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Celebrating Wendy’s departure

For The Madera Tribune

Wendy Beckett Manzo.


Last Saturday several hundred folks gathered at Peoples Church in Fresno to join Georgia and Carles Beckett, and their family, in a memorial for their daughter, Wendy, who departed this life on Friday, January 28. I was one of those in attendance; my seat put me in a perfect position to witness one of the most moving public commemorations I have ever experienced. Actually, it was a celebration.

Now some may raise the question, how could it be that Wendy’s passing could be celebrated? How in the midst of hurt, tears, and sorrow could there be a celebration? This writer may not have all of the answers, but he can assure the reader that what he witnessed was indeed a celebration.

Peoples Church has a huge sanctuary with a wide stage that stretches across the front of the building. At the center is a speaker’s rostrum and three large screens are positioned at the center and on the sides, providing the large audience with a birds eye view of the speakers and singers. A photograph of Wendy remained on the center screen throughout, while the two side screens.portrayed the action on the stage.

Pastor Brad Liebe facilitated the memorial, which included a range of speakers and singers. Kari and Matt Perkins performed a medley of praise and worship songs. Tricia Funk and Marissa Saldate offered some of their personal memories, and Maderan Lance Leach, who was Wendy’s youth pastor, provided insights into Wendy’s early years.

These contributions followed Ed Gonzales, former Madera Unified School Superintendent, who spoke first. He had composed a poem that helps explain why this service was a celebration:

“I heard a voice whisper in my ear that she is fine now,

And as I looked to see, the voice said to me,

‘She is mine now.’

Thinking back, I am so moved by how she lived her days,

Her gorgeous eyes, that smile!

She fixed us with that wondrous gaze,

And healed us in so many ways.

But I just never thought we’d see these days for awhile.

And now there’s peace and rest for her,

A difficult time while we’re apart,

For that is what is best for her,

Until, at last our quest for her,

Returns us to her loving heart.”

A video presentation, prepared by Wendy’s brother, Wade, concluded the celebration of Wendy’s life. The film skillfully portrayed significant portions of Wendy’s days, from childhood to adulthood.

Following the memorial, Pastor Liebe invited the audience to join Wendy’s family in the church’s cafeteria for lunch. More than 500 took him up on the offer, and Wendy’s celebration continued — the joy of her earthly life — the joy of her Heavenly life — the joy of knowing that she was in the arms of Jesus — it all continued. It all showed why Wendy’s departure from this life, amid all of the heartache and tears, could be celebrated. It is because God is the conserver of values.

When a loved one dies, does the Christian just say, Oh, well, that’s it; it’s all over?

My mentor, Reuben Welch says, “No, no, a thousand times, no. The Christian believes that God is the conserver of values. Every prayer that was ever prayed — every tear that was ever shed — every kindness that was every given — those times when we were weary but had to go on — they’re all safe and continue to count, right into Heaven. Nothing is lost, because God is the conserver of values, and that is why we can call a funeral a celebration.”


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