Stephanie Joyce Starkey Crampton

May 10, 1929 - May 25, 2008

A Memorial Address by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto - June 1, 2008

When someone we love passes over into the spiritual world we not only think about their spiritual life, but we are necessarily reminded of our own mortality. If it can happen to our friend – well then, maybe it can happen to us. That makes us think about the nature of the life to come. The words may have been on our lips all our life, but our faith is tested when, in the state of grief, we ask ourselves if we really believe there is a place in heaven for us. There are so many different ideas about the life after death, so many different teachings within the doctrines of the various churches, that it is difficult to know what to believe.

Where do we find expert advice at such times? Where it is best to seek for comfort and instruction? If we are wise, we turn to what Jesus Himself taught about the kingdom of heaven, for with Him, we can be sure that He taught the truth, and that He taught from Divine Love for our eternal welfare.

Jesus said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Mt. 28:18). Jesus Christ is the king of Heaven, and He alone is able to teach about heaven with absolute authority. Those who believe that He is the king of Heaven will never perish, but “have eternal life” (John 3:15).

But who will go to heaven? Jesus said, “he that doeth the will of My Father which is in heaven” (Mt. 7:21) will enter into the kingdom of heaven, not those who only call upon his name, saying “Lord, Lord” (Mt. 7:21).

Jesus also tells us who will go to heaven by telling us who will not go:  He said, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). He also teaches that unless we become childlike and innocent, “Ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 18:3).

The gospels record in three different places (Mt. 19:16, Mk. 10:17, 18:18) that a rich young man asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life, to earn a place in heaven. In each of the three gospels, the record is the same. Jesus said to him that if he wished to go to heaven he must begin by being obedient to the 10 commandments; then he should shun earthly possessions; be charitable to the poor; and follow His teachings.

In another place the gospels tell us that a lawyer asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Jesus answered the question with another question, asking the lawyer what, in his opinion, was the law. He replied, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself” (Lk. 10:27), and Jesus told him that he was right.

The doctrine that Jesus Christ Himself taught is that if we wish to enter into heaven, to enjoy eternal life with Him, then we must do two things:  To obey the commandments, and to love others by being kind and helpful to them.

We will have the opportunity to remember remind each other of the details of Stephanie’s life at the conclusion of the formal part of the service, but it’s useful to take a few moments here to remember some of the significant milestones of her life.

Stephanie’s parents Healdon and Gladys Starkey were interested in making a life for themselves while also seeing what they could do about establishing the New Church in western Canada , so soon after married they moved from Toronto to the Peace River region of British Columbia . Stephanie was born in Pouce Coupe , BC on May 10th, 1929, the first of 5 children. Her siblings are Alethe, David, Charles, and John.

Stephanie spent most of her formative years doing the outside work required to run a homestead. As a result she was more familiar with the workings of a hammer and screwdriver than a vacuum cleaner and stove. There wasn’t a job that needed to be done that she would not tackle, fixing plumbing or cars, mending roofs, driving tractors, or cutting wood.

Having grown up during the depression, she never threw anything out because she was going to need it someday. She was recycling long before the reduce, reuse, recycle slogan was born. She was always on the look out for something that could have a new purpose and was always checking out garage sales and thrift shops. She loved a bargain.

One of the reasons for moving to that area was the hope of establishing the New Church there, a task made very difficult by the fact that they did not have a resident pastor. The people of BC were particularly grateful to the Rev. Karl Alden who would leave his wife and family back in Pennsylvania and spend each summer caring for and working with the people out west.

Until she was 16 she went to school in BC Then, when the family returned to Toronto , she attended High School and a year of college at the Academy of the New Church in Bryn Athyn.

Returning to Toronto , she finished her studies at the University of Toronto and began a “child care” business out of her parents’ home in Toronto .

She met her husband Ivan on Feb. 12, 1954 and they were married one year later on the same day. Their marriage has endured more than 50 years, and produced 8 children:  Jondré, Gilbert, Amy, Sharene, Olwynne, Owen, Siobhan, and Rachel. Their marriages have produced 29 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren.

Stephanie loved to travel and often drove through the States and Canada visiting friends and relatives as she went.   More often than not, she was alone.   Dad would have just slowed her down. 

She truly believed in an afterlife and she was ready for the next part of her journey even though it came much too soon for her family. She took her time leaving as she was aware that we weren’t quite ready to let her go, or perhaps there was a garage sale on the way that she had to stop and check out.

As we look back with affection on her previous life, we will feel grief at her passing even though we may share her strong faith that she lives on. The reason for this is simple. True, heartfelt love, needs to reach out to the one who is loved, it needs to bring happiness (See TCR 42, 43). When the one we love is no longer with us, our love for them is frustrated and we feel that frustration as grief. So, though we feel pain the pain of her passing, in time this will fade and gradually be replaced by a confidence that she is, indeed, in a better place.

Why is it a “better” place? The amazing thing is that as the years go by in her new life, her new, angelic body will begin to reflect the strength and vigour of her spirit. The doctrines of the New Church , which she loved, tell us that,

      “Those who are in heaven are continually advancing to the spring of life; and to a spring so much the more delightful and happy, the more thousands of years they live, and this to eternity, with increase according to the progressions and degrees of their love, charity and faith. Women who have died old and worn out with age, and have lived in faith in the Lord, in charity toward the neighbour, and in happy conjugial love with a husband, after a succession of years come more and more into the flower of youth and early womanhood, and into a beauty which exceeds all idea of beauty ever perceivable by our sight. Goodness and charity is what forms and makes a resemblance of itself, and causes the delight and beauty of charity to shine forth from the minutest parts of the face, so that they themselves are forms of charity. …In a word, to grow old in heaven is to grow young; those who have lived in love to the Lord and in charity towards the neighbour, become such forms, or such beauties, in the other life. All the angels are such forms, with innumerable variety; and of these heaven consists. (HH 414)

A few minutes ago, we read what Jesus Christ Himself taught about what we must do, and how we must live, if we are to inherit eternal life. But what does He tell us about the life that awaits us there, the life that our friend Stephanie is now entering?

The Lord taught many parables about heaven, usually comparing it to some kind of farm or vineyard because that was the kind of illustration that would be understood by the widest audience in that day. In each case, He said that entering heaven was like a harvest, for as the grains of wheat are all harvested, we too will all face death in our own time. Once there, there will be a judgement, and those who have followed the 10 commandments, shunned material possessions, shown charity to the poor, and followed the Lord will find eternal happiness. The rest, the chaff, shall have their own reward, according to the quality of their life.

Once there, we will find that heaven is like a vineyard, or a kingdom, or a farm, or fishing in that there will be people working, doing things for others, using the tools and the soil and the gifts that have been given to them by God to produce things useful to others, to welcome newcomers, and to teach about eternal life.

Stephanie lived a life where she tried in all ways to be helpful to her family and friends. She tried to use whatever strength and skills she had to take from God’s bounty and cause it to multiply. She was a woman, who in her own way, tried to do what was right, and to help others. “Of such is the kingdom of God ” (Mark 10:14) Amen.


Sentence of Scripture

Do not fear little flock. It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

Closing Prayer

O Lord of our fathers, most merciful Lord Jesus Christ, from Whose life and power all live to eternity, we ask that You grant to us the wisdom to understand that in the passing away from this life of one whom we loved, there is nothing but the operation of Your love and mercy. We also ask that You lead us to acknowledge that even though we mourn our loss, everything that You do works to support Your eternal plan of a heaven from the human race, that through the death of the body, You bestow the gift of eternal life to all those who love You and keep Your commandments. Teach us all, O Lord, to feel and know in our hearts that Your way is truth, that Your mercy is everlasting, and that in Your presence alone is life, and peace, and joy forever. Amen.

From the Old Testament

Lord, Thou hast been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever Thou hadst formed the earth and the world, even from everlasting to everlasting, Thou art God. Thou turnest man to destruction; and sayest, Return, ye children of men. For a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night. Thou carriest them away as with a flood; they are as asleep; in the morning they are like grass which groweth up. In the morning it flourisheth and groweth up; in the evening it is cut down and withereth. The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they are fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom. (Psalm 90:1-6,10,12)

The Lord is gracious, and full of compassion; slow to anger, and of great mercy. The Lord is good to all; and His tender mercies are over all His works. The Lord is righteous in all His ways, and holy in all His works. The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of them that fear Him; he also will hear their cry, and will save them. The Lord preserveth all them that love Him; but all the wicked will He destroy. My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord; and let all flesh bless His holy name for ever and ever. (Psalm 145:8,9,17-21)

Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him. For He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourisheth. For the wind passeth over it, and it is gone; and the place thereof shall know it no more. But the mercy of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting upon them that fear Him, and His righteousness unto children’s children; to such as keep His covenant, and to those that remember His commandments to do them. (Psalm 103:13-18)

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures; he leadeth me beside the sill waters. He restoreth my soul; he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou are with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies; thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever. (Psalm 23)

From the New Testament

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal; for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. (Matt 6:19-21)

Let not your heart be troubled; ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. (John 14:1-3)

And Behold, I come quickly; and My reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be. I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (Rev. 22:12-14).

INTERLUDE

From the Doctrines of the New Church

[Everyone] is so created that as to their internal they cannot die; for they can believe in God, and can also love God, and can thus be conjoined with God by faith and love; and to be conjoined with God is to live to eternity. (AC 10591)

After the death of the body, the [person’s spirit] appears in the spiritual world in a human form, altogether as it appeared in the natural world. [It] also enjoys the faculty of sight, of hearing, of speaking, and of feeling, as before in the world; and [it] is endowed with every faculty of thought, of will, and of action, as before in the world; in a word, [it] is a [human being] in all things and in every particular, as [it] was before in the world, except that [it] is not encompassed with that gross body which [it] had before; [the body is left behind with death, and the spirit never returns to it]. This continuation of life is what is meant by the resurrection. (Arcana Coelestia 10594 , 10595 )

[When a person] is said to die, … he does not die; he is only separated from the material body which had served him for use in the world, but which can no longer be of any use to him; for [the person himself] lives. [The person] is said to live, because [a human] is not a [human] from the body but from the spirit; for it is the spirit that thinks in [a person]; and the thought with affection which makes the spirit, also makes the [person]. Hence it is that when [someone] dies, they only pass from one world to another. (Heaven and Hell 445)

In order that [a person] may live to eternity, it is necessary that what is mortal, or the material body, should be taken away … by death. When this is done that which is immortal is uncovered, and [the person] becomes [an inhabitant of the spiritual world] still in the human form. (Divine Providence 324:3)

When a [person] passes from the natural into the spiritual world, he takes with him all things belonging to him as a [human being], except his earthly body. For he is still in a body, as he was in the world, and to all appearance in the same body; but the body is spiritual and wholly distinct from what is natural. [Everyone, when] a spirit in a spiritual body, enjoys every external and internal sense which he had when he was in the world. In a word, when [anyone] passes from one life into the other, or from one world into the other, it is the same as if he passed from one place to another; and he carries with him all things which he had in himself as a [human being]. Therefore after death, which is only the death of the earthly body, it cannot be said that [a person] has lost anything that belonged to him as a [human being]. (Heaven and Hell 461)

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.