A Celebration of the Life of
Ernest F. Rotermund (Ernie)
Thursday, December 23, 2010
Homily: The Reverend Lois Keen
Occasionally you may meet someone who is beloved by everyone, unconditionally.
Seldom do you meet, however, someone who seems to have nothing in him except love for everyone. Someone through whom the love of Christ shines. That was, and still is, Ernie Rotermund.
During World War II, Ernie served with the Army Aviation Engineers building runways in advance of the fliers. It was said of him that he was trying to win the war single handed. He was the first one on the ground and the first one to start to get to work. He was always on the front line. When I heard this story this week, I heard it as evidence of Ernie’s love. And I wondered why, until yesterday when I thought, well of course. Ernie was the kind of man who would do all he could to get the war over as soon as possible so the world could go back to trying to love one another.
No one can engender the kind of unconditional love that people have expressed about Ernie, without being a loving soul himself. His family say he was kind to everyone. Everyone who knew him said he was a sweet man. My own experience of Ernie was that you could only respond to him with love.
Betty is Ernie’s first love. Flowers are his second love, one he shared with Betty and their family. There was the greenhouse, and then the florist shop. And even after they were sold, there were still the relationships with the flower growing community. Ernie continued to make floral creations, especially for Grace Church, and the whole family came here to deck the church in poinsettias at Christmas, and with lilies at Easter.
Ernie once said to me that he thought of himself as an artist, one whose paints were his flowers. I agreed with him; he was an artist. It takes a certain kind of love to be able to create what Ernie did with flowers. Especially to create art that is as fleeting as the lives of flowers.
Ernie loved to build stone walls. This love sent Ernie, Jr. this week to reflect that his father was both the keystone and the cornerstone of their family. The keystone is the stone in an arch that takes the weight of the other stones. The cornerstone is the first stone laid, from which the rest of the edifice grows. Ernie, with Betty, built a great family, and accumulated an enormous edifice of friendship. All the family leaned on Ernie, bringing their questions and hard decisions to him.
The memories remain. The friends and family remain. The love remains.
And so does the keystone and cornerstone. For although Ernie is not here, his love and strength were reflections of our Savior, Jesus the Christ.
Jesus said, “Do not be troubled. Trust in me.” When his family leaned on Ernie, they were leaning on Christ. What Ernie’s and Betty’s family and friendships have become, were built on the foundation that is Christ.
Ernie has been raised to new life in Christ. It is for us the living to lean now on Jesus, to trust Jesus, and to not be troubled.
There is a golden cedar in Riverside cemetery. Ernie used to take care of that tree, trim and prune it, and, yes, take cuttings from it to use in arrangements and decorations. The final resting place of his body is in sight of that golden cedar, chosen for Ernie on purpose. Here is a place he can be remembered.
But Ernie himself lives on, in the church where he was a lifelong member, in this place where he and Betty sat together for worship faithfully week after week, in the memories of those he loved and in the hearts of those who love him still.
Love never dies. Ernie still lives. He is with God. He sees Christ face to face. But so long as there is even one here who loves him, he will also always be with you.
Jesus said, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
I like to think that those who have gone before us are helping Jesus prepare our places in heaven. With his love for building walls and making art with flowers, I believe the places Ernie is helping to prepare will be some of the most beautiful of all.
Almighty God, our Father in heaven, before whom live all who die in the Lord: Receive now our brother Ernie into the courts of your heavenly dwelling place. Let his heart and soul now ring out in joy to you, O Lord, the living God, and the God of those who live. This we ask through Christ our Lord. Amen.