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.

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!”