By Loren T. Stephens
Preachers are called upon for many things in this life, by the nature of the vocation they have chosen. On February 22, at the request of brother Tom Wheeler, I spoke, along with brother Gary Fiscus, at the memorial service for Tom’s dear wife Sylvia. She had passed from this life to await the coming of her Lord on Thursday night, February 19, 1987. Sylvia was a friend, a wife, mother, grandmother, sister, loved one, and especially, a Christian. She truly loved the Lord and Tom Wheeler. Her life was filled with doing good. She was quiet and reserved, yet possessed with an easy manner and enjoyed people, even some pranks every now and then. Preachers were always made welcome and at home with the Wheelers, and hospitality was a way of fife for Sylvia. She will be missed.
I had the privilege of knowing Sylvia, and my life is blessed in that. Many of you who read this knew her longer than I, yet I feel honored that I knew her both as a friend and fellow Christian, and that Tom asked me to participate in the memorial service.
I would like to share with you an unusual circumstance which occurred in my life that Thursday evening. I sat at the bedside of Sylvia Wheeler, with her husband Tom, his brother Frank, and their daughter and son-in-law. We sat watching the hospital equipment record the declining day of the fleshly abode of Sylvia. Her spirit had already left the body, we were watching a monitor showing an electrical response from a heart which had ceased pumping, and would not die. That continued for about five hours. During the time this was happening, Tom and I talked of memories. He mentioned some of the good times, and some of the bad times, that he and Sylvia had shared. He said, “You know, even those tough times are good memories because we shared them.” Later, he spoke softly of other things. He said, “I have no idea the height of her I.Q., but it was considerably higher than mine. She could have been anything in this world she wanted to be, and I thank God she chose to be my wife.”
As the drama of the end of her life was unfolding, daughter Cheryl, in Beaver Dam, KY was giving birth to a beautiful baby girl. Think about that, friends.
It was well said by brother Fiscus that the writings in Proverbs and all those passages we normally refer to are fitting regarding Sylvia, yet for those who knew her best, those verses almost seem inadequate. A poem given me by a dear friend speaks it best, the author completely unknown to me, but so much the attitude of Sylvia as to suggest her to all who knew her.
I obeyed His will and kept His command,
Now death beckons from yonder land.
Life has been sweet in this short space,
But bow glorious to meet Him face to face.
I am crossing a river to celestial land,
The Lord is my shepherd, He holds my hand.
The promise is fulfilled, nothing to dread,
My spirit lives on, I am not dead.
The beauty of death buries the sting,
While heaven rejoices and angels sing.
The body returns to the earthly sod,
But the spirit lives on with the eternal God.
Loved ones, mourn not the passing soul;
Trials I have endured to reach this goal,
So grieve not as I have this world of pain,
But hold His hand, we shall meet again!
Life is not over, tis a beautiful morn,
The mortal is passed, but immortality is born.
My soul on the Word has graciously fed,
Asleep in Jesus, I am not dead.
Sylvia Wheeler is gone from this life, but leave a legacy of love and good will behind, that shall live on in the lives of her dear husband and her daughters and grandchildren, so long as the Lord tarries. Her example of the godly woman, the loving and supportive wife, and friend to everyone she knew, and a lot she did not, stands in testimony and tender memory. Our deepest sympathy is extended to Tom, and our prayers offered that all may see Christ living in us, as He did in Sylvia. She rests in peace from her labors.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 9, p. 278
May 7, 1987