Photo by Corinne Nicholson
"It is evident that she was a lady who truly loved the Lord and others." said Pastor Howard Greer, interim pastor at First Baptist Church of Lithonia.
"Debbie was a person of unconditional love." stated David Travis, former member of FBC Lithonia and longtime friend of the now late Debbie Harbour Mehaffey.
"She has an influence on all of us." -- Anne Daily, friend of Debbie's.
As the choir stood up -- the choir she sang in herself -- and sang "Broken and Spilled Out," there probably wasn't a dry eye in the place. They sang proudly knowing that is what Debbie would have wanted, as they sang the lyrics, "Broken and spilled out. Just for love of you Jesus." That was Debbie's song.
There were many, many truly heartbroken people at the celebration service for Debbie Mehaffey last Friday.
For obvious reasons, this earth lost a true warrior for Christ and it was just the year before on July 1, 2010, at noon we all sat in the sanctuary of the church at John Mehaffey's homegoing service.
John was Debbie's husband, cancer had already sent him home to heaven.
They are reunited together now -- they know what it means to truly be in the presence of our almighty Savior.
As the song "I Can Only Imagine," played as the service ended, I could only think of how incredibly beautiful heaven must be and imagine what John and Debbie must be seeing.
David also said that Debbie had a true calling -- to be a teacher. She not only taught in the public school system but she was a Sunday School teacher as well. Her mission field wasn't just in the four walls of her home, her classroom and her church. Her mission field was wherever she was.
She sang in the choir, she served on the missions board at church, she had a big heart for kids and planned activities outside of school.
She was a lady who gave much and she shared the love of Jesus with others in so many ways. I quickly grew very fond of Debbie. She was a breath of fresh air and she had infectious amounts of joy.
The last time I saw her walking, talking and laughing was during the Super Bowl this year. Kevin and I were at the church visiting. I had been going through some tests with my eyes, having to see a neurologist and what not. I found out that Debbie had been having problems seeing out of one of her eyes ... I asked her how she was doing. "I am fine." was her response. But she was more concerned about me and making sure I knew she was praying for me. That was Debbie.
The next time I saw her was on Easter at Kindred Hospital. Although she was what the doctors might consider unresponsive, I know in my heart she knew we were there.
I went over to the bed, told her I loved her and I was praying for her. I rubbed her arm and hand and just said a few more things to her. My mother-in-law was at the foot of her bed talking to her. too ... Debbie knew we were there ... her body shook a little bit ... she knew, she knew.
My mother-in-law Janie describes Debbie as "Pleasant, she cared for everyone, she had a great Christian spirit." She also said, "You can't condense it down to one thing ... she had true joy." Janie and Debbie were wonderful friends. They had known each other since the early '60s.
David said, "She knew God was in control." Indeed she did -- no matter what was going on in her life.
She had surgery March 11, to remove a tumor behind her eye. Her greatest fear was that she would be blind and no longer have the ability to see Tripp, her beloved grandson. But nonetheless, she knew God was in control.
Here is an excerpt from her journal that shows her peace and her understanding that her Savior was in control -- "Heaven has never been so real. I may go blind. But if I don't see you again, I'll see you heaven."
Pastor Greer said that he wondered how many people came up to her when she got to heaven and said "Because you invested in my life, I am in heaven because of you." -- She invested in people's lives. She wanted them to know the same Savior she did.
And lastly, two of the sweetest girls I've ever met -- Debbie and John's daughters, who have now lost not only their father, but now their mother, walked up to the podium, held tight to one another and read an excerpt from Heidi's journal.
"I am going to miss my mother's friendship." ... "The greatest gift that parents give their children is reassurance of seeing them again." As tears poured down their faces, she said lastly, "We are our parents children."
Julie Wells is the editorial assistant in the newsroom at the Rockdale Citizen. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.