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Thursday, August 27, 2009


J. Grant Swank, Jr.

The following is read at the funeral of Helen Muriel Royer Swank, Friday, August 28, 2009, Denton, Texas:

As a boy I would often arrive at home from school or playing with neighborhood pals to find Mom on her knees before the living room couch. Her Bible was always open. Her glasses were alongside the Bible. And her eyes were wet with tears. She had been praying.

This was not uncommon. It was not until I was a bit older that I realized that not every Mom in the world knew how to pray as Mom knew how to pray.

Mom and Dad made the perfect Christian parenting team. Mom came to know Jesus as friend when a little girl. She introduced Dad to Jesus when they were both teens. They never wavered throughout their lifetimes from journeying with Jesus.

That meant that we children had the most marvelous Christian mentors one could hope for. They taught us the Bible, how to pray like breathing, that the Lord’s Day was holy all day long, that the tithe belonged to God and our souls’ salvation was the most important treasure here on earth.

Mom knew how to play the piano. Dad knew how to play the piano. They both were singers. Therefore, quartets, trios, duets and solos were common evening doings in our home. Mom was an accomplished soloist so that most church weddings featured Mom as ceremony soloist. When she had throat surgery, she lost her singing voice, sadly.

Mom and Dad sang on Christian radio for years when we lived in Frederick, Maryland.

Mom and Dad believed wholeheartedly in the holiness lifestyle. They sang about it. They testified to its reality. They lived it year upon year.

Mom and Dad delighted in having our house filled with friends. We children grew up with our parents entertaining everybody and anybody, especially guest evangelists, missionaries, the poor, the lonely and those simply passing through. That was the case whether in Maryland or Illinois or Texas.

When someone showed up at church for the first time, Mom and Dad had that newcomer to the house for a meal. That was a given that continued for decades. Such treasured memories we have because of meeting these interesting personages.

Mom was an outstanding secretary and delighted in her various positions, starting as secretary to the high school principal in Vandergrift, Pennsylvania, her home town, then for the US government in Frederick and College Park, Maryland. In Texas, she continued as secretary for a private firm. Mom was especially happy when at a desk with a typewriter and shorthand tablet.

Mom excelled beyond measure in typing and shorthand. I would often watch her taking notes on the Sunday sermon—in shorthand, of course. Her penmanship was a work of art.

Mom delighted in teaching children in Sunday school. She had all sorts of children’s chorus books and illustrative teaching material. Even when her own children were adults, she had more fun going through her repertoire of children’s lessons for us, much to our cordial laughter responses.

Mom was made for hugging, especially little babies and toddlers. She’d squeeze them till you’d think they’d turn into youth bubbles of smiles and giggles.

Mom had one of the most winsome smiles God ever crafted. It lit up the world around her. A smile from Mom set life on balance—every time. She’d tilt her head to the side, light up the twinkle in her eyes and then spread that smile as if she were royalty. She gifted us with her ready smile.

Mom was married to her Bible. She said in recent days that she missed so very much sitting at her desk with her Bible in front of her. She read all sorts of Christian literature—classics and the most recently published. She was glued to Christian telecasts and could inform you of the latest in political and social fulfillment of biblical prophecy.

To the very last, Mom had the alert mind of a young adult. She was aware of everything around her. Her logic was precise—and wise.

Mom knew how to witness. She would speak about Jesus to those around her, in recent years to those sharing her meal table at Good Samaritan Village. She would also witness to staff. Everyone knew that Mom’s God was real. And His name was “Jesus.”

She was faithful to chapel services, encouraged the chaplains attending her, and was particularly appreciative of her local church pastors and their families. She spent a lot of hours in intercessory prayer—petitioning for others’ welfare.

When someone died, she’d often ask me, “Do you think he was saved?” “Do you think she knew God?” Mom was knowledgeable that no matter what else happened in this life, making it safely home to heaven was top priority.

Today I have no doubt that Mom made her journey home with Jesus waiting at the gates and Dad right alongside Jesus. Of course, her earthly godly father, Harry Royer, was there as well. And, thanks to God’s mercy upon her mother, she too was at heaven’s entrance, though coming to know Jesus only in the last year of her life here in this sphere.

Now I sit imagining Mom eternally healthy and happy, her smile lighting up the pathway wherever she may go. Heaven is far richer today because Mom walked through those gates. Can’t you just see it all?

And to know it will never end.

Thank you, Mom. You were a precious presence we were privileged to call our own.