January 23, 2013
As each of us looks back over our life, there are people who rise up in our minds as having extraordinary influence on us, whether they know it or not. For me, one of those women is my Aunt Marti. She died this month, yet as I’ve written before, the way she lived spoke volumes about her character. At funeral services honoring her life, the minister beautifully referenced the Old Testament story of Elijah and Elisha, and confirmed that the greatest gift we could ask the Lord for in relation to Marti is for a Double Portion of her Spirit. She. Was. Incredible.
I delivered the eulogy for Marti on behalf of the Siegrist family…quite a task to represent the memories of 12 siblings and their families. I tried to honor her as best I could with the following…
Siegrist Family Tribute to Marti Rill
It is my honor and privilege to pay tribute to my Aunt Marti — my mother Joanne’s sister — on behalf of the Siegrist family. When you come from such a large clan, there are hundreds of memories that bubble up, especially of someone as beloved as Marti. We can’t do them all justice here, but there are themes that emerge from our memories of Marti…
The first is of Marti, the Intellectual
- Perhaps known earliest as a bookworm — even as a young girl, Marti was the attentive scholar, the daughter with glasses. She was the math geek early on, studious well beyond her siblings, with a desire for learning that lasted her whole life.
- From the moment she first wanted to teach, Marti did what it took to pursue a degree. And sure enough, she ended up teaching Math at Carlisle High School for 36 years, where her impact was felt every day by overachieving and lazy highschoolers alike.
- My brother Tim remembers how proud Marti was when he pursued a High School teaching career in Math. Marti mentored him, connected him with others, and gave him invaluable career advice.
- Of course, it is only fitting that it was in graduate school at Shippensburg University, among all the Computer Science elite, where Marti met the love of her life and her soulmate, Morris.
- Together, they not only geeked out, but they pursued a sort of renaissance life that fed that love of learning she’s always had — she continued to teach for quite some time, and they even farmed together. Who can forget all those chicken houses?! (And she never complained!)
- And when it came to art and culture, architecture, and design, Marti and Morris always had an interesting project on which they were working or had a trip story to share. Together, they truly lived life to the fullest.
- Morris, this Siegrist family is so grateful to you for taking such loving care of Marti. It is a powerful example to all of us.
Next, we remember Marti the Determined Trailblazer
- In thinking broadly about Marti’s life, we can’t ignore the trends she set and the way she, as a single woman in the 70s,unabashadly followed her dreams.
- Early on for Marti, career options were narrow and the road to college was not easy; however, it was SHE who broke the mold in the family, showing tremendous guts and determination just to get to college.
- She is the reason that Mary was both brave and able enough to do likewise. And Larry said it was Marti’s example and encouragement that gave him the confidence to attend college.
- Marti was a modern single woman. She wasn’t afraid to travel far from Pennsylvania. When she decided to study in Honolulu, Hawaii for a year on her own, brothers Clair and Larry, and nephew Jeff happily visited her. While Marti hit the books, the boys thoroughly enjoyed Hawaiian afternoons, hangin’ with the Sumo Wrestler on Waikiki Beach.
- And when she returned East with pounds of macadamia nuts and Hawaiian coffee, Marti was hands down the coolest person in the whole family.
- Today, her adventurous spirit — even her early missionary work – is embodied in so many of the next generation “Siegrist kids” – Jolene… Michael… Hannah… Heidi… Melanie.. who have been unafraid to travel the world, living lives for Jesus.
- As we think about Marti’s single life, a few things always make us smile.. Her funky attic apartment with the swinging chair and Billy Joel playing on the radio.
- And that sassy little white Toyota Celica… One of our most vivid memories of that car is of when Marti forgot to apply the emergency break on Les and Joanne’s VERY steep driveway. As she joyfully walked into the house, everyone saw that behind her, the car was picking up steam, rolling backwards down the driveway! We all panicked. And Joanne, in her take charge sort of fashion yelled “Les, get it!” Miraculously, there was ultimately NO hard done to any human — or Toyota — in that crazy escapade.
- These are little memories, little snippets, but we treasure them as we think of her.
- Even as she was on the vanguard in so many ways, Marti was never a rebel. She just had a distinct determination and independence — fueled by passion and talents. Marti’s abiding faith covered everything she did.
- And even when she assumed the role of a wife and mother, marrying another strong willed individual, Marti showed us how to gracefully balance many heavy loads, even how to choose her battles wisely. She ALWAYS chose wisely.
Finally…. We remember Marti as Kind, Thankful and Full of Grace
- Perhaps what comes to mind most when we think of Marti is her genuine kindness.
- There is a reason everyone speaks so highly of Marti — she always selflessly showed interest in others. Genuine interest. As a true left AND right brained person, she could move gracefully from holding all the babies to EVEN talking code and computer languages with my husband Rob. She had it ALL covered.
- As recently as last week, Marti held tightly to Jon and Kari’s baby Gwyneth for nearly 45 minutes, peacefully enjoying this new beautiful life. Although she didn’t say much, she whispered to them, “I wonder if Mim knows that I’m holding her granddaughter.”
- When Janet also became sick this year, she and Marti cared beautifully for each other.
- Gene, also struggling with his own illness, took special encouragement from Marti’s bravery and grace.
- As Irv and Lucy both noted, from the beginning of her diagnosis and ever since, Marti spoke of her dependence on God AND her thankfulness to God for each day He had given her.
- This past summer, shortly after she and Morris had much of the Siegrist family to their river house, I called to thank her. Of course, she was preparing to host guests yet again. Hosting, giving… even though that same week, the doctor brought the sobering news that call to Hospice might soon be a good idea.
- She shared with me that that the whole situation seems very surreal at times.. simultaneously planning your death…and remodeling your house…one day feeling strong… the next day unable to keep anything down.
- Yet as I heard from the entire family, Marti always thanked God for the life he gave her. It didn’t take her long to move from asking God “why me?” to — amazingly — “Why not me?”
- Somewhere during Marti’s illness she gave the devotional book “Jesus Calling” to each of her sisters and wrote a little note in the front. The book’s single emphasis is on listening to Jesus and trusting his words to us.
- The book particularly lifted Mary’s faith after her mother-in-law Betty’s passing.
- And the impact has even moved beyond the “in-laws.” Carole has passed the book along to her family and close friends.
- And Don, who picked up the book one day out of curiosity, found the signature verse of that day to be the very one to which Mim clung during her illness a decade ago. The verse: Phillippians 4:6-7
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in all things, 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.”
So, now, it’s our turn. We — her family, all of us – honor Marti best when we learn from her example AND apply it to our own lives. Fully Trusting God and his faithfulness. Embracing each day as a gift. Walking with Jesus…Gracefully. Beautifully. Unashamed.
We love you Aunt Marti. And we cannot wait to see you again.
May 27, 2012
My Aunt Marti — facing down a progressive cancer in her abdomen — has nearly all the arrangements made for her memorial service. When I called her yesterday to thank her for having all her siblings/nieces/nephews to her and Uncle Morris’s river house, she was preparing to host guests yet again. Always the hostest…even after this week’s doctor visit brought the sobering news that a Hospice call might soon be a good idea.
She shared that the whole situation seems very surreal at times.. simultaneously planning your death…remodeling your house…one day feeling strong… the next day unable to keep anything down.
The truth, of course, is that none of us knows how long we are on this earth. Yet, we more regularly live as if it’s forever, making the here-and-now plans, investing in today, never talking about eternity even if we believe in one.
Not Marti. She knows her Lord and he’s holding her hand along this journey. She told me yesterday that although at the beginning of her illness she asked why, she now finds treasures and new wonder in each day she’s been given. She is faith personified.
The book I’m reading now, by one of my favorite theologians ever – Carolyn Custis James — takes on the issue of God’s sovereign will and our response to it…knowing He’s there and trusting Him even when the uber plan is utterly unrecognizable. Aunt Marti is walking this path now. Gracefully. Beautifully. Unashamed.
September 6, 2009
Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about jeans….and genes… Jeans because we are on the verge of Fall and I realized 1) I really need to shed about 20 pounds to rightfully wear my Levis skinny jeans in public, and 2) my SevenforAllMankind Good Butt Jeans are the only pair I have… I am rightfully due for a shopping spree.
However, the more important genes on my mind recently have been those that I’ve inherited. My mother’s brush (still going on) with Cancer and my Grandma Good’s suffering from Alzheimer’s has brought a few realities of genetics (and dare I say, mortality) very close to home.
There may be a discoverable genetic predisposition to cancer on the Siegrist side of the House. As Mom’s doctors close in on a diagnosis after the last (non Ovarian cancer) weeks of uncertainty, we can take the next steps for her health. We’ll then look at the potential benefits we could find (as a family) in genetic counseling. As part of that, I want my Dad, my brother and me to explore the chances that each of us is in line for Alzheimers. The emerging research here gives us reason for hope….
It’s only due to the incredible work taking place in genomics today that we’re now getting closer to a place of actually knowing — and in my mind better preparing for — what may lie ahead for each of us…. The work of the incredible Francis Collins, who led NIH’s Human Genome mapping effort (and now runs the show at NIH)… has led to the birth of pioneering efforts like 23andme. And just this week, Linda Avey, one of 23andMe’s founders, announced that she is leaving the organization to start the Alzheimer’s Research Foundation. Linda lost a father in law to Alzheimers, a personal impact so close to home that she’s preparing to give all of her professional energy and expertise to the alleviation of this sad, heart-wrenching disease.
Though some genetic “gifts” (or in my deriere case “witholdings”) become clear much earlier in life, it is those yet undiscovered that are most fascinating… Linda, sign me up to for your trials.