Cheryl, a Woman of Faith

by her husband, Joe Morgan

Cheryl's familySome of Cheryl’s favorite things include:

Dancing
Tea’s
Musicals
Reading

Museums
Holding hands
Teacher stare
Organizing parties & planning a trip

Her favorite song is that wonderful hymn:  Great Is Thy Faithfulness.  I’d like to go through this song and add comments as they apply to Cheryl.  After that I’ll offer some “Thank you’s” from both Cheryl and myself. 

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Some of you have commented on Cheryl’s faith, how patient and trusting she was throughout our difficult times. As a mom, she sacrificially gave, gave, and gave some more.   I also think about how consistent and  wonderful a wife she’s been.  I’ve had the privilege and joy of being her husband for over 28 years. 
Having said all this, though, it somewhat misses the point of the hymn because Cheryl’s faith only makes sense as it is directed to someone who is faithful. 
Cheryl grew up often going to church where it was mostly only a social gathering.  She likes to describe how once they let a youth minister in who accidentally shared the gospel and how she said to herself, “Oh, so that’s it?!”  Later, Cheryl struggled over how a good God can take part in such a messed up world.  After all, doesn’t that make God at fault?  I remember her telling about someone who argued with her that God ordains everything, even bad things.  As a teen, she couldn’t swallow words like predestination or divine sovereignty.  This friend then told her to read the NT letter to the Romans and she was shocked to see those ideas coupled with a God who lovingly self-sacrificial.

Especially these past three years, Cheryl’s faith and faithfulness was based on a confidence in this loving, wise, and in control God.  She suffered a lot.  We actively fought this terrible disease.  She hung in there with great patience and even gratefulness. 
I’ve shared with some of you that we have been thankful for this damn cancer.  Is this a contradiction?  Cancer is bad, cruel, and merciless.  Yet Cheryl reminds us today that God is over even something as wicked as cancer and will make good of something as bad as cancer.  To say this would be crazy and maybe even disrespectful of those suffering if she didn’t have confidence in an utterly faithful God who’s faithfulness is new and fresh every morning.  There are many shocking things in the Bible, but perhaps the most shocking is the thought that God is so trustworthy that Cheryl could completely commit her heart, mind, and body to Him.  Maybe this is part of what Shepherd and King David was thinking when he said, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.”

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.

In all seasons, Cheryl was kind.  You know this.  You’ve seen her in the classroom, in choir, at home.  She’s always looking to care, to contribute, to console or encourage.  Some of you helped me to see that one reason for the timing of all this may have to do with Cheryl being spared from noticing our own grief.  If she were to see it, she would feel responsible to take it away.  This song comes from her favorite verse, Lam  3:22, 23 

The LORD’S lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,     For His compassions never fail.
    
They are new every morning;     Great is Your faithfulness.

Ironically, this grateful, praiseful poetry was written by the “weeping prophet”, Jeremiah, who’s life was full of strife and conflict.  Yet, he was faithful with what God gave him to do and in the midst of it could say, “Great is Thy faithfulness.”
All nature reminds us of this.  How Cheryl and I love the ocean, the mountains, the flowers, even Cheryl’s big banana tree slugs.

Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!

Cheryl was also a sinner.  She struggled with some things yet was truly forgiven.  While she sometimes wondered how and if God might actually love her, she was loved and nurtured in faith by her Heavenly Father.  I find it ironic too, that a while back she often wondered if she really had friends.  You know this isn’t true, and I think the last few years she did too.  Thank you God, for this damn cancer, for despite it, so much love has flowed through and around Cheryl’s life.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

I imagine Cheryl having a conversation with God as is expressed in the following old poem by George Herbert.  In it, we see a bashful and shy Cheryl not believing she is welcomed to Love (aka God), but God reminds her of all her debts being taken care of and beckons her to come.


LOVE (III)
by George Herbert

(C) Love bade me welcome, yet my soul drew back,
        Guilty of dust and sin.
But quick-ey'd Love, observing me grow slack
        From my first entrance in,
Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning
        If I lack'd anything.

(C) "A guest," I answer'd, "worthy to be here";
        Love said, "You shall be she."
(C) "I, the unkind, the ungrateful? ah my dear,
        I cannot look on thee."
Love took my hand and smiling did reply,
        "Who made the eyes but I?"

(C) "Truth, Lord, but I have marr'd them; let my shame
        Go where it doth deserve."
(G)"And know you not," says Love, "who bore the blame?"
       (C)  "My dear, then I will serve."
"You must sit down," says Love, "and taste my meat."
        So I did sit and eat.

Words of Thanks

I have many thank yous and if you knew Cheryl, you knew she was very big on Thank you notes.  So here are some of the notes she has helped me write.

VPS folks:  she loved working with you.  She knew your work to be truly significant.  She loved teaching kids,  particularly those who needed extra help, and she loved collaborating with you.  Thank you VPS folks for being such a big part of her life.

VPC & FCC folks:  you know we could have easily had this service at VP, the same place we were married.   Isn’t wonderful how natural and normal it feels to join more than two congregations together.  You know our hearts are knit together.  You know the choir still sings in Cheryl’s heart.   Thank you for teaching us so much about worship and service.

Nurses, Doctors, & Medical Staff.  We trusted you to tell us what we needed to know when we needed to know it.  Thank you for being so trustworthy.  You cared for us personally, practically, and even winsomely.  You truly ministered to Cheryl’s body as well as all of our spirits.  Thank you.

Guardian Angels & Friends:  The care pages say so much of the love and support we’ve been receiving.  I can’t imagine going through serious things without such family, community, and friends.  Thank you.

Sarah and Allison.  You will miss a good listener.  You will miss her advice and example.  Yet you are already in so many ways like that wonderful gal I fell in love with up at UCSB.  You are quick to volunteer and feel such a strong sense of duty and loyalty.  You organize, you learn, and you are already becoming godly women who enjoy just helping.  Your heritage is strong, faithful, and kind.  You are strong, faithful and kind.  Cheryl is so glad to be your mom.  I’m so glad to be your dad.

Mike and Gerry.  Your daughter lived with humility and kindness, traits you both instilled.  Know that she died in peace, not bitter or resentful.  Know that she is truly thankful for your being excellent parents.  Also know that while all of us are so sorry you’ve had to watch your wonderful daughter die in such a difficult way, she wants you and all of us to know that God is good and so very worth following.  She and I,  Sarah and Allison, are so grateful that you continue to be here for us as we are for you.  Thank you.