In Memory of Cherilyn Leveque

To my loving niece Cherilynn Leveque:

I never realized the love you left behind.
How kind and sharing you’d had been.
We all miss you dearly.
We all wish we could have you back
So we can sit and talk to you so dearly.
You left us all a life’s lesson, we commend you so dearly.
Live, Love, Laugh and Hug and give someone a smile.
Friendships and families are important
And cherish them so dearly.
Remember the less fortunate, the impoverished and the low
Because they may have been like you…
A niece we lost long ago.
Who was dealt life’s difficult blows.
Through it all you choose to smile to be that example indeed.
Live, Love, Laugh and Hug and give someone a smile.
Oh how I miss you so
I know you’re in heaven
Because there’s a savior who knows our deepest soul.
I know that you’re with me, I can feel you in my heart!
You’re now in the bosom of Jesus, safely in his arms!
Until we meet again my niece! Oh how I love you so!

~ Susan Henry, Cheri’s aunt

Cheri has managed to wiggle her head through the window of the bus. She’s gazing forward, smiling. It’s the end of farm day; we’ve had barbecued hot dogs and potato chips for lunch, and spent the afternoon swimming. The day is pleasant, filled with sunshine. I am waiting outside the bus, making sure we haven’t missed anyone. People are smiling at me and making faces through the windows. We are laughing at each other. I take out my phone to take pictures. Cheri wants me to take hers.

Of all the things I remember about Cheri, this is most vivid: she loved having her picture taken. She had a gift for recognizing and savouring joy. She was grateful. When she asked for a picture, it was her way of saying that she was delighted and that she was thankful.

I can still hear her laugh and see the way it illuminated her. She had kind eyes. She loved bingo and taco salad. Pictures don’t quite capture all that.

There was pain in her life, too. She was humble and vulnerable about it, unafraid to ask for help and to share when she was struggling. Her body was fragile and there were times we could only lightly lay hands on her as we prayed for her. Once, I remember kneeling down beside her at drop-in when she was having a seizure. She was shaking on the floor, in a fetal position, and couldn’t say a word. A few of us were alongside her, speaking quietly and reassuring her that we were there and that help was on the way.

WCV, and particularly Drop-In, was a home and family for Cheri. During one Celebration Sunday, she was even proposed to in the middle of a contemplative prayer exercise! I have no doubt that she knew that she was wanted here. On another Sunday, she took the microphone and, in front of everyone, gave WCV a framed sign as a gift and then proceeded to share some very personal things about her life with our congregation. It was a holy moment. A few people gathered around to pray for her. Our community was better because of her, and it was a privilege and an honour to be entrusted with her over these years.

Just before Christmas, on our last Drop-In gathering of the year, we took a picture. Amazingly, it wasn’t Cheri’s idea though I’m sure she was in hearty agreement. We all huddled together on stage, trying to fit into the frame. Cheri is front and centre, wearing a bright red Coca-Cola t-shirt, smiling at the camera. Sunlight is radiating through the windows behind us. Before the picture was taken, Cheri went and got the sign that she gave us that particular Sunday – it had been hanging in our sanctuary ever since, on stage. She’s holding the sign with both of her hands. “Friends.” That’s what the sign says. This is our last picture together, with her. In January of this year, Cheri took her own life.

Today, Cheri is with Jesus in paradise. I can only imagine what enduring vision of joy she is beholding now, how illuminated she is, and how amazing it must feel to at last be free of pain. We thank God for her life. And we look forward to gazing upon the beauty of our Lord together one day; the day to which every picture of joy, gratitude, and friendship points.