In Remembering the Faith of June Carter Cash

May 20, 2003 10:21 AM EDT

HENDERSONVILLE, Tenn. -- Nearly 2,000 people gathered for June Carter Cash’s honorary service, May 18. The funeral service held at the First Baptist Church in Hendersonville, Tenn., brought forth a common reverence for her faith in God and her devotion to impacting those around her throughout her lifetime.

"A lot of great things will be said about June today, but the greatest thing that can be said about her and about anyone is that they have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ," said Glenn Weekley, pastor of First Baptist Hendersonville.

"I'm so thrilled to be able to stand here today, knowing that June had that personal relationship with Jesus Christ. I think she would make sure all of us know that she is in glory today not because of any deeds she did but because of the deed Jesus Christ did 2,000 years ago when He laid down His life on Calvary."

Cash, a member of the legendary Carter Family and wife of Johnny Cash, died May 15 at the age of 73 following complications from heart surgery. Among the people she touched in her life were musicians, actors, and many others in the entertainment industry.

Actor Robert Duvall, who Cash worked with in "The Apostle," was in attendance as were singers such as Ricky Skaggs, Trisha Yearwood and Hank Williams Jr. Larry Gatlin of the Gatlin Brothers led the service, noting that Cash gave him his first chance at making it in the music industry. The Oak Ridge Boys sang "Loving God, Loving Each Other," and Emmylou Harris and Sheryl Crow sang "Angel Band" and "On the Sea of Galilee" in tribute to Cash.

Rosanne Cash, June Carter’s stepdaughter testified her past mother’s character. Rosanne recalled how years ago, she was sitting with June in the living room when they received a phone call. Rosanne wandered off to another room for 15 minutes, and when she returned, June was still deeply engrossed in the conversation.

"I was sitting in the kitchen when she hung up a good 20 minutes later, and she had a big smile on her face, and she said, 'I just had the nicest conversation,'" Rosanne said. "And she started telling me about this other woman's life and her children and that she had just lost her father and where she lived and on and on. And I said, 'Well, June, who was it?' And she said, 'Well, honey, it was a wrong number.' That was June. In her eyes there were two kinds of people: those she knew and loved, and those she didn't know and loved. She looked for the best in everyone. It was a way of life for her. ... She was forever lifting people up."

Rosanne Cash said June’s greatest mission and passion was to love her husband, Johnny Cash.

"It was her most treasured role. She began every day by saying, 'What can I do for you, John?' Her love filled up every room he was in, lit every path he walked, and her devotion created a sacred, exhilarating place for them to live out their married life," Rosanne Cash said. "My dad has lost his dearest companion, his musical counterpart, his soul mate and his best friend."

Through the service, many of the Christians gathered were reminded of the truths of God. According to Weekly, the first specific truth was that of God’s love.

"The Bible says nothing can separate us from the love of God," Weekley said. "I want to remind Johnny and I want to remind this family God loves you today. And He loves June today in a very personal, face to face way. That's something we can be thankful for and rejoice in today."

The second truth is God's grace, and those gathered could rejoice that God's grace is sufficient to help them in their time of loss. They could also be assured of God's presence and His promise throughout Scripture that He'll comfort those in mourning.

Quoting Romans 8:28, Weekley reminded those gathered of God's purpose. He said it doesn't mean that everything in and of itself is good, but it means that if people love God, He'll use circumstances like June's death to bring about good. As examples, he said it could bind the Cash family closer together in love, and it could remind everyone that they're going to die. For that, he said, everyone needs to be prepared.

"I don't think there's anything that would give June greater joy than to know that somebody, as a result of her leaving this world, took spiritual stock of their life and gave their heart to Christ," Weekley said.

The fifth truth Weekley encouraged believers to hold on to is God's promise of tomorrow. He said what excites him as a Christian is there's another day coming, and he said for Johnny and the family there's a great reunion day coming with June.

Many more agreed to Weekley, including the former pastor at First Baptist, Courtney Wilson, who recalled how 36 years ago he met June and Johnny. Wilson summed up what he observed about June in one sentence: "June Carter Cash was a kind and thoughtful Christian lady who loved her God, loved her family and loved her friends."

A representative brought a message from the prime minister of Jamaica, where June and Johnny spent some time in charitable work.

"A philanthropist extraordinaire, Mrs. Cash made Jamaica her second home and loved and cared deeply for the people of her adopted country," the representative said. "A gifted and talented singer, she and her husband, Johnny Cash, used the very talents for the benefit of many charities in and around Montego Bay. ... On behalf of all Jamaica and in particular the many individuals whose lives have been touched, I express condolences to her husband, family and friends."

Actress Jane Seymour recalled her work with June on the television series "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman."

"I had the privilege of working with June as an actress, and she taught me so much about acting, about God, about giving and about love," Seymour said. "I remember giggling with her so bad that we thought we could never act together again because we just had giggle fits whenever we saw each other."

The assembled closed the service with an a cappella version of "The Far Side Banks of Jordan," which June and Johnny wrote and recorded in the 1970s: "She'll be waiting on the far side banks of Jordan. She'll be sitting, drawing pictures in the sand. And when you go to meet her, she will rise up with a shout and come running through the shadow, reaching for your hand."

By Pauline J.