Bert Lalonde—married his sweetheart 64 years ago on August 31st. Parents to Diane, Monica, Ricky, Carmen & Joanne. Grandfather and great-grandfather—brother, uncle, nephew, son—kind-hearted friend—and to all his fans here at the church he was Licorice Man… he always brought bags of red licorice to hand out.
We are here to celebrate the life of one of the most loving people you might ever know. As a worship leader at this church, I could always see Bert’s love for Jesus. If he wasn’t dancing like ‘Gene, Gene The Dancing Machine’ he was standing at his chair near the back with hands raised and tears streaming down.
I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.
2 Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.
3 The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.
4 Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.
5 Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.
6 The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.
7 Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.
8 For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from falling.
9 I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.
10 I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted:
11 I said in my haste, All men are liars.
12 What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?
13 I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.
14 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
15 Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.
16 O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.
17 I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.
18 I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.
19 In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.
In the Psalm that was read, there was a verse that said, ‘Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.’
If you are an older person looking forward to your children coming home, that is a glimpse of what this verse means. The One who gave us life anticipates the homecoming of His children.
Jesus has conquered death and all the homecoming children will also conquer death. In one sense, Bert will never be so alive as when he awakens in God’s Kingdom, fully restored. The followers of Jesus believe in the resurrection of the body. We are not disappearing forever from the earth, but will experience a fully physical, completed state of being like Jesus after he rose from the dead.
How did Bert come to be a man who believed? At some point or several in his life, there was a growing awareness that God is real. Bert came to recognize the need for God and turned to Jesus. He became a devoted follower by surrendering to God’s Love found in Jesus.
Through his life journey, Bert learned through trial and error about trusting in the faithfulness of God. Was Bert a faithful man? He sure was. Did he ever fail along the way and cry out to God for help? He sure did.
That is what a faithful person does. Faithfulness is not so much keeping a perfect record as it is returning continually to a faithful God. God never left Bert, so Bert kept coming back with a daily experience of trusting God.
God is not looking for perfect people, but what a treasure when He finds a faithful one.
Did Bert miss out on much by being faithful? Ask his family what 64 years of marriage means to them. What did they learn about love by observing the trial and error of 64 years of saying ‘yes’ to each other?
Faithful is not always easy, but unfaithful will always be harsh. Faithful people always return to being faithful.
Shoe-shiner, miner, restaurant owner, jeweller, trucker and a few other things… Bert was an entrepreneurial businessman who did many things. While some remained faithful to one career, Bert was successful more than once because he had a faithful work ethic. He hitchhiked at 4 a.m. everyday in Sudbury to go work in the mines because he was a faithful provider for his family. Faithful people do very hard things because it is worth it.
Bert’s greatest earthly blessing is his family. Both in his family and to many others he practiced radical generosity.
Like the time he gave a hug to someone at church and noticed their clothing was damp… saddened to learn that they had to walk several blocks through rain to be in church, he surprised Yvette by buying a stretch limousine to give rides to church! Bert picked up people who couldn’t even afford bus fare to come to church-- in a stretch limo.
Do you know what Jesus says to his followers about being faithful?
That is Bert’s story, isn’t it? Faithful unto death… a faithful follower through life’s success and joy… faithful through many sicknesses and setbacks… faithful through changes that were hard to comprehend… faithful to people who were unfaithful to him… faithful to his sweetheart and all their tribe… faithful to bring Licorice to the kids even with his strength fading… faithful when in his last words he told Yvette and Joanne that he loved them…
Jesus himself is rewarding him with eternal life. We will cry that we have lost a good man, but we will not lose the hope that Jesus gives. Jesus alone opens the door to resurrection and new life.
Entrusting the spirit of our departed friend unto God, we give his body to the place prepared for it; that ashes may return to ashes and dust to dust. We say good-bye and wait for the Day of the Lord, when all those with faith in Christ will be resurrected to live forever in His Kingdom.