This past week I attended the funeral of co-worker and good friend, Sheri Robinson. For the past three years Sheri had been battling cancer first of the breast and then the liver. Like any good “homegoing service” (a common term for funerals in the African-American Church), Sheri’s service was much more a tribute to her life than a mourning of her death.
While she was only 48, Sheri had lived a full and vibrant life. I met her about 11 or 12 years ago, when we hired her to join the faculty of Eastern University’s Degree Completion Program (a program designed to enable working adults to earn their college degrees). At the time of her hiring we were concerned about her stamina because she had already had one bout with cancer and many other medical issues, not to mention lupus, a disease that attacks your immune system. Over the years I knew her Sheri had battled various other health problems, even before this last battle with cancer. Given all the health challenges she had to face, it was a miracle she lived as long as she did. No, I take that back, it was a testament to the vibrancy of her living.
Sheri was a woman full of life and power. She was an intelligent woman with three degrees in HR, Marketing and Law. She loved students, and fought valiantly on their behalf. She always had a smile and a laugh, but behind that smile was a passion for justice, a concern for excellence and a deep love of people. Moreover, as was so beautifully brought out at her service, she gained strength and hope through her deep faith in and love for God. In addition to all her school and community involvements, Sheri was a leader in her church, both in her actions and in the quality of her faith.
That is why the preacher of the day chose to entitle his eulogy “Good to the Last Drop.” He based his remarks on Philippians 2.17, where Paul characterized his life this way: “I am being poured like a drink offering on the sacrifice.” This refers to the Old Testament passages that describe the drink offering of lambs’ blood poured out over a fire in the Temple, which then created a savory aroma up to God. He said that Sheri had poured out her life on behalf of others and of God, and that she had left nothing behind. She was “good to the last drop.” I agree – she was a woman who gave her all right to the end.
Funeral services often cause us to reflect on the nature of our lives. We ask ourselves: What will they say at my final service? Who will show up? More importantly what kind of legacy will I leave behind? Psychologist James Hollis says that the reality of death actually gives us the urgency to find meaning in the days and years we have. I think that is true. What is really important? What relationships do I need to nurture? What work do I have to do? What values and passions will fuel my living? Like most people I want my life to count for something. Like Sheri I want to be “good to the last drop.”
I said goodbye this week to a good friend, a great woman, a person of deep faith, and quality person. I was also reminded that this life we have is a gift from God, which in turn must be offered as a gift to others and the One who created us.
Sounds like a great woman. I've been thinking about the same sort of thing, as my husband's aunt is dying of cancer. What has my life meant? Am I doing what I "should" be doing as an instrument of God? Intuitively, I know there's more I could be doing–and maybe even a career move–but??? I'd love to read any other thoughts you have on that subject!
Sheri was a wonderful human being and I enjoyed working with her at Eastern. I remember when I first started she sent me an email. At the bottom she said, “you’re doing a great job and your learning curve has been fast.” It meant so much to me that I printed and saved it (I still have it). I never thought of myself as a fast learner and her opinion meant something to me. It’s something I always thought about when I saw her. She was always nice to me. I remember she had a great love of Jesus and wasn’t shy about expressing it. I came from a conservative background, so at first I was kind of shocked by all of her “Amens,” but I could tell it was genuine and she made it seem safe to express what was in the heart. She led our Bible group once and picked a book about grace. The Sheri I knew would’ve had faith in God’s plan for her life and would have lived every moment, even the ones filled with trial, with grace.
Dr. Boyd, This is a beautiful blog. Sheri is a great woman and she will be missed so much. It all seems so unreal to me. She is one of the woman I strive to be more like. To go through all that she did and still smile everyday is a battle I am not sure I could withstand. Her and Joanne are two beautiful, amazing women that touched my life in ways I am sure they don't even know about. I will always look back on the days we shared in "Justice in a Pluralistic Society" and smile. God lived in her and she continues to live through us.
Thank you for writing about our dear friend Sheri. I received e-mails from JR about Sheri during her illness – unfortnately, I was away during Sheri's funeral. Your blog helped me to reflect on my frienship as a co-worker with Sheri – we worked together on many projects at Eastern University. I will always remember Sheri's laughter and her optimism. She never gave in to the hopelessness that sometimes face us in the midst of adversity. Sheri and I loved teaching. We shared a common determination to help our students strive for excellence.
I appreciate JR's ability to consistently connect to let us know she is o.k.