We're sure going to miss her. I don't know how many people I have talked to since Jimmie's passing who didn't say two things - the first words out of everyone's mouth was some variation of this - "she was the sweetest person." Oh they might have said "very kind-hearted,", or "the most compassionate," or "she was good for a guaranteed smile every time," but in some way they expressed what a loss it is to have the person who carried that smile, who made us feel loved and cared for, leave us.
There's no doubt that she had a rough few years here at the end. When I saw her at church a couple of weeks ago, she could barely make it to the door. After apologizing to me for taking so long to get to the back door and me telling her not to be silly, she sat down for a moment, struggling to catch her breath and then proceeded to ask me about my grandson.
And for the last time in this world, I got to see that smile.
That's the other thing everyone mentioned. "That sweet, loving smile" someone said, and then someone else pointed out that Jimmie had it almost all the time. Friends, think about that for a moment. Especially those of you who knew her far better than I ever did. If that was the natural way Jimmie approached life, with all that she had gone through, was going through, she must have known something that gave her the ability to keep that smile.
This life - It goes by so fast. So fast you don't even realize it until you're forced to slow down, or on days like this, to stop long enough to remember.
The Bible says it this way:
1 For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven. 2 A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest. 3 A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up. 4 A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance. Eccl 3:1-4 (NLT)
For Jimmie Hill it began
October 4, 1938 in Magnolia, Mississippi.
Just to remind those of you who weren't there, or anywhere then,
times were hard. 20% of America
was out of work and especially in areas that produced raw goods like Mississippi
cotton towns. But like most folks, they pulled together and made it through.
I don't really know much about Jimmie's childhood, growth to adulthood, as I've only been here and known her a little over 15 years now. Those of you who have read the well written obituary have seen that she was preceded to her rest by her sister Clarice. Others also went ahead of her into eternity - her husband, and son-in-law.
She left quite a few loved ones behind. Three children - daughters Theresa and Cindy, and her son Larry. Then there are the grandchildren and great grandchildren who live on to carry her memory, and I hope also, some of the qualities that made Jimmie so special.
When the Bible talks about there being a time for everything, as usual, it says a lot while also only saying a little. How do you even begin to say it all? You begin as a child, and the world seems magical. You look at a beautiful flower or a beautiful sunset and are told by adults that it won't last.
And yet you, in the wondrous hope that is childhood, say back to them, "there will be other flowers, other sunsets and they may be more beautiful."
They may just be. There may be more beauty to come.
But we go into adulthood with but a faint memory of that childhood hope and carry it into our marriage, into having children and making a family. And in that part of life some days are beautiful and some are not. As the obituary described her though, Jimmie was someone who knew who she was and was going to do her best for herself and for her children.
Jimmie experienced the joys of having her children - I don't know if you who are blessed in that way ever stop to realize just what a blessing it is. Sometimes in making a living and giving everything you have to just get by, we forget how precious a gift they are - until we become grandparents and then everything those kids do seems amazing.
Well when the Scripture talks about "a time to plant and a time to harvest" it's not just talking about crops. Giving of yourself, giving up (or planting) so your children can get - to make sure they have what they need and a little bit more than what you had - so you can enjoy seeing them grow (or your harvest) is what drove Jimmie to work all those years.
I've been trying to decide if I'd have wanted her to be my Supervisor at work. I have the feeling it would have been a two edged sword. She'd have definitely treated me with her kindness and compassion, but she also probably would have expected that same drive and purpose she had in life to show up in my work habits. I suspect she was that way about her family too.
Jimmie was like many of us who want so much for our children and grandchildren. For most we cannot make a great difference materially, so we focus on trying to give things that matter a lot more. A clear sense of what is right and what is wrong. The importance and value of hard work. The worth of family. And then the one that matters most of all.
An example of Christ-like faith. For a Baptist preacher I've probably held off longer than some expected to mention Jimmie's faith.
In a way, that was my deliberate choice, because I've found that those, like Jimmie, who live out their belief in Jesus as their Savior, as their Lord, and who follow His teachings in every area don't really need that shouted out at times like this. You know Who she loved.
As someone who prayed with and prayed for Jimmie, and as someone who has talked with her on quite a few occasions about her life, her family, and what she wanted for them and out of this life, let me just say this clearly. Jimmie Hill's faith in Jesus Christ has meant that when she closed her eyes in this life, she opened them a moment later in heaven.
The Bible makes it plain that for anyone who surrenders their life to Christ through confession of their sins, acceptance of forgiveness for those sins, and shows the effects of that through a life of obedience to the teachings of Jesus, to those who have done this - at the end of this life, something better awaits. Something more beautiful than we could imagine, even as a child.
In an encounter with someone else who had lost their loved one - in her case her brother named Lazarus, Jesus Himself makes it plain.
25 Jesus told her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying. 26 Everyone who lives in me and believes in me will never ever die. Do you believe this, Martha?” John 11:25-26 (NLT)
The Bible also tells us that unless “unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the
. Matt 18:3 (NLT) Kingdom
"Turn from your sins," means decide you have had enough of life as it is, with a constant rub between what you want and what you know is right in God's eyes - and you agree with God that you are wrong and need His forgiveness for a new direction - out of darkness and into His light.
"Become like little children..." - that means you have to rely on someone else because on some level you know you can't make it without them.
Praise God, Jimmie had made that choice. I don't know when and where, I don't know if she was baptized by immersion or sprinkled, I don't know whether she preferred the KJV or the NIV or some other version of the Bible. I don't need to know any of that, because by the way she lived her life, by the words she spoke and the heart she had for Jesus, I know she lives with Him.
So when Jimmie fell asleep, that smile reached its destination. That something she knew that kept that smile on her face turned out to be that she knew Someone - Jesus, who had made her a promise a long time ago, that when the time to live was over, and the time to die had come, He'd carry her in His arms, home. Hear the words of Jimmie's Savior - and yours if you'll turn from your sins and believe in Him
1 “Don’t let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God, and trust also in me. 2 There is more than enough room in my Father’s home. If this were not so, would I have told you that I am going to prepare a place for you? 3 When everything is ready, I will come and get you, so that you will always be with me where I am. John 14:1-3 (NLT)
God guaranteed that through the life, death, and resurrection of His Son Jesus. So when it's that "time to die"
21 So you see, just as death came into the world through a man, now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man. 22 Just as everyone dies because we all belong to Adam, everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life. 1 Cor -22 (NLT)
New Life! No more sorrow! No more heartache! No more troubles. No more pain!
I still can't help thinking about the last time I saw Jimmie. She was so pale, so weak so could barely catch a labored breath.
Happy, whole once more.
So what now for those of us left here?
We can take comfort in knowing that Jimmie is home, is whole, and that her smile will never cease again.
And too, to the extent that Jimmie's example points us toward a life lived trusting in Christ and affects us so deeply that we want what she had, Jimmie Hill can live on, in us. When we meet people with arms wide open; when we treat others with love and compassion, when we give of ourselves so that others might have their needs met, she will live on.
But don't forget why she smiled. You can have that smile, but only if you embrace the reason for it. There's a God who loves you so much that he'll love you - he has loved you from before you were born - every day of your life - and if you'll let Him - will love you forever with Him in eternity. If you want that smile take a moment to meet its maker as I pray.