Sean Gutteridge: The Unspoken Eulogy

2011-08-30-22-14-54“Death is a dialogue between The Spirit and the Dust.” 

~ Emily Dickinson


Sean Gutteridge passed away in his sleep after leading worship for his congregation at Westmoore Community Church in south Oklahoma City. He was the lead worship pastor and head of the Production Team at WCC where he served for 20+ years. He was 47-ish years old and is survived by his stunningly beautiful wife, Rene Gutteridge, local author of over 20 Fiction novels and multiple screen plays, and their two children, John and Cate Gutteridge. He is also survived by both parents, Don Gutteridge and Sonja Gutteridge and two brothers, Lance Gutteridge and Joshua Gutteridge. A public memorial will not be held at the request of the family.


Sean’s life was marked by highs and lows and leaves no estate of any substantial worth. Not well known in his community but well thought of by those who did not know him well. Of friends, he had few and for those who did know him well, he was said to be somewhat of a paradox. Lazy and undisciplined with a tendency towards anger and at times, rage. He could also be known to exhibit extreme bouts of compassion and was thought to be soft spoken. Loyalty seems to be his greatest attribute while a lack of self-confidence and his temper, his greatest character defects. Considered incredibly talented, his life from a worldly stand-point will be noted as a man who never quite lived up to his enormous potential both in his public life as well as his private one.

The greatest legacy Sean Gutteridge leaves will be the legacy of his children and the great love affair he had with his beautiful wife, Rene. Though he made many mistakes as both husband and father, neither children nor wife will wonder whether the man they knew better then anyone else had loved them deeply and earnestly. He was quick to accept his own personal faults and recognize his own short-comings, but led his family rooted in the Grace and Love of Christ, Jesus.

Apart from his family, Sean’s greatest passions in life were as follows: an intense love for Christ and a desire to preach and minister that gospel according to his own personal DNA and make-up. He enjoyed the fact that he didn’t have all the answers to building a successful ministry and often mocked those who claimed to hold the missing formulas to such enterprises. He liked the untried roads and unproven methods, though often got stuck in his own (admitted) complacency and lack of self-discipline. He loved to write anything: music, poetry, stories and particularly, short devotions. In his latter years, though his song writing dropped off, he never lost his desire and love to try writing new psalms though few would ever be heard especially towards the end of his life.

Another passion of his was taking pictures and he was even said to be somewhat addicted to photography apps on his phone, spending hours tinkering with new filters and effects in his attempt to create some stunning, new work of what he referred to (somewhat tongue in cheek) as his “phone photography art-work”. At his core, he was a true, slightly eccentric and sometime neurotic, artist. He was a deep thinker but hated debates and conflict of any kind, feeling even simple debates brought out the worst in him. He also loved to make people laugh… even if it meant at his own expense. He thrived being the butt of jokes… but only if the jokes were funny. He loved acting and this was the single area in his life where he held an absolute command of himself and a complete confidence in his abilities. He never shied away from letting anyone know that he could act circles around anyone living or dead and mocked those who were stupid enough to challenge him in this assertion. He was most proud, however, of the accomplishments of those he loved most… his wife and his children. He would sacrifice any good fortune on himself to see them succeed.
His love of people was under-estimated. Though he hated crowds and never felt comfortable in social situations, he loved serving his church and anyone near the vacinity of wherever his ministry might be. He loved to travel and that made him a natural missionary and in his last few years, even more then his passion as a worship leader, this became the great ministry passion in his life. He did not live to see his vision and dream of clinics in Uganda come to pass, but he was confident up to the moment he passed away that it would happen because he felt this was God’s own vision and not his, personally.

Though he leaves behind an unmeasurable legacy, his hope in life was to know that he had raised children to love the Lord as He had. He spent 17 years doing what he could to instill within them an understanding and appreciation of God’s Grace and a desire to pursue God’s desires for their own lives. He personally requested before his passing there be no memorial for, as he stated, “They are such sad affairs and I never was good at the tragedies… a was a comedic actor.” It is fitting that he passed away after doing what he loved to do… and fitting that he was able to take one final nap. He’ll be well rested for eternity.

We can’t write our own eulogy. Well, we can but that’s just really weird, isn’t it. But if you could, what would you say? Would you want yours to have just the facts? Would you want it to put you in a better light? Would it be tinted with regrets and sorrows? Or could you write it as close to how you really were? The problem is… there can be no balance mainly because somebody’s gonna disagree with how you paint yourself. An obituary is based on the stats of how you physically left this world and who you left behind. Your eulogy is how the world perceived you when you passed. So pick your speaker wisely! I might have to do some heavy bribing to get a decent eulogy and even then, they could just take the money and run. What can I do by then? But I won’t really care at that point so it might be kind of entertaining to have someone who really hated me give my eulogy. Can you imagine that?!

John F. Kennedy’s eulogy was probably pretty flowery and elegant. The world grieved this man because he was perceived as a great man and… he did some great things. But he was a huge Jack-ass. Are we to admire that he was a habitual ladies man and philanderer throughout his marriage? Ultimately, it’s the silent legacy we leave that will outlast the eloquent eulogy which may (or may not) be spoken over our cold coffins or shiny, polished urns. If my children know I loved them; if they have been equipped spiritually to live lives worthy of their savior; if what few people I’ve met were touched even in the smallest of ways; if my wife knows she was the SINGLE most important person in my life; if my life – through ALL my many mistakes and personal blemishes – can still be stretched out and anyone looking can see the firm imprint of Christ, Jesus on it… THEN my life has been well lived. I am so many things contrary to Christ and so far removed from His full transforming process, yet I desperately want to be moving forward towards that. If I took three steps backwards today, then I must determine to do my best to make up the ground tomorrow. I admit that… I sometimes feel like a yo-yo – up and down, back and forth, and so on. But mostly, I want to approach every day with this simple idea: gain ground towards Christ today. Know Him more today. Seek Him today. That’s all. I stopped awhile back trying to approach that transformation process as a place to someday arrive at and began seeing it more as a daily journey, knowing that (knowing myself too well) there will be days that me and Jesus just don’t make much progress because, well, I’m being the Jack-ass and have simply made up my mind… “Not today, Lord.” I’ve also come to understand that as yesterday is passed, regardless of the growth made yesterday, today I must have the same determination to make forward progress or… THIS day may be lost.

Transformation isn’t a destination as much as it is a “Becoming”. That keeps me from believing that I can work my way into it. Yes, there are things I must do to assist the Holy Spirit in helping me become transformed into the image of Christ but they consist of actions like “Loving” and “Obedience” and “Trusting” and “Praying” and things like that. As I seek actively this process through prayer and His Word, the journey takes on a life void of dreariness and one of renewed intensity. Though struggles persist, I am invigorated by the constant urging forward of God’s Spirit. And done with enough consistency, the cycle becomes habitual to the point that it begins to mark my life more and more to the point where it affects everything thing I say, every reaction and ultimately every thought. And that becomes the unspoken eulogy of my life, unchallengeable by anyone or anything.

If I could write my own eulogy, that’s what I would WANT it to say… but you can’t fake the Unspoken Eulogy. What will my own unspoken eulogy be? Time will tell. I not quite dead, just yet. Peace to you –

Sean Gutteridge

Today’s Scripture: Isaiah 33:15-16

15 He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil

16 he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.


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