A Hymn to Shirley

A client of ours, a member of The Chris Jones Group, died last week. Her name was Shirley Auxier. We helped her buy a house for herself and half a dozen of her children and children’s friends a couple of years ago. It’s hard to imagine a woman more completely dedicated to the wellbeing of her children than Shirley, and it was a joy to work with her.

I went to the funeral Monday, after seeing her obituary in the paper the day before. It was a grey day, and rainy, and perhaps that had something to do with the small number of people that came, but there might be more to it than that. Probably, outside of immediate family, there were 35 people in the hall. Thirty-five people to say goodbye to a woman that, as her son put it, “is so good that if she is not in Heaven, the rest of us are never going to get there.”

What can I say about such things? I have relatively little acquaintance with death. All my brothers and sisters are still living, and both my parents, all of my children and all but three of my first cousins, of which there are a plenitude. I have no idea what kind of funeral attendance any of us would have, yet it still seemed a shame to me that more people weren’t there. This was a good woman and her life will be celebrated for generations. She was, I have no doubt, welcomed with open arms On High. But what she did was not flashy and not well-known. Maybe that’s it.

We mailed out the Potty Post today (God bless the Empress!), and my lead article is about this very thing, coincidentally, about doing the best job you can in the place you are. Blooming where you are planted, that sort of thing. Except that there’s more to it than that. Most blooming is done in meadows nobody but God ever sees. Most heroes are people nobody ever knows about. The world is made to run mostly by people like my wife that labor behind the scenes and make possible all the chairmanships and presidencies and all the other stuff I get to do. Without her, I would have nothing and be nothing worth mentioning – not simply because I would now be a warped, frustrated old man watching life go by, and she has made something better out of me – but because she is the framework that my life rests on. Muscles move because there’s a skeleton for them to pull on, but nobody notices the skeleton until it breaks.

It’s very, very hard to be satisfied with that. Once in a while, Jeanette isn’t. I can’t help wondering if Shirley was.

She should have been. If God looketh on the heart, and I believe He does, then he will have seen there a flower more beautiful than any but her children – and possibly not even they – have ever seen. I do not think that Shirley could see it, either, and probably she’d have been very embarrassed that I’m saying this, but when I say that most good work is done where no one sees, I mean no one, not even the person doing the deed itself. The noblest of actions are taken by those who aren’t paying attention to their nobility at all, and who, if you asked them how they could do such a grand thing, would be surprised at the question and have no idea what you’re talking about. Shirley shared her house and her money and her entire life, everything she did, with a few dozen people that needed her to be something phenomenal. For them, she was. And if you ask her, when you see her next, how she could devote herself so entirely to the health and wellness of everyone but herself, she will be mystified at how you could ask such a thing. How could she not? She went, from all appearances, wholly unconvinced that she’d done enough, sure that all she did was the best she could, and what anyone else would have done in her place.

No, Shirley, they wouldn’t have. But you did. And a little more of the color of the world went with you when you left.

We’ll miss you.

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