Category Archives: Mom

Mom’s Eulogy

The day my mother died, I was handed her Bible. The same study Bible she had used for 30 years or so.  Before the memorial service, I spent a week going through it, looking at my mother’s notes, handwriting, questions, and answers. I found a lot of smiles there. I also found a lot to think about. My mother could be quite perceptive when it came to spiritual study.

But when it came time to write her eulogy, I spent five days at a loss. I was attending Hedda Gabler performances, but once the show would start, I’d sneak upstairs to a table and attempt to make some notes. But to no avail.

It was the day before, when I took a day off of work, that I looked at her Bible and thought, “Well, I’ll start there.”

And this is what I came up with:

Mom’s Eulogy

NEW Testament

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!  Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.  Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:4-7

If I could say anything about my mother’s ultimate goal in life, it would live in that phrase. “The peace of God.” I believe she pursued it her whole life, not only for herself but she also actively prayed for it for others.

This is my mother’s Bible. It is the Life Application Bible (New International Version) and she bought it in 1989 when it was first published. It is a little bit amazing that this Bible has survived intact. Once, in about 1992, she was headed to church, and after loading some things into the trunk of her car (probably the orange rolls she was famous for making), getting into the driver’s seat and heading from Visalia (where we lived) to Dinuba Nazarene, she arrived to find that she had lost her Bible. Which was impossible because she knew she had taken it out of the house. But it was not in the car. She was devastated because she had been making notes in it for three years. When we returned to Visalia, in a last-ditch effort to find the Bible, we drove the route from our house to the edge of town. And on Court Street, at the overpass crossing Highway 198, there in the gutter, was this Bible in this cover, intact.  She had placed it on the back bumper, forgotten it, and somehow it made it a mile down the road before falling off.

This is actually a pretty typical “Marsha Maneuver.”

Since that time, this Bible was never very far from her.

It is filled with notes, quotes from sermons, her own thoughts and questions on passage after passage.  In the past week or so, I’ve gone through nearly every page of it, and found there a remarkable footprint of my mother’s spiritual life, as well as many references to her life as a mother, as wife, as a friend, as a Christian. I’ll place the Bible in the fellowship hall afterward, if you’d like to look for yourself. It is like a time-capsule to her inner world. I’d like to share for you a few of the features:

Inside the front cover is a mini-post-it note, probably put there about 1992 . It says “Prayers – Heather, Matt, Church, Uncle Ed, Janet. (Janet was her cousin.)  For some reason, she never removed that post-it, even though Uncle Ed and Janet passed away in the 90s.

The front pages have thoughts on a variety of topics, including “On Letting Go or Releasing. . .”  “Evangelism” . . . “Forgiveness”. . . and “Growing in Wisdom”.  

She has marked the passages for The Beatitudes and the Fruits of the Spirit. And she has a quote from St. Augustine: “There is no burden too heavy for the loving heart.”

And my mother knew about burdens. Her life wasn’t the smoothest of rides. She suffered personal heartbreak many times and endured continual pain and physical suffering since the 1990s. But she would always try to release her burdens in prayer and in studying scripture to find insight. And then she would focus on others. Because she also knew about having a loving heart.

She was an extrovert by nature. The woman never knew a stranger and could talk the ear off a fence post. But she had the knack of drawing people out, mostly because she was truly interested in them. She wanted to hear their stories and their troubles. She was open about her feelings, but tried hard to empathize with others. Even if she didn’t like them much. She was a natural in the nursing profession.

Inside her Bible – mostly in the New Testament – there are pivotal passages she’d go back to again and again with her thoughts:

  • In Matthew 7’s admonishment towards harsh criticism and judgement, she has written the thought, “One of the easiest ways to cover our sins is to judge others for theirs.”
  • At  John 14:23 when Jesus speaks of the Lord making a home for those who journey to him, she writes, “Who could mind the journey when the road leads home?”
  • At Acts 20:35’s “It is more blessed to give than to receive” she writes: “Unhappiness is found in a mirror. Happiness is found in a window.”
  • And in Romans 5, she writes “A perceiving faith is one that finds hope in hopelessness.”

(My friends are now starting to realize where I get my knack for pithy epigrams!)

Copy of File_000Over and over again, she writes about discernment, perception, faith, love, acceptance, hope, and having a giving spirit. Anyone who knew my mother knew that she was all of those things and much, much more.

It wasn’t that she was never critical, judgmental, or lacked self-control. She certainly failed from time to time. But she actively practiced joy, peace, patience, love, kindness, generosity, faithfulness and gentleness with each of us. Because practice may not always make perfect, but it sure helps a lot!

My mother poured these things into her relationships. I know that I was, and will continue to be, a recipient of these gifts from her. Through her unyielding and unconditional love and acceptance, I have learned how to pursue my own peace, and practice my own fruits of the spirit – even though I have yet to perfect any of them.

Through her, I also learned to find meaning in profound texts, to serve others through performance, and to always, always seek insight.  She also allowed me to laugh out loud, to argue my case, and to go my own way.

Because she also said, “I raised my children to fly, not to huddle in the nest.”

My mother held on in this life a long, long time, considering her catastrophic illness. But she was a blessing to those who encountered her. She also spent her whole life learning to be at peace with what life brought her, and to find new hope in every day given to her.

I can only hope I follow her example.



Mom’s Memorial Program

On July 18, 2017, my mother Marsha died. I got to see her the night before before she passed, although she was barely responsive.

At the time I was exactly halfway through rehearsals for a production of “Hedda Gabler”, but we were on a short rehearsal break for a few days. Mom’s timing was often extremely good.

A month later, we held a memorial service at her church. The folks at Dinuba Christian were wonderful and so supportive.


The program copy from the service:

Program of Service:

In Loving Memory

Marsha Lynn Parish Kelly

November 14, 1949 – July 18, 2017

Dinuba Christian Church

355 E Saginaw, Dinuba, CA

Pastor Jim Susee, Officiating


On Tuesday, July 18, 2017, Marsha Parish Kelly passed away at the age of 67 at her home in Dinuba after a long illness.

Marsha was the daughter of Howard and LaVerne Smith of Dinuba and step-daughter of Don Freet. She graduated from Dinuba High School (’67) and earned nursing degrees from College of the Sequoias and Pacific Union College. A practicing nurse at Kaweah Delta Hospital for her entire career, Marsha was one of the first nurses to work in the heart and vascular center in Visalia. Marsha will be remembered for her love of nursing, her beautiful singing, her contagious laugh and her deep faith.

Marsha will be lovingly remembered by her husband Larry Kelly, son Matthew Parish and wife Virginia, daughter Heather Parish and husband Jaguar Bennett, brother and sister-in-law Greg and Renella Smith, nephew and niece Tim and Leeanna Smith, and many family and friends.

Program of Service

Musical Prelude : “Fly Like a Bird” by Robert Kochis

Opening Words of Grace: Pastor Jim Susee


Obituary and Pastor’s Reflection: Pastor Jim Susee

Special Tribute and Song: Larry Kelly, Marsha’s husband

Eulogy: Gregory Smith, Marsha’s brother

Scripture Reading: Heather Parish, Marsha’s daughter
Old Testament: Psalm 46:1-3
New Testament: Philippians 4:4-7

Eulogy: Heather Parish

Reflections from family and friends (2 minutes, please)

Musical Interlude: “It is Well With My Soul,” sung by Sandi Patty

Prayer and Benediction: Pastor Jim Susee


 A few of Marsha’s favorite Bible verses

Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
Matthew 7:20

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
Galatians 5:22-23

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful,  for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Matthew 5:3-10

Jesus replied, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.”
John 14-23

It is more blessed to give than to receive.
Acts 20:35

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.  And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Romans 5:3-5


Favorite hymns:

I will Enter His Gates (He has made me glad), written by Leona Von Brethorst (1976)

It is Well with My Soul, written by Horatio Gates Spafford (1873)


Prayer mantra: “In His peace, I release.”