A week ago I had the honor to preside over the memorial service for dear sister in Christ, Marsha Dahlgren. She died on April 18 and her service was held at Our Savior's on May 4. These are the words I shared that morning with her friends and family:
Jesus teaches us: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.”
For the past several months I have been dwelling upon this moment… of sharing with you words of gospel as we together remember, honor, and celebrate the life of a very dear woman: Marsha Dahlgren. And in dwelling on this moment, my memories and my thoughts kept spinning around in circles. For you see, our dear sister Marsha was a person like no other. I’ve never met anyone whose mind was so eager to dig deeper and whose enthusiasm, likewise, propelled her into so many directions.
With great passion she would engage in ministry here around Our Savior’s: being a leader with WELCA, a member of the choir, an active participant in adult education programs and a leader of several of our small groups. I loved the way her mother, Odessa, described Marsha being at full attention during a worship service and taking detailed notes of the message being shared in the sermon. I would then be the recipient of those notes which always expressed praise mixed in with several lines or symbols that not even Google could translate.
I wager a few of you have received some of Marsha’s notes over the years. What a delight. What a magnificent mind of wonder.
With wonder she engaged the journey the past eight months.
With wonder she could not wait for our visits and conversations.
With wonder she accepted the generous support of the DeWitts… and with wonder she discovered an openness to vulnerability that was not always her first instinct.
In this place of wonder and grace Marsha and I over the past few months kept coming back to the word: abide. For Marsha, whose energy made the Energizer Bunny look like a snail… to abide… to remain… well, that was not always her instinct either. But the Lord placed the word upon her lap and I can just hear her deep breath of peace express the word “abide” with a smile of her face and a twinkle in her eye. For Marsha, God dwelled in the word abide and she discovered permission to simply remain. What is my purpose she would ask me… and then we would come back to the word, abide. “Ahhh… abide… yes… abide,” she would say with a smile on her face and an expression of great peace reflecting in her eyes.
Jesus said, “as the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” All of the chaos and fun and learnings and disappointments of a fully lived life can be wrapped up in those words: “abide in my love.”
I think about Marsha the equestrian… Marsha the biochemist… Marsha the swimmer… Marsha of Marshall Fields… Marsha the choir director… Marsha the Christian Scientist… Marsha the history buff… Marsha the Jeep Girl… and it all can be wrapped up in that word abide… the Spirit abided in our Marsha and boy did she abide in the Lord.
Again, Jesus said: “I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete.” Marsha was a complete joy for this community and nothing can top her own words, some of which she journaled in this coloring book while she was hospitalized last September. Yes… if Marsha is going to journal it will be in a coloring book.
On page 20 she wrote:
“my final night here…
my care here has been excellent!
Pat & Jerry taking me home is beyond my wildest imaginations
This, Lighting Here can be a joy of friends in balance to a fear of unknown… UNKNOWN?!
FEAR = 0
faith in the ONE GOD WHO LOVES & created us… ALL.
This EXPERIENCE OF friends: Pat, Cathy, their husbands, our PASTORS, working SO hard to provide SOLACE, stability & privacy could not be a better statement to trusting the one living God, to come our way & keep us close… EACH person using their own expertise to make WHAT EVER CAME BEFORE THEM BE BETTER by FAITH… & HARD WORK… community, connection, God’s WORK… THEIR HANDS!
REMARKABLE TO BE IN THE CENTER OF THIS VORTEX OF FAITH!!”
What a gift to this vortex of faith, that we had the opportunity to have served with Marsha… What great joy she brought to our work here at Our Savior’s.
God showered Marsha with an abundance of God moments the past few months of her life. Among the most delightful was being able to reach out and reconnect with Kevin… a dear friend. Sit down with Pat and Cathy sometime and let them tell you of all the God-moments.
And here’s a God Moment for you: that she wrote those words on the coloring book page 20, that quotes from 1 John 4:16… “God is love.” Marsha’s witness to us will be that truth: God is love… and she abided in that love. Marsha has been baptized into the body of Christ and has been promised the same resurrection life our Lord Jesus lives. Because God is love… our sister has been promised a future beyond what we see here.
But also, because this is Marsha, I cannot conclude this message with just that. Marsha’s ability to wonder took her in so many directions. I must conclude with our own dear sister’s thoughts… quotes from sources as diverse as Henry Ford, The Apocrypha, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and a dog.
“Just when the caterpillar thought its world was over, it became a butterfly.” - Unknown
“Consult not your fears, but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but what it is still possible for you to do.” - Pope John XXIII
“The secret to getting ahead is getting started.” - Mark Twain
“Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently.” - Henry Ford
“Where there is charity and wisdom, there is neither fear nor ignorance.” - Francis of Assisi
“In nature we never see anything isolated, but everything in connection with something else which is before it, beside it, under it, and over it.” - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
“Example is leadership.” - Albert Schweitzer
Monday Sept. 26, 2016; 6:30am exactly; the DeWitt’s dog, Admiral Buddy puts his nose to Marsha’s door: “Follow me human, the day has begun.”
“Do not give yourself over to sorrow, and do not distress yourself deliberately. A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span.” - Sirach 30:21-22
Rejoice always, dear Marsha.