers of life. That her home was to be open, that if you stopped by to visit, she’d want you to stay to eat, “have you eaten yet?” and if you stayed to eat, why not stay and sleep? It is dark and cold out there, and her light was on, her stove was hot, and her house was warm with a special kind of love she made look easy, effortless, magic, the difficulty of which could only be seen if you would ever try to emulate it yourself.
She believed in friendship, and she believed in family. She knew that family should spend time together, that family memories, stories, games, conversations, inside jokes that come only from togetherness, are what makes life worth living. Families ground us, connect us to our roots, making for us a home, a place to be together, place that is safe, so that when we go on our adventures, the adventures of life, she knew all too well that people need to take, like driving trips back and forth to Detroit, or flying lessons, or even as simple as the adventure of unauthorized roller skating, no matter the vehicle, no matter the danger, no matter the distance, no matter how far away your adventure took you, you always would have a safe place, where the light is always shining. . . a light that in your memory, no matter how rough the seas of life become, could always guide you back home.
She believed in gifts. . . knowing that symbols are important, mementos and sacramental memories, which become the subtle poetry and communion of life, like lighthouses, scrapbooks, memorized patterns to knit for folks, each one perfect, made perfect, connected gifts, like flowers and plants, a skilled gardener knows how and knows that one seed, one strain could be spread and connect places and people together, divided by miles, or even years. . . that the trails of life intersect, and those intersections should be marked so they can be remembered. Every house she ever lived in, including the one her body will find its rest in today is connected by a strain from a single seed of Aucuba, lovingly called Acuba. Life is connected in such ways, the paths we take are always lighted, and in such all are connected. A person who knows all of this, these secrets of life, strives to teach people, to guide them, by her own example, preaching the sustainable lessons of action, and when her pupils were too thick to get it from such things, she had a way, a subtle way, a graceful way of letting you know, without letting you know, humor is often the best critic. . . and Virginia had that subtle gift.
We here at Gordonsville Presbyterian Church lost another great light last week as well. Lydia and Virginia, fast friends, sharing bonds of love and service to Christ, tending gardens, planting seeds, both were shining lights. I said of Lydia that her life as a teacher and gardener, reflected the image of God, and so was fully human, fulfilled as human life should be. . . where so many of the details of her life emulated the savior she served and loved. It is evident that the same is true for Virginia. Her light she did not hide under the bushel, but shone it fully for all to see and learn from. Such light never dies, for it shines brighter than we can imagine, it is reflected in every one her life touched, and carries on in your hearts, in your memories, and now she is home, and her light can guide you home there to her as well, as it always has.
Jesus says, I am the light of the world, I am the resurrection and the life, I am the way, the truth, and the life. . . in him was life, and his life was the light to all people. Thanks be to God. . . Amen.