Remembering Stacie Harris
At MPC, we give thanks for the life and witness of Stacie Duke Harris, who served as our church secretary for more than fifteen years. Here is the meditation offered at her funeral service on Sunday, April 10, 2016.
I first met Stacie back in 2003, when I showed up at Montevallo Presbyterian as the new pastor. I was fresh out of seminary, starting my first call as a pastor. Stacie had already been the church secretary there for several years. And, she was a preacher’s kid, a lifelong Presbyterian and an elder in the church. She knew way more about running a church than I did, which was lucky for me. She helped raise me up as a pastor. She became my colleague, my confidant, and my friend.
One of the first things I learned about Stacie was something I’m sure all of you know -- and that was how much she loved to talk. Could she talk! I met her dad Mickey soon after that when I happened to sit next to him at a Presbytery meeting. When he realized with Stacie down in Montevallo, he joked “Oh, you’re working with the mouth of the South!” Stacie loved to talk, and we had many wonderful, long conversations over the years.
But I soon came to discover and appreciate many other things about Stacie. Stacie loved to cook, and she really knew how to cook for a crowd. I remember her in the kitchen of our student center, Christmas carols playing on the radio, pots and pans everywhere, as she prepared a Thanksgiving feast for the international college students.
Stacie had a zest for life and was committed to living life fully. Perhaps because she lost her own mom at a young age, Stacie did not take time for granted. She treasured dinners with friends, going to football games, vacations with her family, trips to Disney World, swimming with the dolphins. She was determined to enjoy life and make the most of it.
Stacie had a fierce love for her family. She and Charlie got married so young, they had to grow up together. And they did. And for more than thirty years, they loved one another so faithfully. And Stacie loved her children with all her being. Erica and Roman, she was so proud of both of you, proud to see you grow into adulthood, to come into you own. And Ellan, it was such a joy for her when you became a part of their family.
And most of all, when I think of Stacie, I remember her extraordinary, generous heart. Stacie was one of the most giving people I’ve ever known. She gave of her time, her skills, her money . . . whatever she had that might be of service to others. She gave generously of herself in her work at our church. She approached her job as church secretary as a ministry. She would stay late to finish a newsletter or budget. She would come in on the weekend to prepare bulletins for a funeral service. But most importantly, she loved the members of the church. She considered them like her second church family. And she would take care them however she could.
Stacie’s generous heart especially shined when it came to children. For Stacie, there was no such thing as other people’s children. She considered any child in need like her own child. Time and again, I saw her reach out to children in the church and beyond who needed a little extra love and attention in their lives. She invited them over, took them where they needed to go, she stood up for them, and made sure they knew they were loved.
Stacie’s extraordinary generosity of spirit was no accident. I believe it grew out of Stacie’s deep and abiding faith in God. In the back of the sanctuary at Montevallo Presbyterian Church, there’s a stained glass window of Jesus as the Good Shepherd. He has a lamb cradled in his arms, and other sheep at his feet. One of the sheep gazes up Jesus with adoring eyes. Stacie loved that stained glass window, and she took some wonderful photographs of it over the years.
Perhaps Stacie loved that window so much because she knew who her Shepherd was. She knew the voice of her shepherd and she did her best to follow it. Stacie trusted in the promise of her baptism, that she was a beloved child of God, called by God. And she listened for that voice and did her best to follow.
Stacie wasn’t interested in deep theological debates. She was interested in living our her faith in her own passionate and pragmatic way. When she loved and gave to others, she was simply sharing the love of God she had known her whole life through.
I believe that faith continued to sustain her even over the last fourteen months, when Stacie and her family faced challenges few of us can imagine. And yet even in those months of illness, Stacie remained herself. For so much of that time, her spirit and mind were strong, even when her body was weak. She still had that zest and passion for life, which shined through in her extraordinary will. Perhaps the hardest part for her in this long illness was not being able to talk. But she found plenty of ways to still communicate. When I visited, she didn’t want to talk much about herself. She wanted to know news about my family and about everyone at the church. I discovered how she touched the lives of the staff at the hospital. So many of the therapists, nurses and aids who supported her came to care for her deeply. They were amazed by her strength and resilience and spirit. She was a bright light for them. And she cared for them and worried over them, even to the end more concerned about others than about herself.
In these hard months, her family has shown us what steadfast and faithful love looks like. They cared for her tenderly. They made sure she did not spend the night alone. Charlie has lived out those marriage to love for better or worse, in sickness and in health. Erica, Roman and Ellan, Mickey and Coleen, spent so many hours by her side. And there are the countless friends and family who prayed and visited and sent cards and did what they could, and when they did not know what else to do, prayed some more.
Stacie’s baptism is now complete in death. It feels far too soon. And how we will miss her.
Yet even as we grieve, we trust:
that Stacie has made her way through that shadowed valley, listening for the voice of the Shepherd, the voice that guided her her whole life through, that tender voice of the loving Shepherd who has now has welcomed her home. Thanks be to God. Amen.