The Funeral

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

Susie Weber, Nurse, University of Michigan Medical Center

My name is Susie Weber and I first met Shelly in early spring of this year. She was an artist, creating masterpiece upon masterpiece. And I --- I painted small brown circles on a certain spot on her chest, in preparation for chemotherapy. I was one of her nurses. And my small brown circles paled greatly in comparison to her ability and her expression.

There’s a story told by a dear friend of mine, which I have retold many a bedtime evening to my 5 year old son. About a month or so ago though, after 101 tellings of this very tale to my son, all of a sudden I heard a different story within that story. And it became, to me, a story of Shelly Volk.

The story is about an earthworm named Herman who one day ventures above ground against his Grandfather’s warning. Now Herman loved his home and was most happy making tunnels in the cool, crumbly earth. He loved all that activity that happened underground and he would say along with his Grandfather “This place has got the buzz of life.”

And yet his curiosity sent him beyond those comforts of home, beyond what was familiar. And he went above ground, and he met a caterpillar named Marguerite. And they became friends. They discovered some differences between them, yet their friendship continued to unfold. They also discovered a lonely orchard, without sounds, without bees and without apples.

One day Herman was feeling rather despondent about being a worm in comparison to his friend the caterpillar. He complained to his Grandfather by saying “I’m just a dumb old worm. We don’t have eyes. We don’t have feet. Worms can’t do anything.”

Grandfather said “Herman, what do you do all day?”

“Make tunnels” Herman mumbled.

Grandfather answered, “That’s right Herman, you make tunnels. And nothing grows without our help. All these roots down here are bottoms of tops that need air and water to grow. Everyone has a gift Herman. And we use our gifts. And when we use them well, everything hums.”

Grandfather taught Herman a song. I won’t actually sing it to you. I’ll just say some of the words in this song. And some of the words go “What we do down here, Herman, how we worm and how we squirm, how we wiggle and how we squiggle, lets them live up there.”

And so the friendship between Herman and Marguerite continued to evolve, and wonderful things happened. They learned how to help each other and they learned to believe in themselves. In the end, they brought life to the lonely orchard, by involving frogs and deer and bees and rabbits and dragonflies. And its written, “The orchard lifted its limbs, opened its blossoms, and danced in the breeze.”

It was Grandfather who below felt the roots of an apple tree and so he came above ground to witness all that activity and he exclaimed, “Herman, this place has got the buzz of life on it!”

The buzz of life, that’s what Shelly gave. That’s what Shelly gave. From the depths of a world so changed for her and seemingly full of limitations, this young girl showed us the meaning of the buzz of life.

Adjustments and transitions were made with that same buzz of life. For instance having her hair styled. Her remaining hair, that is, after chemotherapy caused that hair to thin and fall away. Using a laptop computer to communicate when her speech began to deteriorate. Using her left hand to pick up where her right hand left off. From immobility to use that pencil and that paintbrush to express herself. Delving into the enjoyment of a chocolate hoho, with determined hand mouth coordination. Watching me enjoy a bowl of chicken soup with shkedim and laughing with only part of her face as I looked up at her and said, “Shelly, we’re shkedim sisters now.” And so we toasted to life which shkedim.

The buzz of life always on her face. Several changes continued to redefine t

he routine within the Volk household. And yet the buzz of life existed there within the confines of their home as well as beyond their front door.

At Halloween she couldn’t say the words “Trick or Treat.” But she was the most alive bunny I have ever seen. Being in a wheelchair, unable to move, unable to release that expressive spirit, unable to eat.

Yet she gave to her family the buzz of life. When she could nod her head, when she could blink communication with her eyes, when she would stay awake to listen to stories and music on tape. And her family, with open hearts, welcomed and encouraged that very buzz of life that showed itself in very small and simple ways.

Shelly’s Mother and Father, Ruti and Howard, with devotion ever so deep and so true, entrusted to their daughter the freedom to live the buzz of life. No matter in what shape or form, they entrusted to her that freedom.

For me it has been both a joy and a privilege to share life with Shelly. For her parents, I feel tremendous admiration and respect. And forever, I will have gratitude for being reminded about the true meaning of the buzz of life. Thank you.

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The Funeral
Shelly's Place

Created by Ruti Volk
Last updated 7-22-99