I brought this obituary, eulogy and message at the memorial for my first cousin on March 5, 2015 in Sumter, SC
All human life is sacred; in its being born, in its living, and also in its dying. All human life is valuable. Thus, Linda Kay Elliott Christopher’s life was sacred and valuable, and lived in her own special way, with her own personality and qualities. The gifts and graces which she offered are never lost. The unique attributes which she brought to us in her life and relationships lies now within our own lives and travel into the future with us. Our lives have been changed because we knew and loved and lived with her.
Linda Kay Elliott Christopher was born March 20, 1954 in Coshocton, Ohio. She was the daughter of William Earl Elliott and Betty Lou Roof Elliott. Linda enjoyed sewing and was very active in the Girl Scouts as both a child and an adult. She loved camping and playing cards with her friends and family. Linda served as a lay leader and preacher in this church and at Santee Summer Ministry. Linda enjoyed music and was a talented singer and pianist. Her true joy in life was spending time with her grandchildren. Linda Kay Elliott Christopher died on Sunday, March 1, 2015, at her residence. She will be remembered as a loving daughter, mother, grandmother, sister and friend. She will be dearly missed by all that knew her.
Surviving in addition to her parents are: three daughters, Carrie Gulledge and her husband, William, Jessica Young and her husband, Terry, and Kimberly Christopher and her husband, Arthur,
two brothers, Kevin Elliott and his wife, Candice, and Kris Elliott and his wife, Carol; five grandchildren, Christian Gulledge, Daniel Davis Jr., Keyon (Kee-on) Young, Kamora (Kah-mar-a) Grice and Keyra (kear-ah) Grice;
five nieces: Michele Swanson, Chris Thyret, Jennifer Valdez, Megan Elliott and Dylan Elliott; Linda is also survived by her special friend, Henry Gregg.
Linda was preceded in death by a sister, Lori Sue Elliott, and brother, Kip Alan Elliott.
Let us be assured by these words of Jesus from the 14th chapter of the gospel of John:
“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in me. In my father’s house there are many dwelling places. ? If it were not so would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place I am going. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. Peace I leave you, my peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not let them be afraid.”
“I’ll Fly Away”
I want to begin by sharing that I wish I could stand before you and offer you unequivocal and certain responses to the question that probably occupies most of us in this place, Why did this have to happen?! But I can’t, because I don’t know what the answer is…What I can do is state the truth about Linda’s passing. It really stinks. This is not what God intended or intends for any person. God’s intentions are that each and every one of us would have long, happy, fulfilling lives. As a parent and a daughter, I can’t thing of anything else that is sadder or harder than facing the demise of a close, special loved one. As a family member, the pain of loss is close and real. I know how sad and frustrated you must be. I am too, and I stand with you in that dark unhappy place before God. It is my conviction that God honors and welcomes us with all these emotions, because God also grieves Linda’s loss to us. Additionally, it is my conviction that God offers each of us and will continue to offer for as long as it takes; that comforting, reassuring peace in which Linda now resides.
I want to help us remember together during this time the person Linda was and will continue to be for us all; for the gifts she gave will live on…
My memories of Linda are centered in the circumstance of our being first cousins. We were 2 of the group of 8 of us, who were the children of the three Roof sisters—Betty, Gerry, and Barbara. Linda was second in line, behind her brother Kip in age. Years of being together at our Grandmother’s on holidays, visiting each other’s homes have produced quite a collection of great reminiscences. We 8 spent many hours ensconced in the basement of Grandma’s little house playing games, terrorizing each other, and putting on programs for the adults. Linda’s musical abilities were always in great demand for these. I remember one specific program we did where we sang the songs from sound of music. Because uniformity was important to the two elder kids, the rest of us had to all change our last name to Elliott when we were introduced at the start of the show. Linda is also responsible for my introduction to the music scene of the 1970’s. Her collection of 45 records always seemed to come along when she visited our house. Through her, many popular artists like the Carpenters, Carly Simon, and in particular, the hit “In the Year 2525” made their way into my personal favorites.
It is a particularly bittersweet privilege to eulogize one of your childhood heroes.
Betty and Bill remember a quiet little girl 3 year old, who never cried about being brought into their home. Kip had so wanted a little sister and he was especially glad to meet her; he said he wanted to take her right to Sunday school to meet everybody there. At her first Sunday dinner, Linda was strongly encouraged to eat her lima beans. Not liking lima beans, she hid them in her panties. Uncle Bill remembers that Linda did grow into a young lady who had no problem whatsoever at sharing about how she felt about something or what in particular she wanted. Aunt Betty recollects that she loved to be given tasks to help with in the kitchen. Linda herself remembers some highlights of her growing up in the letter she wrote to Betty for her 80th birthday:
Linda’s daughters remember their mother as an excellent grandmother—“Memaw” or “Grandma Linda”—who delighted in all the grandchildren. They have fond memories of innumerable card games and being encouraged to participate in Girl Scouts where Linda served as a leader. Jessica shared the lyrics to those oldie but goodie girl scout songs at the kitchen table the other evening: Make New Friends, and I’ve Got a Smile in My Pocket.
The lyrics to “Wind Beneath My Wings”—some of which are in the bulletin today– have special meaning for Carrie after a conversation with Linda when Linda told Carrie that she in fact was the Wind to her mother’s wings. Kimberly has written the following letter…
Such rich memories, but certainly not enough. And I have to wonder—what do we have left besides the memories? What remains of Linda in our world to accompany and comfort us?
In I Corinthians, the Apostle Paul says this about love:
If I speak in tongues of human beings and of angels but I don’t have love, I’m a clanging gong or a clashing cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and I know all the mysteries and everything else, and if I have such complete faith that I can move mountains but I don’t have love, I’m nothing. 3 If I give away everything that I have and hand over my own body to feel good about what I’ve done but I don’t have love, I receive no benefit whatsoever.
4 Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant, 5 it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, 6 it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. 7 Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things.
8 Love never fails. As for prophecies, they will be brought to an end. As for tongues, they will stop. As for knowledge, it will be brought to an end. 9 We know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, what is partial will be brought to an end. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, reason like a child, think like a child. But now that I have become an adult, I’ve put an end to childish things. 12 Now we see a reflection in a mirror; then we will see face-to-face. Now I know partially, but then I will know completely in the same way that I have been completely known. 13 Now faith, hope, and love remain—these three things—and the greatest of these is love.
While we often use this passage as a celebration of romantic love; it’s useful to remind ourselves here and now that the Greek word used in this passage for love is AGAPE ! It’s that special love that we recognize and understand as being a special gift of God and defines unselfish and sacrificial love. This is the love that is the very essence of the divine; the love that can influence and inspire of all of our relationships—human and divine! We see it in its truest form as we consider the sacrifice of God’s only child Jesus as he died for us all. We experience it as we truly and completely live and act for someone else. It is this love in which we know and have experienced the best of Linda’s being…
Love is one of the core eternal pieces of Linda which will persist: It was there when she was born, and as she lived as a daughter, a mother, a grandmother; it was there as she left the pain and limitations of this earth on Sunday morning. Linda’s best legacy is love. It is love that enables her –and us– to be eternal beings, with a destiny that unfolds on the “other side” of our earthly life. Her life and our lives are never-ending stories; birth, life, death-rebirth, eternal life. “Linda Love” continues to permeate and infuse each one of us as we walk with one another, as we live and work and play and rest. Love—and UNIQUE, WONDERFUL Linda—CONTINUES to energize and enliven our world: as we act individually to maintain loving relationships; and as we act together as a family and a community to show and share this love with anyone we meet, and finally—ultimately– as we each realize the coming of God’s eternal reign.
Thanks be to God for the life of Linda Kay Elliott Christopher, and thanks be to God for the blessings her life will continue to reveal in us and those that we love.
In conclusion, I would like to share a poem that once more offers the vision and expectation that Linda Christopher continues to love and influence each one of us forever:
I give you this one thought to keep—
I am with you still—I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the swift uplifting rush
Of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night
Do not think of me as gone—
I am with you still-in each new dawn.
Let us look again to God in Prayer:
O God, You know the lives we live and the deaths we die- woven so strangely of purpose and chance, of reason and the irrational, of strength and of weakness, of happiness and pain, of laughter and tears.
Into your hands we commend the soul of Linda Kay Elliott Christopher. Through your grace, that can do far more than we can think or imagine, fulfill in Linda your purpose that reaches beyond time and death. Lead Linda home, and into her destiny as a beloved child of your kingdom. Continue to bring solace and support to Linda’s family and friends. Allow their memories and the love they share together to sustain and comfort them. Into your hands also, we commit our lives. Hold us in your keeping and enable us to live into the intentions you have for each of us. Guide and direct us through the power of the Holy Spirit and with the example of your son Jesus, who taught to his disciples this prayer, that we will now pray together:
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and power and the glory forever and ever, AMEN