This is pretty much what I said today at Cheryl’s memorial service. I say pretty much because I didn’t really look at my notes all that much. It was a great day to remember her and hear stories from dear friends. It was a great day to reconnect with the crew from Emporia. What good people.
It was a sad day as well.
The word eulogy is an ancient greek word literally meaning ‘good words’. And that’s my task this morning – to put into good words what knowing Cheryl Goff meant. The truth is that’s next to impossible. As so many of you already know – there aren’t words to describe hanging out with Cheryl. There just are no words.
There’s just no words to describe to you what it was like going to a wedding with her. She’d go to any wedding, anywhere. She’d meet the family and immediately start looking for the cashews. I’d say to her – Cheryl, let’s just buy a can of cashews instead of going to all these weddings and she’d say “Well, what fun would that be?”
There’s just no words to explain how Cheryl was related to half of the state of Kansas. And the half that isn’t related to her has eaten at her table.
Cheryl was the model of what the spiritual gift of hospitality is supposed to look like. She always had room for one more around the table. I learned what church was after church on Sunday afternoons at her house. Everyone welcomed, everyone ate.
We’d be leaving the church service and she’d say to me — oh so and so is coming over, and so is this family. And I’d say “Cheryl, we don’t have enough food to feed all these people.” And she’d just pat me on my head and say – “Ohhh, we’ve got plenty. And if we don’t, we’ll make more.”
We’ve got plenty and if we don’t, we’ll make more.
What a model of what Church is supposed to be – not a building where meetings are held but a kitchen and dining room table where life is lived, tears and laughter are shared in Jesus’ name.
There are no words to tell you that the reason my kids are alive today are because of Cheryl Goff. She was a lifesaver for a young married couple in the middle of those black hole years of parenting – kids under 4. She’d invite us over and I’d say — “Cheryl, it’s just to much stuff we’ve got to have to come over.”
And Cheryl would say — “Oh just bring over my babies. I’ve got everything you need.” And she did. Cheryl had playpens, high chairs, toddler toys, bouncy seats, sippee cups, small spoons, and bibs. She had that cool Fisher Price barn with the mooing cow barn doors and the hammer and big wooden nails bench. I can’t tell you how many late nights we had with her because of this.
There are no words to describe Cheryl’s disdain for overhead lighting. When you went over to her house, do not ever turn on an overhead light though. That just wasn’t going to work. Overhead lighting was not allowed in her house. Only lamps, candles and the fireplace. When it wasn’t being invaded by bats. Cheryl didn’t do well with bats…Heidi however was one mean batkiller.
There’re no words to explain why Cheryl liked helping her daughters pack for trips. Of course, the girls had no idea she was helping. Whenever a Goff Girl went on a youth trip — the moment of unpacking became a sacred ritual to see just what Cheryl had snuck into the suitcase. I can’t tell you why those girls needed enough undergarments to last 37 days in the wild. I’m guessing Cheryl could.
One of the last conversations I had with Cheryl was after she had found out the tumor was inoperable. It was 7.56 am at St. Francis Hospital in Topeka. And I asked her “How do you want me to pray?”
She smiled. “You can pray for healing but….I’m not afraid to die. I’m going to see Jesus.”
She was smiling with eyes bright and clear. There wasn’t a hint of resentment or bitterness. There was no dread or self-pity. And for the first time in my life I understood vividly Paul’s words – “for me to live is Christ, to die is gain.”
I don’t remember what I prayed. I didn’t make it very far before the tears started leaking in anyway. I felt so very inadequate in that moment. There was a strength in her faith I do not yet have but hope to one day achieve.
I have two large memories of Cheryl that will never leave me, that continue to push me deeper to Jesus.
The first one is how she treated and loved kids. They would always be “My Cooper, My Camber.” If you were privileged enough to have a child in her class, they would always have those two letters, that one word added to their name for Ms. Cheryl.
“My.” What a powerful word. Possession. Care. Unconditional Love. Safe. You’re mine. I love you. I’m your biggest fan. I’m on your side. My child. There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you less. There is nothing you could ever do to make me love you more.
This is the perfect picture of Jesus and how he loves us. My child.
So to My Britta and My Amelia and My Heidi and My Emma – we grieve today but we grieve knowing that right now she is hearing Jesus say to her “My Cheryl.”
To My Elizabeth, My Isaac, My Kaylee and My Dakota, and to My Ella – what a legacy you’ve been gifted. Know you’re loved deeply.
The second memory, you’ll see at the end of this slide show….
Her laughter. Infectious, wonderful, laughter.
We grieve today because we miss our friend. But we do not grieve without hope, nor do we grieve with solemn face. We grieve with laughter, a smile…because we know she’s with Jesus, laughing. Whole. Complete.