Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Celebrating Tiffany Pate, part two

For the benefit of those who were unable to attend Tiffany's Memorial Service, I am importing the thoughts I shared last night in tribute to her legacy. I hope as you read this, you will be inspired to go and do likewise. There is no better way for us to honor her memory and celebrate her life!

Tiffany April Smith Pate Memorial Tribute

My name is Sandy Broome and Tiffany Pate was my friend. But not just any friend, she was a friend with whom I shared a bond that transcended the ordinary, ours was a spiritual kinship.

Last week, as we watched, waited and prayed at the hospital, Brian shared with me that Tiffany had requested that if God called her home, she wanted me to speak at her memorial service.

Brian, Landon, Ridge, family, and friends, I could not be more honored or humbled to have the opportunity to share a few thoughts about one of the most courageous, amazing women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing.

In 1996, a young woman I’d worked in youth ministry with named Jennifer Dowell mentioned that she had some girlfriends who wanted to get together to study the Bible but they needed a leader and asked if I’d consider teaching them. Tiffany was one of the girls who joined the group and almost from the start she challenged me with her deep, contemplative questions, her hunger to find and know truth, and her quest to discover more of what life in relationship with Christ was all about.

It seemed that for Tiffany, the more she learned, the greater her hunger to know more. Often, she called me with questions that I’d never even considered, so we’d dig in to scripture and discuss God’s Word for hours.

But Tiffany wasn’t just a learner or hearer, she took literally the admonition of James 1:22 which says: But be doers of the word, and not hearers only… In every aspect of her life, Tiffany looked to God’s Word for her direction.
As a young wife she called me with questions about how to please God in terms of relating to Brian. When Landon and Ridge came along, she wanted to be certain beyond any doubt that she was a “doer of the word” as a mother.

As a daughter, Tiffany wanted to honor her father and her mother and it was the same with every relationship—if it pleased God and was scriptural, that was the path she chose.

Now as I say all that, I also know that Tiffany would be devastated to think that I (or anyone) would put her on a pedestal because she was nothing if not unassuming and humble. I can recall numerous conversations that revolved around the difference between conviction that genuinely comes from God and condemnation that comes from man or our enemy Satan. Tiffany’s concern about whether she pleased God was rare and beautiful. And that brings me to a point that I know she would want me to make tonight: She did not want any glory, she only wanted to glorify her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

And that is exactly what her legacy is all about. She lived for him and she died in Him, and tonight, we who are grieving the loss of one of the rarest of the rare, celebrate a life that was lived the way we all should live—in light of eternity.

Tiffany lived every day intentionally and she taught me—her supposed teacher—many, many things.

She embodied the essence of selfless love and compassionate concern. I could share for hours about specific times that Tiffany did something sacrificially generous for me or someone in my family.

But she didn’t simply bless and reach out to people she knew, Tiffany loved and cared about everyone that God put in her path. Brian told me that one night as their family was walking into a restaurant, a homeless man approached them and he quickly darted by without making eye contact. He and the boys got inside the restaurant and turned around and Tiffany wasn’t with them. He went back outside and found her inviting the homeless person to have dinner with their family. Tiffany loved the lonely, the lost, and the forgotten and she demonstrated it by her actions as a doer of the Word.

Amanda, Tiffany’s little sister, lost her first tooth when Tiffany was probably around 13 years old. That night, afraid that the tooth fairy would forget, Tiffany took $5 of her own money and placed it under Amanda’s pillow while she was sleeping. The next morning, Amanda, thrilled to find a hefty sum for her tooth was running around shouting about her new found riches only to learn that there really must be a tooth fairy since Tiffany had only left $5 and there was a good deal more under that pillow! Tiffany loved her parents, sisters and brother, and she demonstrated it by her actions as a doer of the Word.

Pam, Tiffany’s mother, was keeping Landon and Ridge a few weeks ago and it happened to be St. Patrick’s Day eve. Late that night, one of the boys casually asked when the Leprechaun was coming to bring their candy, sending Pam and Buddy into “uh oh” mode! I’m told that it wasn’t uncommon to see green Leprechaun footprints that had left a trail from the back door of their house up the cabinet and right to the candy that he left for the boys each year in March… so just imagine other holidays at the Pate house if so much attention was paid to St. Patrick’s Day!

On April 28, 2004 Tiffany wrote in her Bible these words:
My greatest struggle in life is allowing myself to release my children completely to God’s Will. I worry for them and their future constantly. One day, my hope is that I will sincerely realize that God’s plan and will for their lives is far greater than anything I could ever provide for them on earth. My job is to believe this with all my heart and provide them with guidance that will lead them to God’s feet so that one day they may choose God’s will for their lives of their own free will. May God help me on this journey as I search for this peace! One day I hope to release my children to God and mean it with all my heart!

About a year ago she said to me: Sandy, I finally get it! My children are better off in God’s arms than on my lap. Tiffany loved her children, and she demonstrated it by her actions as a doer of the word.

Tiffany called me a several years ago and announced that she was going to go back to school to get another degree. When I asked her about it, she said she wanted to be a nurse, something she’d always dreamed of doing because it was a way to serve and care for people and it would allow her to help supplement the family income so that Brian wouldn’t have to work day and night to provide for the family. She never failed to brag on Brian, what an amazing provider, husband and father he was, and how much she wanted to bless him. She loved her Husband and she demonstrated it by her actions as a doer of the Word.

So, why all this emphasis on Tiffany’s actions? Because her actions were a result of her faith. She was compelled by her love for Jesus to care, to give, to serve and to love.

When she was diagnosed with cancer, she told me that if this was God’s plan for her life so that someone would be touched by God’s amazing grace, it would be worth whatever that meant for her future. Do you have that kind of peace? Do you understand that depth of love?

In order to have peace like Tiffany, we first have to understand truth. We have to know what God has to say about life and what God has to say about death. Tiffany wanted everyone she knew to have knowledge and understanding of God’s Word. She took advantage of every feasible opportunity to participate in Bible Studies, and many of you were in those studies with her through the years.

Those of us fortunate enough to have studied God's Word with her represent a small segment of the total number of the individuals who would love to share something amazing about an experience with Tiffany and with God.

But let’s face it, as much as so many of us love the Lord, as fully as we trust Him, and as confident as we are in Romans 8:28, it totally stinks that Tiffany’s cancer did not end as so many of us prayed –with miraculous physical healing. Like many of you, I begged the Lord to leave her here on earth with her family and with us.

My prayer partners and I fasted, praying scripture verses and asking for her healing daily, sometimes hourly. We prayed Psalm 91, 1 Peter 2, Isaiah 55, Matthew 8, Exodus 15, and many others, asking God to mercifully grant our request for her life to be extended.

Two weeks ago, when her fragile body seemed to be deteriorating so rapidly as the cancer spread, Christa Pratt and I began to focus our prayers on a particular passage in John 11.

One of Jesus’ dearest friends, Lazarus, was very sick and near death. His sisters, Mary and Martha, sent out a desperate plea for Jesus to come and help. I imagine that knowing how much he claimed to love them, they were waiting by the window, anticipating that He would get there in the nick of time to save their beloved brother. If you’re familiar with the account, you know that was not the case and Lazarus died, but after his burial, Jesus finally arrived and called him up out of the grave.

Seeing precious Tiffany so weakened and ill, Christa and I camped out on verse 4 which reads: When he heard this, Jesus said, "This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God's glory so that God's Son may be glorified through it."

Like many of you, we believed that God was going to show up just like he did for Lazarus and do something that would have no human explanation. So…could he have? Yes. Definitely! Absolutely! Without a shadow of a doubt He could have-- because He is the same today and tomorrow as yesterday according to Hebrews 13:8.

So why didn’t He? And what will that do to our faith? I hope if you’ve asked yourself those questions, you’ll allow me to tell you what I think Tiffany would want us to know.

First, her faith in and love for God compelled her to pray as Jesus did before His crucifixion when he said if there is any other way Father, let this suffering pass from me, nevertheless, not my will but yours be done.

It’s an incorrect view of scripture to think that we will always comprehend what God is doing or how suffering or disappointment fit into His big picture. We are not prohibited from “trying” to understand, but Proverbs 3 surely reminds us that we aren’t to LEAN on our ability to make the pieces fit. Reducing something as heartbreaking as losing a person like Tiffany to simplistic platitudes like, “God needed another flower for his heavenly garden,” must break the heart of God if he indeed is a LOVING Heavenly Father!

Tiffany confided in me that her only remaining fear was that if she didn’t beat this cancer, it might diminish someone’s faith in God’s greatness. What she wanted us to know is that she understood that we may not be able to explain all the heartache that happens in this imperfect, fallen world, but our soon coming, Sovereign Lord will one day end all suffering, all sickness, and all injustice, and He will set all accounts straight! But most of all, He can be trusted.

Written by her own hand in her Bible, dated April 28, 2004, are these words:
My hope is based on my sincere belief that God sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to die for my sins. Through Christ’s resurrection, I know that my future holds eternal life. I can find hope and joy in each day because I know that I was born to serve a purpose in God’s perfect will and all of the circumstances I face in my life on earth though good or bad, serve a greater purpose for God! In Jeremiah 29:11 God promises me that He knows his plan for me—Hope and a future! When we walk as children of the light, darkness cannot prevail!

When Tiffany learned that she had cancer, she had a sign made for her car that read: My God is bigger than cancer, and she believed that with every fiber of her being. As this battle began, she also shared that God had given her a Hebrew word that she knew was His special message to her. The word, Tikvah, means “HOPE, waiting in expectation!” Thanks to her friend Holly Stokes, the word Tikvah and its definition, written in Tiffany’s own handwriting, has been copied on cards for each of us to take home as a reminder of Tiffany’s steadfast expectancy and hopeful faith!

Her Tikvah--her hope-- was built on the solid foundation of her faith walk with Jesus Christ. Tiffany wasn’t religious, she was in a life changing relationship with Jesus! She lived the way we all should, for His Glory alone.
Think about it, we are here only for a moment. Our REAL life (the life we are in dress rehearsal for while we’re on the earth) lasts for all eternity. Tiffany believed ALL of God’s Word including 1 Corinthians 2:9 which reads: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.”

For Tiffany, the dress rehearsal is over and her REAL LIFE has begun. She is where she was preparing to go for as long as I’ve known her, and she wants us to know that her HOPE is realized! She has heard The Savior speak her name and welcome her home, and she’s waiting expectantly (with Tikvah) for us, you and me, in heaven. Will she see you there? If you aren’t sure, see me and let’s talk! Until then, Tikvah, Tiffany! This separation is only temporary and I’ll see you soon my precious friend!


  1. How Beautiful. I know Tiffany would be blessed by your words. I will miss studying God's Word with her and all of her insights which were always so interesting to me because of the difference in our personalities. I am so heartbroken and the tears continue to flow but I am so grateful that she left such an amazing legacy for her family and friends. Christa

  2. What a blessed chance finding.Thanks be to the Lord; in Him all things will be known

  3. I met Tiffany while she was undergoing treatment and instinctively knew that she was special. After reading your beautiful words, I know how true my first impression was.

    God bless her family.

  4. Sandy,
    I loved reading this! I'm weeping as I type. I was unable to go to her memorial because a few days earlier I had my masectomy surgeries. I have wanted to see the video so badly ever since! SO thank you for posting this, as it gives me a little idea of what it was like. I don't feel like I will ever have "closure", I miss her so badly, all the time. thank you for taking the time to post this!
    holli high

  5. beautiful......