Today was a bittersweet day for the family and friends of Elizabeth Todd Bailey. Her body has been laid to rest from the cares, sorrows, and pains of this life. Her spirit has gone to be with God (Ecclesiastes 12:7; 2 Corinthians 5:8). It was a tremendous honor for me to be asked by brother George and his family to help pay tribute to her life. The funeral service was indeed a beautiful tribute planned by her family and friends.
Tributes were read that were written by brother George, Philip (her son who has become a very dear friend to me), and a number of her close, long-time friends. Congregational singing was lead by one of her grandsons. There were many, many friends of the Bailey’s who came to the funeral home the night before the service and who came to the University church building in Abilene to pay their respects, as well as to show their love for this wonderful family.
While we have not known the Bailey’s as long as many who were in attendance at her service, or as long as many of you who read this blog, our love and admiration for them is still great.
Of course, growing up in a preacher’s family, I have known of George Bailey all of my life. It has been a tremendous blessing to hear this “Prince of Preachers” proclaim the Word of God throughout my life.
Like many of you, we have sat spellbound as brother George quoted scripture after scripture and made application to our lives. We have marveled at his ability to ‘turn a phrase” like no other man we have known.
However it has only been in recent years that our lives have been enriched even more by getting to know the man, George Bailey and his precious wife Ela Beth. A memory that will last a lifetime was the privilege of spending a week with the Bailey’s in California several years ago.
This is when we really got to know Ela Beth. Brother George and I were speaking for a leadership seminar for elders/preachers in Los Angeles. Laura and I picked the Bailey’s up at the airport, then took them to our hotel. We lived down the hall from one another during that week.
We drove them to the church building for each session. One day the phone rang in our room. The voice on the other end said, “Laura, this is EB (it surprised Laura and took a minute for her to recognize that it was Ela Beth!) I am a little tired, so why don’t we stay here at the hotel this afternoon and visit. I’m sure you have heard Jeff’s sermons as much as I have heard George’s!!” They did and became close friends during that week. From that time Laura became LJ to EB!
We ate our meals together and visited for hours during that week. It will always stand out as an extremely precious time in our lives. We made an agreement during that week that we would get together often we returned home to the Metroplex. During the intervening years prior to her passing we were with the Bailey’s on numerous occasions. Brother George and I often talking about preaching and the work of the church during our visits. The girls often talking about family, the life of a preacher’s wife, shopping, and all of those other things girls like to talk about.
We were disappointed recently to learn that the Bailey’s were moving to Houston to be near Philip and his family. Of course we understood the need for them to be closer so that Philip could better care for them. And what a wonderful job he and Gaye have done. Philip’s life is a real tribute to his parents and the way they raised him. It was a pleasure to visit with the Bailey’s shortly after their move to Houston. EB’s health began to rapidly decline and it wasn’t long until she went to be with the Lord. I wanted to share a few lessons that we have learned from this Godly woman.
Love the Lord, His Church, and His Word
Above everything else in life she loved the Lord. She grew up in a Christian home with wonderful parents. EB attended Freed Hardeman University where she met George and continued her spiritual growth. She sat through thousands of sermons and listened to each one with a keen ear as well as a discerning heart. She worked beside brother George to strengthen the church around the world for all of their married life.
Love Your Mate
George and Ela Beth were married to each other for sixty-eight years! Their life together was exemplary. What a wise man once said is certainly true of Ela Beth “The heart of her husband trusts in her…” (Proverbs 31:11). She stood beside brother George, travelled with him, and supported him as he went about preaching the Word.
Here is what brother George had to say about Ela Beth in his tribute to her life. “Being a strong believer in Divine Providence, there is no question that the Lord brought Ela Beth and me together 68 years ago, for which I could never thank Him enough. As was said of one of old, I can’t bring her back to me, but I can go to her.”
Love Your Children
Ela Beth was a wonderful mother. She helped raised to wonderful sons. They both became elders in the church. David was a medical doctor and served as an elder in Abilene before his untimely death. Phillip currently serves as an elder for the Memorial church in Houston.
Here are some of the sweet words from Philip’s tribute to the life of his dear mother. “To you and Daddy I owe my love for the Lord, His church, and His work… Thank you for encouraging me to work: mowing, pulling weeds, sorting nails, picking cucumbers, all the various jobs at Sears, selling Bibles, et al. Thank you for your counsel when I was frustrated, had issues with a boss or customer, and just teaching me good basic work ethics and how to work in such a way that the Lord is seen in me… I thank God for you!! I have been richly blessed to have a mother such as you! As we look forward to our home with God eternally, of all people, you can confidently anticipate hearing well done My good and faithful servant…I thank God for giving me you as my Mother!!!”
Love Your Friends
The Word of God says, “A friend loves at all times…” (Proverbs 17:17) A person who has friends has indeed lived a blessed life. Ela Beth had so many friends because she was such a great friend. She was a wonderful encouragement to so many throughout her life.
Here are a couple of tributes from some of her friends, “She didn’t come equipped with a sister, but she collected them. There are a number of us. I am one of those lucky women… gift for investing simple things with value, a gift for hospitality, a gift for encouraging and for appreciating the ridiculous and for loving…”
Here is what another friend wrote to Philip about Ela Beth. “The vividness of the memories will gradually fade as our minds grow old with time… but the deep roots of longing for a Home with – not only our God and our Brother Jesus, but – a Home with saints like your mom and brother – will reach to the depths of the hidden water of True Life and sustain us until we are delivered from this parched and empty wilderness into the “promised land”… the “new Jerusalem”… to the banquet table of our Father and His faithful family… in-part because of what we’ve seen in the life of your mom… your dad… and your entire family…Thank you for sharing her life with my family and with me…”
Jesus said that He came to bring us an abundant life (John 10:10). Christians should live in a constant state of rejoicing (Philippians 4:4). Ela Beth Bailey loved life. She had an infectious smile and she laughed often. She once said that she was never bored with life. She brought joy to everyone who was in her presence.
Ela Beth experienced sorry (she lost her oldest son long before it should have been his time), she experienced “the weight of the churches,” she suffered illness and other difficulties that are a part of life. Yet, the joy of knowing Jesus permeated her life. May that become true of all children of God.
Thank You, dear Father, for blessing our world with a Godly woman like Ela Beth Bailey. Thank you for the joy she brought to her family and to so many others. Please comfort brother George and all of his family in their loss. Please help those of us who knew her and love her family to be a source of encouragement to them. Help us all, dear God to be closer to our Savior because of all He has done for us. In the Sweet Name of Jesus we pray, Amen.