Saying goodbye

“Jesus has overcome and the grave is overwhelmed. Victory is won, he has risen from the dead and I will rise when he calls my name, no more sorrow, no more pain, I will rise…” ~Chris Tomlin

Thank you to all of you who have prayed fervently over the last 9 months for Elliot. Many of you have never met her, but have been so strongly impacted by her testimony that your heart is broken with the news of her passing. So I feel like I owe you this post. There is so much to tell you, it will be difficult to give the experience justice, but I will try my best.

Thursday, May 31, Elliot’s body was laid to rest. Many of us gathered around the graveside and listened as the pastor spoke of her courage, the light that she is and her unwavering faith in a God she could not see. He read from Psalm 91, Elliot’s favorite passage.

Chris had encouraged anyone who wanted to bring their children to do so as his children would be involved in the services. I couldn’t help but smile when after the service, little ones ran playfully around the headstones, tracing the letters of the last names with their small fingers. They were completely unaware that this was a place where people came to mourn.

It reminded me of the passage in Matthew 18 “…Whoever becomes simple and elemental again, like this child, will rank high in God’s kingdom. What’s more, when you receive the childlike on my account, it’s the same as receiving me.”

One of the roses from Elliot’s casket

Before leaving the site, Chris asked Wyatt (6) and Bradford (4) if they would like to say one more prayer for mommy. The three of them went over, placing one hand on the casket, and one hand in their daddy’s hand, they said a prayer. While Chris was praying, Bradford rested her head against the side of her mother’s coffin. It was such a touching moment, innocent and sweet.

There was no more stopping the tears for me at this point. They flooded my eyes and I didn’t fight them any longer.

There was a small window of time between the graveside service and the service of celebration. I cleaned my face and thought, “Okay! Good. I’m done crying. I’ve cried so much. No more tears.”

I arrived at the service an hour early and there were already a good many people there. Everyone who had been to the visitation the night before was still buzzing with comments about how many people had been there. One guesstimate was 1,000 people, while another was 700. They spoke of how the family stayed until the last person came through the line.

Elliot’s mom, Beverly had posted the following on facebook after such an incredible turnout; “My Dear Precious Child, I saw tonight how very loved and respected you are in this community and beyond. You have set the bar so high for all of us, and I pray I can point people to God and Christ as you have so boldly done in your short life with us here. I WILL see you again!! In that thought I have peace and can rest tonight. Love, Mom”

It was time for the service to start. The pastor had made multiple pleas from the front for everyone to scoot in to make room for others. People filled the small sanctuary, including the choir section and spilled out into the hallways and overflow chapel where the service was streaming live.

Several people got up to speak. To detail each would take thousands of words and more time than you have here. I would, however, like to highlight several things that were said.

Elisabeth, Elliot’s best friend, recalled when she got the call that the pathology report showed cancer, she went over to Elliot’s house and laid down beside her. Elliot looked at her and said, “I told you God was preparing me for something big! I wonder what all He’s going to do through this?”

As the pastor asked everyone, I too have to ask myself, “How willing am I? Am I willing to be that prepared? Am I willing to do what she did, surrendering everything and telling God that no matter what His will, I am ready and willing to carry it out with my life?” Honestly… I hesitate to answer.What about you?

Ed Patterson, Elliot’s father got up to speak a few words about his daughter. He introduced himself as her father and then explained so eloquently how Elliot knew that the most important relationship one can have is with their heavenly father. He spoke about Elliot’s unwavering faith through all of this and that her very name in Hebrew means; The Lord is my God. She embodied and lived out the meaning of her name. He stated what I was feeling, which was, “You hate cancer. So do we. So did Elliot. But it was clear while she was sick that she was continually asking, ‘How can cancer glorify God?’” He then assured us that Elliot’s wish would be that each of us leave there thinking more of Jesus than of her. (He read from several beautiful works that I have referenced at the bottom of this post if you would like to read them.)

The tears ran down my face and I knew that they would not soon stop.

We stood to sing another hymn. I did not even open my hymnal as I knew the words would not come out. I glanced over several rows at little Bradford. As she settled into her daddy’s arms and lay her head on his shoulder we sang, “All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. Great is Thy faithfulness…” She was asleep. What a perfect depiction of childlike faith. The kind that God desires for us. In the midst of uncertainty we rest safely in our Father’s arms.

Chris had said outside Elliot’s hospital room, Not only did she help unbelievers believe, She helped believers believe more. Truer words were never spoken.

I’m not sad for Elliot. How could I be? She is in the presence of the Savior. Her faith has become sight. There is no more pain. No more struggle. No more fear. No more death. She won. She is the victor now. She conquered. We are the ones left to grieve and to envy.

To echo something Elisabeth said, “Not everybody gets an Elliot.” She’s right. I’m so blessed to have known her. She has left quite a legacy. Her light is bright and vast. Imagine what it will be when we continue to carry and share that light with others. My goal is for her children, as they grow up, while in conversation with someone they don’t even know, to discover that their mother changed the world.

When my 4 yr old saw this picture of the sky behind me on the way home from the services, he said, “Mommy, that’s Heaven.” I agreed.

Maybe someone you know needs to hear what Elliot was quoted as saying in 2010, “When you are so beaten down that all you can do is lift your hand and say. ‘Help!’ He will. I promise.
Don’t put God in a box ’cause he’s not going to fit.
Don’t tell God how big your storm is. Tell your storm how big your God is.”

~Elliot Patterson Williams 1975-2012

Readings by Elliot’s dad, Ed:
“Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us. We tremble not, we fear no ill, they shall not overpower us.
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will,
He can harm us none, he’s judged; the deed is done;
One little word can fell him. The Word they still shall let remain nor any thanks have for it;
He’s by our side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.
And take they our life, goods, fame, child and wife,
Let these all be gone, they yet have nothing won; The kingdom ours remaineth.” ~Martin Luther 1529 “A Mighty Fortress is our God”

1. What is your only comfort in life and in death?
That I, with body and soul, both in life and in death,1 am not my own,2 but belong to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ,3 who with His precious blood4 has fully satisfied for all my sins,5 and redeemed me from all the power of the devil;6 and so preserves me7 that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head;8 indeed, that all things must work together for my salvation.9 Wherefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life,10 and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live unto Him.11
[1] Rom. 14:7–8. [2] 1 Cor. 6:19. [3] 1 Cor. 3:23. [4] 1 Pet. 1:18–19. [5] 1 Jn. 1:7; 2:2. [6] 1 Jn. 3:8. [7] Jn. 6:39. [8] Matt. 10:29–30; Lk. 21:18. [9] Rom. 8:28. [10] 2 Cor. 1:21–22; Eph. 1:13–14; Rom. 8:16. [11] Rom. 8:1. ~The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 1

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth.” ~3 John 1:4

Related Posts:
A Tribute to Elliot
When Cancer is no longer a Stranger
In the midst of the storm
A Father’s Love
When the monster returns, Thy will be done 

27 thoughts on “Saying goodbye

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  10. Joy, I have read all your blogs regarding my sweet friend Elliot. I was able to attend the visitation but not the funeral, so thank you for sharing. I MISS HER! However, I am SO very thankful that she is no longer in pain and no longer suffers. We can grieve in those wonderful thoughts and know that God will comfort us:

    • Melinda,
      Thank you for reading.
      It is the only way I have been able to process all of this.
      I am able to write what I cannot speak.
      It has been very healing to me and I appreciate your reading and commenting.
      Blessings to you!

    • Eliott must have been such a precious gift from God and a dear pleasure to have had known. I only wish I could have shared in your great experience of knowing and loving her. I gather that she touched the lives of even the grocery clerk and post man. Not that they are not important people just typically unknown.

      • She definitely was a gift and still is every time I have the opportunity to talk about her, which has been a lot in the past few days 🙂
        She treated everyone she interacted with as if they were the most important person in the world.

  11. Thank for sharing the highlights. I was so moved by everyone that spoke, that I wish I had a recording. While Mr. Patterson spoke it was very clear where Elliot got her foundation. I looked at the Preacher and could see that the words that came from Mr. Patterson were inspiring and enlightening to even him.

    • I agree, Donna!
      I actually started taking notes on my phone because there was so much that I wanted to remember.
      Thank you for reading and commenting.

  12. I am in the midst of a storm in my life. My husband of twelve years has filled for divorce. We have a nine year old daughter and she and I are torn apart. This certainly isn’t any sort of comparison but it does put things in perspective. Thank you for your encouraging words and divine guidance. God bless.

    • Brandi,

      I am so sorry to hear that.
      Divorce is one of the hardest things you can go through, especially when it is not wanted.
      Praying for strength, comfort and courage for you and your daughter during this time.
      Love and Light to you, friend.

  13. This was so beautiful. I lost my best friend four years ago. She touched so many people’s lives. One thing you quoted that I loved was “not everyone gets an Elliot”. I was blessed to have had Jan just as you were blessed with Elliot. I think of the line from the song The Dance..
    And now I’m glad I didn’t know
    The way it all would end, the way it all would go
    Our lives are better left to chance I could have missed the pain
    But I’d of had to miss the dance .

    • Thank you, Cathy.
      That is a great song with so much truth in those words!
      Thank you for reading and for your comments. They are always greatly appreciated.

  14. Joy, this is a beautiful tribute to your friend, who has become mine through these posts and the prayers we have all prayed for her. How hard it is for us to have an eternal perspective and to realize that sometimes it is in dying that we take more people to heaven with us than we may have done by simply living. Elliot was a beautiful example of Christ here among us. Her death means that the rest of us will have to strive harder to fill that void in the world.

    • Thank you, Pam.
      You are right. She left a huge void to fill, but every time I talk about her life and share her spirit with someone else, it makes me so happy. You are right about taking more people to heaven in dying. She has impacted thousands of people.
      I am still working on my eternal perspective 🙂

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