(My appreciation to Rev. Janet Parker, and the others for sharing the text of their parts of the service)
Music and Memories of Jeff's Life
WELCOME Rev. Janet Parker
We have come here today to celebrate the life of Jeff Pierce. Some of you knew Jeff as a son, a brother, a life-partner, a nephew, a friend, a co-worker, a Sunday School Teacher, and a neighbor. What we do have in common today is that we have known a wonderful person. The world was blessed by Jeff's love and generous, kind heart. We are sad to lose such a quality person, and so we come here today for several reasons. First, we come to honor and pay tribute to Jeff's life and the incredible impact he made on each of our lives. Secondly, we are gathered together to get in touch with the things that touched Jeff's life, his favorite music (singing Jeff's favorite hymns), the sharing of stories (remembering the experiences we have had with Jeff that keeps him alive in our hearts). We are here to share Jeff's favorite Scriptures that he so dearly loved. The Word of God brought such life to him. Thirdly, we are here to celebrate our faith that gives us encouragement, strength, and great comfort in knowing that Jeff is with his Heavenly Father, and his beloved Savior, Jesus Christ in heaven. And by our faith, one day we, too, will be reunited with Jeff again. God's mercy has ushered Jeff into his heavenly home and released him to glory where he is now alive, well, and full of joy.
A Poem:" Just Think of Being Christian"
Just think of being Christian and . .
hold of a hand
from storm and tempest
Scripture Reading Rev. Tammy Fincher
Hymn: At Calvary Jeremy Beauchamp
Prayer: Julie Lindenberg
Song Tribute Melissa Hurst and members of Maranatha Praise Team
Sermon Rev. Janet Parker
James "Jeff" Alfred Pierce, Jr. came into the world on March 13, 1961. Jeff was the kind of man who was born into a world that did not have a hold on him. He did not enter the world to gather possessions, but to store up treasure in heaven. He truly grasped what Jesus said in Matthew 6:19-21, "Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Jeff's treasure was people---family, friends, and especially the children.
I am reminded
of what Job said when everything he had was taken from him. In Job 1:21,
Job said, "Naked I came from my mother's womb, and naked shall
I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed
be the name of the LORD." And then the Scripture goes on to say,
"In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong." Jeff
came into this world with nothing, and he leaves with not many material
things, but one thing is for sure. The treasure chest of what is of
greatest value is full in heaven. He invested his life in people, in
relationships. YOU are his treasure. He had great wealth in his love,
his kindness, his generosity, his compassion, and his service. Jeff's
supply never ran dry for it came from God.
Jeff's family meant the world to him. He treasured holidays, and savored each moment they could spend together as a family. Jeff loved his summer weeks with his niece, Nikki, and would cherish each moment, planning outings and special times with her each summer. One of Jeff's favorite time was having coffee with his Mom in the morning. Jeff told his mother this past week, "If there was any way I could come down and have coffee with you after I'm gone, I would." For this was the most precious time for him.
Jeff was known
for his tender heart. He loved animals and would cry every time he saw
a dead animal on the side of the road. He was touched much as Jesus
is touched every time a sparrow falls to the ground.
Jeff met Jesus Christ and became a member of God's family at a very young age. As Julie said to me, "Jeff was prepared for heaven every since she could remember." After working with Jeff for over 12 years as our children's minister, Jeff seemed to always have one foot on earth and the other in heaven. He has always had such a love for Jesus that just came out of his pores! Jeff and I communicated on such a level, that when he was trying to explain something to me, he would quote the Scripture that referenced to the situation. He knew God's Word, and how it applied to his every day life. Jeff ministered to my children since they were infants. I always knew that they would see and feel, and know the love of God through his tender care and instruction. They called him, "Mr. Jeff." Every Sunday he was always there an hour early, with everything meticulously in place. He had his puppet, "Pup" to clearly illustrate the lesson for the day. He may not have had a "Rev." in front of his name, but he was the best children's minister that I've seen. He touched many young lives who will always remember the love of Jesus.
One of the things I knew about Jeff was that he diligently sought to do the will of God. One of his favorite passages is found in Psalm 37:3-6, "Trust in the LORD, and do good; Dwell in the land, and feed on His faithfulness. Delight yourself also in the LORD, and He shall give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD, Trust also in Him, and He shall bring it to pass. He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light, and your justice as the noonday." What I found in observing Jeff's life is that when you delight yourself in the LORD, you begin to want for your life what God wants for you, too.
What I know
about Jeff, and what always came out of his mouth, was good things.
He was a thankful man, and always had a good report. He had a humility
about him, that reflected the mind and attitude of Jesus Christ. He
truly lived this passage, which was underlined and emphasized in his
own personal Bible. It is found in Psalm 34:1-4, "I will bless
the LORD at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth.
My soul shall makes it boast in the LORD; The humble shall hear of it
and be glad. Oh, magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name
together. I sought the LORD, and He heard me, and delivered me from
all my fears."
Jeff had a trust in God that superseded anything else. He had a trust that whatever God wanted for his life, it would come to pass. Julie told me yesterday that during times of trials, Jeff would often say (pinching his thumb and finger close together), "We only see this much; God sees the big picture." I believe that Jeff's trust in God and His Word is reflected in yet another one of his favorite Scriptures out of Isaiah 55:8-11 that reads, "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, And do not return there, But water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud, That it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater, So shall My Word be that goes forth from My mouth; It shall not return to Me void, But it shall accomplish what I please. And it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it."
After Jeff's high school years he began working with his Dad in his shoe store business at Harold's. He was so loyal to his father and their business and would always have lots of stories to share about their customers. Jeff also worked for the SAS shoe business, the San Antonio Shoes, and many times I've heard him say, "There are certain regular customers that would come in, and I know they tried on every shoe in the store. I would have to pray and be ready for them because they would work my very last nerve in finding the right pair of shoes." It was amazing to me how much Jeff was so concerned about always having the right attitude and motive toward every person.
Jeff was a
great listener. Many people when you talk with them are concentrating
on what they are going to say to you, but not Jeff. He listened intently.
He always heard what you said.
In Jeff's 20's and 30's he decided to go back to school and become a teacher. He wanted to be a positive influence on the lives of children. Jeff had a child-like heart and could easily relate to children. Many of us knew that this was a real call on his life. Jeff began his college career at the University of Houston, and graduated in May of 2005. As Julie related to me, "A lot of people felt it was so unfair that he would die so shortly after his graduation. He had a beam on his face the day he graduated, for he had reached his dream." He touched so many lives in such a short period of time through his brief teaching career. His sense of humor, his innocence and sweetness won the hearts of many.
His teaching career was spent at Treasure Forest Elementary in the Spring Branch School District. He made great friends with his colleagues, and the staff was so supportive during his illness, coming to see him at the hospital. Jeff loved his kids at school, and made every effort to treat each of them fairly, and equally, not showing any favoritism. His career may have been short-lived, but the impact of his life on his colleagues and the children he taught will be long-remembered.
Because his family was so important to him, Jeff had been planning a special anniversary celebration for his parents. Next year will be their 50th Wedding Anniversary. Jeff was planning a trip to Hawaii for the whole family. You may just want to take this trip and sit on the sanding beaches of Maui, and sip on a Mint Julip and remember Jeff's desire to be with you on that momentous occasion.
As I spoke with a long time family friend, Evie, she made this comment to me, "I don't think Jeff had any regrets about his life. I don't think he would have changed much. Maybe he would have gone to school a little sooner, but his life was such a blessing to so many. I can't think of anything that would have made his life any better."
I remember have many conversations with Jeff during his first year of illness. He said this to me, "Janet, I have grown so close to the Holy Spirit. I can feel Him right next to me, comforting me. I've never known this before. This time has been so precious. I wouldn't trade it for anything."
Recently Jeff shared this passage of Scripture with his aunt. It is taken from the Gospel of John 14:26-27, "But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid."
Julie related to me how Jeff would pray for understanding when he was having such a terrible time with his sickness. He would pray and ask Jesus to explain what the problem could be. And one time she heard Jeff say, "Delaudid? Is that the problem, Jesus?" He was taking a medication that produced side effects that made him feel worse. Julie noticed how much his prayers were answered, and how he sought God every day for everything he needed.
Many of you know how raspy Jeff's voice got over the past few weeks. Julie told me that recently when he was really sick and distraught that he started praying really hard. The raspy voice went away and his strong normal voice came forth loud and clear.
Last Monday night I spoke with Jeff for the last time. All I could hear coming out of Jeff's mouth was how thankful he was for everything he had received in his life. His mouth was full of praises, and not one complaint. We talked and prayed together. Jeff said he was a little about the dying process. I reminded him of what Jesus, the Great Shepherd has said to us through the Psalm of David, "Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear not evil, for Thou art with me " I reminded Jeff that Jesus would come to meet him and take him to the other side. It would only be the shadow of death, for death no longer would have a hold on him. Only his earthly temple would die, but the spirit of Jeff would live forever. Jesus tasted death spiritual death for everyone, so separation from God would not happen. The Apostle Paul reminds us that NOTHING can separate us from the love of God.
This proved to be true as Julie related to me that when Jeff was very critical this week, that he reached out his arms and said, "I'm walking through a beautiful valley." I believe he had already begun the transition from this world to the next. Jesus came and met him, and took him home.
living and in his dying, his faith has touched our lives profoundly.
May each of us find peace with God just as Jeff did. YOU are his treasure,
and he would love nothing more than to know that you, too, have connected
with the heart of God.
Hymn: Tell Me the Old, Old Story Jeremy Beauchamp
Hymn: I am Thine O Lord Jeremy Beauchamp
Time of Sharing:
Melba Stultz (aunt, San Antonio):
When I told Jeff's mom, Alyne, that JD had ask me to talk at Jeff's service, her face expressed what I was feeling -- why? I told her that I thought JD said that it was because it was what Jeff wanted. She said, "Naw, he's just telling you that -- so that you will do it." Alyne felt that JD knows that I would never say no to Jeff.
Jeff and I have talked so often about being thankful for our loving family. It is one that appreciates the things we have in common and embraces the ways in which we are different. In high school, Alyne and I had the same gym teacher. After several weeks of observation, one day the teacher asked, "Are you two really sisters?" That's alright. She could only see us on the outside. She couldn't see our hearts.
As far as family goes, Jeff is my nephew. But, in the spiritual sense, I feel as though he is my older brother. I have learned and am still learning so much from him. Jeff loves the Lord Jesus and God's Word with all of his heart. Jeff always had an appropriate scripture verse for any conversation, and often helped me to see a new application.
Recently, we were discussing heaven. I expressed my concern about relating to persons that I speculated would be there. Jeff said, "Melva, you know we are going to be changed in the twinkling of an eye." I said, yes, that I had always applied that to the idea of our bodies being made perfect -- Jeff no longer would have cancer, and I would have a young body once again. But Jeff helped me to see another side. He said, "Although we will be known as we are known -- have the same personalities, we will be made perfect so there will be no more reason for conflict."
In another recent conversation, we were talking about some who seem to adhere to a more negative religion. He said that he understood. He said that he knew that they were only trying to do what they felt God wanted them to do. But, for himself, he felt it was best if he endeavored just to lift up Christ, and that if he did that, Christ would then draw people unto Himself.
So in the coming days, as we think of Jeff's beautiful qualities of humility, kindness and compassion, I think it would please Jeff if that caused us to reflect more upon Christ. It certainly was Jeff's desire that he be a reflection of his Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Katherine Valdez (family friend)
Several days ago, someone was trying to decide on which piece of scripture should be read here today. It made me think of a famous poem by Robert Frost, and I knew that it was not only the perfect piece to describe Jeff, but that Jeff was the perfect person to represent the poem itself.
green is gold,
I first met Jeff Pierce three years ago when my parents were reconnected with his parents, Jim and Alyne. My father had called them up, hoping to rekindle their friendship. They hadn't seen each other in years, since before I was born, and they didn't even know I existed. It was Jeff who answered the phone.
I think what
surprised me most about the Pierces, and the Wrights, was just how quick
they were to accept me as a member of the family and treat me with the
love of a neice
or a granddaughter
or a daughter. It changes
from time to time. But above all, I was astounded at the amount of love
and kindess that this family had; particularly Jeff. I had never seen
him swear, yell, or even get angry. He just wasn't like that.
While I only got to know Jeff for three years, it seems so much more than that. I got to spend the holidays with him; Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving, Halloween, and even New Years. Just this past year, we spent Mother's Day with him. And it seems so odd that it's only been three years, because I can't remember a holiday where he hasn't been present. In that short time, we shared a lifetime, or at least it feels that way.
I've been thinking of Jeff a lot during the past few days, as I'm sure many of us have, and it's funny what the mind chooses to remember about someone. I think of him taking me to Half-Priced Books or to CVS, driving with my dad to the Home Depot, or just playing UNO while the rest of the people in the house were outside smoking.
Thursday was unlike any day I can ever remember. I was in the room when my mother received the news from my father. I've had several people in my family die, and each time I accepted it and it seemed somewhat natural. This had been the first time that I had ever felt denial. I knew he wasn't coming back, but everytime the phone rang, a part of me was hoping, almost expecting it to be someone telling my mom that it had been a misunderstanding, a little scare, that everything was going to be all right.
Later that evening I had tried to turn to the comfort of a friend, but I found that it didn't help. Not until my mother came into the room and hugged me. And it wasn't until later that I realized why. It was because my friend didn't know Jeff, and my mother did. No one could understand the pain unless they knew Jeff themselves, because there is no one else like Jeff. You can't really comprehend the amount of love that was there unless you knew Jeff personally.
Jeff was gold.
He was able to keep everyone smiling and cheerful, even when he had
every reason to be unhappy. In Jeff's mind, everyone came before him,
and it's rare to find a person that selfless. I don't think I've ever
met anyone else so willing to give. He was the kind of person you read
in fairy tales. Jeff was a dream come true, one that none
of us ever wanted to wake up from.
Nikki Libra (niece, Monrovia, CA)
I love you always and
David Stoviak (cousin, Spring, TX):
I would like to share some thoughts inspired by the teacher whose life we celebrate, my loving cousin and beloved friend, Jeff.
Touching You, Touching Me
As we all know, a fundamental purpose for any given generation is to inspire the next. Fulfilling this purpose can provide for some of lifes most rewarding and joyous moments.
We also know that Jeff was a joyful teacher.
This was true to the end, as that familiar joy projected from his eyes during our last and yet touching conversation.
sometime after our visit, while in the family room,
I happened to over-hear portions of an antic dote that his sister, Julie, was relating to some of Jeffs kind and caring teaching friends. She spoke of a childhood sleeping game, which I suspect their parents inspired, or at least, leveraged their childrens creative imagination and mutual affection.
a simple game, for there is but one rule that regulates victory.
it was a simple game of touch.
new day breaks
that simple youthful game of touch,
moment, as in their childhood,
he CAN still touch US.
JD Doyle (life partner, Houston, read by Janet Parker):
I asked Janet to read these remarks because I would never be composed enough to handle it. How do you talk about 12 years with the most wonderful man in the world? Jeff was such a special soul, and I was consistently amazed at how very kind and good he was, and often wondered how on earth I ended up with someone like that. We met in July of 1995 when I was helping to teach country dance lessons at a bar in Montrose called the Brazos River Bottom, and our first date was on August 5th, so we always counted that as our anniversary. On the date we went to see a play about Bette Davis, and over the years we shared an interest in her movies, trying to see every one on television and owning many on video.
And we quickly found that we both like to shop for old records and books, at flea markets and antique stores and whenever we went to San Antonio, or Austin or Dallas we would have it mapped out, and visited every Half-Price Books in the city. It was "who cares about the tourist attractions, where's the bookstore?"
Of course many of the books and records he bought were Christian. For music his passion was Dottie Rambo and I would never have thought I would get to know so much about a genre of music I didn't collect, but you couldn't help it being around Jeff. And he was very involved in the Church, at that time Maranatha Fellowship. He would have Shepard Group meetings at my condo before he even moved in, at my encouragement, of course, and I could see how much he treasured those people and how that was given to him in return. For a number of years he taught their Children's Sunday School, and would spend hours preparing lessons, wanting them just right. It sometimes frustrated me that he would spend so much time on those lessons when he had demanding school work to do, but it was all worth it to Jeff.
And he was really a student of the Bible, spending hours reading and underlining and writing his thoughts in his journals. He would make his own tapes by recording his voice of his readings and then mix them with songs and he would get so frustrated when the song he wanted to finish a side of a tape wouldn't quite fit. Again, it had to be just right.
He didn't only love Christian books, and studied a variety of areas, and was reading Emily Dickinson the days before he went into the hospital for the last time. And he liked television but not the current shows. He was immersed with the classic shows. He was always watching "I Love Lucy," "Andy Griffiths," "Leave it to Beaver," "Dark Shadows," "The Brady Bunch," and on and on. He liked "The Munsters," but would be quick to tell you he did not like "The Adams Family."
He always wanted to teach. His family has told me that as a child he would be playing school with the pets as his pretend students. To teach elementary school was his dream and I very much admired that in his early 30s he had the drive to quit his job and go back to college, a process that took 9 years to accomplish, much of it part-time. I went through those years and could constantly observe the dedication, and some of it did not come easy. I think I can take credit for getting him through one algebra course. But he was never discouraged and never lost sight of the dream. A dream he realized in 2005.
Jeff would never strike you as an aggressive individual, but it was interesting how competitive he was when playing games, like Scrabble or Balderdash. He loved to win, and I would often tease him when we were playing with a group by saying, "okay, just so you know, it will be a lot better all around if Jeff wins."
I have to mention how special Jeff's family is. The welcomed me in right from the beginning, and that includes aunts, uncles, cousins, everyone. They have no idea how rare that is when you're gay or lesbian to be accepted so completely. I used to joke that he took after his mom and I took after his dad. Jimmy and I have similar senses of humor, which while Jeff may not readily admitted it, I know he enjoyed that, though he would roll his eyes when we would both tease him.
Janet asked us for stories, and with 12 years with him that question is overwhelming. I know I will think of them the rest of my life, and smile. But I'll share a couple short ones. He loved animals and during our relationship I've had two dogs, a chow named Austin and now a schnoodle named Parker. He instantly became their daddy as well. With Parker especially, as she was a puppy, she demanded much more attention. Jeff played with her much more than I did, as I could never do justice to the way he played with her. He would take on character voices, that I could not possibly duplicate, and would almost do puppet shows with them interacting with her. One line he used a lot with her was something like "give me that toy, you're nothing but a ragamuffin Indian giving rascal, you look in the mirror and what do you see? A ragamuffin Indian giving rascal." All done in comical very animated high voice.
I bet most people here did not know that he could do, I think, a very good impression of Paul Lynde, though it took a little coaxing. The last cute story I have happened the night before he went into the hospital. By that time he could not get around by himself, and was on oxygen. As his voice had become very low, his parents had bought him a bell to use when he needed someone to do something for him. I was sleeping beside him and his parents were upstairs. Around 5am he just had to move to the living room so he could sit up. He saw I was sleeping soundly and didn't want to wake me up, so rang the bell for them. It's comical now but he was so concerned about someone else that the logic of the act did not occur to him. That caring was so typical.
How do I close remarks about the man who was the love of my life? Our dream was buy a house near his parents and fix it up for our needs, with a yard for the dog, and to spend the rest of our lives sharing our love. I will mourn that future we will not have, but will always cherish the wonderful gift of knowing him.
Hymn: Sweet Hour of Prayer Jeremy Beauchamp
Closing Prayer Rev. Tammy Fincher
Graveside Service for Jeff Pierce
Jesus gave us great hope that the grave is not the end for all who believe. Jesus spoke these words to his disciples when his own death was close at hand. He said,
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. In God's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. You know the way to the place where I am going." John 14:1-4
Some of the disciples were unsure about what happens to a loved one who dies. Jesus gave them assurance as he answered Thomas' question how can I know the way?
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to God except through me". John 14:6
For those who are not sure about life after death, Jesus gives us these comforting words
"I am the resurrection and the life. All who believe in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die." John 11:25
The Apostle Paul tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord .II Corinthians 5:8
Jeff began his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ a long time ago. Jesus promised to Jeff never to leave or forsake him, and His Word is true. Here we lay Jeff's earthly body to rest, but we commit his spirit into the hands of the Living God. We know that Jeff lives on from the words of the Apostle Paul in the book of Romans 8:35, "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulations, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, peril, or sword or cancer?" And in verse 38 Paul says, "For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord."
Jeff believed the Word of God, and he leaves with his family today these words, "And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose." Romans 8:28
Jeff believes (and I say that in the present tense, because he is still very much alive on the other side) that God will work in your lives, especially his family, good things through his death. His life lived among you will bring comfort and peace, joy and even laughter. "Weepng may endure for a night (a season), but joy comes in the morning."
Below, we thank one of Jeff's mom's internet friends, Mary Lou, for sending this to us. (author unknown)
To Those I Love And Those Who Love Me
When I am gone, release and let me go.
I have so many things to see and do,
You mustn't tie yourself to me with tears.
Be thankful for our beautiful years.
I gave to you my love, you can only guess
how much you gave to me in happines.
I thank you for the love you each have shown,
But now it's time I traveled on alone.
So grieve a while for me, if grieve you must,
Then let your grief be comforted by trust.
It's only for s time that we must part,
So bless the memories within your heart
I won't be far away, for life goes on.
So if you need me, call and I will come,
Though you see or touch me, I'll be near,
And If you listen with your heart, you'll hear
All my love around you, soft and clear,
And then, when you must come this way alone,
I'll great you with a smile, and say
Below, one of my "artist friends," Terry
Christopher, emailed me, asking how I was
DAY AT A TIME
love was evident by those who came
family we were is still the family we are
am of you and you are of me
look ahead to the day when I see you again