To Be of Use- A Memorial for Betty

(At the Memorial for Betty)


For those of you who don’t know me
and for those of you who don’t recognize me; my name is Shelly.

My friendship with Betty began in 1981- 36 years ago when our family moved to Pope Valley in the old Gardner place. We were both young raising up our families.

I have not come here prepared– I was not ready for Betty’s farewell.
How can we fully prepare, for someone we love,
to take leave?

But with as much preparation as we are granted– we continue.

Betty and I shared a love of poetry.
I would like to read a poem by Mary Oliver that Betty might enjoy.

The title is “Mysteries Yes”

Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous to be understood.

How grass can be nourishing

in the mouths of lambs.

How rivers and stones are forever in allegiance

with gravity

while we ourselves

dream of rising.

How two hands touch and the bonds

will never be broken.

How people come, from delight

or the scars of damage,

to the comfort of a poem.

Let me keep company always with those who say

“Look!” and laugh in astonishment,

and bow their heads.

In my reading this poem- I admit- I custom fit it for Betty by omitting a few sentences.
They didn’t fit.  I know Betty would have approved!

Let me read them to you now…


I know Betty worked to close gaps- not keep distance. Betty, as I knew her, always moved directly forward.  She always knew the right path by seeking the right questions.

To me….this is far greater than knowing the answers.

And now a poem that reminds me very much of Betty. The title is

“To Be Of Use” written by Marge Piercy

To Be Of Use

The people I love the best jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows
and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.

They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half submerged balls.

I love people who harness themselves,
an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience, who strain in the mud and the muck
to move things forward
who do what has
to be done

I want to be with people who submerge in the task, who go into the fields
to harvest and work in a row
and pass the bags along,

who stand in the line
and haul in their places
who are not parlor generals or field deserters but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in
or the fire be put out.

The work of the world is as common as mud. Botched, it smears the hands,
crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done

has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.

Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vessels that held corn, are put in museums but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person…
for work that is real.

In honor of you Betty……where love will always fill the gap. Thank you, thank you….Everyone.

A Poem by Wendell Berry

The Real Work
It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

By Wendell Berry

The storm, the ship, the anchor

















Today I was talking to a dear friend, a sister really.  We talked about keeping inner peace. We agree we need to be a ship’s anchor, at times.  When the waters rage and the sea is uneven and the ship rocks; just be the anchor.  Lodge yourself down there where the ground is still under you.  Just let that uneven sea storm and rage.  Keep your eye on the path- even if you are in water.   Keep steady -even in the midst of those near and close to you who might likely sink the ship.  Keep yourself calm and let the armies of God tend the war while you keep peace in your heart; while you make certain the devil doesn’t stowaway and try to pirate the ship and take all the goods.

While She Was Here

Betty became my friend 32 years ago; the minute I met her.  We were both in our early 30’s. We were both living in Pope Valley bringing up a family with children.

Betty was as loyal a friend as they come.

I laugh now at how Betty always said my name: Shelly.

She said my name with an exclamation point at the end of it- or two!!

She said it as though I was to come to attention; Ten-hut Shelly!

“Shelly” was said as though I was sleeping and was being called to awaken- like breakfast had been waiting a long time for me.

Betty’s tent was worn and her time had come.  The last time I saw Betty she said this to me, “Shelly!!…No one ever said we’d get out of this alive.”

Betty…!! You rest in my heart. With faith I trust you have made a camp with Jesus.

Betty had an aggressive cancerous brain tumor.  After her diagnosis she had only some weeks to live here on earth.  Her faith never wavered, not once.  She gave me courage to love each day- no matter what. She left me with a remarkable gift- love.  She left me with a chuckle – “No one ever said we’d get out of this alive!”









We Have Not Come To Take Prisoners

We have not come here to take prisoners

but to surrender ever more deeply

to freedom and joy.


We have not come into this exquisite world

to hold ourselves hostage from love.


Run my dear,

from anything

that may not strengthen

your precious budding wings.


Run like hell my dear,

from anyone likely

to put a sharp knife

into the sacred, tender vision of

your beautiful heart.


We have a duty to befriend

those aspects of obedience

that stand outside of our house

and shout to our reason

“O please…O please,

come out and play.”


For we have not come here to take prisoners

or to confine our wondrous spirits,


But to experience ever and ever more deeply

our divine courage, freedom and





A Prayer for Betty























And thank you Dear Lord for this…


glide, slide, waltz and breeze – (What seeds have you to sow?)

seedsThe antonym of “trudge” lists these words: glide, slide, waltz and breeze.

Why should we trudge on? Why should we befall to our interpretation of what appears to be division, political discord and chaos?  Why should we doubt His abilities to orchestrate our best in everything?  Isn’t our faith clearly revealed when we have reason to use it? Isn’t our love for Jesus confirmed when we put him first in our attention and in our conversations?

Please think about these questions and bare your heart toward my answer.

Please don’t talk to me about the political weather.  Please don’t confess your loyalty to a party based on lower things.  Show me that you are a Christian by loving every color of human made.  Show me how you extend His mercy and grace in fruitful ways to people in need.  Show me first that you trust God.  Show me He is in every cell of your breathing, moving, thinking, feeling body and heart.  Show me how you live in the body of Christ first and foremost and I will join my hand with yours.

If I give you repeated audience to your comments of the current politics; can I better serve my dear, dear Jesus? I don’t know how to do this.  I let slumber the things of this world that I may be kept close to His world.  Can you grasp my need right now to have His strength waltz in the breeze of the Holy Spirit within me?  Please let’s dance with him between us- let’s try.

I pray earnestly for every appointed and elected politician to do the things Jesus would consider right and true.  I pray for those who appear to be enemies of Jesus.  I don’t confess to know all of God’s enemies.  And… I can’t even be sure if they are; but if these suppress my practice of bringing forth His fruits – I pray.

I’m not ignorant of the news.  I read and research what’s going on in doses that allow my honor toward Jesus to prevail.

Please keep me from your focus on the current political happenings.  Please help me in keeping Jesus our most important and cherished elected official.

If your beliefs differ and

you can’t see eye to eye with a brother or sister on a political topic,

if you think your voice made louder and more often will sway,

isn’t this a wonderful opportunity to unite in the joy found solidly in Him-in a grip that will not tear us apart?

Thank you brothers and sisters for your consideration…