Della Leapaldt, 77, Jamestown, N.D., died Wednesday in Baptist Home. Arrangements by Eddy Funeral Home in Jamestown.
I have been a bit frustrated of late with the length of obituaries in the local newspapers. The length of some of these announcements read more like a short story than a obituary.
The above is the announcement in the online edition of the Jamestown Sun. Pretty stark. The old 5 w’s. Who? Della. What? She died. When? Wednesday. Where? At the Baptist home. The only thing left out was the “why”. Some might want to know why and some may have a interest in what it was that took her life. 77 is not considered “old” for a women anymore and it might be a point of curiosity. I’m sure there will be more of an obituary later.
I could give the underlying answer to the “why”. I do it all the time. She died the common death of all human beings for the wages of sin is death. That passage of the scripture is followed by these words, ” may we then with a deep sense of our own sinfulness humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God before whom we are dust and earnestly ponder the rapid flight of our days.” So she died because she was a sinner and we should pay attention because we are going to do the same. That’s pretty stark too.
Thankfully there is more to the story, She was also a forgiven sinner who trusted in the doing and dying of Jesus who took the penalty of her sin and paid for it and gave her His perfect righteousness as a gift. He claimed her in Baptism, and then did a remarkable thing – by His Spirit He called her into the church and gathered her into a fellowship that is not dependent of our own voluntary choosing. We are given brothers and sisters in the church that just like in biological reality we don’t choose and sometimes wonder why we got them. In that church He gave her the opportunity to respond to God’s love in her vocation as wife and whatever else.
I met her because I was working with the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and she had served as Unit President and Secretary and Treasurer. She was also a parliamentarian which takes a certain kind of patience. Those that I have talked to today remember her as a “kind, honest and dear friend”. She was also funny. She at least when I knew her “served the Lord with gladness”. My memory of her is of someone who was very concerned about widows. After she lost her husband Al, she had a deep sense of the loss and pain that widows experience. She wanted the church to do more and she was right.
James 1 says, “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.” We talked about that and she felt that we all need to do more to witness to widows with at least a ministry of presence. She called me to my own repentance and to the fact that we don’t do enough for the widows because most of them seem to be pretty self sufficient and yet God himself takes a special note of them and orphans. I have to confess that I have travelled around the world to help orphans and have neglected the widows in my own back yard.
If we ponder the “why” long enough sometimes we are gifted to peer behind the veil and see the purposes of God. Maybe one of the many “why’s” is so that a friend and preacher might remember a conversation about widows by a widow who just received her crown of glory, and in the remembering do something.
Her funeral service will be Saturday February 15th at 10:30 at Concordia in Jamestown.