Eulogy for Cathy Woods
29/8/1981 – 24/11/2021
First of all, Greetings to every one joining this live-stream of Cathy’s funeral service today. Wherever you are, you are part of this service, because Cathy has made some impact on your life, for which we give thanks to God. We also want to take this opportunity to thank all the medical staff that have given us wonderful help over this period of time and have journeyed with Cathy in her fight with cancer. Thank you immensely. Thanks also to family and friends who have expressed their love to us in different ways. Also, Cathy would want me to say how much she adored Emma and Toli, Bethany, Mila and Helena, Megan, and Mermaid.
As parents, we will never forget the occasion of Cathy’s birth. She was born at Kafulafuta mission station in Northern Zambia, on 29th August, 1981, only a week before I was to speak at a mission conference at the same location. Cathy arrived very early in the morning of that day, at about 3.00 am in the morning. There were no doctors around, but with the help of Gwen Chambers, who was one of our Australian nurses serving at the mission hospital on the station, Cathy was finally delivered safely, whilst I held the torch in order to provide necessary light, because the generator had broken down. At that time, Jenny’s father and Ruth were also visiting us on the station on behalf of the Australian Baptist Missionary Society. And so you could say that Cathy’s birth was timely.
And so Cathy was born into a missionary context, which may help to explain her later love for mission, adventure, long walks with her dear friends Karen, Julianne, and others, plus touching other people with the love of God. As parents, Jenny and I will never forget the very first sentence that Cathy ever uttered. They were the words, “I will do it myself!” We have no doubt that these words would later point to a life in which Cathy would become a highly proficient and capable person in all she would do and achieve.
When Cathy turned two years of age, in August of 1983, we gave her a little children’s Bible, called “The Children’s Living Bible” with pictures, which she treasured for the rest of her days. In the front of the Bible she wrote the following words:- “Happy are those who hear the Word of God and obey Him”, “Give yourself to the Lord, trust in Him, and He will help you”, “I will show God I love him.” And in the front, we wrote these words, “To Our Darling Cathy, You are much loved by Mummy and Daddy, and even greater loved by Jesus. Our prayer is that God will make you his beautiful child forever. Jesus will always keep you in his arms. We love you so much, from Mummy and Daddy.”
The day came when we finally returned home from missionary service in Zambia, and we arrived back in Sydney on 28th August, 1987, the day before Cathy’s sixth birthday. Then at the beginning of 1988, we began a new chapter in our lives with our appointment to the Bible College of Victoria with my role as lecturer in Old Testament. It was during this time that I recorded these words about Cathy. “Today (18th May 1988) at BCV Lilydale, our first year at BCV, little Cathy (six years of age), invited Jesus into her heart.” Praise God!! Then remarkably six years after this, on 12th December 1993, when Cathy was twelve years of age, she was baptised at Lilydale Baptist Church by Pastor Gary Lockyer, together with three other young people. On this occasion she gave the following testimony: “I asked Jesus into my heart when I was six years old. For some time I’ve been wanting to be baptised because baptism is the outward sign of what has already happened to me. My sins are forgiven and I have a new life with Jesus” (end of quote).
During the 1990’s at BCV, life was full of excitement as well as change for Cathy. On the college front, Cathy developed a deep friendship with our next door neighbours the Clarkes, and many students became her brothers. On the church front, Cathy learnt to play the Cello, and played out the front of the church each Sunday morning with the orchestra, which included her sisters Megan on the flute, and Emma on bass guitar. At the end of 1993 she completed her time at Lilydale West Primary school just down the road from the college. When she finally brought her diary home from this school, my eye caught a beautiful little entry in it, which said, “Be strong, serve God only, because if you do, beautiful heaven awaits” (end of quote). Without knowing this at the time, these words would become Cathy’s life story. Then at the beginning of 1994, she joined her older sister Emma at Strathcona Baptist Girls Grammar School at Canterbury for the next six years of her life, finally graduating from this wonderful school at the end of 1999. During these years, she made many wonderful and lasting friendships, including her year level friends of Sara, Alana, and Rachel. This also included Debbie who was in Megan’s year. It was also during the 1990’s that our January holidays saw us making the journey from the college in Lilydale to Lakes Entrance and Lake Tyers in Victoria where we would camp together as a family for a couple of weeks, also joined by several of the people from Lilydale Baptist Church. They were truly wonderful times. One of my favourite photos is a shot of myself and our three girls standing in front of our faithful old Tarago at the top of the lookout overlooking the beautiful Gippsland lakes before descending into Lakes Entrance on a beautiful January day. If the photo was taken about January 1996, Cathy was fourteen years of age at the time.
But what then of life after Strathcona? Like her mother, both in looks and disposition, and might I add, with the same birthday month of August, Cathy turned her eyes toward possible mission opportunities, as well as the noble profession of nursing. In the year 2000, Cathy began her nursing training at Deakin University in Melbourne. And then in 2001, she then undertook a short-term mission trip to Townsville and Bangladesh in order to “test” her call. This was later followed by a year’s graduate medical study at the SDA Hospital in Wahroonga Sydney, which began on the 14th November 2003. During this period, she also enjoyed attending the Hillsong Church, as well as loved the fellowship of its community. It was also during this time that she completed her Bachelor of Nursing with Deakin University on 31st March 2004. This year marked a turning point in Cathy’s life.
In 2005 and 2006 Cathy returned to Melbourne, and worked in the Emergency departments of both the Maroondah and Saint Vincent’s Hospitals. One could say, no half measures for Cathy!! Emergency nursing is full-on!! As a nurse, Cathy gained skills in critical emergency care as well as drug and alcohol interventions. She met several indigenous patients, and developed a special bond with them, being invited to speak at several family funerals. It was while Cathy was preparing to go to Africa for a further short-term mission trip, that she learned that a pediatric nursing position was available in a remote Aboriginal community in the far north of Australia’s Arnhem land. Cathy applied for the position, and spent the next seven years of her life at Elcho Island from 2007-2014, followed by 12 months at Beswick in 2016, some 100 kilometres north east of Kathrine, finally concluding her sterling and outstanding service at Millingimbi from 2017-2019. Each of these communities loved Cathy dearly, and held her in high esteem. During this period of time, beginning with Elcho Island and beyond, Michelle remained a faithful workmate and supportive friend. Cathy lived with the communities that she served, and even learned the Yolgnu language which was no mean feat, showering her selfless time, love, generosity, gifts, and care upon each one, often going the second, and even third mile with each. Even whilst at Elcho Island, Cathy took Mermaid under her wings. Cathy, you proved to be Christ’s healing hands and presence to so many adults and children. And as Saint Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13, when we dwell in God, we dwell in love, for God is love, and on this basis, when we dwell in God’s love, we are loving, and therefore fruitful. And when all our words and knowledge pass away, only love itself will remain forever. And as Cathy herself wrote in her Bible with regard to bearing fruit at John 15, (quote) “fruitfulness is not the same as winning or achieving, rather, fruitfulness is something we are, because we are in relationship with God.” (end of quote). Cath, Jenny and I are so proud of your outstanding love, sacrifice, and talents, given freely to these indigenous communities, especially to the Yolgnu people, that they might know a better quality of life. Cathy, your loving deeds will endure forever. Finally, I would like to make two further points. In the year 2009, I lectured an Old Testament subject in the CBD of Melbourne with Cathy in my class. When we got in there, I would love to shout Cathy to a cup of coffee, whilst I got ready for my class. Cathy ended up taking a number of my classes in Biblical Subjects, finally being granted her Graduate Diploma in Divinity with MST in 2013. This was no mean effort, and Cathy recently told me that she would have dearly loved to have studied the Bible far more, if given the opportunity. And in a Father’s Day card given to me on 5th September this year, Cathy made this point: “Some of my dearest memories are heading to class with you in the city, and trips home from the air-port which were always comforting and exciting at the same time.” My second point relates to the crowning glory of Cathy’s academic achievements. Whilst working at Beswick in 2016, Cathy began to work toward gaining her Nurse Practitioner’s Degree, which would enable her to act virtually as a doctor in prescribing and directing medical treatment in outback situations. Well, in 2018 whilst Cathy was still at Millingimbi, she was awarded her Nurse Practitioner’s degree, and not only so, but she was also awarded the prize for the highest pass in this degree for that year at Charles Darwin University. And so, we were so proud to travel to Darwin to share with Cathy in the presentation of these awards in May of 2018.
Finally in closing, whilst at Beswick, the Pastor of the church pronounced a blessing upon Cathy, and saw the “flood gates” of blessing coming over her life in the words of 2 Kings 7:19. And then, when Cathy went to Millingimbi, she saw this as a fulfilment of that prophecy. No doubt this may have also applied to the wonderful surprise of learning about the awarding of her new degree whilst she was there. It was also at Beswick, that Cathy one day asked the Lord what he would call her. What came into her mind and spirit was the word “cherished.” Yes Cath. We would also want to pronounce that word over your life today. We will indeed cherish, miss, and love you for all eternity. And because you are cherished, you are eternally loved by the Lord, and will always be kept as the “apple of his eye”. Cath, we are sad that you could not be healed on this earth, or even last until Christmas, as was your earnest wish. But in the words of Psalm 23:6, the Lord’s goodness and unfailing kindness shall be with you all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. God Bless you Cathy – We thank God for the earthly gift of your life to us. We will miss you greatly in so many different ways. You graced this world with sunshine, love, compassion, generosity, joy and hope. Somehow when you left us, the sun ceased to shine. And at the age of forty, God has decided that you now merit the words of Jesus at Matthew 25:21 – “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter now into the joy of your Lord.” And as with Paul at 2 Timothy 4:6-8, you have fought the good fight, you have finished your race, and have kept the faith. Now there is stored up for you the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to you on that day, and to all who long for his appearing. And so Cath, we all look forward to seeing you again. Until then, rest in God’s eternal love, peace, and joy. We love you forever. Amen
By Ted Woods (Cathy’s Father)