Nelleke

 

 

De Engelstalige herdenkingswoorden van de pastor van Nelleke van der Maas. Overleden op 25 september 2019 in Campbell Settlement te Canada.

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures,

he leads me beside quiet waters,

3 he restores my soul.

He guides 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 love will follow me

all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord

forever.

Dear family and friends, today we gather to celebrate the life of Nelleke Bakelaar, but also to grieve her death.

In losing Nelleke we have lost a wife, a mother, a daughter, a grandmother, a sister, a friend, and a caregiver.

There is such grief in saying good-bye.

Nelleke was a joy to spend time with.

The first time I met Nelleke she was in the hospital, a place where she spent a lot of time during the last 17 years of her life.

She was struggling with pneumonia.

Though she was unwell, she welcomed me to spend time with her.

She had a warm and inviting smile.

When I left, I felt blessed to have learned a bit of her story of God’s faithfulness in her life.

There is sadness in losing Nelleke, of no longer sharing our lives with her.

We will miss her caring personality and her confident faith in the Lord.

This sadness is most acute for those closest to her.

The road forward will be especially difficult: for Maarten & for Maarten and Nelleke’s children and their families.

Even as we experience the ache of saying good-bye, we draw great comfort knowing that Nelleke is at home with Jesus.

Her journey through life is over.

Her pain and suffering have come to an end.

She will never again be burdened with the fragile health that she has lived with for so many years.

We take comfort in knowing that she belongs to Jesus.

She is with the Lord and she is at peace.

When I learned the news last weekend that Nelleke had been admitted again to the hospital, I thought to myself:

“It’s just another minor health set back.”

“She’ll be home again in no time.”

But, when I stopped by the first time, I knew that it was very serious.

Her condition worsened rapidly.

Soon family members from overseas were at her bedside.

Her life was hanging in the balance.

In the midst of the uncertainty, we prayed to the Lord.

We turned to God’s Word.

We wrestled to understand what was happening and how this could happen to someone that we all cared

There is sadness in losing Nelleke, of no longer sharing our lives with her.

We will miss her caring personality and her confident faith in the Lord.

This sadness is most acute for those closest to her.

The road forward will be especially difficult: for Maarten & for Maarten and Nelleke’s children and their families.

Even as we experience the ache of saying good-bye, we draw great comfort knowing that Nelleke is at home with Jesus.

Her journey through life is over.

Her pain and suffering have come to an end.

She will never again be burdened with the fragile health that she has lived with for so many years.

We take comfort in knowing that she belongs to Jesus.

She is with the Lord and she is at peace.

 

When I learned the news last weekend that Nelleke had been admitted again to the hospital, I thought to myself:

“It’s just another minor health set back.”

“She’ll be home again in no time.”

But, when I stopped by the first time, I knew that it was very serious.

Her condition worsened rapidly.

Soon family members from overseas were at her bedside.

Her life was hanging in the balance.

In the midst of the uncertainty, we prayed to the Lord.

We turned to God’s Word.

We wrestled to understand what was happening and how this could happen to someone that we all cared

about.

One of the Scripture Passages that we read to remind us of God’s care was Psalm 23, the words we listened to just a few moments ago.

These timeless words, written thousands of years ago, continue to speak God’s comfort, assurance, and joy into our lives today. 

The words of Psalm 23 were dear to Nelleke’s heart.

We’ll use them today to guide us both as we celebrate her life and as we feel the sadness of saying good bye

They speak of the Lord using what is perhaps the most comforting image found in Scripture, that of a shepherd caring for and leading his flock. 

Psalm 23 is credited to David, the shepherd turned king.

David knew and understood the work of being a shepherd.

He knew what it was to spend long hours out in the field in all kinds of weather watching over and protecting his flock.

He knew the important, sometimes challenging, other times monotonous work of caring for and protecting sheep. (small p.)

But, in Psalm 23, David the shepherd becomes David the sheep. (small p.)

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. 

David knew what it was to be a helpless sheep.

He understood, especially during those years when he lived on the run, what it meant to be defenceless.

But, in the midst of it, he trusted the guiding hand of the Lord, his shepherd. 

Now here we are gathered, reflecting on the loss of our loved one Nelleke, very aware of how fragile and finite life is.

Into this moment God speaks to us a word of reassurance.

I am your shepherd.

Keep your eyes fixed on me.

Keep your ears tuned to my voice. 

When you do, I will take the initiative in leading you to places of rest and refreshment. 

One of the things that is true of Nelleke is that she found refreshment in God’s creation.

She loved to garden.

It made her feel alive to experience the beauty of God’s world.

These things filled her with joy

She also loved music—especially music that lifted high the name of the Lord.

It was her joyful confidence in God’s care over his world and her life that filled Nelleke with hope. 

In Judea, the original setting of the 23rd Psalm, much of the grazing of sheep took place in an elevated plateau stretching between Bethel and Hebron.

Much of the ground was rough and stony.

Shepherds guided their flocks through this rocky plateau as they scoured the ground for food. 

William Barcley explains that at the edge of the plateau the sheep faced real danger.

There were certain paths or rabbit rails that led to steep and treacherous terrain.

It was the responsibility of the shepherd to lead the flock along safe paths.

This is the image that David has in mind when he says:

he guides me in paths of righteousness.

When we listen and look to the Lord as shepherd, he guides our paths to follow in his way. 

One of the first times I met Nelleke, she told me of the time she was first diagnosed with leukemia, back in the Netherlands.

It was a very difficult time for her and for the family.

They were struggling to see God’s hand in the midst of it all.

When Nelleke’s dad visited her for the first time in the hospital, he brought her his Bible.

It was a turning point for Nelleke in reaffirming her trust in the Lord, of being guided back on to paths of righteousness. 

As the Psalm continues, David writes about the “valley of the shadow of death”.

It’s a place of great danger.

Valleys can be beautiful places, but they can also be places of death

One scholar explains that such a valley exists in Israel.

It is located between Jerusalem and the Dead Sea.

It is a dangerous place, especially for sheep.

Yet, sometimes shepherds had no choice but to travel through this narrow valley with high walls.

Multiple dangers existed in this dark valley.

The ground was rough.

It was at risk for rock slides and flash floods.

Predators hid in the shadows ready to pounce on unsuspecting sheep.

Sometimes, it was the only way to make your way to better grazing grounds. 

Today, we walk through the valley of the shadow of death as we say good-bye to Nelleke.

There is pain.

The sting of death is real, and it hurts.

We will miss Nelleke’s presence in our lives. 

But, there is also comfort.

She has been released from her suffering.

She is in the presence of God

At the end of the day, when a shepherd led his sheep back into the fold, he would keep an earthen bowl of olive oil near the entrance.

As each individual sheep passed through he would check each one for thorns, for thistles, and for injuries.

This is a time to look at photos, to share stories, to relive moments that have passed us by as way of remembering and as a way of letting go. 

Most importantly, we remember Nelleke as a child of her heavenly father, as a baptized believer, as a sinner saved by grace, as a disciple of Jesus, as a sheep belonging to his fold.

This is also a moment to consider our own journey of faith.

How might we keep putting our trust in the Lord, and to listen to the voice of the shepherd as we continue to journey through this life? 

Last April, Nelleke shared some of her faith story at the front of the sanctuary.

She talked about her trust in the Lord and his claim on her life.

She spoke of the way that God had transformed her sorrow into a song of joy.

When she spoke, she used these words from Psalm 72.

They are invitation to also bring our praise to the God who is worthy of our trust.

18 Praise be to the Lord God, the God of Israel,

who alone does marvelous deeds.

19 Praise be to his glorious name forever;

may the whole earth be filled with his glory. Amen and Amen.

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