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A Celebration of Life
Shelley A. Marshall (Farr)
November 16, 1963 - September 11, 2001
Memorial Service: October 22, 2001
Reverend Ronald M. McCauley
Suncrest United Methodist Church
Morgantown, West Virginia
For the family, I say welcome and thank you for being here today and surrounding the family with your presence, love, support and prayers. A warm hand . . . a quiet word . . . a gracious deed . . . the very fact of your presence is a way of saying in time of grief . . . we do care.
Our strength of caring and our warmth of one who seeks to understand comes because of a God who said to each of us . . . "Fear not, for I am with you. I will help you. I will not leave you desolate, I will come to you . . . Lo, I am with you always." It is in that spirit that we come this day as a community of faith to give support with our love and care.
So, friends, we have gathered here to praise God and to witness to our faith as we celebrate the life of Shelley Farr Marshall. We come together in grief, acknowledging our human loss. May God grant us grace, in pain we may find comfort, in sorrow, hope, in death, resurrection?
Let us pray . . .
What else can you do in a moment like this but say and show, "I am with you." We are with you. Since September 11, we have wandered in a haze and daze. Bruce Cockburn sings these words, "Sometimes a wind comes out of nowhere and knocks you off your feet." A wind has come out of New York and Washington, knocked us off our feet, we will walk unsteady for the rest of our lives.
O God, who gave us birth, you are ever more ready to hear than we are to pray.
You know our needs before we ask, and our ignorance in asking.
Give to us now your grace, that as we shrink before the mystery of death, we may see the light of eternity.
Speak to us once more your solemn message of life and of death.
Help us to live as those who are prepared to die.
And when our days here are accomplished, enable us to die as those who go forth to live, so that nothing in life or in death will be able to separate us from your great love in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.
There is a lot we do not know. There is a lot we will never know. The whole tragedy we will never understand. What else can you do in a moment like that but say and show, "I am with you." We are with you.
|We cannot give the reason for this turn of events. We can only join in the human question of the moment, "My God, my God, WHY?" The question of agony comes from the lips of the Son of God on the cross into the hearts and minds of us all. "My God, why this life cut short?" Why this family touched with tragedy? Why must we walk the lonely path of separation now? Why the events of September 11, 2001?
There is no need to try to cover the sense of intense grief we have, the unbelieving shock we all know, the anger we feel. For grief has its place in the human experience--and its bitter wine is something all must taste.
One reason I am attracted to the scriptures is that they fit life so well. They do not gloss over grief and say buck up and smile--everything is really all right--this is just God's will. NO!!!! This is not God's Will! The Bible says, it is all right to cry--to express all the human pain that is there. God can take your tears and our anger. If you will hold on to God, God can turn your tragedy into something creative and good. And so our faith allows us to grow by something which would shatter the lives of others and thrust them into permanent bitterness.
So, I am not here today to stop the tears---or to say wise words to ease the pain. I am here to secure your hand and mine in a firm handclasp with the God who spoke Shelley into being and who gave us our lives. I know we were designed for such a divine-human partnership and now we need to acknowledge and celebrate that.
Yet, this moment must be more than a moment to acknowledge grief. We must not let our grief get in the way of recounting the wonder, the beauty, the passion, the dignity of Shelley's life. While we did not have Shelley all that long, she still was the bearer of gifts to each who knew her.
Think of the gifts---a daughter bears to a father---a daughter bears to a mother---to brothers---to a husband---to her children---to special friends and colleagues. Think of her special style of life---her special ways of saying things to family and friends. Her humor, her smile that could hook you with real charm! Think of the times when someone else has made you happy and proud to know Shelley because of a complement they paid her.
Almost thirty-eight years she passed on her special brand of joy with passion and challenge---with her special flavor of spice and commitment. Her life was played by the rules. She was a scholar of the rules---getting what she wanted, but always playing by the rules. Her work ethic and integrity were important to her. She was a learner, always growing. She had an opportunity to move up the ladder to a higher position...but Shelley felt she still had things to learn and more growing to do before that should happen. Her day started early---around 4:45 a.m. Every morning, getting the children ready for the commute to work and day care. This was all done with love and grace---and in all of this, she did not tolerate failure...always striving to grow and learn more. Shelley never did anything halfway...it was all or nothing. She was an artist of life itself. Even down to the making of tea...was an art. Shelley knew there was much more to tea than a Lipton tea bag. Similar to fine wine and gourmet cheese, tea comes in a multitude of varieties. Each with its own unique aroma, color and taste. Yes, making and enjoying tea was an art. All of this was done with a 100 watt smile and inner beauty that did not bend or compromise.
No one ever can or will take her place. Each human makes and keeps her own place, and when she leaves life, whether by sickness, or by accident, or even at the hands of a terrorist . . .she leaves a vacant spot in the pageant of life. Now we count these gifts. . . and with each memory, we turn to God who loaned Shelley to us for a while and we say, "Thank you, God." Let us celebrate the sparkling treasure chest she placed in the lives of all who knew her.
We also pause now to reflect on the context in which her life...and ours, is set. There is within us and around us all kinds of clues that lead us to sense and to believe, that while we are human, we are more than human. We are not just dust that returns to dust, earth that returns to earth. We are more. Something in us whispers that we are designed for eternity.
We feel kinship with a butterfly that leaves behind the cocoon. We sense we are like a seed, which must die when planted in the ground before it can take on the new body of a plant that will bear fruit, or a blossom. There is an automatic sensing within, that though we may know the realities of the night, we will also know the wonder and beauty of the sunrise.
Natalie Sleeth captures that thought in her words of the Hymn of Promise:
In the bulb, there is a flower; In the seed, an apple tree;
The Bible encourages us to dream and increases our expectation. Your dreams cannot reach too far. You cannot even come close to the wonderful reality God has in store after death. Mansions---no night or day---no fears---no pain---no sickness---fellowship---trust---love---unbelievable. All gifts of God who loved you the moment you were conceived ---loved you every moment of every day---and surrounds you with God's blanket of love in the moments of your death. God was with Shelley in those tragic moments at the Pentagon. Loving her through the experience of separation. God was the first to weep on September 11. God's love fills her now as she is in God's great beyond.
In cocoons, a hidden promise, butterflies will soon be free!
In the cold and snow of winter, there's a Spring that waits to be,
Unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.
So it is with us. We cannot know the tons of love that God is pouring into this room---into our hearts---and lives. God is here, too---meeting us---giving dignity to our human lot and promising to take even this pain and transform it into hope.
Some are broken by tragedy---never to be repaired. Some grow because of tragedy into unexpected--- new beautiful ways. The difference? Some accept, others reject the gifts that only God can give. Let us open our lives to receive God's love and gently and trustingly place Shelley in the loving arms of our God...her God.
They say that when one of his flock was dying, John Watson, the Scottish preacher of Edinburgh, would kneel down and whisper in the ear, "In my Father's house are many rooms." Then, with a contented sigh, they would "slip away" entirely unafraid. There is something about this great portion of Scripture that consoles.
"Let not your heart be troubled"---because there is a faith that dispels fear. When it seemed to the Disciples that everything was shaking, collapsing, and coming to an end, when they were disquieted by the certainty of Jesus' death, He told them not to worry, not to be alarmed, nor be afraid. He said, "believe in God." Believe that there is God, and that you are not alone. You are not left to manage for yourself, because God is the beginning and the end, the one "from everlasting to everlasting." Underneath are God's everlasting arms. God was before all things, and God will endure beyond all things.
Then Jesus said, "In my Father's house are many rooms . . ." that promise brings hope. This is a beautiful picture of God's spacious creation. It is a home. A house with many rooms, and God is there. It is a fortress of love, and a sanctuary of happiness. Death is the passing from one room to another. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a room there which God has reserved and is marked:
"Tea Room...Shelley, hostess!"
There is no conclusion. For Shelley Marshall continues to march in our midst. Let us hasten to keep step with her and share the melody of her love.
Yes, there was a woman sent from God whose name was Shelley Marshall.
Her labor is over but her life lives on.
Her duty and integrity are completed but her devotion inspires.
Her service has been concluded but her sensitivity binds us one to another.
Her high intensity and honesty have ceased, but her proclamations are heard distinctively.
Her prayers are not audible but her passion uplifts us.
We do not see her smile nor hear her laughter but her joy resounds.
Think of stepping on shore, and finding it home; of taking hold of a hand, and finding it God's hand; of breathing a new air, and finding it Celestial air; of feeling invigorated, and finding it immortality.
Thanks be to God for the gift of Shelley Marshall. Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Shelley has truly experienced the Amazing Grace! Her love has triumphed over evil. Alleluia! Amen! and Amen!
|Copyright 2005 © The Shelley A. Marshall Foundation
P.O. Box 1685
Shepherdstown , WV 25443
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