In Memoriam

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Memorial in front of Mason High School

My mother died March 30, 2001. Yesterday was the fourteenth anniversary of her death.

I wish I could say that I remembered a lot about her, but I can’t. As hard as I try to remember, and as much as I want to, it’s simply not there. I was just shy of three years old when she passed away in the middle of a frightening, siren-flooded night.

People who knew her have nothing but nice things to say about her, almost always followed by, “You remind me so much of her”, which I take as a compliment. But after a while, I just found myself distraught that I would never know her myself. Everything I know about her is simply what people would tell me, with one exception.

The first memory I ever had was throwing a temper tantrum about the lack of orange juice in the refrigerator. I remember standing in the living room, tears of anger tearing spilling over my face, having a fit because I wanted orange juice and we had none. Then, I remember her picking up her coat and marching out the door on a quest to quench my thirst. And that’s it. That’s the only memory I have of her. I don’t remember her tucking me in for the very last time, I don’t remember the police lights slicing through the dark night air, I don’t remember anything else about that night. Or her in general, really–just the juice fiasco.

I think that memory has gone further for me than anything anyone has ever told me about her because it’s something I can grasp onto for myself. It’s something that belongs only to me. It’s something that also shows me about her character. She was a mother who cared about her child, even when she was being a brat. That gesture means a lot to me.

Every time I think about March 30, 2001, I feel sad, to say the least. I think of how she and my dad had been planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains later that week and they had just bought her thermal hiking socks that very day. I think of how two daughters went to bed with a mother and woke up without one. I think of my dad, waking up to his wife writhing in pain while he lay there helpless and afraid.

I think of how we went from this big, happy family one moment:

mommy shelly abbey katey dad

To this less big, less happy family the next:

dad abbey katey eddie backyard

Anyone who has experienced it can tell you: life cannot be the same after you lose a loved one. The effects are long lasting. My sister became an extremely weepy infant following that dreaded day. I transformed from an easygoing toddler to a petrified child unable to fall asleep at night unless all the lights were flipped on and my head was buried underneath the covers. I learned to fear the nighttime and everything that came with it, and that carried on for a while. For years into my childhood, I was unable to fall asleep: something I even had to go to therapy for. It’s impossible to turn back to the way things used to be.

I guess it’s easy to consider what life could have been like. I can envision my mother hiking up a mountainside with my dad that week. I imagine that my irrational fear of the night would’ve never existed. I consider how my sister and I would have grown up knowing the woman who nurtured us from the beginning. The Marshall family would have been relatively untouched by fear and utter sadness.

Sure, it’s easy to think of what could have been, but that’s simply not reality. If I fix myself too much on how events in my life could have transpired if that one day hadn’t happened, then I can’t enjoy what I have now.

If Shelley Marshall hadn’t died on March 30, 2001, then I would’ve never gone to the mourning group Fernside. If I hadn’t gone to Fernside, then I would’ve never met Cole Devine. If I never met Cole Devine, then my father would’ve never met Cole’s mother, Pam Devine. If Matt Marshall and Pam Devine never met, then they would never have gotten married. If they never got married, then I wouldn’t have an amazing older brother and compassionate female role model in my life.

Bad things happen. Though not ideal at the time, something beautiful can come out of those things. God works in mysterious ways, and He brought together two grieving families to form the incredibly quirky and loving Marshall clan, and I thank Him every day for that.

I miss you, Mom, and nothing will ever change that, but I sure am glad I have some great people to spend the rest of my life on Earth with until I get to meet you again in Heaven.

silly wedding

“Every good and perfect gift is from above…” {James 1:17}


6 thoughts on “In Memoriam

  1. Abbey,
    Thank you for remembering and honoring your mom, Shelley, who is in heaven. Thank you for honoring and validating your mom, Pam. here on earth. You are a blessing and have been blessed by two wonderful loving mothers. They and I am VERY proud of the wondeful young woman you are. Grandma Jeanne

  2. Oh my Lord, what a memorial to your Mom, Shelly! You are a wonderfully gifted young lady to be able to put that sad time, so perfectly in words from a child’s perspective. I too remember what I was doing when the phone rang the next day to give me the incredible, unbelievable report of her death.. I was cleaning my refrigerator, and I barely got through with it since I was weeping, so hard. Our get together in Ohio left all of us in deep dismay, how could this happen to a young lady who was a cherished member of our family and so deeply loved.

    Yes, the Lord works in incredible ways! The meeting of your Dad and Pam to me, is a miracle in itself and every detail of that meeting was a blessing in every way to benefit a situation, so full of sadness and despair with so many people involved, children and adults that it screamed to heaven for rectification. He saw fit to bless you all as only He can. God continues to bless your family and those of us who watch from afar can only say Glory to God for your many blessings. Much love from your Atlanta Family


  3. Abbey this is the most beautiful and inspiring thing that I have read ❤ Thank you so much for sharing, remembering and the honesty of everything that has happened. God finds the light in the dark, even when we can't in the moment. God makes beautiful things from the dust ❤

    Love you Abbey 🙂 God bless even more than he already has ❤

  4. This is great, Abbey. Horrible things can happen, but God is still in charge. “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him and have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

  5. Abbey: Your talent with words never ceases to amaze me & having met you this past fall as a young lady makes me all the more proud that you are my niece.
    I remember Grandma Jeanne calling me that fateful day 14 yrs ago as if it were yesterday. All the family & friends who gathered in Mason, seeing your Dad, you as a toddler & your baby sister, were so aware of your great loss & yet, we all were lost as to how to comfort & support you in the coming days & months.
    God saw your sorrow but He had His Divine plans & knew that He would take your hurt & pain along with Pam & Cole’s hurt & pain to make two suffering families into a beautiful & vibrant whole.
    Your beautiful ‘in-Memoriam’ is a testament to the blessings of your birth mother, now in heaven, & the loving Pam, here & now, who raised you to the beautiful & thoughtful young lady you are now. Thank you for sharing your tribute to both of your Mothers with such moving & loving words. Aunt Susie

  6. Abbey,

    I couldn’t sleep tonight and my 3 year old was having trouble too. I have a 15 year old boy, a 13 year old girl and my 3 year old boy. I knew your mom. In high school I had knee surgery on both legs and your mom and a friend of hers dropped by after. It didn’t stand out until later, no one else had, not that I really cared, but I did remember. I knew your dad’s name, played basketball against your dad’s brother (kind of…knees were always a problem), and for some reason tonight I couldn’t sleep. My thoughts drifted back to your mom and what your dad and you kids went through for no particular reason. I was going to look your dad up, wish him well and had no idea what would compel me to do that, but here I sit. Haven’t thought of what happened in years. I want to wish you, your father, and your sister well. Life throws a lot at us. It’s not what it throws at us, it’s how we handle it and transform it to something useful. I can’t imagine what it was like for your dad, you and your sister. I’ve got some pretty good scars on my knees, and the only thing I could think of tonight before I went to bed was that Shelley (and her friend Ginneen) had stopped in to check on me, and I was supposed to do the same. I’d like to think it was a request and the timing was good for some reason. I was happy to see that Matt found someone that served as a good role model for you. Your mom doesn’t need you to miss her anymore, she wants you to be happy. I’m glad to see you’ve figured that out.

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