Mom & Dad circa 1958

My mother, Shelby Jean Sheffield Pyles, passed away on Thursday, September 16.  Two hours after her death, my father suffered a heart attack and several subsequent heart stoppages.  By late afternoon, Dad was a patient in the same Coronary Care Unit where he, my sister, and I had stood at Mom’s side when she took her last breath just a few hours earlier.  On Saturday, as we were traveling from Mom’s funeral service in Alabama to the burial in Tennessee, Dad was put on a ventilator and flown to Birmingham.  He remains in CCU as of this morning.  Prayers for him are greatly appreciated. 

Dad’s absence from Mom’s funeral service was deeply felt.  But, despite our concern for him and our frayed emotions from coming dangerously close to losing both parents on the same day, the service still provided our family and friends an opportunity to come together to celebrate Mom’s life and honor her memory. 

I had the honor of speaking at Mom’s funeral and graveside service.  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to do it or not, but in the moment I felt an overwhelming sense of calm and peace.  Part of what I shared at the service appears below.   

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Mom was born on December 15, 1936 to Charles Randol Sheffield and Lila Massey Sheffield in Hentown, Georgia.  That was the day that Elinor Sheffield got a baby sister.  

Mom graduated from Damascus High School as the Valedictorian of the Class of 1954, then left South Georgia for Montgomery to attend Alabama Christian College.  She graduated from the two-year school with an A.A. degree in 1956 and immediately went to work for the school, serving as the Secretary to the Registrar, R.A. Baker.  It was while working at Alabama Christian that she met Dad, who had moved to Montgomery to teach at Alabama Christian High School.  They were married on August 29, 1958 at the Capitol Heights Church of Christ in Montgomery.  That was the first day of a marriage that lasted over 52 years.  

I have always known that Mom and Dad loved one another deeply; you saw it in the way they took care of each other and expressed concern for one another; the way they defended one another and championed one another.  

Over the last few days we have been able to see just how deep that love was.  I was amazed and awed by how Dad talked to Mom when we would go back and see her in CCU.  She couldn’t respond or speak, but we are fairly certain she could still hear us.  Dad used such amazing, tender words of affection and devotion.  After 52 years, he was still smitten with her.  I know that Dad has only ever worshipped God, but among all beings of a lesser nature than Deity, there is no one that Dad adored as much as Mom. 

Mom had a great faith in God, a strong devotion to Jesus Christ, and a commitment to His church.  Dad commented several times over the last few days about her steadfast faith.  More than once he said, “I preached it; she lived it.” 

Mom was firm in her convictions.  I continue to grapple with some areas that seem to be varying shades of gray.  But, for Mom, it was all pretty much black and white, cut and dried.  God said it, she believed it, and that settled it. 

I remember her teaching children’s Bible classes when Karen and I were young.  One Sunday morning after Mom had led our Bible class in a prayer, I ratted on a little girl named Laura and told Mom that Laura didn’t have her eyes shut during the prayer.  Mom asked me how I knew that Laura didn’t have her eyes closed.  I didn’t rat on anyone in Bible class again.  

I remember her grading hundreds of Bible correspondence courses when she and Dad served as missionaries in Liberia, West Africa, in the early ‘70s. 

Mom was a faithful minister’s wife, missionary’s wife, and Christian Educator’s wife.  She supported Dad and encouraged him in his ministry.  She was very proud of him, as he was of her.  Whenever a new challenge or opportunity presented itself, she gladly went with Dad wherever he felt the Lord was calling him; from Montgomery to Opp to Chattanooga to Ravenna to Warrior to Greenville to Louisville to Liberia to Richmond to Lewisburg to Montgomery to Huntsville to Florence to Cullman.  

Mom was an intelligent woman.  She excelled academically in both high school and college.  But she was never content with her level of knowledge.  She continued to read voraciously throughout her adult life, not only the Bible and spiritually related materials, but in a wide variety of other fields of interest as well.  She subscribed to numerous magazines and papers and could converse intelligently about a great number of subjects. 

Even though Mom spent most of her adult life as a homemaker, like the enterprising woman of Proverbs 31 she also worked outside the home at times; at a music store and a department store, as a secretary at Eastern Kentucky University and as a dormitory supervisor at Alabama Christian.  It takes a special breed of person to be a dorm mom to a bunch of college girls. 

Mom was a great cook.  Thanksgiving was always special because of her awesome dressing and pumpkin pie.  Later years brought peanut butter pie, frozen lemon pie, “slushy stuff” in the summer time.  She made wonderful casseroles and vegetable dishes.  

Though hindered by health and mobility in recent years, in earlier times Mom greatly enjoyed gardening, canning, flowers, and fishing.  She was quite athletic as a young woman.  One day when I was five or six years old, she informed me that I was going to be disciplined for something that I had done.  We were outside in the yard at the time, and I told her very disrespectfully that she would have to catch me first in order to spank me.  She caught me before I had even completed my first lap around the house.  I remember being extremely impressed with my mother’s speed!  I was also rather sore in my backside for a while.   

Mom was an extremely practical person; she had a very no-nonsense approach to life.  She didn’t go in for pretense, pomp or circumstance; she just kept it plain and simple.  

Mom’s practicality and frugality contributed greatly to our family always being well taken care of.  Even though I understand now that she and Dad sometimes had to make do on very little, we always had what we needed, and Karen and I never felt like we went without anything.  Mom was a saver.  She knew the value of things and lived accordingly.   

Karen and I feel blessed to have had a mother who loved us.  That doesn’t mean that she always agreed with us, but she always loved us.  In turn, she came to love her son-in-law Darrel and daughter-in-law Kim; her grandchildren Carter, Derreck, Hannah, and Coleman; and her great-grandchildren Bryce, Dezi, and Will.    

Mom endured far more than her fair share of physical illnesses, struggles, and pain in life.  We are so grateful to God that all of that is now over for her. 

Thanks to all of you who have ministered to her and Dad; faithful friends, church members, and church leaders at Arley and Cullman; those who sat with Mom so that Dad could go preach; those who brought meals to them, took them to appointments, and visited them at home and in the hospital. 

Romans 8:18, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

Paul was very well qualified to make this statement.  He, too, had experienced more than his share of sufferings for the cause of Christ (II Corinthians 11:23-28).  But he had also been granted a glimpse of what was waiting beyond this life. 

In II Corinthians 12:2-4, Paul describes how, fourteen years earlier, he was caught up to the third heaven, to Paradise.  He didn’t know if this was an “in-body” or “out-of-body” experience, but he was firmly convinced and convicted about what he saw and heard; inexpressible words which a man is not permitted to speak.  For a brief moment, the veil of this present world was pulled back so that he could see the glory that awaits the children of God. 

This is the place that Jesus called Paradise in Luke 23; the place that he referred to as Abraham’s bosom in Luke 16. 

That is where Mom’s spirit and soul have gone.  She has left behind her frail body of death.  She is in the presence of Christ the Lord (Philippians 1:23; II Corinthians 5:8), in a place of peace, comfort, and fellowship awaiting the last great day when she will be united with a new body, one that is eternal and imperishable and free from all pain, sickness, and sorrow. 

Thank you, Lord, for fulfilling your promises for one of your faithful children. 

We love you, Mom!

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