"Well done, good and faithful servant"
That's what the card said on the flowers that arrived for you. As soon as I read it, I was overwhelmed by a deluge of tears and sobs. As soon as I read it, I knew it fit you perfectly. Of course you would have recognized immediately where the verse originated; I had to look it up.
Sherri, you are a woman of uncommon generosity, boundless love and unwavering faith. The stories people recounted over the past few days confirm that statement. People that know you are amazed at your kindness and all of them miss you dearly.
We met under the most awkward of circumstances on Halloween night 31 years ago; I thoroughly embarrassed myself at Ken and Liz's Halloween party by hovering over you and trying to get you to remove that full length green sweater to reveal the risque "I Dream of Genie" costume underneath. You would not relent even though I tried every trick in the book to get you to take it off. After the party, I thought of you and assumed I would never hear from you again after my performance. Little did I know that, as you told your friend Peggy, I had caught your eye and you were smitten. If Peggy hadn't corroborated it, I wouldn't believe it, but you said you told her on the way home from the party, "I'm going to marry that guy." Little did you know, you had caught my eye too. I thought you were the most beautiful girl I laid eyes on. You were shy but you seemed quite kind. Your amazing smile and laughing eyes captivated me. You were the sweetest person I'd ever met; 31 years later, it's still true.
You loved me. You loved Emily and Rob. I remember all the Christmases, birthdays, Easters, and random events when you would take extra care to make our favorite desserts, give us a thoughtful gift, or surprise with something you found at the store - on sale, of course. Every time I went on a business trip, you'd sneak a note into my luggage, just to let me know you were thinking of me. All you wanted in return was to be held, to be kissed, to be appreciated and listened to, and to be loved. When I left the house to go to work and you were still asleep, I would kiss you gently on the head being careful not to wake you and I'd whisper "I love you", you always smiled and let out a little sigh. Just this last Easter, I remember sitting next to you on the couch and just reaching out to hold your hand. As we held hands, in just that simple gesture, you were happy. We were in love.
You loved kids. Obviously, you loved our kids the most. Even now, though they're 26 and 22 years old, you still tell them - "You're my babies; you'll always be my babies." You held Emily through the night as she endured a countless string of ear infections. You stayed awake by Rob's crib all night after his surgery when he was a baby, praying and caring for him. I remember how proud you were at all of Emily's recitals, the school plays, or just watching Rob work the video and sound for the church. When Rob and Emily both performed on saxophone and piano in front of the church in Oakland, you couldn't have been prouder.
Sherri, you taught me the definition of unconditional love. I had heard about it, but I only associated it to mothers and children. You demonstrated it constantly with me. From the day you knew you loved me, you were one hundred percent committed to loving me. Even though we hit many potholes in the road of marriage, you continued to love me through it all. I learned from you that unconditional love means just giving yourself over to the one you love. You made yourself a gift to me, and like a gift, it was given freely. You essentially said, "I am yours, cherish me."
Over the years, you amazed me with your incredible generosity. You were always involved with the church. At first you taught Sunday school at Concord, at Walnut Creek you handled the worked in the tech booth recording the services for the radio listeners, in Danville you worked running the PowerPoint presentations. You just couldn't say no. As the kids and I were trying to decide which charity you would like to supported in lieu of flowers, we realized you supported all of them. You gave to religious organizations, cancer research, the heart association, SPCA, wildlife funds, Girl Scouts, the national parks, missions, the Heifer Project, and many more.
Your support for Team in Training goes beyond admirable to legendary. To this day, participants and coaches talk about the amazing food preparation and support you provided to the riders that were raising money to fight leukemia. You set the bar so high, that people still talk about the nice surprises you made in order to make the riders more comfortable. They didn't see the long hours you put in making nutritious goodies for the team. I knew that you had been up until three or four in the morning preparing for the day's ride. And every time I met you at a rest stop, I'd ask you how you were holding up. You were exhausted but you would always be cheerful and supportive to every rider that came by. Everyone was appreciative, but they didn't grasp just how amazing you were.
You loved nature and always commented on the beauty of God's design. Every time we traveled you made it a point to see a marvelous site. Even though I wanted to relax by the pool with a beverage, you would want to see the local sites. Of course, we always ended up seeing the local sites. Whether it was driving all over Barbados, the Big Island, or the many national parks, we always saw the obscure little venues that only locals knew about. You loved when we went exploring and hiking down a less traveled trail. On Palm Sunday we went hiking in Castle Rock Park to see the wildflowers you love so well. When we hiked up the ravine trail to Shell Ridge, you were so ecstatic to see the delicate flowers amidst the emerald green trees and grasses that you said it was truly a gift from God. You saw beauty everywhere and in everything. I remember sitting with you for hours watching brown pelicans along Moonstone Beach diving into the waves. And while I enjoyed the beauty of the moment, it filled you with awe and you experienced it much more spiritually than I could grasp.
You love God. You truly modeled yourself after the Bible and Jesus. Your faith is unparalleled. Most people would lie in bed and read a book before going to sleep. You would too, but it was either the Bible or a book based on the teachings from the Bible. That was your foundation. I'd come to bed and say "Good book?" You'd laugh at the same old joke because you knew of course it was The Good Book. You would wake every morning, read from the Bible and you would pray. You always told me that you prayed for me and the kids. Many times you would tell me about a new discovery you made in a recent passage. I would tease you about Catholic dogma and that the Protestants got it wrong. I loved our little debates because I would pit my Catholic upbringing against your Protestant beliefs. Even though you would act shocked at my biblical backwardness, you loved our little debates because you knew you were right, you always had me outgunned and you knew I was doing it to "be a monster".
You based everything you did around your passionate belief in the Bible and Jesus. Honestly, I always admired how fervent your faith was. It was your faith that colored everything you did and every way you acted. You truly practiced what you preached in your devotion and in your love for everyone. This last Easter, when we were at breakfast, you said that Easter was your favorite holiday. You said "It is the highlight of the Christian calendar. Easter is more important than Christmas." You were incredibly happy and you thoroughly enjoyed the day that we had together with my family. We even talked about how great the weekend was as we drove home that evening. You felt loved by family and God.
You loved to be touched. You loved to be kissed. I would wrap my arms around your waist and hold you close. You always said you loved my shoulders and the feeling of being held. When we were looking at pictures for your memorials, I particularly loved the ones where me or the kids had you in our arms, those were the ones in which you looked happiest. I loved holding you. I loved the feeling of your skin against my hands. You made me feel like your protector, your sweetheart, your husband. As you lay in the hospital bed, I kissed your forehead, hoping to see the smile you always gave. When you didn't smile, my heart sunk at the pain of knowing you had gone. I touched your hands, hoping for the familiar squeeze. I just held onto your hand, crying, wishing it was all a nightmare, hoping to wake up. I will never forget your touch, ever.
Sherri, you taught me so much. I've only scratched the surface in this short letter. I want you to know that I love you, I've always loved you and I always will. I am grateful that I got a chance to say I love you on Sunday. I am grateful that we had such a peaceful and perfect day and that I knew you loved me and you knew I loved you. I know you are in a far better place. The only consolation that I have in this whole dismal business is I know you are at peace.
I love you sweetheart