Vestal Goodman’s Home Going Celebration
Vestal’s Home Going Celebration
I have had never been to the funeral of a legend such as Vestal Goodman, so it was a new experience for me. The service of her homegoing was as spiritually lit as any of her concerts. It truly was a celebration of her entrance into heaven.
I now know that I was very blessed to be able to be in the studio, and watch as Vestal recorded the last song she would ever record. Having been able to have a one on one conversation with the queen of Gospel music just weeks before her passing gave me a different perspective of her funeral.
I arrived at the church about 12 PM and had to park at what seemed to be miles away, but the church had a shuttle service for our convenience. With an hour yet to go before the service started, I was able to find a seat in the balcony. It was clear that thousands of people wanted to show this great lady the respect that she was so worthy of.
We knew that we were getting close to the start when 89 Gaither Homecoming Friends filled the choir. Soon after that the guest singers and speakers filed in, followed by the three Ministers officiating the services. The Ministers soon left the Sanctuary to meet the coffin that held Vestal’s body and make the slow dirge around the church halls into the main entrance of the Sanctuary. As the song was played of George Jones singing “Mansion Over The Hill Top”, the Ministers led the procession as the rose draped coffin brought Vestal to the front of the stage one last time. They arrived just at the key change when Vestal’s strong voice started singing the second verse. The crowd erupted in praise and applause.
The service started as Pastor of Christ Church, Rev L. H. Hardwick, Jr., gave the Invocation, read the scripture, and made his comments about Vestal and their friendship. He read a letter from Tennessee Governor Phil Bredesen expressing his condolences, and as he was finishing the Governor’s letter, he was handed another letter expressing the Sympathy of President George W. Bush and his wife Laura.
Joy Gardner then led those in attendance in Vestal’s favorite hymn “Blessed Assurance”. Next Dodie Osteen, wife of the late Rev John Osteen, renowned Pastor and television evangelist, gave her comments of her friendship with Vestal. Being a native of Alabama, Beth Chapman, Alabama State Auditor, expressed how Vestal had made a great difference in her spiritual life. She then gave the announcement that the State of Alabama is in the process of naming a section of highway near Vestal’s home town, the Vestal Goodman Highway. Unfortunately she passed away before she could be told the news.
Janet Paschal then delivered a beautiful rendition of “How Are Things At Home”. Rev. Marvin Gorman then gave his comments, relating to how Vestal dropped what she was doing in her life to minister to him and his family in a very dark period in his life. Again the message of the day seemed to be how Vestal loved everyone, and how they cherished her friendship. Vestal reached across boundary lines in music. Several Country music artists were there including George Jones and Vince Gill. As the service proceeded Vince performed “Go Rest High On That Mountain”.
At times having to check his apparent emotion, Rev. Johnny Minick, who sang with Vestal and Howard for several years and has been involved with the Happy Goodmans for many years, shared his friendship over the years with Vestal. Bringing to the service some of the humorous side of Vestal and yet extolling her great spiritual depth. Tanya Goodman Sykes sang “Look For Me”, followed by Ricky Goodman, Vestal and Howard’s son, giving a family tribute.
Just before the Homecoming Friends started to sing, Bill Gaither brought to the podium a crystal cake dish. He explained that every time he was in Nashville, Vestal would bake him one of her famous coconut cakes. He was supposed to have returned it to her New Year’s Eve night, but she never made it to the Jubilate concert. Singing about 30 minutes they Homecoming choir rejoiced as the Holy Spirit ministered to the thousands in attendance. They sang such songs as “I Wouldn’t Take Nothing For My Journey Now”, “Oh Come Angel Band”, and “The Eastern Gate”.
The service ended with an electrifying video salute to Vestal which included “God Bless America”, “This Is Just What Heaven Means To Mean”, and The Eastern Gate”.
All I can say is this was certainly a Celebration. Vestal was a blessing in her life and in her death.