Her obituary reads:
Patricia “Patty” Dukes Ellis, age 71, of Winston, Georgia, passed away on November 30, 2022. She was born in Douglasville, Georgia on June 27, 1951, daughter of the late Thomas Dukes and the late Marvine Mitchell Dukes. She was a lifelong member of Pray’s Mill Baptist Church where she sang in the choir and taught Children’s Sunday School for 40 plus years. Patty worked for the City of Douglasville in various roles where she retired after 20 plus years of employment.
She is survived by her loving husband CJ Ellis of 53 years; children: Carla Martin (Jamie), Kari Buice (Josh); 9 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren; sister Denice Crane (Joe); and many nieces and nephews.
Following a person’s funeral, the obituary is reduced to a name and two dates separated by a little dash carved on a headstone. There’s so much more to a person than a simple obituary. I want you to know that my mother-in-law impacted my life and I’m grateful for her legacy.
Legacy of Faithfulness to God
I can recall hearing the myriad of mother-in-law jokes through the years and finding it very difficult to connect. The best jokes are those that have a thread of truth embedded which makes the punchline even more powerful. I never laugh at mother-in-law jokes because the experience that so many people connect with is not reality for me.
Patty Ellis was the mother of my wife. That would make her my mother-in-law. She was, in my estimation, the best mother-in-law in the world. I was honored to marry her daughter and likewise honored to serve as her pastor. She was a constant encouragement to me in the ministry! Her life was marked by loving faithfulness to our God.
When I examine her life, I see a woman who was remarkably consistent. Her life was not marked by seasons of compromise followed by seasons of faithfulness. She was not up and down, hot and then cold. She was steadfast in her journey of faith.
She never allowed the ailments of her physical life to prevent her from being one of the most consistent people in the life of our church. If Patty was not at church, it deserved a question to see why she was absent. She was not only consistently present, but faithfully engaged in the life of the church. Her closest friends were in the life of the church. People knew her name. Her friends and church family cherished her smile and signature laugh. Children loved her. Her choir members missed her when she was forced to take a break due to her fight with physical illness and cancer.
Patty was marked by generosity. She gave of her time and her finances to invest in the life of the church and the ministry of the gospel. She was not a selfish personality. She didn’t ride round in expensive automobiles. She didn’t live in a mansion. She often shopped in thrift stores. She was not jealous of the way her husband (a deacon in the church) gave so much of his time in the life of the church which prevented (or delayed) him from doing projects around her house through the years. I am grateful she was the grandmother to my children enabling them to witness her consistency and generosity up close and personal.
Earlier this year we received the terrible news that she was diagnosed with stage-4 terminal cancer. The cancer diagnosis couldn’t have been worse. It was in her brain, her lungs, and her spine. Yet, the day we were called to gather in her living room and receive the news, she didn’t weep. We wept that day, but she didn’t panic. She was not overcome by fear. She had a steadfast and firm faith that did not waver in the face of adversity. Patty understood that her faith was in the God who was sovereign and that Christ has already defeated death. She would live about 8-months beyond her diagnosis, until she crossed over the precipice of life into eternity when she entered into the presence of our Lord.
Worthy of Respect and Honor
Sometimes when people die, the pastor is greatly limited in his ability to eulogize a person’s life. In other cases, a person makes it easy to preach their funeral by the way the lived, laughed, and loved. Patty Ellis was worthy of respect and honor. Proverbs 31 describes the woman who is honored—having her children and husband rise up and call her blessed (Prov 31:28).
Patty was 71 years of age when she entered into the presence of our Lord, but many people beyond her children and husband gathered for her funeral and called her blessed. Sadly, when older church members pass away, the funeral is often filled with a small number of the person’s peers and family members. That was not the case for Patty’s funeral. The auditorium of our local church’s campus where she worshipped her entire life was filled with friends, family, and many children who loved her.
In a day where the feminist movement has impacted our culture and in many ways the evangelical church—Patty Ellis demonstrated biblical submission to her husband and pastoral leadership in the local church. She was confident and capable, but at the same time humbly submissive. Patty Ellis was a tremendous example to the ladies of our family and that legacy will surpass the little dash that will soon appear on her headstone in the cemetery.
Not only did I respect Patty Ellis, but I loved her. In fact, I still do. Death cannot rob us of our love. She left an indelible mark upon my life and my family and she deserves to be honored and respected. She was one of the most loving, kind, joyful, funny, and faithful people I have ever known. She is already greatly missed.
Patty Ellis was not famous. She was not rich. She was not a social media influencer with thousands of followers. But, she influenced me. I will remember her big laugh, her éclair cake, the smell of burned bread when she cooked, her love for Christmas (we could never throw away a bow from a Christmas gift), her love for dogs, her sense of humor (often self-deprecating), but most of all I will remember her as a Christian—my sister in Christ.
I was honored beyond words on the day when I took her and CJ Ellis to Sam and Rosco’s Italian restaurant to ask for their permission to marry their daughter. After CJ tried to intimidate me (and was successful), she smiled and assured me that they were giving me their blessing. I was doubly honored on the day I stood before our local church and was affirmed by the congregation to serve as her pastor. I was thrilled to preach her funeral. One day, there will be a sweet reunion in glory.