The Funeral

Shelly's Place
Memories of Shelly
Virtual Art Galley
Shelly's Life and Family
Dear Friends

Sheila Morris, Child Life Worker, University of Michigan Medical Center

Good morning, my name is Sheila Morris, and I am one of the Child Life Staff, along with Lisa Engbrecht who came to know Shelly as she came to her hospital for our care. We first met this vibrant little girl as she bounded into our playroom and sort of stood there and wondered what we had planned for today. Our role is to make this experience enjoyable for children. Become a place that they look forward to coming.

Lisa and I quickly became aware, not only from Shelly, but by the looks on her parents’ faces, that we had a challenge. That our cut and paste projects probably would not be stimulating enough for this remarkable child.

Shelly came to view the clinic as the haven, a place where she would come to gather with friends, young friends, and her older friends, a place of safety, a place of enjoyment. As she continued with her illness and did not come to the clinic as frequently, we tried to continue our relationships with her at home. And I have to tell you that Ruti and Howard welcomed us always -- everyone -- with open arms. If you had something to share with Shelly, please come, please enrich her life. In actuality, the enrichment was reversed. All of us who were involved with her certainly walk away just cherishing our moments with this child and her loving family.

What was most striking to me in this child, this very unique little girl, was the way that she took in the life around her in her world -- and then the avenues that she chose to express what she had taken in. Her art, her music, even her writing, the stories that she could tell.

I remember last fall on a beautiful autumn evening, sitting on her deck with Maia and Shelly, and we were doing some painting to pass the evening. And we were painting on sweatshirts. And at that time Shelly had lost the use of her right hand and had retrained herself to use her left hand. But the work, the painting, was very tedious. She had an idea in mind that was an idea that in actuality she had expressed to other staff previously. She painted two clouds on her shirt, one a bright, soft, yellow cloud, the other a little darker, shady, a little heavier. And from those clouds came tiny little raindrops. And into those raindrops she painted a bolt of lightening.

All this took a great deal of time and ultimately I thought that we were finished. She began to push the paints away. And then she stopped me and wanted more. Down in the corner she proceeded to paint a beautiful little umbrella, which she was determined needed to have a very shiny, glittery cap on the top. That creation was so symbolic to me. I have thought about it numerous times, and I am convinced that that umbrella, down in the little corner, with the glittery top, represented her parents, her family, those who helped her stay safe throughout this whole journey. And she just treasured that safety so.

I recently came across a poem that reminded me of Shelly and also reminded me of all that her parents had helped to shape and mold in this very beautiful child. I would like to share it with you.

Clay in the potters hands
Words from the poets soul
Tales of the great adventure
By a storyteller told

A brush in palette by an artists hand
And music that speaks
with a heart and tale
They all say a message each its own
Of all the things the soul has known

And what treasure lies in each one’s art
Is lessons learned by each one’s heart

Each of us has been enriched by Shelly’s treasures, gifts and her lessons. Her essence remains as a vibrant being and strength. Cherish her presence within you and honor always the child whose beauty and courage now resides in the viewpoint and tenderness of your heart.

To all the children who are here today: You are here because of your friendship and your love for Shelly. Each of you must know that all the tender deeds that you have done, the notes, the cards, the music tape, or maybe even your kind thoughts that no one else knows about, made such a difference, made Shelly feel happy. And for the rest of your life you will carry Shelly with you, with happy thoughts and gratitude for knowing her.

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The Funeral
Shelly's Place

Created by Ruti Volk
Last updated 7-22-99