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Eulogy Delivered At Shelley's Memorial Service, 19 October 2001
By Donn Marshall, Shelley's Husband
Nature's First Green Is Gold,
Her Hardest Hue To Hold.
Her Early Leaf's A Flower;
But Only So An Hour.
Then Leaf Subsides To Leaf,
So Eden Sank To Grief,
So Dawn Goes Down To Day
Nothing Gold Can Stay.
At first, I wasn't sure if I'd be able to speak to all of you today, but then I reflected on the weeks before September 11th, and how proud Shelley was when I offered the toast at the wedding of two of our best friends. Shelley took great pleasure in helping me to prepare for the toast, to memorize every word so I could stand in front of everyone, without any notes, and the words would flow without effort. I'm sorry, my love, but I can't do that today. There's too much to say and I'm afraid I need this text or i won't be able to say it.
The poet Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote "death is a low mist, which cannot blot the brightness it may veil." Anyone who ever saw Shelley smile would know that this is true. Shelley was beautiful, and after looking at dozens of pictures of her in the past few weeks, I can tell you that she was growing more beautiful every year. She was passionately devoted to her family and friends, but, most of all, to her children and me. She lived her life with grace, intensity, and fire. I saw that fire the moment I met her, at first as a mischievous sparkle in her eye, and then I was privileged to watch it grow and spread, and to be its chief recipient. That fire burned in many places, and her family and friends know and regret the diminishment - but not the disappearance - of its warmth and glow.
Shelley worked hard and with integrity - but always had time for her children and me. She made many choices - some easy, and some hard - on the way to September 11th. Since that day, many of you will have heard, in your churches or the media, about free will - about how god loved us so much that he gave us this incredible gift - the ability to choose our own path, to choose good or evil. I can honestly say that I never thought much about this gift -- borne of love -- until our son came along. As Drake grew and took his first steps, I contemplated the idea of him one day leaving our home to be on his own, and how much Shelley and I would have to love him to let him go... How we would try to teach him right from wrong, but how, ultimately, he would choose his own future.
Since September 11th, when people have talked about choice, they have most often focused on the hijackers and the evil, horrible choice they made; but i would point out to you that there were people in the sky over Pennsylvania that day who made an heroic choice. Shelley and the others killed at the pentagon made an apparently more simple, but now no less heroic choice: to go to work. That was one of the many choices that Shelley made each day that defined her as a mother, a wife, a woman, and a worker, and I would like to tell you about some of those choices:
Shelley chose not to use anesthesia when giving birth to our children, for fear that they would be hurt. During my son's birth, she went through an extra four hours of excruciating pain to prevent the doctor from extracting Drake with forceps. I mentioned Shelley's grace - I kidded Shelley's mother after Drake's birth that Shelley had been nicer to me during labor than she usually was around the house -- she made it look easy.
Shelley chose to love me with abandon. She loved me so strongly, so deeply that i know she is here now, listening to these words. And you know, my love, that were the situation reversed -- would that it were reversed -- I too would be here, listening to your words...
Shelley chose to work with intensity. She chose to get things right the first time, and to hold herself and those she loved to a high standard; in a world in which many people bend and break the rules to get ahead, she chose to play by the rules and she almost always won.
Choice can do incredible things: it can bring down buildings or build them up; but it can also ease burdens or just bring a smile to someone's face.
I can't make you think about Shelley, but maybe, someday, you'll be handed a job to do and you'll think of her and not take the shortcut. Maybe you'll be helping your kids study for a test and you'll think of her and keep them at the books for another 15 minutes. Maybe you'll just choose to say "thank you" to the person at the fast food register.
Accounts of the heroes of September 11th have focused on their good qualities, and not mentioned their inevitable frailties and imperfections. These accounts have been presented in such a way as to suggest that we had been walking among angels. These accounts were all true: our wives, friends, and family members did have all that goodness within them, and they were angels ... And so are we, if we only choose to recognize it and encourage it in ourselves and each other... It's your choice....
Now, I have told you that Shelley was an angel. At times she was the sit on a cloud and play a harp kind of angel, but those who know her better know that she could also be a fiery angel, passionate in defense of the right thing, the truth, her friends, and her family. But such a picture of Shelley is not complete. You should know a few things about Shelley that were not so angelic. She used to eat squash in a bowl of milk... I think she actually enjoyed those rare occasions when she called me a "bonehead." She taught the kids how to say "toe cheese." Oh yes, she used to put words in the kids' mouths... Whenever chandler needed to be changed she would ask her: would you like daddy to change you? Yes? Okay." I remember going into our parlor and finding Shelley on the couch with Drake, vainly attempting to conceal a growing smile. Drake was probably two at the time. She asked Drake "how old is daddy" and Drake replied "old as dirt."
A couple of weeks after the 11th, I was holding my daughter and i told her that i was sad and that I missed mommy. She immediately replied "I love you, Daddy" - the first time she had ever said that. In the weeks to follow, whenever I told her I was sad and missing mommy, she would reply, as if on cue, "I love you, Daddy." Finally, I asked her, "Who taught you to say that?" Chandler replied "Mommy."
Shelley not only put words in chandler's mouth. Last night, i believe that she put some in mine. I think Shelley would want me to tell Drake and chandler, her family and friends, that she loves you so much that she will never be far away... That you should find your passions and follow them... That you should be happy and remember to laugh... And that we'll meet again.
I began with a poem by Robert Frost, and now I'll close with a Quaker prayer:
We give them back to you, dear lord
who gavest them to us.
Yet as thou didst not lose them in giving,
so we have not lost them by their return.
For what is thine is ours always
if we are thine.
And life is eternal and love is immortal,
and death is only a horizon,
And a horizon is nothing more
than the limit of our sight.
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