Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Eulogy for Sarah McGettrick

The following eulogy was shared by Rev. Jane Page at the Celebration of Life service for Sarah Larson McGettrick on  October 30, 2017 in Brunswick, GA

Sarah Larson McGettrick sprung forth into this world on March 11, 1975 in a place in Arkansas so appropriately named for someone like Sarah – Eureka Springs!  For indeed her life would exhibit the exhilaration for many of the Eureka Experience and she had a personality that bubbled forth as a spring.  We give thanks to her parents Al and Lynn for choosing that very appropriate location for the birth their amazing daughter. 

Now if you knew Sarah, you know of her creativity and imagination. And that began very early as a young child when she created three imaginary brothers, Tonto, Poldark and Jeffrey Charles. That last name was bestowed upon her real live brother when he arrived when she was four. Jeff, aren’t you glad they did not choose one of the other names for you?

Now Eureka Springs was not only Sarah’s birthplace, it is where she grew up – attending the public schools there and the Eureka Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.  What a marvelous beginning to this marvelous life! 

Sarah graduated from Cottey College and the University of Arkansas and on December 21, 1996 – married that great love of her life, Bobby McGettrick.  They have shared that wondrous love with lots of fun, laughter, and adventure for 21 years. 

Bobby had a career in the U.S. Air Force, so marrying him meant a significant change for someone who had spent her childhood and youth in the same town.   Like other military families, they learned how to pack up and move their lives into new places – living at five different military bases during his Air Force career.  One of those places has a special memory – Altus Air Force Base in Altus, OK – for it was here that Sarah and Bobby added the other love of their lives, and that, of course was Sydney. 

Living in different places means being up for new adventures, and Sarah was always one up for new adventures.  But we also need some continuity in our lives.  And one place Sarah found that was within Unitarian Universalism.  As noted earlier, Sarah was raised in the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in her hometown of Eureka Springs, and she sought out other UU congregations when she and Bobby would move.  She has been a member of five congregations and has wondrously contributed to all of them – serving as president of a large congregation in Davis California before her move here to serve with us in Brunswick. 
And before each move, she used UU connections in her planning.  Sally Revoille shared this with example me.  She writes –
 “I was privileged to have been Sarah’s first contact at UUCG.  She emailed me maybe six months before their move, asking about schools, neighborhoods, etc.   Her organizational skills and mature presence were obvious immediately, given the ordered, sensible manner in which she was preparing for the move.   The prospect of having this clever, measured young woman as a member of UUCG was exciting.  And over her years with us, she proved repeatedly that we were truly fortunate that she, Bobby and Sydney had moved here.” 

Sally was right.  What a blessing she has been to our congregation!  Suzanne has shared some of that and many others could contribute as well. Her latest effort to make sure our children had a safe place to play and move outside is coming together as we continue to raise funds for what we have named “Sarah’s Playground.”  We thank family members for helping us honor and remember Sarah for requesting this project for memorial gifts. 

Now folks – I’ve been around a lot of Unitarian Universalists, and I know of no one who has exemplified our faith and our principles more than Sarah McGettrick – from that first principle of affirming the inherent worth and dignity of every person to that seventh principle regarding the interdependent web of life of which we are all a part.  Sarah lived these principles and fought for the values of peace, liberty and justice for all – even our animal companions; maybe I should say especially our animal companions. 

If you visited the McGettricks, you were also going to be visiting some furry fellows.  At their peak, the McGettricks boasted two dogs, three cats, and two rats!  And they often fostered “problem pets” till they were adoptable – even sheltering a foster mama cat and her litter of kittens during a hurricane. 

But Sarah could manage a small zoo in her home because she was tough.  She grew up in Girl Scouts and loved scouting, camping and organizing activities which let naturally to her careers as a Recreational Therapist and Personal Fitness Trainer.   She was always looking for a new challenge and we were amazed that she completed her credentials as a Fitness Trainer after her diagnosis. 

She specialized in working with people with physical challenges, helping them to become stronger and reduce discomfort.  Her motto was “Keep Moving.”  Vicki and Lou Monti were two of her clients.  Vicki shared with me that they took yoga classes from Sarah and that she visited their home to provide recreational and physical therapy, always knowing the right exercises for their needs – and the right way for them to remember what to do!  Vicki said: “Every time I ‘lead’ with my heart in order to straighten my stooped posture I will think of our sweet Sarah.” Indeed, Sarah led with her heart – in more ways than one.  Here are a couple examples.

Dana and Johneya Beckham remember the first time they met the McGettricks at UUFS.  Dana wrote: “Sarah was just a sweet little soul.  I held lil Jay (he was 4 months at the time) in my arms.  Sarah reached for the baby and held him during the entire time.  I would notice her kissing his sweet little cocoa cheeks (as she would say).  She thought he was adorable just as we did.  I am going to miss her warm hugs and her mellow, sweet, and gentle spirit.” ­

Joanne Wilson shared a memory from this past summer when she came down with a bad back.  She said: “Sarah brought food to me!  She had just learned there were no new or different treatments for her cancer.  Sarah knew her death was imminent, but she was intent on helping me. She never stopped caring about others; she did not complain or give up.  Sarah will never be absent to people who loved her.”

Others remember her positive attitude and great smile that could brighten anyone’s day. 

But now – I don’t want to leave the impression that Sarah was always bright and cheerful. She could get upset – and could express that directly.  As MLK stated, there are some things in life for which we all should be maladjusted.  Here’s a posting from Sarah’s Facebook page after the Charlottesville activities by white supremacists.

She wrote: “These people have been emboldened. Every white ally needs to be ready to step up and speak out when things like this happen in their communities. I will not accept this type of intolerance as appropriate free speech. This is intentional intimidation and a hate crime. To the people who participated in this shameful act, crawl back under the rock you were living under until 45 came on the scene and whipped up the hatred and anger you used to keep secret.” 
Go Sarah – tell it!

So yeah, she had some righteous indignation – and we all should.  But she never let it consume her like some folks do.  Instead she would let it motivate her to do more good in the world – bring more peace, kindness and joy to others.  Sarah had a ZEST for living, and she passed that on to others.

Sarah was diagnosed with Ovarian Cancer October 14, 2014 – just a little over three years ago. And even with that diagnosis, she followed her own motto – and kept moving.  In more recent days that moving was from a wheelchair that her family members would use to push Sarah around the neighborhood, so she could enjoy the outdoors that she loved so much.  And on Oct 27 - when she could no longer even move in this way – she moved on! 
One of her friends in sharing condolences with the family on Facebook wrote that she always tried to live her life like Sarah – to Be like Sarah.  Although that may be difficult for some of us, I think that’s a wonderful goal to have.  Be like Sarah. Fight like Sarah.  Move like Sarah.  Love like Sarah!

Some folks measure a life by how many years one lives – how many candles we have on our birthday cake.  And for many of us, it’s a fire hazard.  Because of this, some may say that Sarah’s life was “cut short” – that she didn’t live a full life.  But I disagree.  If we measure life instead my what we contribute to this world, by the love and care we share with others, by the difference we make, then Sarah ran past most of us a long time ago.  And now she’s broken through that ribbon and made it to finish line.  And I say we should Cheer her Victorious Life – literally. 

Hip, Hip – Hooray.  Hip, Hip – Hooray.  Hip, Hip – Hooray!
Yay Sarah!  You lived and lived well!

In closing, I’d like for all of us to invite Sarah’s love – that Spirit of Life and Love that she shared so freely, to fill our souls.  And we are going to do this by having the UUs among us who know this – help me sing – “Spirit of Life.” And others can listen and mediate upon these words –of sing with us.  The words are in your order of service.  Invite this spirit into your heart and soul.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Place your hand on heart. Feel her love.  It’s there – and always will be.  We will all miss Sarah – oh yes, we will.  But when you do, put your hand over your heart and feel her love within you.  It’s a part of you now.  Let it guide you, comfort you, and inspire you.  That is what Sarah would want.  May it be so.  Amen.