A victory celebration for Ralph Perea coming into the radiant presence of his heavenly Father filled the funeral home chapel with family and friends gathered to remember and pray for a man who died too young. Ralph was 49 when his body succumbed to cancer, but his soul went to be with the Lord.
Ralph’s first cousin Julianne Ashford, an ordained minister from the Bible College School of the Spirit, conducted the service. She opened with a prayer honoring God, remembering Ralph, and praying for peace to his wife Ramona and the family.
“We are here to celebrate the life of one of my favorite cousins,” she said. “He was like a brother to me. We grew up together. Ralph is not in that box, he is present with the Lord.”
She had asked the Lord to speak to her heart and give her just the right Scriptures to offer at this service. These are the passages that spoke to her. She inserted Ralph’s name as appropriate.
Psalm 49:15 – But God will redeem Ralph’s soul from the power of the grave: for he shall receive Ralph.
“Ralph is not in that box. He is present with the Lord,” Julianne said. “What you see there is simply a shell.”
Luke 9:56 – For the Son of man is not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.
“Redemption is a free gift, you don’t have to pay for something given,” Julianne said. “I was with Ralph a few weeks ago. We cried, we prayed, and God’s presence came on strong. Let go of guilt and ill will. Remember the good times, the good memories. That is what the Lord would want.”
Romans 10:9 – If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Ephesians 2:8 – For it is by his grace that we have been saved through faith, and this faith was not from you, but it is the gift of God.
Revelations 21:4 – And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
“Nothing can ever hurt him now. We are the ones who are hurting because we miss him. Ralph believed in Jesus Christ and he is going to meet us at the gate.”
A recording “Amazing Grace,” a favorite song of Ralph’s, filled the chapel. This version had an additional stanza added by Chris Tomlin that I’ve not commonly heard:
How sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me
I once was lost, but now I’m found
Was blind, but now I see
‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear
And grace my fears relieved
How precious did that grace appear
The hour I first believed
My chains are gone
I’ve been set free
My God, my Savior has ransomed me
And like a flood His mercy rains
Unending love, Amazing grace
Attendees were invited to share stories and make comments about Ralph. He was described as a kind person, unpredictable and fun. He was a good man who loved his wife, kids and family, a hard worker who loved providing for his family. In spite of his illness, he wanted to go back to work. He gave his best effort to fight the cancer.
One granddaughter confided that Ralph would “… give us snacks and chips and candy.” Everyone laughed as the truth came out of the mouth of babes. Then his granddaughters charmed everyone by singing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” for their granddad.
In one story, a man spoke about the kid inside Ralph. It seems there were sprinklers at an apartment complex that missed a spot, so there was an area of dirt that turned to mud. In a bit of fun, Ralph and he got covered in two inches of mud. Then Ralph went to the convenience store to buy something and discovered the condition of his pockets. “Hope you don’t mind my dirty money,” Ralph said. “Hope you don’t mind change,” said the clerk.
He was also remembered as generous, someone who would give you the shirt off his back. He was good to everyone. He was also stubborn in his own way. Julianne commented that they used to have a competition to see who could be the most stubborn.
Two other songs that were meaningful to Ralph were played: “I Will Rise Again” and Donny Osmond’s song, “And They Called It Puppy Love.” Ralph and Ramona were introduced by cousin Julianne, only in their teens when they met. They would have been married 30 years come February 12.
Sister-in-law Judy said, “I asked the Lord what to say, and the message comes through the heart, the hands, the feet… We all have the opportunity to know Jesus Christ. We still have a chance to know Jesus Christ as our personal Savior… We thank the Lord for conquering the grave.”
After the open comments, Ralph’s Uncle Fred brought forward holy water to apply to the body. He led the recitation of The Lord’s Prayer and Hail Mary. “Receive his soul and present it to God most high,” they prayed.
Ralph came from Agua Fria near Santa Fe to Albuquerque 31 years ago. Following the victory celebration, his body was taken to the cemetery in Agua Fria for burial. The family planned to reconvene after the burial for a meal at the Community Center in La Cienega. The pallbearers all wore blue carnations as a sign of their solemn duty.
If you have a memory or story about Ralph Perea you’d like to share, please use the comment box below. May he rest in peace.