From Daniel Britt:

I can attest that the following two accounts from Harold Timmons and Mark Lowry sum up the celebration accurately and beautifully.

 

From Harold Timmons:

Vestal's funeral was well attended, she looked good, and the events of
the service were a celebration of life, and of Heaven, which Vestal
quite often sang about.

Anticipating a large turnout and knowing that there was much
construction happening on the church grounds, my wife and I arrived
about 11:30am, finding cars and folks everywhere. We were had to park
in the back area, and buses brought us to the front of the church. Upon
entering the church, one was in line to view the body and take a seat.
We sat in the last row center section, and the main floor quickly
filled, and I could see portions of the balcony on the extreme sides
were full, and I assume the balcony was probably full as well.

As her body was rolled down the center aisle, the recording of George
Jones and Vestal's "Mansion Over The Hilltop" was played. This appeared
greatly timed. George sang the first verse as the procession went down
the aisle, there was a turnaround and modulation as the body was placed
in front of the pulpit, and the house was electrified as Vestal moved
into the next verse. Great timing I'd Say!

The invocation, scripture, and opening remarks were by Rev. L. H.
Hardwick, Jr., the Pastor of Christ Church. Included in the opening
remarks was a letter from Tennessee Governor Phil Bredeson, and while he
was reading this letter, a letter was brought to Rev. Hardwick from
President Bush and his wife. This was followed by a congregational
hymn, "Blessed Assurance," led by Joy Gardner. Remarks were made by
Dodie Osten and Beth Chapman (Alabama State Auditor), who were both
close friends with Vestal. Beth revealed Alabama legislative plans that
had been going on for sometime to name a section of highway near
Vestal's birthplace, "Vestal Goodman Highway," and she seemed very
confident that this would happen in the near future.

Janet Paschal sang "How Are Things At Home," followed by remarks from
Rev. Marvin Gorman, then Vince Gill came to the platform and sang "Go
Rest High On That Mountain," using only his acoustic guitar.
Interesting stories were rendered by each of the speakers, including
Rev. Johnny Minnick, who has been a member of The Happy Goodmans for
many years. "Look for Me," written by Rusty Goodman, was sung by Tanya
Goodman Sykes. Rick Goodman paid to friends associates through the years.

Bill Gaither's Homecoming Friends Choir sang several songs. The choir
included Dottie Rambo, Joel and LaBreeska Hemphill, Naomi Sego Reader,
members of The Crabb Family, The Hoppers, Faye Speer, Mary Tom Speer
Reid, Bob and Jeanne Johnson, Gloria Gaither, Ann Downing, Ivan Parker,
The Gaither Vocal Band, Terry Blackwood, and many, many more. Near the
end, several songs from the Gaither Homecoming Videos were shown,
featuring Vestal. Included were "This Is Just What Heaven Means To Me,"
"God Bless America," "O Come Angel Band," and of course, "I Wouldn't
Take Nothing For My Journey Now."

Paul Bearers were: Steve Chandler, Aaron Minick, Jack Smith, Dino
Elefante, Marshall Pugh, and Aaron Wilburn. Honorary Pallbearers were:
Ken Abraham, Harold Bradley, Andrae Crouch, Rev. Amos Dodge, Bill
Gaither, Rev. Mark Gorman, Rick Headley, Dr. Harry Jacobson, Ronnie
"Bear" Jones, Dr. John Oates, Gordon Stoker, Danny Boyles, Les Butler,
Dr. John Dixon, Dr. Drew Gaffney, Dr. Marvin Gregory, Randy Gorman, Jake
Hess Sr., George Jones, Dr. James McPherson, Rev. Earl Sherrick, and
George Younce.

The service lasted about two and a half hours, and was a great tribute
to the life of Vestal Goodman.

 

From Mark Lowry:

I can't believe it's 2004. It's been a sad and strange time around here. Amidst the confetti, balloons and fireworks, there were some tears and farewells. At Jubilaté (the New Year's Eve celebration in Charlotte), Bill presented a wonderful video tribute to Vestal. It was surreal watching her sing on the big screen and imagining where she's singing now.

I guess there were about 1,800-2,000 people at the funeral yesterday. The line was long to see Vestal. She looked like she was sleeping. I leaned over, stared hard into her face, touched her hand, and expected her to open her eyes and say, "Hello Darlin'." During the funeral when the choir was singing This Is Just What Heaven Means To Me, I thought, wouldn't it be great to see her kick the lid off that casket and come out singing, "What will it be when we get over yonder..."

But, she didn't.

What is she doing now? What is it like over there? Has she found Howard, yet? Or, is she still worshipping Jesus? Does she like her mansion? Has she thought of us? Did she get to go to her funeral? Would she want to? What has she seen? Heard? Tasted? Has she played David's harp yet? She always said the first thing she wanted to do when she got to Heaven was to play David's harp. (As if he's just gonna hand his harp over to a complete stranger.) But, if Vestal is anything over there like she was over here, she won't be a stranger long. Do you think Rusty, Sam, Howard and Vestal are singing again? How loud? Wouldn't you love to see the look on King David's face when he gets a good earful of that foot-stompin', hand-clappin', Camp-meeting-style singing of the Heavenly Happy Goodman Family?

Will they still sing about Heaven? Crossing Jordan? Are all songs entitled Heaven Bound changed to Heaven Found. That would be an easy enough change. But, what about all the songs longing for home and Heaven. We won't need to sing those anymore. I guess there'll be new songs, written by Jesus Himself. And, they'll be really good. Bill Gaither will try to sign Him to a writing deal as soon as he gets there. I'm sure he'll get there.

And, since Heaven is a place beyond the reach of time - where time will be no more - I guess, everything will be now. There'll be no history and no future. Just... now. Maybe, you will be able to go back and visit the crucifixion - or the resurrection. Watch Jesus and Peter walk on water. Heal the sick, raise the dead. Maybe. Maybe not. Who knows?

Vestal does. But death has sealed her lips. She ain't talking. She won't sing for us anymore. No more tidbits of wisdom. No more hugs, no more kisses. For now, nothing.

Since the Bible does say we will be known as we were known, Vestal may have changed bodies but her spirit must be the same... I guess. Or, I should say, 'I believe'. We live in the land of believing, not in the land of knowing. Vestal has entered the land of knowing. She should be grieving for us. We're the ones still having to walk by faith. Her faith has become sight. No more trying to focus through smoked glass, for her.

I'm glad the Bible says "But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name." He never said we had to know, see or understand. Just believe. In fact, Paul said, at the end of his life, "Now I know Whom I have believed." So, that's what we'll do... keep believing until our faith becomes sight.

It won't be long.

Click Here for a Photo Montage of Vestal Goodman...

 

 

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