Every now and again something happens that causes a reflection on life – its purpose, meaning and impact on others. Such was the occasion yesterday afternoon.
The sanctuary at Van Dyke UMC was nearly full and it is a large sanctuary. We had gathered to celebrate the life of Cheryl Skipper Smith – beloved, mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, friend, teacher, Gator fan, and a dynamic Christian – who entered into life immortal on Saturday. She was only 48 years old. Cheryl was only 4 feet 11¾ inches tall, but powerful in personality, faith and impact.
Besides the unusually gifted pastor of the church, Matthew Hartsfield – he’s been the pastor of this dynamic church for 17 years – the others who spoke were a representative from the elementary school where she had taught, her twin brother, and her three beautiful children (two sons and one daughter). It shouldn’t have come as a surprise to anyone how articulate they each were, from the youngest son who is in elementary school to the oldest daughter who is away at college, since Cheryl was recognized by GROUP magazine as a Ministry Writer of the Year at one time, but we were. Each gave a testimony to their love for their mom and the assurance that even in death their relationship with her will continue until the time comes for them to be reunited in eternity.
One of the Christian thoughts that were shared was what Cheryl would shout down from upstairs every day as they headed off to school from kindergarten on – “Remember the Armor of God … remember the Armor of God!” It was a direct reference to Ephesians 6:10-18 – “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’ schemes …” (NIV) or, the translation from THE MESSAGE which reads this way: “Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet …” What a tremendous impact in such a simple, daily reminder!
The sanctuary was nearly full in part because of her age, in part because there were children involved, in part because of her profession, in part because of her involvement in her community … but was there something more? As I got into my car to drive home, I turned off the radio and contemplated on life – both from the perspective of impact and legacy.
Cheryl’s life will long be remembered and will continue to influence everyone who comes in contact with her husband Don and/or anyone of her children. The influence will continue not because of the number of children she taught in school – where she cared more for the student than the subject matter – nor because of the various activities that demanded her time and energy willingly given with enthusiasm, nor because of her beautiful spirit and smile, nor because of her family. The influence … and her legacy … will continue because Cheryl followed her own advice … she put on the full armor of God each day and won the battle of life! Amen and Amen!
Quote for today: “Let us endeavor so to live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” Mark Twain