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Eulogy Delivered At Shelley's Memorial Service, 19 October 2001
By Jason Sandoval, Longtime Friend Of Shelley And Donn Marshall
This past Sunday, I was running on an uncharacteristically empty and somber path overlooking Arlington cemetery.
The day was gray and windy with a hint of autumn in the air.
With the Pentagon just beyond a hill, the setting naturally conjured up memories and images of our friend, my friend, Shelley Marshall, about whom I am both humbled and honored to speak today.
My heart sank, as has become a daily custom since September 11th, when the reality that I couldn't talk to or see Shelley came to fruition yet again.
I realized again that there would be no more Saturday evening dinners, in which Shelley cooked great meals for Donn and me;
Afterwards, Donn and I would sit in the library, smoke cigars, drink cognac, and banter about some political issue of the day, while Shelley sat quietly, laughing at us;
I continued along the trail, becoming conscious that we would never again trim the Christmas tree like we did several years together;
That, the stocking that she ordered especially for me so I would have a stocking alongside hers and Donn's would never again know the generosity of her touch;
That, we would never again make snow angels outside her kitchen windows;
That, Shelley, Donn, and I would never hunt for old books in antique bookstores on rainy Sunday afternoons;
That, her voice was silenced from uttering such now meaningful phrases as "Young man, I wish you would just find a nice girl…" or "You are going to be a great parent someday";
That the last hug she gave me some weeks ago now indeed would be the last.
I continued along the path, with these images and the context in which they happened swirling in my mind.
Unexpectedly, out of nowhere on the quiet, abandoned trail, a solitary snow-white dove blocked my path, causing me to stop.
I was awestricken because the dove seemed so strangely out of place.
Moreover, I have never seen a white dove in a city, particularly such a lone dove that seemed to defy the logic of most birds that fly away at the approach of an oncoming pedestrian.
This dove, however, stood looking at me as curiously as I looked at it.
The dove remained stationary as I approached and knelt down within arm's reach.
The dove cocked its head slightly, maintaining the gaze of curiosity for a brief eternity.
Then, turning its head, it took a step to leave, and looked back over its shoulder at me for a moment before flying away and eventually disappearing over the stone garden of the cemetery.
|I remained immobile for another moment, dumbfounded at what had just happened, sensing the divine as the wind seemed to blow through me.
I resumed the run, cognizant of only seconds later that Shelley had just spoken, as she has repeatedly, through nature and human action, since 11 September 2001.
Shelley's grace is the flight of the dove.
Her beauty is the red rose with a dewdrop suspended on its petals, visible to whoever cares to take the time to look.
Shelley's voice is the wind that rustles the orange, yellow, and red leaves of autumn.
Her warmth is the sun that touches all of our faces.
Her generosity is the motivation behind so many of her family and friends coming to comfort one another in this time of immense grief.
Her love is the love that so many have shared with one another since her person left us over a month ago.
Her happiness is the laughter and smiles of her children, Drake and Chandler.
Her friendship is the bond that has been established among so many who love and yearn to see Shelley.
By remembering, emulating, and valuing these intangibles that she exhibited so uniquely, she remains a complete person, still here, still with me, still with all of us.
There is no substitute to replace the person of Shelley, that person who represents something so special to each person whose life she touches.
To me, she is a friend, a sister, a counselor, and angel.
She is grace, beauty, charm.
She is strong, assertive, intelligent, modest.
She is nobility, integrity, purity.
She is generosity, care, love.
If permitted, I could stand before you all today for hours on end an extol how wonderful a person Shelley is, but I believe Shelley's actions in life demonstrate far better the rarity of who she is.
So, with a heavy heart, I conclude with these words, words that she offered a time ago when I had to leave her presence for a while, "Goodbye, my friend, I wish you wouldn't go, but I know that you must."
Don't ever forget, Shelley, that you are loved and will be forever missed.
Your Friend -
Jason J. Sandoval
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