This morning I was taking a shower and had just wrapped a towel around myself when Fred walked in with the phone and told me there was an important phone call for me. I took the phone and a man said, “Hello, Denise! I’m Officer Seigler from the King City Police. I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but your sister died this morning.” When I hung up, I told Fred and he burst into tears. The whole family met at the rehab center and sat with Sherill’s body until the undertaker came to take her away. We were all in shock. It has been a rough day, but I want to dedicate the rest of this post to Sherill’s memory.
Sherill was born on August 14, 1950. She was six years older than me and fourteen years older than Lauryn. I remember one Sunday night she was babysitting Lauryn and me while our parents were at a meeting and we had a lightning storm. Lauryn and I were afraid, so Sherill made popcorn and had us sit in front of our big picture windows and watch the storm just as we normally would watch The Wonderful World of Disney on a Sunday night. I have always loved storms since then.
Sherill went to Christian school all the way from grade school through her first year in college. In high school, she was a straight A student who studied hard every night. In her senior year, she decided she wanted to break out of her shell and be more sociable. She became the student body secretary, the homecoming queen, and the salutatorian. On award day, they claimed she wore a hole in the carpet going up to accept all the awards she’d earned.
After high school, she first attended Judson Baptist College, then Clark College in Vancouver, Washington, she got her BA in Literature at Portland State University, and she even attended seminary where I believe she studied Biblical history. She was an avid Bible scholar, but not just to know the Bible…She aimed to live it.
On April 22, 1989, Sherill married the love of her life, Fred Lawrence. Fred was old enough that my father quipped he’d always wanted a son, but he’d always hoped he’d be younger than him. Fred and Sherill traveled the world and enjoyed a good life.
She must have first contracted multiple myeloma in 2004 when she first started breaking ribs and vertebrae, but the doctor misdiagnosed it as osteoporosis. In 2006, her illness was finally diagnosed correctly and she began chemo treatment. Somewhere during that time, she was anointed with oil and prayed for by the elders of her church and she said that for four days after that, she was filled with supernatural faith and believed she was healed. During the five years of remission she enjoyed after that, her neck was even straightened and she believed that God was going to straighten her back again.
When the cancer returned, it was a bit of a shock to Sherill, but she went after it with a vengeance. She and Fred prayed over it, others were praying for her, and she found many verses in the Bible that encouraged her to be strong. Chemo after chemo would work for a few weeks and fail, but Sherill maintained hope and optimism. She had a setback last summer when immunotherapy failed, but then she got back in the fight again. She would not hear of any suggestion that she go on hospice and believed, up until a few weeks ago that she was practically invincible. She was in excruciating pain and one thing after another went wrong, but she never entertained the thought that she might die. As recently as this last Friday night when Lauryn went to visit her in the hospital and Sherill couldn’t speak because she was having so much difficulty breathing, she wrote this explanation to Lauryn as to why she was eager to be transferred to the rehab center: “…Rehab represents not just discovering causes, but getting better. Most of what these guys [the hospital] have is not. Anything would be an improvement.”
As I told the chaplain who was helping the family this morning, Sherill was the glue that held the family together. She called Mom every morning after my stepfather died, and she kept us each informed on what was happening in the rest of the family’s lives. She was a peacemaker between family members who were aggrieved with one another. She never had a computer because she said she preferred to speak directly to people, so there were many people who called her, often to talk about problems they were having. She had a heart that, while not working very well for her, was big enough to enfold everyone who needed help. She was generous and loving. Sherill wasn’t a saint, but she knew her shortfalls and was quick to apologize. Sometimes, she was even more sensitive to the possibility that she might have hurt someone than the other person felt.
Sherill has left a huge gap in many of our lives. She was my best friend, my son’s second mother, Fred’s companion and caretaker, Mom’s advocate in trying to get help after my stepfather died, Dad’s support during trying times in his life, Lauryn’s connection to the family while living at a distance, my nephew, Nate’s, patron with whatever he needed, and judging by the many phone calls we received today, she was a close friend and inspiration to many others.
Sherill finally has the straight back and the health and freedom from pain that she kept believing she would have here on earth. I told God this morning that He has a saint standing before Him. (Yes, I am aware that I said earlier she wasn’t a saint, but I mean this in the sense that all true believers are called saints.) By now, He has given her an answer to why all this happened to her. I only wish we knew what the answer is.
We, the family, will be working on plans for her memorial service this week. We are thinking that next weekend is when the service will be, and for any of you who are able to come, I will use this forum this week to put the news out as to time, place, and other details. Prayers for the family, especially for Fred, would be greatly appreciated.