She was not people's favorite person, although her husband was. She was very blunt and 'pushy.' He was less direct and more compassionate. He died several years ago, she quite recently. Her death caused me to stop and to remember, to reconsider and (surprisingly) to ressurect her true importance.
Although seeming to work in tandem, with him in the lead, they interacted with me and with others as a balanced team. It was easier to be drawn to the good-natured one. But, he was effective because of her and she because of him.
Their house became a home, a hangout for young people throughout their years and in various places. Warmth, joy and acceptance were present. Yet, it was also a place where one was prodded, pushed and challenged to be and do and think beyond what one thought oneself capable. The prodding and pushing and challenging could not long be resented nor resisted because it was done in an accepting and loving 'home.' That combination had an extraordinary effect on so many--I being one. They were known as Mom and Pop Sheldon, a self-chosen designation readily accepted by the large number of youth for whom they provided open space.
Their openness to others came out of their personal tragedy. They had one child, a retarded daughter. Instead of being embittered or turning inward, they turned their energy outward and made others part of their family. The energy they did put into their daughter--for example, teaching her to ride a bike which she "never would be able to do," according to the doctors--established a pattern with the young people gathered around them. They prodded us to expand beyond what professionals, parents and we ourselves thought we could do. From them I learned the power of the cross: that out of suffering and death (the death of the dream of having a 'normal' family) others are richly blessed.
Those men and women whose extraordinary lives exemplified Jesus have been designated, by the church, as saints. Noted only by ourselves are our own private saints: individuals who, by what they said or did or were, drew us into an orbit of living which was more than that of which we thought ourselves capable.
This is my tribute--unfortunately, too small
and too late--to a person who, along with her husband, has a prominent
place in my list of saints.
--Robert H. Tucker
2 February 1998