Friday, July 31, 2009

Service by Example

This week started out in a very hot church in Campbell, where I attended the memorial service for a relative. Carol Shortt had spent half of her seventy-one years battling the dreaded autoimmune disease lupus. An added benefit of attending the service was to experience her persona when she was healthy and whole. Carol had a loving and supportive husband who was determined to provide a decent quality of life for his beloved. Even when her body was nearly crippled, he helped maintain her desire to serve in the community by regularly driving her to a nearby nursing home to play the piano for the residents there. He said that even when her hands could no longer play all of the notes, Carol would sit and the keyboard and try to keep the melody. I’m sure the residents at the care facility did not care that the music was imperfect, just that she was still there as always, giving what she had to offer.

I was invited to share in the life celebration of another South Bay stalwart yesterday, an even larger gathering to honor Lynne Shawhan, who died at age 53 after a two-year battle with breast cancer. I did not personally know Lynne, but she is a member of my close friend’s family. I was moved by the depth of sorrow for the loss of this woman in so many lives she touched. Her gift was friendship.

Each of the joyful eulogists maintained that indeed she was Lynne’s best friend. I was told that she came to know all the parents of her children’s friends by first talking to them in the bleachers at their high school sporting events. From the powerful impressions at her service, I perceive Lynne Shawhan was someone who never took herself too seriously and always had time to strike up a conversation with anyone in her midst. How often do we selectively pick and choose who we will open ourselves up to, who we will allow into our lives? Lynne had no fear of the human race, she took it all in, seeing the good in others.

Now toward the end of the week I reflect on my own attitudes and tendencies to become overwhelmed and stressed out, with these two great ladies having touched my soul. I feel privileged to have been given a glimpse of what is truly important, once again. As Mom observed on the way home from Carol’s service, "No mention has ever been made about all the material goods a person has left behind—only the impressions they have left." Sometimes we don’t do enough to reach out, and other times we may do too much. Carol and Lynne seemed to have found the balance where true happiness lies, neither of them complaining about the hands they were dealt. I’m reminded that what we give is the way we will be remembered, not by what we've accumulated. It’s not what we have or what we do that matters most; but what we do with it, how we do it, and for whom that really counts.


She volunteered her time to her church and Convalescent Hospital Ministry for the last 18 years coordinating religious music programs. In lieu of flowers, the family request donations be made in Carol's name to Convalescent Hospital Ministry 65 W. Rincon Ave. Campbell, CA 95008. (


During her illness, she endured many ups and downs, but through it all maintained her incredible sense of humor. Even when in pain, Lynne was more concerned with the happiness of those she loved. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation in Lynne's name. (

No comments: