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Celebration of Life: Ronald L. Jones

Ronald Lee Jones

27 June 1951 – 16 January 2019

Celebration of Life [1]

23 February 2019

On behalf of the family, I, Yvonne, would like to thank all of you for coming today to celebrate the life of my first cousin, Ronald Lee Jones. He went by many titles: son, husband, dad, poppa, brother, cousin, and friend. He was Ronnie to me, and Ron or RJ to most of you. I bring love and prayers from the other first cousins who could not be here: Kathy, Becky, and Rich; and from Ronnie’s parents and his one surviving Aunt, Helen. I know all family members want to be here but several cannot travel due to health, responsibilities, or distance. We know all of them also loved Ron as much as those of us gathered here. Thank you for coming, and thanks to the family for inviting me to share with you. And thanks to Joe and Kathy for inviting all of us to celebrate Ronnie’s life here at their home where they’ve shared many wonderful times with him in the past.

Everything and everyone, including you and me, has a beginning and an end, except God who always was and always will be. Many of you are familiar with the poem “The Dash,” which refers to the life lived between the beginning and the end. Ronnie’s life from birth to six years old is the part I know best. Then I had the privilege and pleasure of getting reacquainted toward the end of his life. More about that later. Those of you assembled here know even more about the DASH than I do—the part in between. You could tell more stories about Ronnie’s life in the dash and some more colorful ones at that; but I’m probably the oldest one present which, next to his older sister-who is much younger than I, makes me the one who has known Ronnie the longest. So for this moment, the oldest gets the mike!

The Beginning

I’m the oldest of eight cousins on my mother’s side. There were three girls – my mother was the oldest and married at 17. Helen was the youngest and married at 15. Ronnie’s mother Doris was in the middle and married the day after her 16th birthday. All three of these young sisters lived with their husbands and children on the same street—just a few houses apart. When I was barely eleven years old Ronald Lee was born. He joined his sister Barbie who was a couple of years older. With the security of all three families living so close to each other, I was allowed to babysit Ronnie and Barbie while their mother worked a few hours at a Family Grocery store a block away. Since Ronnie was a baby, I got to change his wet and poopy diapers, give him his bottle, and spoon feed him when he was old enough to sit in his high chair. In some sense, I played with Ronnie and Barbie just like I had played with my dolls.

It was a sad day for us when the family moved to Winston-Salem for daddy’s job. Ronnie was only six years old. A couple of years later, a baby sister Susan was born into the family. We cousins were sad that Ronnie and Barbie were so far away, and now Susan would never get the opportunity to be part of the special bond we cousins had growing up at the grandparents’ house on the Kanawha River: watching the steamboats go by and walking through grandpa’s garden and eating fresh tomatoes and turnips after he wiped the dirt off with his pocket handkerchief—also used to wipe his sweat.

When Ron was 13, I moved to Michigan so the news of the Jones family was even more scarce—no email, and long distance calling wasn’t done much because it was so expensive. Nevertheless, over the years, Ron’s mother and sister kept us posted with notes and pictures such as when he and Sherry married, when daughter Kendyl was born; and then some years later we were informed of the arrival of a special grandson, Wesley.

All the while, time continued to race on: this time known as “The Dash” between the beginning and the end. Many of you assembled here met Ron and Sherry during this time.

The End

Three years ago, after several decades of living apart, my travel gave me an opportunity to stop in Winston-Salem and have a surprise visit with Ronnie’s parents, arranged by his sister Barbie. As an added blessing, I got to see Ronnie’s sister Susan and meet her husband, also named Ron.

Last February, Barbie and Rick were vacationing here in Florida at the same time that I was here visiting my sister and brother-in-law who were escaping the winter in West Virginia, and Barbie coordinated for us to get together for lunch with Ronnie and Sherry.

Oh, the anticipation! Uncontained excitement! They were coming! Would I recognize Ronnie now after all these years? There they were! No longer just pictures. Now I’m seeing them in person with my own eyes! Thank you, Jesus! My cousin was lost to me, but now he is found! Sherry fit right in as if we had been together all along.

And there was Wesley. Oh my, what a handsome young grandson. Dressed as if to see royalty. Ronnie said, “Oh I told him to dress up some, but I didn’t mean he had to be all dressed up.” But you were, Wesley! And then when you and I got to talk, I understood why your poppa was so proud of you. You are smart. You are logical. I could tell within a few minutes that you have a brilliant future ahead of you if you pursue it with intention and commitment. I hope you invite Jesus to come along with you on your journey. I hope your mom and grandma live long enough to see His plans for you come to fruition.

But we were still missing one person at lunch: Kendyl. Where’s Kendyl? “Oh, she had to work,” Ronnie said; “but I told her to come right after work.” She had been concerned she wouldn’t have time to change clothes, but Ronnie said he told her: “That’s ok; just come right after work.” And he was waiting… We were eating when I heard him say, “There she is!” He said so much in those words, Kendyl! How he loved you! He was so proud to introduce you and Wesley to us. I missed out on all of your growing up years, but I’m so thankful for that day last February —  seeing your dad and meeting your mom, your son, and you. Look to the future with Jesus in your life and aim for the stars. Use the gifts God has given you that still lie covered. Be proud. Work hard. It will be wonderful to look back and see that your mom is so proud of you, and that your dad would be so proud of you too!

We were all aware that day that this was not just a lunch with family; it was a momentous occasion. A sweet time of getting caught up on life we had missed over several decades. Ron was glowing. Barbie was glowing. I was bubbling. Virginia was glowing. Well, I think Sherry and Kendyl and Wesley were glowing, too, as were Rick (Barbie’s husband) and Jim (my sister Virginia’s husband). There was such an “awe” in that visit. I don’t know how his family and friends saw him, but that day I found Ronnie to be a gentle, quiet, and super sweet man just like the young boy I remembered.

Now it is February, a year later. My sis and brother-in-law and I were looking forward to seeing Ron again this year. Many of you here were also looking forward to seeing him in the past few weeks but, as often happens, circumstances intervened and stopped that from happening.

Two of the younger cousins asked about Ron’s soul. I told them that his sister Barbie had assured me that he believed in Jesus as his Savior, and that she had arrived in time to see him in the hospital and pray with him. I’m sure if he could share anything with you now it would be: Put your trust in Jesus for your eternal life. He had no advanced warning that the end of his life was imminent. As we’ve all come to realize, that day will come to all of us and none of us knows the day nor the hour that our life here on earth will end. For some, illness hangs on for a long time and there is time to plan the end and how to say goodbye to family and friends. For others, the end happens abruptly. None of us knows when our last day will be. And neither did Ronnie.

As the texts came from Barbie, we cousins were sad that we could not say, “I love you,” one more time. All of us were left grappling with the question why? His wife Sherry, his daughter Kendyl, his grandson Wesley, his mom and dad, his sisters, his other cousins, and you his friends. One thing we know: God didn’t give him this physical problem so he would die now. God gives life; He doesn’t take it. But when disease or disaster hits and steals life from the body, God receives those that are His and welcomes them to His eternal home.

Let’s just pause a moment: Those of you who are followers of Jesus, give Him thanks. If you haven’t made that decision, why don’t you just quietly acknowledge in your heart say: Jesus, I believe you are the Son of God who willingly shed your blood on the Cross to take away my sins. I surrender my life to you today. Thank you for adopting me as your child. I’m yours forever. Amen.

If you prayed that prayer, tell someone today!  The bible says, “If you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in your heart that God has raised Jesus from the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).

Many of God’s blessings – all through our lives—are delivered through circumstances, events, and most importantly through the people that he places in our life. For many, Ron Jones was one of those blessings.

Ronnie is no longer with us to share in food, fun, and fellowship, but the rest of your life he will be speaking to you. How? Not from afar—we cannot communicate with deceased loved ones—but here and there you will hear words he has spoken to you in the past in significant times and places—when things were difficult and when things were wonderful. His presence in your life will always be remembered. No one else can take that place.

There’s a Parable of Immortality by Henry Van Dyke a favorite of Barbie, and she asked me to share it with you

“I am standing upon the seashore. A ship at my side spreads her white sails to the morning breeze and starts for the blue ocean.

She is an object of beauty and strength, and I stand and watch until at last she hangs like a speck of white cloud just where the sea and sky come down to mingle with each other. Then someone at my side says, “There she goes!”
Gone where?

Gone from my sight … that is all.

She is just as large in mast and hull and spar as she was when she left my side and just as able to bear her load of living freight to the place of destination. Her diminished size is in me, not in her.

And just at the moment when someone at my side says, “There she goes!” there are other eyes watching her coming and other voices ready to take up the glad shout:

“Here she comes!”

The Prayer by St. Francis of Assisi

O Divine Master,

Grant us the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
Grant that we may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood, as to understand;
to be loved, as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive,
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life.
Amen.

To Sherry:  My husband departed this earth 20 years ago … and the following verses have been a help to me, and I hope will comfort you as well:

Psalm 123 says

The LORD is my shepherd; (He leads me)

I shall not want. (He supplies what I need)

He makes me lie down in green pastures: (He gives me rest)

He leads me beside the still waters. (He refreshes me)

He restores my soul: (He heals my emotions)

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (He guides me)

Yea, though I walk through the valley [of Ronnie’s] death, I will fear no evil: for You are with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me. (He protects me)

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies: (He gives me hope)

You anoint my head with oil; my cup runs over.  (He gives me more than enough)

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: And I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.  (He keeps my soul safe when I commit it to Him)

Let’s face it. God is crazy about you!

He says:

Don’t panic. I’m with you. I love you.

There’s no need to fear for I’m your God.
I’ll give you strength. I’ll help you.
I’ll hold you steady, keep a firm grip on you. (Isaiah 41:10).

Let us Pray

Dear Heavenly Father, we thank You that you are close to the brokenhearted (Psalm 34:18). You look mercifully upon those who are gathered here and grieving at this time. You are present with them in their sorrow. I pray that your strength will sustain their weakness; and your peace will fill their minds with perfect trust in you. Thank you, Father, for the victory of Jesus Christ our Lord over death and the grave, and for Your promise of the Resurrection to eternal life. Through the name of Your Son and Savior, Jesus Christ our Lord we pray. Amen.

Closing

Once again: Thank you for coming to celebrate the life of our dear Ron.

Now,

Share the peace of God with one another… With a handshake or a hug… As we continue to celebrate!

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*The Dash by Linda Ellis

I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning… to the end.

He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but he said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.

For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.

For it matters not, how much we own, the cars… the house… the cash. What matters is how we live and love and how we spend our dash.

So think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.

To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.

If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile… remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.

So when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?

By Linda Ellis, Copyright © Inspire Kindness, 1996, thedashpoem.com

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[1] Home of Dear Friends in Bradenton FL 34209

[2] By Linda Ellis, Copyright © Inspire Kindness, 1996, thedashpoem.com

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