Doris Gordon was [and still is…and will be forever] my sister in Christ, beloved friend, ever-present helper, constant encourager, and for 60 years, she was a faithful fellow member and servant of the church I formerly pastored. She and her late husband, Elliott, were married 44 years before he also went to be with the Lord in 2011. Together, they were not only inseparable from one another, but they were like “those who are planted in the house of the LORD” [Psalm 92.13] – they were always there. Here is the text of the memorial message and personal tribute I delivered at her service on Friday, 27 January 2023. As Paul wrote about what others said about his life’s experiences and testimony: “And they glorified God in me,” [Galatians 1.24], we glorify God’s grace in this testimony to her lifetime of friendship, service, and generosity.
Doris lived here with us for a full 91 years – and then on Monday morning, the Good Shepherd came to call her by name and personally escort her through the valley of the shadow of death … to where she will dwell in the House of the LORD forever.
I visited with her here for the last time on Sunday afternoon. She was already in a deep sleep and her breathing was labored. We’ve been told by medical professionals for years that those who are dying still may be able to hear us, though they cannot respond. Of course, we don’t know.
But what we do know from the testimony of Scripture and from the promise of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd of His sheep … that as His precious blood-bought sheep enter into the valley of the shadow of death, and as they walk farther and farther away from us and we may not be able to correspond with them any longer – they are walking closer and closer into the very Presence of the Good Shepherd and the light of the Glory of His Face. They are seeing Jesus Christ and talking with Him personally.
And so, I told Pat I wanted to pray with her one last time. I leaned over her ear and said, “Doris, this is Pastor Dave. I don’t know whether you are hearing me, but I want to pray with you.”
And, I prayed:
The LORD is my Shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.
He restores my soul;
He leads me in paths of righteousness for His Name’s sake.
…and then I paused briefly…
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil; For You are with me.
Your rod and Your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;
and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever.
and then I just said: “Doris, I love you … and I’ll see you soon!” – and I will…
This is not only a comforting promise for the end of our lives, but it is also the short story of the whole of our lives as the precious sheep of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ.
- The days of our lifetime here are all summed up in the words: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…”
- Our ‘death from here’ experience is told in the words “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death…I will fear no evil – For YOU ARE WITH ME!”
- and then our final glorious homegoing and homecoming is announced in the final promise: “And I will dwell in the House of the LORD forever!”
And as the apostle Paul exclaims in 1 Thessalonians 4.17: “And so we will always be with the Lord!”
Physical ‘death from here’ for a child of God – for those whose faith and trust is in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior from our sins – is but a transition from this frail, broken, mortal body and life to be with Jesus Christ in His very Presence. Again, the apostle Paul would even look forward to his ‘death from here’ by saying … even with longing “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain! … having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better! We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord!” [Philippians 1.21, 23; 2 Corinthians 5.8].
Doris lived her life here “in the faith” – by her faith in Christ. She professed her faith and trust in Jesus Christ and His Gospel as a young woman. She lived her life in obedience and service to her Lord all her adult life. And then, as the Hebrews writer in chapter 11 chronicled all those who lived their lives in faithful service to God, he also described how they died – “These all died in faith…” Doris died from here in the same faith she lived in and lived by – her faith in Christ’s death for her sins and His resurrection again from the dead to secure her justification and give her His own eternal life.
Doris’s life was lived and given in service to Jesus Christ, to her church, to her family, and to her host of faithful friends. But Doris never claimed – would never claim – and certainly does not claim now in the Presence of her Savior – that anything she ever did merited God’s favor and grace. Rather, everything she did was because of God’s free Grace given to her by her faith in Jesus Christ.
Doris lived, served, and gave because God first loved her and gave His Son to save her from her sins … and to redeem her to Himself to be His precious daughter in the faith … and now to be with Him forever.
Doris’s life was a testimony to the Grace of God! And I’d like to share more of that testimony with you …
But before I do, I think it would honor Doris’s testimony and legacy if we sing one of her favorite songs: ‘When We All Get to Heaven.’
Let’s sing it together…
>>>>>>>>>> † <<<<<<<<<<
I want to celebrate Doris’s faith in Christ and her love for Him in the context of a story from the Gospel of Mark, chapter 14.3-9 … where Jesus Himself commended another one of His faithful women followers and even delivered a brief eulogy [good word] in her honor.
The woman’s name was Mary. She was the sister of Lazarus and Martha. They lived in Bethany, just outside Jerusalem, and they had often hosted Jesus in their home when He was in Jerusalem. They loved Jesus, and Jesus loved them. He said so Himself. And, of course, Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead just a few days before this.
This occasion was only two days away from Jesus’ own death, and Mary had picked up on that … when others of His disciples had not. But they were hosting Jesus again for supper. During the meal, as they were reclining at the table, Mary went to get a very expensive flask of burial ointments that she had obviously bought as a pre-arrangement for her own death and burial – according to their custom. She brought it back into the room, broke the fragile flask and began to empty the expensive perfumed oils on Jesus’ head – weeping in pre-bereavement for Him as she did so.
And as Mark tells the story:
“But some were expressing indignation to one another: ‘Why has this perfume been wasted? For this perfume might have been sold for more than [a worker’s annual wage] and given to the poor.’ And they began to scold her.
“Jesus replied, ‘Leave her alone! Why are you bothering her? She has done a noble thing for Me. You always have the poor with you, and you can do what is good for them whenever you want, but you do not always have Me. She has done what she could; she has anointed My body in advance for burial. Truly I tell you, wherever the Gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will also be told in memory of her.’”
And see – we have just told it again!
But when I think of Doris’ life of love and service for Christ, I have often thought of her in the context of this story. Everything Doris did during her long life of love, service, and giving … it was done as an act of pouring out her life on the body of Christ Himself.
Doris’s life can be summed in simple words:
Doris was a true and fiercely loyal friend to all … first to her family and relatives, and also to her friends outside her family – especially her friends at our church. She was ‘rich in friends.’
You know the old adage:
“Make new friends and keep the old – one is silver and the other is gold”
[actually, the original version says, ‘those are silver, and these are gold’.]
Doris was rich in both … and kept getting ‘richer in friends’ turning the new ‘silver’ friends into old ‘gold’ ones!
You all are here today because of her life-long friendships she had with you all. Of course, you who are her siblings have shared this friendship with her all her life. You nieces and nephews – Doris would talk about you often and share updates with us how you were, where you were, and what was going on in your lives. She loved you so much and was so proud of you.
You who knew Doris from our church fellowship, for many of you, your friendship with her goes back for more than 60 years.
You all have maintained and treasured the friendship you shared with her over all these years you have known her. You talked often and kept sharing with one another your treasured friendship. And when you did, you were scooping into those friendship ‘treasures’ and enjoying them again! I’ve been talking with more than one of you over the past week, and you have shared with me how you talked with her again ‘just a few days ago,’ and how you would reminisce and laugh together about all the experiences you have shared together over all these years. She loved you, and you loved her.
And I’m still trying to remember which ones of you took her to the hockey games down at Rupp Arena back when the Lexington Thoroughblades were playing there? It never would have entered my mind that Doris would be interested in going to a hockey game! But she would come to church all excited and had to tell me about going with some of you all to the hockey games. I would kid her and say: “Doris, you’re just going hoping you’ll get to see a good brawl break out on the ice! You didn’t storm the ice, did you?” But she loved being with you and enjoyed those fun times together!
And you have been true, fiercely-loyal friends to her as well. We want to especially honor you, her family, for all the ways you loved her and took care of her, especially during these last few years after Elliott went Home to be with our Lord … and Doris was suffering with her own health issues.
She was so grateful, so thankful, so appreciative of all your generous expressions of love, kindness, and care toward her. Doris was a TRUE FRIEND!
Doris was a life-long faithful servant of her Lord and our church. Like Jesus commended Mary who anointed Him: “She has done what she could…” Doris did what she could – she did ALL she could! Doris joined our church in 1963 and served faithfully in many, many ways for these past 60 years. She taught our Ladies SS class for over 40 of those years. She became such a fixture in our church that for years, we called that room where their SS class met “Doris’s Room.” Doris was there helping us with EVERY function or activity the church had until she wasn’t physically able:
- worship services [she and Elliott literally wore out the carpet that was under their feet where they sat]
- Vacation Bible School
- missions conferences
- neighborhood visitation
- community outreach events
- when she and Elliott were both healthy, for years they worked together and mowed our grass and kept up the landscaping, and did numerous maintenance and upkeep projects on our building
- when our long-time custodian went to be with the Lord, Doris stepped in to do that service; and when another sister undertook the responsibility, Doris came to help her
Doris and Elliott always served together. Doris joined our church in 1963, Elliott came and joined a year later, 1964. Now, I have been told (I can’t personally verify the story because I wasn’t there) but I’ve been told by some who were there that you adult ladies were coming out of your SS class time back into the auditorium. Elliott was standing there, and when Doris saw Elliott, she pointed at him and said to her SS sisters: “He’s mine!” Again, I can’t verify she said that – but he was ‘hers’! She claimed him … and made good on the claim! Even Elliott always said that “Doris chased me until she caught me!” They were married in November 1967. [Also, for some reason, Elliott called her by the pet name ‘Bubba’ – at least that’s what he often called her in my presence.] We used to say around our church that “Doris and Elliott was the squishiest love story that ever came out of Thompson Road church.” In every way, Doris was a FAITHFUL SERVANT.
…and by ‘extravagant,’ I don’t mean ‘wasteful.’ I mean ‘liberally generous.’ And she did everything she did, and gave everything she gave quietly … without anyone knowing what she was doing. They forbade me to make any announcements about what they were doing or recognize them in any way. She told me more than one time how seriously she took it when Jesus said, “Don’t even let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.” The only ways I know about most of it is because it was either given to me personally or I heard it from those she gave it to.
- Everybody knows how they lived modestly and frugally … they always said “We’ve got more than enough and more then we need,” and so they were always sharing what they had with others…
- On numerous occasions, they would personally and quietly finance costly repair or maintenance projects we needed at the church.
- Years ago, along with Elliott, they donated a sizeable investment account they had accumulated they said they didn’t need for the support of our missionary pensioners.
- Of course, they didn’t have any biological children of their own, but they were always ‘adopting’ other people’s children to do things to help them out. On numerous occasions, when our missionaries would come to the States on furlough, she would sponsor their children’s tuition expenses in private schools so they could keep up.
- Over the years, she and Elliott personally gave me two vehicles when they were purchasing another one – rather than trade the older one in. We continued to drive them for years after until they wore out – and one of them, we even handed down to our kids, and they drove it still longer.
- And that’s besides all the countless little gifts and favors they would give us – like every year, while both of them were healthy, on some day during the early spring, they would show up at our house with baskets of freshly-picked strawberries. There was a pick-’em-yourself farm out in Jessamine County behind our neighborhood, and they would always pick some for us and drop them by on their way home.
Her testimony over the years was always from what Jesus taught: “Freely you have received…freely give.” [Matthew 10.8]. What she would say is: “God gave me His Son to save me. Jesus gave me His life on the cross when He died for my sins. He has given me the gift of the forgiveness of my sins and eternal life. And He has given me a home in Heaven when I die.”
More than anything else she may have given you or done for you during her life here among us, she wants to give you the testimony of the Gospel of the Grace of God in Jesus Christ.
She wants you to know Him, to receive Him, to have Him – and to “be there” with her … together with Him – “dwelling in the House of the LORD forever!”
Brother Dave, as ones who had the pleasure of serving with Doris for only 7 years, we rejoice and praise God for our sister in Christ. The richly faithful life she and Elliot shared will continue to bless many lives. Your words on this day magnify the One who gives life and opens doors for all who will love Him as she did. I think Doris would have been humbled, while having to agree you did not embellish her part and gave the right kind of honor to her Lord. Thank you, and may God reassure you of His faithfulness in all things.
Love coming n Christ, John and Annette Newland
Beautiful tribute to a precious godly lady who lived her faith before others that has left a remarkable testimony!