St. Martin's Evangelical Lutheran
SERVICE OF HOPE CAROLYNE BROWNING
Sharolyn, you said it best on Sunday afternoon: "This
is a war." Whether you are young or old, fighting cancer is a
war. And like any war there are casualties. So tonight we are
here again -- so soon after the death of another little one.
We are here, because Hope Browning has fallen in the war
against cancer. And it hurts. And it is devastating. And it is
demoralizing. And there is nothing we can say that makes it
any better or worse. The bad news is very present with us
tonight. Our little sister Hope Carolyne Browning has fallen
in battle like our little brother Bailor Goodnight just one
week before. And we are sick about these deaths. Indeed we are
sick of death, that horrible monster that Paul calls the last
enemy in 1 Corinthians 15.
Sharolyn, and Navy - Zack and Carolyn - family and friends of
Hope, you have been through a terrible battle. You have fought
well and fought hard. But tonight is filled with the dreadful
calm after that storm. Yes, our hearts are sick, because this
was a battle no one wanted to fight. And the cost was one that
no one wanted to pay. Tonight it hurts so much that Hope was
lost in the midst of battle. And yet we have gathered because
we need to believe and to trust that our Hope is truly in God
and with God. We are here to tell each other and to tell
ourselves that Hope is found in God and with God.
and Duke, you've talked about the strange camaraderie that
comes with those who are your fellow combat veterans. You've
talked about the other children and the parents joined
together with you in a lonely battle that is both common and
yet deeply personal. You have marveled at the dedication and
depth of caring of the medical staff - doctors, nurses, child
life specialists, social workers, technicians, and so many
volunteers. You have been overwhelmed by the care given by
dear friends, neighbors, church family near and far, and even
almost strangers that have been there with Hope and with you.
Going to war has meant discovering a previously hidden culture
of people that have cheered with you and have cried with you.
and Duke, you've said that you don't want to see Hope as a
martyr or a folk hero. You said that in the course of this war
she has been scared. She has hurt. And she has hated the
battle. What a perfectly normal and fundamentally human
response she has had to her situation! This time last year she
was a normal two-year-old. All of a sudden in April she was
drawn into a war and you were dragged along just like all the
other heartsick parents of cancer soldiers before you. Last
Christmas she was such a confident vibrant little girl singing
the song "Tomorrow." But you and she had no idea what tomorrow
was going to bring. You didn't know that you would lose Hope.
All of a
sudden she was a little soldier hospitalized time and time
again. There she was watching those children's movies, and you
began to see her like the characters in the movie. When Hope
began cancer treatment, she became like Mulan who cut off her
hair and went to war. When she was hospitalized or when she
was going down for all those awful treatments, Hope was like
Dorothy in the "Wizard of Oz" who was scared and just wanted
to go home. But like Dorothy constant companions on the
journey joined her and offered their brains, their hearts, and
their courage. Yet in the midst of all these living metaphors,
you knew that God was no would-be wizard hiding behind a
curtain. God was there with you in the battle. And you still
when you were on the mountain top beginning to believe that
you would get through the battle with Hope - then you woke up
last Friday and Hope was gone. Your beautiful little girl who
was so cuddly from day one fell asleep Thursday night and did
not wake up in this world. Like Dorothy she woke up in another
world, and it was not a dream. And now our hearts are broken
said the other day, Duke, Hope's whole life was not spent in
battle - just the last seven painful months. So we thank God
that there are other memories - happy memories of that
beautiful child whose picture is out there in the narthex of
the church. You will remember Hope as not only a loving child
but also a polite child who seemed to teach herself to say
"thank you" and "excuse me." You will remember her charming
self-confidence that showed when she would say, "you can color
with me" and not "will you color with me?" You will always
remember how much your family meant to her - how she adored
her sister Navy, whom she called "Nay nee" and how much she
treasured all of you adoring parents, grandparents, uncles and
midst of this terrible battle with cancer you lost Hope.
That's true. That's why we are here having a memorial service.
But we are not Hopeless even though we can no longer see her.
We are people of Hope. We are full of Hope trusting the
promise that our Hope has not been disappointed. Our Hope is
in God and with God forever.
three years ago Hope Carolyne Browning was baptized into the
death and resurrection of Jesus. On that day, November 30,
1997, Hope Browning died and she rose again with Christ Jesus.
On that day God promised that even if Hope's body died that
would not be the end of Hope. For the Lord of Hope has already
conquered death, our last enemy on the cross. And never again
can death have the last word - no matter how it may shout its
dark message of despair and destruction.
day that Hope was baptized, she was given this candle as a
symbol that she carries the Light of the World into every
corner darkened by sin, death, and evil. When death closed in
on Hope, her light did not go out even when her body died.
here as the family of Hope, the family of God, soldiers not
only in a war against cancer but soldiers in a war against
despair and meaninglessness. As Paul said to the Corinthians,
if for this life only we have hoped in Christ we are of all
people most to be pitied. If all we have is this life, then we
must admit that we are abandoned without Hope. But that is not
our story. For we are people of Hope, and we believe that we
will know Hope again and have Hope again someday soon. For in
that day we will be with the Lord of Hope, who promises that
nothing - not even cancer, not even death - nothing can
separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.
name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.