We gather this morning to mourn the loss and celebrate the life of Elizabeth “Bobbi” Hilligoss. Today we affirm the hope of life eternal even as we comfort each other.
Bobbi Hilligoss drew strength from the Psalms. So let me begin by sharing some verses from the Psalms in the hope that it will lead us to strength as well.
The LORD is my light and my salvation
—whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the stronghold of my life
—of whom shall I be afraid?One thing I ask of the LORD,
this is what I seek:
that I may dwell in the house of the LORD
all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the LORD
and to seek him in his temple.
I am always with you;
you hold me by my right hand.
You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will take me into glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And earth has nothing I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart
and my portion forever
The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside the quiet waters, he restores my soul. He guides me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Let’s pray together,
Our Father, we bow before You and acknowledge you to be the giver of life. And today we express our gratitude for the life of Bobbi Hilligoss.
Father, you know how sudden this all seems. And yet, we are grateful that you brought your servant into her eternal home in this manner.
We ask this morning that you help us. Help us to find comfort in our loss. Help us to remember and celebrate the life of Bobbi Hilligoss. And help us to renew our confidence and hope as we reflect on Your promises to us. We ask this in the strong name of our Savior, Jesus. Amen.
Elizabeth J. Hilligoss was born on December 24, 1924 in Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania, the daughter of Charles and Bessie Roberts. Bobbi was five years old when her mother left her and her sister. She was then raised by her father and grandfather.
Bobbi was a child during the depression and knew what it was like to experience hard times. And these experiences in her childhood helped her appreciate the blessings she had when she was older.
She lied about her age so she could serve in the hospital Navy Corps during World War II. By the time they discovered her true age, she had already been in the service for a couple of years.
Bobbi and Don met while they served at El Tora Naval Base in Santa Anna California after the war. It appears that friends tried to push the two together. Don finally asked Bobbi out in the fall of 1945. They were engaged that same Christmas and married January 12, 1946 in Laguna Beach, California. He may have been a slow starter but once he got moving . . . .
Military personnel tried to tell Don and Bobbi that a marriage between military personnel never worked but they got married anyhow and for 54 years their love grew and flourished.
After their discharge Don and Bobbi moved back to Illinois with their first child, Barbara. They lived in Keithsburg for a few years and had two more children; Donna and Denny. From there they moved to La Harpe where they lived for the next 48 years and where Steve was born.
Bobbi worked as an LPN at the La Harpe Hospital, Memorial Hospital in Carthage and at the Mercy Hospital in Burlington Iowa. She then worked as a government inspector at the Iowa Army Ammunition Plant. Everyone knew that Bobbi was going to do things “by the book”. She retired after 21 years there.
In her “spare time” Bobbie was a Girl Scout Leader, was a member of the Home Extension, the Blandinsville Chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star, the LaHarpe American Legion Post 301, the Union Church and the Kum-Join-Us Class at the Union Church. She served for six years as the church financial secretary and three years as church treasurer.
Bobbi Hilligoss died on February 18, 2000 at the McDonough District Hospital. She was 75 years old.
She is survived by her husband Don,
Mrs. Michael (Barbara Jean) Blythe of LaHarpe and
Ms. Donna Lee Wynn of Sioux City, Iowa
William Dennis Hilligoss and his wife, Joanne of Stronghurst Ill.
Steven Richard Hilligoss and his wife Kay of Good Hope Ill.
Dawn Bucy and her husband, Mike
D.J. Wynn and his wife, Kirsten
Michele, Brian and Leslie Blythe
Jess Bond and Eric Hilligoss
Emily and Sarah Hilligoss
and a sister Mrs. Wesley (June) Daum of Vero Beach FL.
She is preceded in death by her parents and one son, Charlie.
Bobbi Hilligoss was a fun lady to be around. She was a woman who believed in solid values. She believed people should be treated with respect and her children learned this lesson at an early age. She felt the same way about her God. She believed that we should give God our best in whatever we do. Bobbi was not about to enter into debates about issues on which she felt the Bible spoke clearly . . . to debate was to imply that Scripture was not trustworthy.
Bobbi was a mother first of all. And it sounds to me like being a mother to her children was at times a real challenge!
Four active children were a handful. On Sunday mornings trying to get everyone ready was an almost impossible task. While one was getting ready . . . the others were getting dirty! But they managed.
Bobbi was the disciplinarian around the house. She made sure that you knew what the line was and you dare not cross it. When she said be home at 10:00 she meant be in the house at 10:00 . . . not 10:01. When she spoke she didn’t see any need to give reasons for her decisions. Her children were expected to respect her as their mother. No explanation necessary. When you broke the rules she let you know that you had disappointed her.
One morning a very young Steve came in to wake up his dad who had been working second shift and was still asleep. When dad opened his eyes and asked what was wrong Steve said, “You have to get up and straighten this woman out.” Don laughed. Steve lost.
Bobbi was creative with her discipline. One day after Denny was misbehaving Bobbi brought the belt upstairs and gave it to Denny. She told him that since she was obviously such a bad mother (since she couldn’t get her son to mind) he should “whip” her. He got the point.
She was a good seamstress and loved to crochet and knit. She loved to read and especially enjoyed poetry, her favorite poet being Mia Angelo.
Bobbi loved to travel and loved to eat out. As a family they took a vacation each year. Things were always fun when the family was together.
In those days the kids didn’t go to movies or even watch television on the weekends. On the weekends the kids got together to entertain mom and dad. They had skits, played their instruments and did all kinds of fun stuff. It was family time. And it was times like this that probably made the family as close as they are today.
You only had to walk into Bobbi’s home to realize how important her family was to her. There are pictures everywhere. In fact, when her children had families of her own she would visit their homes and just take the pictures she “needed”. It was not uncommon to have empty hooks left on your wall after Bobbi had visited.
Bobbi embrace the spouses of her children married. . .even if she didn’t feel it was the best match. She was there when each grandchild was born and loved them as her own. Her heart was big and if you were family . . . you were family. There was no in-law, there was no step child . . . you were family.
However . . . as a Grandmother Bobbi had a different philosophy than as a mother. As Grandmother she believed it was her job to spoil the children. She had a sign on her wall that summed up her feeling.
Many a Child is Spoiled
Because You Can’t Spank Grandma
She made time for her Grandchildren and always wanted to know what was going on in their lives.
Her children and Grandchildren knew that you didn’t leave Grandma’s house without giving her a hug and a kiss. And if you should forget she would say, “Aren’t you forgetting something?
Bobbi like to Dance. She liked to waltz and polka. She wanted to learn how to Country Dance and the only way she could get Don to go was to take him out in the garage and teach him herself. They spent many fun hours in country dance.
Bobbi left high school before graduation in order to join the Navy. In 1965 she received her High School diploma and was justifiably proud.
She was not a great driver. She drove really fast . . . she had no sense of direction and seemed to have a real difficult time getting the car in and out of the garage without hitting the side of the garage.
While Bobbi was on our church board I learned quickly that I didn’t have to ask twice what her opinion was. And I also learned that I should not assume that her opinion was the same as her husbands. She was delightful to work with.
Bobbi suffered for many years with Arthritis. A good portion of the time she had to be in great pain. But she kept going. She didn’t want to be a burden on anyone. She was determined to live with as much gusto and for as long a time as possible.
When she broke her hip several years ago I watched with amazement as she worked her way back to health. And even during the last week of her life she maintained her spirit. She continued to give people a good natured “hard time” and didn’t complain about pain.
Bobbi didn’t have the word “can’t” in her vocabulary. She was willing to try things and always gave her best to whatever she did.
I’m sure that Bobbi knew she was dying. Maybe she knew well before everyone else did. Yet she did not face death with fear. She knew the Lord and had given her life to Him. She saw death as the ultimate graduation.
You see, Bobbi was not just active in the church . . . she had an active faith in Christ. She read her Bible, she talked to the Lord in prayer, and she sought to serve her Lord with her every breath.
Like any of us, Bobbi didn’t want to leave her family. But I think she was eager to meet her Lord. When asked if she was going to walk out of the hospital she replied, “No, I’m going to Dance out . . . I’m going to trip the light fantastic.” And when Bobbi heard the music of Heaven last Friday . . . that’s just what she did.
As we try to gain perspective on this day, I want to read to you from 2 Corinthians 5 from Eugene Peterson’s helpful paraphrase called “THE MESSAGE”
We know that when these bodies of ours are taken down like tents and folded away, they will be replaced by resurrection bodies in heaven–God-made, not handmade–and we’ll never have to relocate our “tents” again. Sometimes we can hardly wait to move–and so we cry out in frustration. Compared to what’s coming, living conditions around here seem like a stopover in an unfurnished shack, and we’re tired of it! We’ve been given a glimpse of the real thing, our true home, our resurrection bodies! The Spirit of God whets our appetite by giving us a taste of what’s ahead, He puts a little of heaven in our hearts so that we’ll never settle for less.
That’s why we live with such good cheer. You won’t see us drooping our heads or dragging our feet! Cramped conditions here don’t get us down. They only remind us of the spacious living conditions ahead. It’s what we trust in but don’t yet see that keeps us going. Do you suppose a few ruts in the road or rocks in the path are going to stop us? When the time comes, we’ll be plenty ready to exchange exile for homecoming.”
To some people Paul’s words are dismissed as merely wishful thinking. They would say that we all like to think that there is life beyond the grave. It is the only way we can cope with the horror of death.
But the believer in Jesus Christ is not focusing their hope in their imagination. The Apostle Paul was a very smart man. He had the equivalent of two earned Doctorates. He was nobody’s fool.
Paul says “And we know . . . ” We know that when we die, there is a life beyond this one. How do we know? We know because of Jesus. Christ was crucified, dead and buried. Three days later He was appearing to people. He walked, He ate, He was filled with life and power. Jesus died and rose again. He has been to the other side and came back to tell us about it.
The Apostle Paul was a doubter. In fact, at first he thought all Christians were in a cult. He thought they were all nuts. But then he encountered the resurrected Christ. His tune changed dramatically.
Jesus promised us that He was going to prepare a place for us. And when that place was ready . . . He would come and get us.
I believe that anyone who seriously examines the evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ will see, as I have, that it is real. There is life beyond the grave.
But it is important that I qualify my words. Jesus says that this life is not for everyone. It is only for those who “come to the Father through Him.”
It’s not really that hard to understand. God tells us that He is in charge and that His standards are true and right. We have broken the rules. We have shown Him disrespect and dishonor. We deserve to be cast away.
But God loves us. And in order to give us a new beginning, He sent Jesus. Christ died for our wrongs and when He rose from the dead He opened the door to eternity to anyone who would trust Him and follow Him.
Life beyond the grave is ONLY for those who have placed their trust and lives in the hands of Christ. Bobbi Hilligoss did just that. Because of this fact, I KNOW that even though her earthly “tent” is destroyed . . . she now has a new home in Heaven.
Paul understood that the resurrection changes the way we view death. Death is no longer something to be feared . . . it is a time of transition. Bobbi was delighted to graduate from High School with her GED . . . but that is nothing compared to the graduation she had this last week. Death is no longer the end . . . it is a new beginning.
Consequently, on one level, death is a day of celebration. The death of a believer is the day when they are reunited with loved ones, freed from the struggles of earthly life, and ushered into the presence of the Lord who loves them with an undying love.
- Last Friday Bobbi Hilligoss was freed from the pain that was her constant companion. She can dance again.
- Last Friday, Bobbi Hilligoss met her son, Charlie, for the very first time.
- Last Friday, she was reunited with family and friends who died in the Lord.
- And last Friday, Bobbi Hilligoss met the Lord who has loved her all her life. She received the hug and the kiss she had been aching for. She heard the words every believer longs to hear: “Welcome home my child . . . Well Done!”
Paul understood that it’s because of this perspective that we live differently on this side of life. He tells us that because we know what is ahead, we make it our “aim to please Him” now.
And so this is a day for realigning our values and our lives. It is time for us to ask some good questions:
1. Are we building our lives on the firm foundation of God’s Word? Are we uncompromising in regards to the truth?
2. Are we living now, to live again? Do we see the big picture or are we living only for the moment?
3. Do we cherish life as a gift from God? Do we make the most of every opportunity? Do we cherish those people, like Bobbi, that God has given us “for a little while”?
If there was one thing I’m sure that Bobbi Hilligoss would want me to tell you it would be this: “She is not gone . . . she has gone on.” She would want me to tell you that she will waiting for you and is eager to greet you with a hug and kiss. She would want me to urge you to make sure that you are headed in the right direction.
So that’s what I encourage you to do today. Look at your own life. Are you serving the Lord? Is your faith real or superficial? Do you trust the one who has risen from the dead? Do you face death not with dread, but with glorious anticipation? If not, take a lesson from Bobbi Hilligoss. Study her life. See her faith. Follow her example.
O Lord, we thank you for your servant, Elizabeth Hilligoss. She enriched our lives and stirred our hearts. Thank you for her faith and for her example. Lord, welcome her warmly into the home that you have prepared for her. And give us a measure of her faith so that we might live faithfully as well.
Father, I pray for this family. You know that their faith sustains them. But you also know that their loss is deep. Lord, because they knew what they had . . . they also know what they have lost.
I pray that you preserve their rich memories. Remind them of all those great times together. And in the lonely times, sustain them. Strengthen them. Renew them. Draw them together and hold them close to You.
I pray especially for Don. Grant him comfort in the lonely hours. Grant him strength when he is weary. And after the grieving bring a new joy. Strengthen his heart with thoughts of the reunion that lies ahead.
O Lord, protect and keep us until that day when we are together again . . . in your house. Amen.