She had me at Jello.
I was best friends with her brother in college in Utah. I was thousands of miles away from my home in Guam. I was a barely 18 years old. I had been invited there for Christmas. Little did I know I was going to be introduced to my second family. It was the year I met Marsha. It was the year she became my sister.
As I found out in predominantly Mormon Utah, jello is a pretty popular thing at meals and at parties. You can find every version of it imaginable on some table in Utah. Not just the Bill Cosby pudding kind, but the multi-colored jello shot kind without the alcohol…unless you are a jack Mormon ( Inactive Mormon Church member).
That first Christmas Marsha made jello with shredded carrots in it. Well to me that was strange. I was used to jello with whipped cream on top or maybe with fruit. However, jello with vegetables was wierd to me at the time.
I could hardly eat it. Marsha, with her usual frankness and classic sense of humor zinged in on me and made fun of the whole thing. It became a standing joke for years. Since then I have gotten use to some different kinds of jello recipes. More importantly, Marsha and I became close as siblings.
This last Saturday, her son Matt, called me to tell me Marsha passed away after a long standing battle with cancer. She had actually gone into remission during her first round of treatments and then the cancer came back. This time it was really terminal and we knew it would take her life. However, I just talked to her a couple of weeks ago and she sounded so alert and well. I just thought that she was going to stick around much longer.
This remarkable “sister” of mine was a woman of courage who loved her family and her sons. She went through three failed marriages . She never really gave up on the concept of finding a love match. Unfortunately the men in her life gave up on her.
She was a single mom during long periods of her life raising three sons into adulthood. Marsha faced some tough odds but all her sons have turned out to be honorable and good men. She was not a perfect woman but she was a human being with such raw intelligence and zest for life. She also had great humor and a large heart.
During my coming out process, while others withdrew from me, she never forgot who I was and reached out to me even more, remembering who I was and assuring me that everything will be alright. We have had such long beautiful talks over the years and it was nice to have an older sister to reach out to when I needed it. Every brother needs that in his life.
What courage she had during her bout with cancer. It may have taken her life but it never won her spirit. I only wish I could emulate such courage in my own life.
She wanted so much to come here to the San Francisco Bay area to join me on a tour of many spots. I am going to still do that tour with her in my heart. I know she will be with me.
I admit that there have been times when I have wept deeply for this loss in my life this weekend. I know that her suffering has stopped but I am going to miss her. I still have her phone number on my Iphone and I know if I called it , she won’t answer. I already miss her hello and maybe her one or two smart aleck remarks.
I will miss her warm hugs and those beautiful eyes that always reassured me that I was worth everything in the world no matter what people said to me or about me. I will miss our talks about the most trivial or unimportant things. I will also miss our talks about some really deep topics. She had the most amazing mind.
She requested her body to be cremated and her sons will be taking part of her ashes up to the top of Mount Olympus, Utah and spreading it there. Part of her ashes will be interred on the family plot in Salt Lake City.
She deserves that honor to be set free on the top of that high mountain. It represents her great spirit that took life by the horns and did her best by it. I honor my sister. I will remember her always. Marsha lives on in my heart.
Marsha Ruth Abernethy 1954 ~ 2010 Marsha Ruth Abernethy died June 11, 2010, after a long battle with Hodgkin’s disease. Marsha was born on April 11, 1954, in Parsons, Kansas, to Fred Edward Abernethy and Delores Jean Miles. She was the second of four children. In 1972 she married R. Craig Flitton. They had two children, Matthew Dennis and James Edward. They later divorced. In 1979 she married Ned Sterling Critchlow. They had one son, Mark Sterling. They later divorced. Marsha worked as a paralegal for the Utah Attorney General’s Office. Her greatest joy was her sons and grandchildren. Marsha was preceded in death by a brother, Mark Leslie Abernethy, and her grandparents, Adolphus Rennie Miles and Luella Maude Farnworth, and Herbert Leslie Abernethy and Elsie Ruth Nix. She is survived by her parents, Fred and Dee Abernethy; sons, Matthew (Anmarie) Flitton, James (Leslie) Flitton and Mark Critchlow; her brothers: Miles (Becky) Abernethy and Gene (Danalee) Abernethy; and eight grandchildren. A memorial service will be held in her honor on Tuesday, June 15 at 6:00 p.m. at the Crosspointe Ward LDS chapel, 5550 So. 1325 West. In lieu of flowers please make a donation in Marsha’s name to the Best Friends Animal Sanctuary at 5001 Angel Canyon Rd. Kanab, UT 84741.