This morning I had the honor and the dismay to preside over Dori Deitrich’s funeral. I met Dori when I became her youth minister at Trinity Hill UMC. Though they weren’t together yet, her husband, Matt, was also in that youth group. We’re not supposed to play favorites in ministry, but theirs were the two pictures that hung on our refrigerator for ten years. Over that time, they went from being special youth to dear friends.
I’m using this space to share my sermon from Dori’s funeral, especially as I know so many people wished they could make it and weren’t able. To Dori’s family and friends––may the God of peace comfort you, bless you, and keep you.
Matt and Dori celebrated their 5th wedding anniversary last Friday and re-watched their wedding video. Matt asked that we use the same passages in today’s ceremony that they used five years ago –– Philippians 2:1-5 and Colossians 3:12-17.
Five years ago, as we were preparing for a wedding, Matt and Dori sent me those passages you just heard from Philippians and Colossians. Listen to some of those words again: “As God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience … Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts… Sing to God with gratitude in your hearts… Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit…”
I sent a message back and said, “Well these are interesting. Not the typical wedding passages. It’s not, ‘Love is patient, love is kind.’ It’s not, ‘Husbands, love your wives; wives respect your husbands.’ Why’d you pick these?”
And their response was, “Yeah, we weren’t looking for something about marriage, specifically. We picked these because they’re how we want to live our lives. This is the beginning of doing that together.”
For us who knew Dori, I think we can celebrate just how much those passages fit—that they weren’t just nice things to have read at a wedding. They were a real description of the kind of person God gave us in Dori—clothed in compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
I want to share with you three specific memories I’ll always hold dear about Dori.
The first is just her smile…
Over these last few days, I’ve started to realize just how much there is in a smile. If you haven’t yet, you should scroll through Dori’s Facebook page to see all the pictures people have posted. And you’ll just keep noticing her smile. I think that constant smile represented so much about Dori. Can I show you my favorite of the pictures I’ve seen?
Somehow, that simple picture captures so much—so much about what I keep hearing about Dori from so many of you—about the way she just took in each moment, about how she always wanted to be sure everyone was happy and having a good time and getting along. About that magnetic, joyful personality. I’ve asked several of you already what you’ll remember, and I keep hearing you say you’ll remember her smile. I don’t think that’s just about the smile. I think you’ve said that because you saw a bit of her heart in it. You saw some of the character of God in it—a genuine compassion and joy.
Now, I’ve been told we’re not supposed to make instant saints out of people at their funerals. We don’t need to paint overly rosy pictures of people. And Claire, Dori’s mom, was reminding me yesterday that it took some time and growth. There was a time Dori was really questioning whether she was cut out to be a “pastor’s wife.” But then Claire talked about how Dori just flourished—how she kept growing into this wonderful woman of God. She attributed a lot of that to Matt. And she noted that a lot of it was by the grace of God––the way you could see that God’s grace transformed Dori over time.
The second memory I’ll always keep about Dori is about her with kids. Dori and Matt were our go-to babysitters for years. I still remember the first times they baby-sat when there were three, and then when there were four. Matt came in wide-eyed, and Dori would come in and say, “We can do this!” I’ll remember our words on our adoption recommendation for them: “There is no other couple we have wanted to see become parents as much as these two.” And I’ll remember the sudden, shocking messages Dori sent us: “We’re on our way to Alabama to get our new baby boy.” We couldn’t believe how quickly it all happened. Later, Dori would call it a miracle—an act of God to allow them to get Carter before her cancer was discovered.
And that’s the third memory I know I’ll keep—is about how Dori handled her sickness…
That passage about letting the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, and about having gratitude in your hearts, seems so fitting. Matt was remarking the other day about how her concern, even in sickness, was never about herself. There was plenty of opportunity for “why me, why now,” and it never came. Even when some of the rest of us weren’t ready to concede that we could lose her, she was saying, “Why are we so afraid of dying? Don’t we believe we’re with Jesus when we die?” Even when things were looking progressively worse, she was still posting Scriptures like, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” All the way to the end, the peace of Christ seemed to rule in her heart. Even as her body got weaker, it just seemed like her spirit got stronger.
As I’ve heard several of you talk about Dori for the last few days, I’ve realized that we all saw different sides, we all got different glimpses. But we all seemed to know the same Dori. I’m thankful for that.
And so we come here and we give thanks to God. We thank God that in each person we catch a glimpse of the image of God—and we’ve seen at least a glimpse of God’s joy and delight through Dori. We thank God that the gospel isn’t just about what happens after we die. It’s about what happens while we live, too. It’s about how, by the grace of God, he turns us into compassionate, humble, gentle people. People of peace. People who persevere in difficult times.
We thank God, too, that the gospel is about what happens after we die. For those who receive Christ, for those who believe in his name, he gives us the right to become children of God. We hate death, but it doesn’t have the final word. We thank God because Jesus says, “Don’t be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me… Because I live, you will live too… Don’t be troubled or afraid.” Claire told me last night that Dori had said to her, “I’m not going to live afraid.” And she didn’t. She didn’t need to. We have a God who tells us not to be troubled or afraid, and she trusted him.
This is why, even though we come and mourn today, we can go from here in hope, too. Because we come knowing that we entrust Dori into the hands of God, who can be trusted.