Eulogy for Mary Lou (DeWalt) Bayly...
Since "Mud" had lived with my brother, David, his wife Cheryl, and their family for the past seven years attending Christ the Word during that time, her funeral was held there last Friday night. Dr. Bob Forney, one of Christ the Word's elders, preached the sermon. His text was Proverbs 31 which was quite fitting for Mud—particularly his emphasis on the strength of Godly women. Mud was very strong. In her will, her words, her work, her body, and especially her faith. As Bob said, the feminist conceit that women who honor God's Order of Creation of Adam first, then Eve, are weak is laughable. Real strength today is demonstrated by submission; not rebellion.
Prior to the opening sentences of the funeral service, my son Joseph gave the eulogy. Many of you dear ones came up from Bloomington for the service. Thank you so much! This meant a great deal to all the Bayly family.
For those of you who weren't able to join us, here is the text of the eulogy...
Following the Friday night funeral, we drove to Wheaton and had a commital service at Wheaton Cemetery immediately followed by a memorial service at College Church in Wheaton. It was a joy to be reunited with many loved ones there we hadn't seen in decades.
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Eulogy for Mary Lou Bayly
by Joseph Bayly
January 18, 2013
In her lifetime, Nana went by a variety of names. To me she was always just “Nana.” My parents and aunts and uncles all called her “Mud.” This was a little bit curious to me, as I’m sure it is to some of you as well. Loving her as we do, we don’t want to drag her name through the mud.
Apparently, there’s no single authoritative explanation for the origin of that name, but it was not disrespectful. This evening I intend no disrespect when I say I stand here speaking in honor of Mud.
Let me tell you a little bit about her, and why we love her as we do—what made her such a good mother and grandmother.
Named at birth, Mary Louise DeWalt, her friends called her Mary Lou; then, when she got married, she took her husband’s name and became Mary Lou Bayly.
She was smart. A college graduate from a good school—Wheaton College—she could have been many things. She chose to marry and bear children. That decision led to great joys, but also terrible sorrows... I’m happy she got married and devoted herself to raising children, but then I’m an interested party.
How did this decision forge the character of this godly woman?
Back in the mid-nineties, Nana gave her testimony (from which a good portion of the content of this eulogy is taken) and started with this verse: (Psalms 138:8) “The LORD will accomplish what concerns me; Your lovingkindness, O LORD, is everlasting; Do not forsake the works of Your hands.”
God heard and answered her prayer. He began the work in her by bringing her to a Christian college where she heard the Gospel for the first time and, as she put it, “accepted Jesus as her Savior.” Immediately she shared the Good News with her brothers and parents and they, too, became Christians.
She also confronted her mainline pastor back home in Massillon. Prior to college, she had dated his son. Returning from Wheaton, she asked her pastor why he never preached the Gospel? Such was the start of God’s work in and through her.
Now He has completed His work in her. She would be the first to tell you the Holy Spirit’s work of sanctification often was unpleasant. But God was faithful—He didn’t forsake her, but accomplished what He purposed for her from eternity past.
After graduating from Wheaton College, Nana was married and, early in her marriage, she faced difficult circumstances as she and her dear Joe served New England colleges and universities as the first staff of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship in that region. They set out to accomplish a lot with very little. They lived on a small salary and, quickly, had several small children. But they were expected to be ministering to others.
It seemed as though there were conflicting works to be done, and competing desires. This young mother had to let go of some of her desires. She had to stop comparing herself to other women who didn’t have children and could be a part of the interesting conversations at Campus in the Woods. Meanwhile, the leader of Inter-Varsity told Joe to tell his wife, Mary Lou, to make sure that, at camp, her two little ones were neither seen nor heard.
This was very hard for Nana. She had to recognize that, as she put it in her testimony, her own “responsibility from God was to my children—not to intellectual discussion.” And she said she was thankful to God at this time for helping her turn away from “envy.”
Meanwhile, she was heavily involved in the work of ministry with her Joe. In fact, the whole family was involved, because the center of their ministry was their small home. This was the beginning of a beautiful openness and hospitality in Nana’s home that many of you experienced. Years later she was still ministering to college students when my girlfriend was attending Wheaton College. Nana would invite her and her roommates over for tea and she would play games like 3-back with them. Or, after church, she would have them over for dinner.
Again, in her testimony, when Nana described starting to learn hospitality, her children were at the center of her description of the kind of hospitality she and Joe gave. She spoke of the “mounds of diapers” and “unannounced house guests.” She spoke of the children sharing their rooms, their parents, and their meals with strangers. Hospitality adds work for everybody, but at its heart it is sharing what you have with others. She mentioned how she herself had unresolved needs at this time, but she and Joe made their needs subordinate to the needs of these others. As she said, “otherwise if I had waited (until my own needs were met) I might never have begun to practice hospitality.”
Countless people received generous hospitality from Nana’s hands. She took part, in and led, Neighborhood Bible Studies for forty years. Her basement had an in-law apartment where a number of souls lived through the years.
Later in life, her sister-in-law (Elaine Bayly) moved in with her. Sometimes she and Elaine didn’t get along so very well. Nana couldn’t understand some of Elaine’s limitations, and her timid spirit. She was impatient with Aunt Elaine and, if you know Nana’s children—Deborah, Tim, and David—it will be no surprise to you that Nana had an opinion about absolutely everything, she was judgmental, and she was stubborn in her opinions and judgments. And to be clear, these are sins.
This meant Nana could be very hard to get along with. During this time when she and Elaine lived together, her daughter Deborah faithfully and patiently cared for both women (just as she had cared for Nana since her Joe died back in 1986).
One time Nana was with her brother, Curtis, picking up their other brother, David, at Ohare Airport. They completely missed him and were found much later, sitting on a bench in an abandoned terminal arguing about Apartheid. If you are the children of her children, you are not surprised, are you?
I remember my father, Tim, holding on tight to Nana as he lifted her up into our twelve-passenger van. Holding her midair, he kept telling her “Sit down” and she kept responding, “I can’t!”
“Mud, sit down!”
“Stop yelling at me.”
Finally Dad realized he was holding Mud above the seat and, until he put her down, there was no possible way she could sit down. We died laughing, but you get the point.
Speaking of holding on tightly, Nana held onto things tightly, too—in more ways than one. Recently David spoke of the great help it was to him, Cheryl, and their children as they cared for Mud, that she had strong arms and wrists and hands, and that she held on tightly when they lifted her to move her.
Nana spoke of the difficult process of learning not to grasp things. This began with the sharing that happens with hospitality. She said that it required her to “hold things loosely [and] recognize life was a gift from God – not to be possessed.”
Holding things loosely did not come naturally to her. But God worked with her on this.
In 1957, Joe and Mary Lou’s third child, Danny, was diagnosed with Leukemia. By faith, she and Joe and some elders prayed for Danny’s healing. Then, just after they thought he had been healed, five-year-old Danny died.
Just a few years ago, now, my father, Tim, was talking to Mud about a situation where some souls were secure in Zion about what God would and would not do, and what His will was in a particular situation. Mud was silent for a second, and then said:
I remember when (Jane-not her real name) was over helping me do dishes that year between when we prayed for Danny’s healing and when he died. She said to me, "Mary Lou, I know Danny has been healed."
I responded, “How do you know?”
She said, “I know. God told me Danny is healed!”
Having recounted this to my father, Nana became silent. Dad asked her what her point was telling him the story and Nana responded:
“We are not God! God is God!”
Later that same year Danny died, Johnny was born with Cystic Fibrosis, and died seventeen days after he was born. This psalm written by her husband, Joe, was how she described her heart at that time:
A Psalm in a Hospital Corridor
my heart fears.
I know that You have said
but my heart fears.
across the track of my mind
thoughts of evil
My thoughts are out of control.
They exhume the past
bury the future
make the present
a heavy heavy burden.
I cannot control
these fears these thoughts.
I cannot look at the future
But I trust You.
These fears run wild
careering thoughts of evil
may make it seem
that I don’t
but I do.
I trust You Lord.
I know Your thoughts toward me
are of good
I fear evil
Yet fearing wild
I know that even evil
from Your hand
is purest good.
I trust You Lord
I trust Your wisdom
I trust You
to know the end of this long beginning
Then Christmas night 1964, Joe and Mary Lou’s eldest son, Joe, was home from his sophomore year at Swarthmore College and he had a sledding accident. Joe Jr. had hemophilia and three weeks later he died. Joe and Mary Lou were about to move from their beloved church and school community in Philly out to Chicago; all of their belongings were already en route, so while they visited Joe in the hospital for three weeks, they lived with friends (Russ and Evie Kent and children). When Joe Jr. died, Joe and Mary Lou buried their beloved son, drove to the airport, and flew out to their new home in the suburbs of Chicago.
Now the difficulty of holding this life loosely was compounded. The intense pain and sorrow of those years is best forgotten. The grieving process was long—for both Joe and Mary Lou.
Is this surprising to any of us here, this evening? At this point, there were only two options: to be angry at God, or to hold this life even more loosely. The more she lost here, the more she could try to tightly grasp what remained, or the more she could grasp tightly to God’s promise of salvation and Heaven with Him and his saints for all eternity. If she truly believed that her sons had preceded her, not just to death, but to glory at the feet of their Savior, how could she be bitter over God’s dispensations concerning her precious children?
Yes, we all agree that what I just said sounds completely unreasonable to the worldling. This truth may only be grasped by faith—not by sight. And so it was that, during this time, God continued to bring his work to completion in and through Nana, her. She learned that God is God.
She accepted his sovereign plan, by faith being convinced that it was for good, and not for evil.
When they heard about Nana’s death, a number of people wrote and spoke about what a wonderful listener Nana was, and how she was always up for some fun. She was ready to drop whatever she was doing and, on the spur of the moment, just get up and go! She and Deborah planned spontaneous winter picnics for the whole family, but they weren’t so very spontaneous because Nana and Mud waited until the coldest day to drag everyone out to the park. One time the sausage fresh off the snow-covered grill was served and, hitting the plates, it had already frozen!
Mary Lou and her Joe were pranksters, but I’ll leave those stories for you to hear directly from their children.
Nana would later speak to others about how her husband Joe said the death of a child was the most difficult thing to be faced. In her testimony, she said he was wrong in saying this—that when she lost him, her husband, in 1986, it was much more difficult than losing any child. She was alone and she was empty. She had lost the one she mourned with. Would time heal the pain?
No. Back in 2001, God removed another son—her Nathan.
Nana said after her Joe died, the temptation to “just quit” or to “wall herself in” was strong. Yet God was merciful and protected her from this temptation. She did not become a bitter old woman. We remember her cheerfulness. We remember playing games with her. More than anything else we remember her compassion and strong—very strong—faith.
In her testimony, Nana spoke of a number of learning experiences. I want to share three of them with you.
- Live by faith.
- Don’t anticipate trouble.
- Reject “vain imaginations.”
At the end of her testimony, Mud quoted verses from Psalms 116. We don’t know which verses, exactly, but I’ll close with these verses 15-19 which form Psalm 116's conclusion:
Precious in the sight of the LORD Is the death of His godly ones. O LORD, surely I am Your servant, I am Your servant, the son of Your handmaid, You have loosed my bonds. To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving, And call upon the name of the LORD. I shall pay my vows to the LORD, Oh may it be in the presence of all His people, In the courts of the LORD’S house, In the midst of you, O Jerusalem. Praise the LORD!
In the presence of the people of God, Nana became a servant of the Lord; she offered her sacrifice of thanksgiving for He was the one who loosed her bonds.