A Maundy Thursday tribute to Rita Cuffey, mother in Israel...

There's much talk today about women needing recognition and, wanting to do something about it, it seemed a good day of the year--Maundy Thursday, when we celebrate our Lord's command that we follow his pattern in serving one another--to honor the woman who, more than anyone other than my own family members, revealed to me the glory of womanhood, femininity, and the humble service of motherhood. Would you please take the time to listen to this sermon preached at Mrs. James (Rita) Cuffey's funeral?

For eleven years Rita Cuffey was, other than my wife, my closest friend and wisest counselor. We met weekly and what a help those meetings were. Each time as she left, Rita would ask me what she could pray for me for? And since one of my most frequent prayer requests was that I would be faithful in my private devotional life, when she arrived one week, right out of the gate she asked if I'd had devotions, yet? One weeks the answer was "no," she'd cheerfully announce, "Well, I'll wait. You go ahead and have devotions and then we'll talk." I did while she patiently waited...

Rita was about as brilliant, intellectually, as any man or woman I've known--and I've known some bright ones.

Rita (and until his death, her husband "Jimmy") were family to us from the time we moved to Bloomington. They came to our children's birthday celebrations bearing gifts, usually classic books which never duplicated what our kids had already read. They submitted to our church's discipline. Jimmie, an emeritus professor of Astronomy here at IU with his Ph.D. from Harvard, had to be publicly rebuked one time for things he said in a Sunday school class the previous week. To their inestimable credit, neither Rita nor Jimmie bore any resentment about the elders' rebuke; instead, Jimmie's faith and honoring of the Word of God grew as a result of that rebuke. When Jimmie died, few who knew him over the years would have recognized his humble and meek and faith-full heart as he lay on his sick bed holding dear Rita's hand and breathing his last.

This could easily turn into a book about Rita--it's one more failure of mine that I haven't written more about her. But my purpose in this post is simply to provide the context for a link to this sermon preached at Rita's funeral, February 22, 2003.

One final request: If there's anyone willing to transcribe this sermon, I'd greatly appreciate the help. Would you please let me know by E-mail at tbbayly at gmail dot com.


I used to meet regularly (for a few months) each week with Rita, right up until she died. She told me the story about turning down her fellowship in astronomy at Harvard when Jimmy had proposed to her. In her very distinct, Boston voice, she said, "I thought to myself: Well? I could either spend the rest of my nights in a cold observatory or in a warm bed with my husband!"

I really loved those times with her.

I also loved visiting with her in the office. She wrote a very special letter to me as I was preparing to be married that included some classic "Rita" advice that went something like this, "It seems hard to imagine at this time, but if you and Andy ever disagree on something and you will need to submit to him, you must pray..."

Of course, I also enjoyed receiving her very detailed letter to me as we prepared to visit Boston for the first time--another topic close to her heart!

She had many lovable eccentricities and was probably the best example of godliness with contentment that I've ever seen.

We need more Ritas in our churches. It sounds like you folks were truly blessed to have known her.

I remember Rita by going to her house for pie after any occation that I had attended while visitng the Bayly's. Her home was always open for any and she truely loved the Lord.


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