The service at the Immanuel Presbyterian Church for Betty Gephart, 96, was first and foremost a worship service. The program called it “A Service of Witness to the Resurrection: Celebrating the Life and New Life of Elizabeth S. Gephart.” She passed away quietly at home on the eve of the 71st wedding anniversary of her marriage to husband Ken, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel.
Betty was an active member of Immanuel Presbyterian Church, where she served as Elder and Deaconess. With a passion for the organ and classical music, she was also an avid supporter of music programs at the church. This service featured lots of organ music – before, during, and after.
The pastor, Rev. David Cameron, led the assembled through the program: the call to worship, hymn #288: “I Sing the Mighty Power of God,” a prayer, Psalm 121 (“I life up my eyes to the hills – from where will my help come?”), hymn #172: “My Shepherd Will Supply My Need,” a musical interlude (more organ music!), and scripture readings from Romans 8:28, 31-37 and Colossians 3:12-15. Reverend Cameron delivered a homily based on those readings that traced the themes from the scriptures to elements of Betty’s life and character.
The obit description covered many of those elements well: A devoted homemaker, she embraced the challenges of military life and its many geographic relocations until settling in Albuquerque in 1956. In addition to her passion for the pipe organ and classical music in general, she pursued other interests with equal enthusiasm: birdwatching, gourmet cooking, rose gardening, and raising and training dogs – but her greatest joy was family and friends, both near and far.
The homily was followed by an affirmation of faith, hymn #467: “How Great Thou Art” (I’m getting pretty good at singing that one), a prayer of thanksgiving, hymn #292: “All Beautiful the March of Days,” a benediction, and the organ postlude, “Finlandia.”
Right in the midst of Psalm 121, a cell phone went off in the purse of a woman sitting directly behind me. It was some kind of musical ditty that wouldn’t stop. She fumbled to find and silence the offending communication device while the pastor frowned and directed a withering stare in my direction. As the next hymn started, I took the opportunity to turn my own phone off under the cover of swelling organ notes. Every funeral and memorial service should start with a gentle reminder to turn cell phones off.
The attendees were invited to greet the Gephart family at a reception in the parlor adjacent to the sanctuary right after the service. Betty’s cremated remains will be interred at the Santa Fe National Cemetery sometime in the future.
May the music of Betty Gephart’s life continue to resonate in the heavenly spheres.