Death is not something we desire to dwell on. It is an unpleasant subject; one that we would rather not think about. We know it is always there and we have no assurance of our next breath. But if it is abstract in our minds, it becomes reality when we lose someone dear to us. Many things are contemplated and many memories spring from that person’s life.
Such has been the case over the last couple of weeks when our church lost a dear friend and saint of God. Her name was Paulette Rhodes and she is deeply missed by her husband, four sons, a daughter, extended family and church family.
Paulette and her husband, Lavelle, were married for 41 years. He told me that when he first saw her she was beautiful and closely resembled the youngest of the Lennon Sisters. I know, you younger folks do not know who they are, but they are known as “America’s Sweethearts” and have been singing since 1955. And Lavelle certainly found his sweetheart when he met Paulette.
Lavelle was a professional musician for many years in the Dallas area, and this special couple sang together for many years in church. Paulette loved music and would sing perfect harmony with him on any song that he picked.
Paulette, however, contracted COPD and suffered with it over the past 7 years. Even though she had a continual struggle with breathing that necessitated carrying an oxygen supply, she always desired to be in church with her husband. And though she didn’t have the breath to sing, always tried and when it was too difficult, she always worshipped her Lord through each song.
Those of us that are worship leaders have the great privilege of seeing the faces of the congregation each week and the expressions of worship and thankfulness. Paulette was no exception. Her deep love for her Savior shone in her face through each note. It was my sincere blessing to lead worship and witness this wonderful lady, struggling as she was for each breath, radiate with God’s goodness and grace.
Also, Paulette was not one to sit idly by and feel sorry for herself. No sir. She was a faithful employee and public address announcer at Wal-Mart for many years. Her voice would direct the patrons to each department and highlight the special sales there.
Paulette’s job did not preclude her faith. She was just as much the Godly woman on the job as sitting in the pew. On one occasion her supervisor gave her an announcement for the store customers. So, she took the information and began directing customers to the department to take advantage of the great sale prices there. At the end of the announcement she, inadvertently added “In Jesus’ Name, amen!”
That’s just the kind of gal she was, always desiring to be in touch with God. And her heart was for others also.
When she learned that she would not have very much time left in this life, Paulette began instructing Lavelle as to her preferences at her funeral. The one thing that was prevalent to Lavelle was that she said her deepest desire was that someone would come to know Christ at her funeral.
You know, we all must face this terrible foe, death. It is 100% certain for all of us. It is truly part of life; part of being human. I have seen many that have no need for the spiritual aspect during their lifetime, only to become quite sincere about it when faced with the reality of the final chapter of life.
But, to witness a frail lady that could hardly breathe, standing firm in her faith till the very end as a true giant of her convictions should be an encouragement to all of us. Yes, death is real, certain and a part of life. But for the Christian, it is only the beginning of what the Bible calls, “that which is truly life.” (I Timothy 6:19)