My Tribute to my Friend, Dorothy Hulette


Monday | 13 February 2023 | Buck Run Baptist Church!/Obituary

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Dorothy was my friend – and she still is and will be forever [1 Thessalonians 4.13-18]. She was also a decades-long faithful member of our church and the Sunday School class I teach. She is one of the very first who welcomed me to our church when we first came. I participated in her memorial service by delivering this tribute. What I wanted to do is: honor her faith in Christ and His work of love in her, encourage the family with our hope of Glory, and bear witness the Gospel of the Grace of God. In truth, she wrote her own tribute by the life she lived and the service she gave. Here is my contribution…

The theme of Dorothy’s life and service to Christ was ‘love.’

The apostle John sums it up this way [1 John 4.9-11]:

“In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent His only Son into the world, so that we might live through Him. 10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 

11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.”

Dorothy believed that … and she said, “I will!” And she did!

Dorothy left us specific and insistent instructions that we give testimony to the Love of God that made her who she is.Dorothy loved God and us…all of us…because God first loved her. AND her Lord and Savior Jesus Christ loved her so much He came to earth and died for her – to lay claim on her life for Himself…and then to continue pouring out His love for her and us … through her.

Romans 5.5-8: ‘…because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person – though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die – but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’

That’s who Dorothy was and is … and that’s why she was who she was.

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If I may, I want to begin my remarks by speaking to the younger members of the family – especially the grand & great-grandchildren. I just want to give you a word of encouragement and hope in this experience of your grief. We will always experience our human grief of the bereavement of our loved ones – that is as it should be. But there is so much more going on here than meets our physical eyes. But, the very first funeral I ever conducted was for my Grandma Parks – my Dad’s mother. I was only 19 years old … close to the ages of some of you who are here today. The family asked me if I would conduct her service because they knew the loving bond and relationship I had with Grandma Parks. So, I did.

But what I want to relate to you is a brief conversation I had with the co-owner of the funeral service, Mr. Hayworth. I rode to the cemetery with him and my Grandma’s casket in the back of the hearse. We started a conversation before we got out of the parking lot to lead the procession to her burial. He had remarked briefly about my youth and how emotionally hard it must have been for me. But then, he made a one-sentence remark that has marked me ever since [53 years later, I can still vividly picture us together in that hearse and hear his voice]. He said,

“You know, for a child of God, dying is just as much a part of the Christian experience as living.” And that’s all he said.

But I knew what he meant. Because for those of us whose only Hope in life and death is Jesus Christ, CHRIST IS ALL AND IN ALL … in LIFE and in DEATH. That’s why the apostle Paul said in Philippians 1.21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Jesus Christ Himself is our eternal life [‘Christ in you, the Hope of Glory’] … and when we die from here, we only gain more of the fullness of joy of His Presence.

That’s why both Paul and Dorothy told us: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better!”

And Jesus’ desire also is for Dorothy to be there with Him. Jesus prayed on His way to Gethsemane the night before He went to the Cross the next morning. He was committing Himself to what His Father had sent Him to do: to die for His people the Father had given Him to save – to redeem them, forgive their sins, justify them, so they could be with Him forever. And so, He asked the Father that night [reading from John 17.24],

“Father, I desire that they also, whom you have given Me, may be with Me where I am, to see My Glory that you have given me because you loved me before the foundation of the world.”

Before time began, God the Father gave Dorothy to the Son, Jesus Christ … as a love gift. “Here, My Son, I love Dorothy, and I want her here with us forever. I’m giving her to you. You go to earth and die for her sins, and then bring her here to be with us.”

And so, the Father desired that Dorothy be there with HimJesus desired that Dorothy be there with Him…and Dorothy desired to be there with Him – and Wednesday morning, the Father granted ALL their desires.

But, for those of us still living here with Christ, the only way we can live with Him there…is to die from here.

Life with Christ here … and life with Christ there … is a seamless continuum – and physical death is only the momentary segue.

That’s why, for a child of God, “…dying is just as much a part of the Christian experience as living.”

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I first met Dorothy in the Fall of 2017, shortly after we had come here to our church. I wasn’t teaching our Sunday School class yet. And, I knew very few of our folks. But Pastor York asked me to accompany him to make some pastoral visits. We made two visits that day – [the first visit was with Ted and Betty Anne Lance] – and Garnett and Dorothy was the second one. [I would find out just a short time later that all of them were in our Sunday School class … and they were each others’ truest and dearest friends.]

We went into their living room and exchanged some brief greetings. [Well, Garnett did tell some Joe B. Hall stories…] Garnett was in his recliner, and Pastor York took a chair facing him, and I had taken a seat on the sofa over closer to Dorothy’s sewing chair. Pastor York and Garnett soon got into their own conversation, and since Garnett was a little hard of hearing, Pastor York pulled up his chair to be closer to Garnett.

So, I turned to Dorothy, and we struck up our own private conversation. You all know what a sweet, gentle, engaging, and personable lady she was. The word that I always think of is ‘disarming.’ She had a way of disarming any ‘stranger-ness’ and putting you immediately at ease with her. We just went from one topic to another, getting acquainted – kind of sparking off of each other. She was so welcoming to this new guy … and that sweet smile and gentle voice of hers! She exuded love, and I was enveloped with it. She captured my heart. There was an instantaneous openness about her. Like, “Let me welcome you into my life, and I’d like to share yours!” We established an immediate bond of love between us. And when Pastor York and Garnett finished their conversation, Dorothy and I still had a lot to talk about!

We had numerous opportunities to continue that conversation after that. She and Lesa would invite us over for supper. Or we’d talk on the phone. Or they’d drive over to our house in Lexington and bring us foodstuffs or sourdough bread. Por she would crochet little love gifts and give them to me. Or I would visit her during her several stays in the hospital.

Dorothy was always what we call a ‘sweet visit.’ Anybody who’s done much visiting knows the difference between a ‘sweet’ visit and a ‘not so sweet’ one. Some visits are draining and exhausting – but not Dorothy! I would call her up or go to see her to encourage her. But Dorothy is always the one who would end up encouraging me with her sweet, soft smile and her words of faith in her Savior. She would tell me stories about her experiences in serving the Lord and her church.

And, of course, she would always talk about her grandkids and great-grandkids.

And Dorothy could also be a fun visit.She could be quite the ‘cut-up.’ I went to see her when she was rehabbing in Cardinal Hill after she broke her hip. And so, as we were talking, I said, “Hey, Dorothy, why don’t I snap some pictures of you making faces, and we’ll send them to Lesa … you know, to give her an update on how you’re doing today.” Well, she did make some faces, and I did snap them, but she wouldn’t let me send the ‘making a face’ pics to Lesa. So, I just sent one with her usual soft smile.

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But probably one of the funnest exchanges we had was what we called “The Battle of the Crowns” … and I’m talking about tooth crowns.This was back in 2020…during the height of Covid. Both of us were getting crowns. Mine was simpler: I just had a molar extracted and a crown implant. But Dorothy had all kinds of battles with her crown. I think maybe a crown had come off of one her molars, and she was trying to get it re-crowned. Except that nothing took. I seem to remember she had a root canal, and maybe ended up having it finally pulled. But we would talk about our battles. I was talking with her one day on the phone, and I said, “Dorothy, you know I grew up in rural Baptist churches, and we would sing this song. The song was an adaptation of Isaac Watts’s 300-year-old hymn, ‘Am I a soldier of the cross…’ [This was the William B. Blake arrangement]

And this adaptation would kick into a rousing, lively chorus:

“And when the battle’s over we shall wear a crown!

Yes, we shall wear a crown!

Yes, we shall wear a crown!

And when the battle’s over we shall wear a crown in the New Jerusalem.

[And then it would keep going…]

Wear a crown, wear a crown, wear a bright and shining crown!

And when the battle’s over we shall wear a crown in the New Jerusalem!”

Well, Dorothy didn’t think she had ever heard that version. So, I found a YouTube of a mid-sized rural Baptist church with a good-sized choir that was singing it. And they were enjoying singing it! They had a lively choir director who was adding a few steps of his own as he directed. And so I sent it to Lesa and said, “Lesa, show Dorothy this video.” She did. The next time I talked with Dorothy, I said, “Dorothy, the next time I come to see you, I want you and me to sing that song together, and let’s see if we can do some of those steps together.” The only thing she said to that was, “Oh, no, I don’t think I should try that…my hip…”

But she is singing it now! Maybe not that version, but here are the last two stanzas of the original hymn:

Thy saints in all this glorious war Shall conquer, though they die; They see the triumph from afar, By faith’s discerning eye.

When that illustrious day shall rise, And all Thy armies shine In robes of vict’ry through the skies, The glory shall be Thine.

“And when the battle’s over…” the apostle Peter promises that we will receive “a crown of glory that does not fade away” [1 Peter 5.4], and Dorothy is so wearing that crown!

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Dorothy would often get discouraged.She was growing older, weaker, and more feeble by the year. She had been active in service all her life. But now she couldn’t. She grew weary of the pain and not being able to get out and about – doing what she had done all her life: serving the Lord, her church, and others.

During the Covid moratorium, we weren’t meeting in our Sunday School class … just in our worship services observing protocols. But I didn’t want our Sunday School lessons to be interrupted, so I took to making a solo Zoom, converting it to YouTube, and sending the link to the lesson to our class folks. We were in study of selected Psalms. And this Sunday’s lesson was Psalm 92.

Here’s the way the Psalm starts out:

It is good to give thanks to the LORD, to sing praises to your name, O Most High;
to declare your steadfast love in the morning, and your faithfulness by night,
to the music of the lute and the harp, to the melody of the lyre.
For you, O LORD, have made me glad by your work; at the works of your hands I sing for joy.

And then, after contrasting the ultimate withering and destruction of the wicked and unbelieving … with the flourishing and fruitfulness of those whose faith and trust is in God, the psalmist concludes with this blessing:

12 The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.
13 They are planted in the house of the LORD; they flourish in the courts of our God.
14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him.

The next time I talked with Dorothy, I called her attention to that Scripture, and said, “Dorothy, when I prepared and delivered that lesson, all I could see was your face. This is for you. I know you don’t feel like you are flourishing, but you are. You are not withering. I know you feel like you are not bearing fruit in your old age and weakness, but you are! You have lived your entire life ‘planted in the house of the LORD and flourishing in the courts of our God.’ And you still are! You are still bearing fruit – even in your old age. All the planting you’ve done over your lifetime is still growing and bearing fruit!”

  1. “You are still bearing all the fruit of the love you have shared with everybody over the course of your life. You abundantly planted love in all of our lives, and it is still flourishing and bearing fruit.”
  2. “You are still bearing all the fruit of your service you have given to Christ, to your church, and to others. It is still growing, and flourishing, and bearing fruit to the second and third generations.”
  3. “You are still bearing all the fruit of your faithfulness to Christ. All the ways you have remained faithful to Christ and steadfast in your faith in Him – through all of your weakness and struggling and pain – is a flourishing testimony to His faithfulness! You have inspired so many to follow your example to do the same. And they are! They are the ‘still bearing fruit’ of your witness!”   

14 They still bear fruit in old age; they are ever full of sap and green,
15 to declare that the LORD is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

Dorothy’s testimony and legacy still continues to charge us: “LOVE ON!” because …

  • The steadfast love of the LORD endures forever…
  • Love never ends…
  • So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

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Let’s pray:

“Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus …make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints [1 Thessalonians 3.11-13]” … through the merits of our Savior we pray. Amen.

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