Don Lee was a man of few words and that is okay, because the wife whom he dearly loved has plenty to say. Diane loved Don and she still glows with a twinkle in her eye as she says, “We were really quite opposite of one another.” Don recognized they were different and apparently loved it. How do I know Don recognized the difference? Well, I asked Diane how they met. The story goes something like this, Diane’s friend from college was going to an event with Diane and asked if her brother could come also. Diane permitted and this is when Don quite literally entered the picture. Upon meeting Diane, Don insisted on having his picture taken with her before he left. And the rest, as they say is history. Don and Diane’s marriage commitment is part of the legacy he leaves his children and the world.
Don was a man of faith. He loved God and his whole family knew it. Yesterday as Nicole, Vince and I sat on the couch talking about Don, Nicole suggested, “We should put a Bible under his hands. He loved God very much.” The iconic farm needlework that is part of Don’s casket and Nicole’s comments echoed Don’s love for the “Shepherds Psalm” 23.
Psalm 23 (ESV)
The Lord Is My Shepherd
23 A Psalm of David.
1 The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
2 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
3 He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
5 You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
Don was a dairy farmer. Kirsten insisted that Don’s love of his dairy cows must mentioned as we celebrate Don’s life. Dairy farmers don’t just own domesticated beasts, they have a relationship with their flock. He cares for them, he provides for them, he watches out for them. Don lived life in God’s farmyard classroom and he learned much about life, love and God through his work and faith in God.
Don had a handsome stature. In pictures we see he was a stunning young man and when I met him 3 years ago I could see he was a handsome senior man. His piercing blue eyes, his infectious smile and his confident demeanor led me to see him as a wise man. One of the Scripture verses Diane desired to be shared with you is:
Proverbs 3:5–6 (ESV)
5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
and do not lean on your own understanding.
6 In all your ways acknowledge him,
and he will make straight your paths.
This is more than an “old proverb” this is wisdom hidden the heart of a God fearing man. Chris, Kirsten and Carianne there something I learned about parents a few years ago. We’re all kind of making it up as we go. That’s one of the reasons you saw a Bible that sat beside his old brown chair. We need the clarity and instruction found in it’s pages and through the guidance of Holy Spirit. It’s true. We don’t really have all the answers, most times we don’t have any answers, at least any tangible ones that seem like they will work. But the one answer we do know is this, because we’ve had to learn it through all of the tough knuckle headed stuff we’ve done and all the tough knuckle headed stuff we have seen our kids and grandkids do. And that answer is this, “We trust that God knows what He is doing even when we can’t see it and don’t know if the ending is going to be what we want. We have learned to KNOW that God is going to show His goodness. That is the secret to our wisdom and why our paths look “straight.” Your Dad was a man that trusted God when things didn’t look right with his parenting, in his home, on his farm and in his life. Don’s trust in God is what led him through his marriage, leading his family and walking the last couple of years of life with his sickness and failing health. He wasn’t the firm rock, he was simply trusting in the firm rock of Jesus as a shepherd to care for him and provide the things he needed as he walked through the “valley of the shadow of death.”
Carianne, I watched you and your family over the last several days of Don’s life as you struggled with hard realities you did not want to accept. I also saw you led into a place of peace. Although the painful reality of your father’s life coming to an end was no less painful, the peace that you exhibited can only be explained as the supernatural peace that God provides. You didn’t come to this on your own. You were able to accept it and recognize the peace that Jesus provided because you had a Dad that demonstrated what that looked like in your home.
Don taught his son Chris a strong work ethic. Don may have been Chris’s Dad, but Chris has expressed that the relationship he and Don had was far deeper than a biological kinship. Chris expressed that Don was his friend and work partner. Chris expressed how difficult it was when Don’s health kept him from the ability to work on the farm with him. Chris’s son Vincent explained that he used to follow his grandpa Don as they would do chores together. I asked Vincent if Don ever had much to say. Vincent said, “No. He just kept working.” Don may not have said much, but he certainly has communicated to Vincent about diligent work, and perhaps Don was using the time to contemplate some of what he and Diane had been talking about or even perhaps contemplating why Diane, or anyone for that matter, would talk so much. The point is, Don has left quite the mark upon his son and grandchildren.
Diane, you have given the gift of being a wonderful wife to Don for nearly 50 years. You have been there with him every step of the way. The good, the bad, the difficult, the ugly but nothing of beauty can be experienced or observed without going through the hard times. Only you and Don know the sleepless nights spent as you talked with one another and prayed for wisdom in living life, raising children and running a farm. These are the gifts that you have shared in with Don and the results of those gifts are being shared with your children and grand children. You and Don provided a home where your children saw God at the center of your lives and you did it together.
Don’s health struggles over the last few years began to take its toll on his body. I am sure that is when Don began to take comfort in
Isaiah 40:31 (ESV)
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Don was waiting on the Lord. He was in no hurry to go but he was ready for renewed strength, wings, the ability to run again without being weary and the moments coming when he could walk without fainting. Just as the song said, “My chains are gone.” Today, Don’s chains are “more gone” than they have ever been. I am convinced that he believed that as fervently as he believed God loved the world with a relentless and furious love.
John 3:16–17 (ESV)
For God So Loved the World
16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.
Don and I had something in common. We both live as disciples, that is a follower of Jesus Christ. As a follower of Jesus I am to love God and others. I’m to bare the burdens of others. That is the same for all of us who follow Christ and I have tried to do those things with your family over the last few weeks. Don’s life is full of the fruit produced by a follower of Jesus Christ.
It’s true that I am a pastor. As a pastor my role in the church is to equip other followers of Christ to do ministry, that is care for others and build up the church. No part of my pastoral role includes making it known who gets into heaven or who does not. However, I would like to make an observation to the friends and family gathered here today. Don was human and that means he was created in the image of God. I see God’s fingerprints all over Don’s life. Kirsten, you have served your Dad well in helping me prepare for this celebration of his life.
Diane, Chris, Kirsten and Carianne, I’ll be the first to admit that this whole church and religion thing gets really confusing quick. And there is no more painful thing to witness than helplessly watching someone you love in pain while life is slowly leaving their body. But through this time I have seen a family well served by the man that was known as husband, Dad, grandpa and brother. The love you have expressed to one another and the graciousness you have accepted me with is a testament to Don’s life as a follower of Jesus. With all of the confusion of religion I want you to know that the best clarity you have ever experienced in reference to seeing God is your Dad. He allowed Jesus to live through him. You have been able to witness a view of everything that you have ever hoped God was or could be through the life of Don Lee. Don didn’t just loved God, or Jesus. He loved Jesus’ body with is the church and was a faithful member of that body in public and private. Don recognized the church as beautiful. I don’t believe any of us have any reason to doubt that the first thing Don heard after drawing his final breath was that Great Shepherd’s voice saying, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Thank you Jesus for creating Don Lee. Thank you for his family and thank you for your fingerprints that you left through his life.
At the request of the family would you please join me in a cheerful, tearful celebration of Don’s hope in eternity by singing along with the song “I’ll Fly Away.”