“His mercies never end, they are new every morning! Great is Thy faithfulness! The Lord is my portion says my soul. Therefore I will hope in Him!”
When our friend Amy Bessire read that portion of Lamentations 3:22-24, she noticed the syncopation, rhythm and flow, and envisioned it as a song with an echo. She even heard it in her mind, accompanied by an enormous brass section in surround sound.
Most of us in the Churches of Christ, however, are familiar with it as the song we’ve sung at church camps, youth rallies, church services and home devotionals: “The Steadfast Love of the Lord Never Ceases.” *
Amy passed away suddenly in June 2008, and we thought readers deserve to know more about this woman, who refused any recognition for that God-given song, and how it came to be.
We knew Amy for a long time. Kay met Amy at Abilene Christian University during her freshman year. Sharon met her through friends in St. Louis, Mo., during the late 1980s at the Spiritual Internship training with Stanley Shipp.
Amy was born in Abilene, Texas, the daughter of Aileen and Dr. Milton Bessire. Amy had two brothers and a sister. Her mother was a charter member of the Highland Church of Christ in Abilene. The family also worked with the church for seven years in Madison, Wis.
After she graduated from ACU, Amy had a varied career. She was a caseworker in St. Louis, a campus minister at Michigan State University and finally, a dental hygienist. She went back to St. Louis to train as a vocational missionary with 13 others who moved as a team to plant a church in Middleton, Conn.
Sensing the need to be closer to her aging mother, Amy moved to Dallas in 1992 and worked as a dental hygienist. She attended Lake Highlands Church for 16 years.
Though Amy never married, she didn’t plan it that way. In fact, that was a disappointment for her. But she nevertheless believed the life God gave her was unbelievably rich in relationships.
Singing was always a significant part of her self-expression.
Amy was captivated by Jesus, and participated in many Bible studies. She took careful notes; she wasn’t satisfied with simply jotting down the words.
To help her remember key concepts, Amy would combine the phrases with a melody. The principles she gleaned from her notes became a part of her as she sang them repeatedly in her mind while cleaning a patient’s teeth.
Kay was reunited with Amy the year she lived in St. Louis. Amy was working as a church secretary and attending a Bible class on Lamentations. Amy related to Kay that she was feeling pretty down. But as she read chapter 3:22-24, God gave her a song – immediately.
“Wow!” Amy said. “God must want this song. It just came out!”
She recorded it on her tape recorder. When she played it for her Bible class teacher, she sang an echo part along with it.
He encouraged her to share it with the class. It spread quickly and over time, Amy had it published. Since then, it has been sung worldwide in Churches of Christ and other traditions.
Amy was very close to her family, and her deepest desire was that they would be close to Jesus because she, herself, had experienced a deeper understanding and wanted that same relationship for them.
When her father died in July 1988, she wrote this letter to them:
“I hope and pray we all get serious about the short time we have in this life to be what we were meant to be. All we have is TODAY. Death has a way of putting a stop to everything. ‘Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.’ My heart is in bad shape and needs to be molded and shaped to be like the Lord’s. I hope all is well with you all. I sure do love you all! Love, Amy”
On June 10, 2008, while at a friend’s house, Amy suffered a brain aneurism. Despite a surgical procedure that gave family and friends hope for her recovery, she died 10 days later from a second brain hemorrhage. Amy was only 58 years old.
All of us were deeply shocked with the unexpected news.
During the 10 days before she died, Amy’s breathing tube limited her communication to scribbled written notes. As we sat at her side, watching her face, even with her eyes closed it seemed as if she was having encounters with Jesus.
Amy had written about heaven, and she longed for it. Her lyrics to her song “Heaven is More” is an example.
“Heaven is more than a place I’m going to some day. It’s more than a place where the streets are paved with gold. It’s more than wearing a white robe and a crown of jewels for my head. It’s more than seeing my loved ones or living in a mansion. Heaven is the presence of God, more precious than all to me. For I know since His Spirit was given to me there’s no place like home with God.”
Jim Reynolds, Amy’s pastor, described her spiritual walk to the very end: “Amy’s was an outrageous faith that stared death down, up close and personal.”
Amy was an intercessor, a psalmist, an evangelist, an authentic woman. Single – yet whole. She was faithful. She was cherished by each of us who were honored to be touched by her life.
Sometimes, it was literally true, as when she would touch someone’s head – especially a child’s – and make a perfect honking sound!
Amy was full of humor. Imitating people’s mannerisms were her specialty. Anyone she met became subject to her impersonation –including well-known speakers such as Landon Saunders.
Even when Amy was recounting a conversation she had with someone, she had her friends laughing hard because she automatically imitated the other person’s voice and gestures.
But mostly, Amy was known for her faith. As Jim Reynolds so aptly put it: “Faith, for Amy, was not just exercised in times of crisis. Jesus, for Amy, was not just the truth and the life. He was the way she lived.”
Some time after Amy died, Sharon got a call from one of her dental patients, who shared how Amy would listen to her talk about her struggle with breast cancer. What touched her, though, was Amy’s follow-up calls to check on her and to let her know she was praying for her. This patient called to ask what it was about Amy that she would show this care and compassion for her – something she had not experienced in a person before.
Amy is still touching lives even though she’s not with us today. The “Amy stories” that we all pass along – plus the lyrics and melody to “The Steadfast Love” – will keep touching people for years to come.
When Amy was taking notes in her Lamentations class, she never dreamed that her method of recall would become words of encouragement for thousands. Neither did she expect her memorization method to grow into songwriting.
Amy always hungered to be taught, but even more, to help someone else. She wanted every ounce of glory and recognition to go to God, who she believed gave her the song in the first place.
Among others she wrote are “My Father Remind Me,” “Trust In the Lord,” “Pound My Heart Oh God” and “Be Not Afraid.”
On June 22, 2008, Amy experienced new mercies of God’s great faithfulness. One can only imagine that as she entered God’s presence, she heard angels singing “The Steadfast Love” with the harmonic blast of other angels playing trumpets and French horns, just as she originally heard in her head.
So now as you hear and sing “The Steadfast Love of The Lord Never Ceases,” think of Amy. Let her faith, focus and trust in Jesus be your heart cry as we journey together toward heaven.
If you have a memory about Amy that you would like to share with her family and friends, please send your thoughts to: MemoriesOfAmyBessire@gmail.com
*Copyright©1978 by Amy Bessire All Rights Reserved. International Copyright Secured.