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February 28th, 2013

Reflections on the Life of Dolores Hines (1929-2013)

The family has asked me to share some brief remarks as we celebrate and remember Dolores today, and I think the three Scripture passages they suggested are most appropriate as a basis for this meditation on the life of Dolores Hines.  The Scriptures bring to mind three words which Dolores’ life illustrate.

First, presence.  Psalm 23, so familiar and cherished at a time like this, is a comfort to us especially because it speaks of God’s constant presence.  The metaphor of a shepherd is of one who provides (“I shall not want”), guides (“he leadeth me”), and protects (“I will fear no evil”).  Implied in each of those words is the truth that God is there.  He never leaves us.

Looking back over the life of Dolores Hines, God was always there.  He was there in Alliance, Nebraska, where she was born.  He was there in Musketeen, Iowa, when she was a pretty public school cheerleader who caught the eye of a Catholic school boy.  God was there when they married in March 1951 and Norris went in the Air Force.  He was there when they were discharged in San Antonio, and moved to Ledyard, Iowa for Norris to teach and coach.  He was there when Maytag hired him in Newton, Iowa in 1956, and when a job with National Sign Company brought them to Knoxville, Tennessee.  God was there when the Hines bought Moore Sign Company in 1976 and moved to Hickory.  Everyone else may have thought it was Norris’ company, but the family knew Dolores was really in charge!.  God was there when they partly retired in 1992 and moved to Amelia, Florida, for a decade, there when they lived in Mills River from 2001-05, and there when they returned to Hickory.  God was often there in the form of some wonderful neighbors and friends, Bob and Alice Spuller.  God was there about ten days ago when a health crisis put Dolores in the hospital for only about the second time in her life, and he was there when she took her final breath.

God’s presence is a constant throughout our lives.  “Thou art with me,” David writes, “thy rod and thy staff they comfort me….Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life.”

Second, grace.  This word not only recalls one of the family dogs, and a great story you’ll have to ask Jeff about when his mother wrestled an aggressive St. Bernard who had followed Grace the boxer into their home.  More importantly “grace” takes us to the second familiar text of Scripture we read.  John 3:16 says so simply and powerfully, “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son.”  Dolores bore three children with Norris – Jeff down in San Antonio, Sherry in Iowa, and Scott in Minnesota, just across the border from their home in Ledyard, Iowa.  She loved her children and grandchildren deeply and spoke of them proudly.  When I met with Dolores and Norris in 2006 after they moved back to Hickory, they named each child and grandchild – and their spouses – sharing specific details of their lives.  I jotted some notes I still have – Jeff goes to the Presbyterian church, Ellie is our first great grandchild, Sherry comes home to visit when the chickens leave, Taylor’s on a golf scholarship, and so on.

But it was clear the grandchild so close to her heart was the one she no longer had – Nick.  We had gathered right here in this spot in 1998 to lay him to rest at only age 17.  No parent expects to outlive their children, and no grandmother expects to bury a grandchild.

It is why perhaps among us only Sherry and Matthew, and Norris and Dolores, can most deeply feel the grace expressed in John 3:16.  That God would love the world so much that he would voluntarily allow his one and only Son to suffer and die is the greatest expression of love I can imagine.  God didn’t have to, but he did.  Through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ for our sins, our sins can be forgiven.  Even though God’s presence is always with us, God knew that we run from him, resist him, turn away from him.  The only way to bring us back was this supreme act of self-sacrifice when God loved the world so much that he gave his one and only Son.  Our part is to believe in him – who he is, the Son of God, and what he did, died for our sins, that we might have eternal life.  This is God’s grace – loving us not because we deserve it, but specifically because we do not.  It is in understanding and believing this grace that we have life eternal.

This brings me to my third and final word, home.  Revelation 21 pictures the afterlife in words that express the fulfillment of every longing – God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”  I don’t know about you, but I’m weary of death and mourning and crying, and pain.  The Bible promises these will pass away with the “old order.”

But the reason we will experience these joys is because we will be home: “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.”

In ways rarely understood and appreciated by the men in their lives, a woman longs and strives to provide a home for her family.  Dolores may have been a secretary and bookkeeper at Sign Systems, but she was first and foremost a home-maker.  If that word brings to mind June Cleaver, well, that’s not exactly Dolores – completely domestic, never ruffled.  She had her tough side, her sassy side, her controlling side, earning her the nickname “War Wagon” from Norris among his friends, if not to her face.  She was smart even though she gave up college to marry Norris.  She was a good golfer, the President of the 18-holers in Knoxville.

But it seems to me her true love was providing a home – a home for her husband to come home to from his business travels, a home for her children to enjoy, a home Scott said was “always wide open for our friends,” a home for Young Life events, a home to host parties, even a home for many felines and canines through the years.  She was, in Sherry’s words, “an incredible wife and mother,” and a “wonderful cook.”

There’s something about this idea of home that is so critical to human existence and longing that it is one of the book of Revelation’s most poignant metaphors for heaven.  “The dwelling of God” is another way to say, “the home God prepares and the home where God is.”  That’s what we have to look forward to through Jesus Christ.

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