Wednesday, January 23, 2013


    I shall rely on the words of Eleanor Roosevelt who said: “You must do the thing which you think you cannot do.”
I want to thank each of you for being here to join us in celebrating the life of Sylvia Joyce Nichols Allen.  Sylvia was a very special person who touched and enriched many lives.  I would like to share some of my memories of Sylvia through the years.
I was 5 ½ years old when we brought my baby sister Sylvia home from the hospital.  Our mother was so thrilled to have a red-haired daughter that we had to stop in Enosburg to let Dr. and Mrs. Judd see it for themselves. That beautiful red hair had come from our grandmother, Harriet May Leach Eldred.  When we were children, the 5 ½ year gap in our ages seemed quite significant.  Sylvia was my “little” sister.  I remember her as being very sweet and loving, but also very serious-minded.  I think she was a deep-thinker early on – you know, Sylvia the scholar.  Her favorite activity was reading.  We wore out the road between the farm and the library in Enosburg – a fifteen-mile round trip.  When Sylvia had run out of books to read in the children’s section of the library, Dad got special permission for her to check out books from the adult section.  She probably read all of those too.
One of our earliest adventures that I recall quite vividly was in the summer of 1952.  Our mother put the two of us on a train in Richford for a trip to Maine where we spent a week with our Aunt Edna and Uncle Al.  Can you imagine being 11 years old and
making a trip like that with your 5 ½ year old sister?  But Sylvia was very easy to take care of.  She didn’t ask for a lot and she was very well-behaved. 
If I had to use one word to personify my sister, it would be PERSEVERANCE.  Whatever obstacles life placed in her path, she persevered her way over, under, around or through them.  Whatever it took, she met those challenges head-on, rarely complaining and never feeling sorry for herself.  Did you know that Sylvia once stopped a train?  It was snowing heavily and visibility was limited when she came to an “intersection”.  The light she saw far down to her right was not an automobile as she thought, and she didn’t make it over the tracks before being impacted by a train.  She was dragged 400 feet or so down the tracks before the train came to a complete stop.  She escaped without any serious injuries.  When she called me to tell me about it, she said “I had an accident with a train.  The good news is that the train and I survived; the bad news is that my car didn’t.”  That was Sylvia!  She faced two bouts of breast cancer, three bouts with skin cancer, and her last battle with lung cancer with that same tenacious strength.
I have always been very proud of my sister.  We shared many adventures together as grown-ups.  After graduating from Enosburg Falls High School, Sylvia joined us in South Carolina where she completed her freshman year at Clemson University.  Later, she spent two years with us in Norfolk, Virginia while working at the Children’s Hospital of the King’s Daughters.  My daughter Karen permanently bonded with her Aunt Sylvia during that time.  Since Karen was an only child, Sylvia seemed more like a big sister and a 2nd mother all rolled into one.  In many ways, Karen followed in Sylvia’s footsteps.  I told Sylvia many times that, if I didn’t know better, I’d swear that she had given birth to Karen.
We had other sister-bonding adventures as well.  We went on a river rafting trip together down the San Juan River in Utah.  Just two weeks later, we were back in Vermont for her wedding with Mich.  More recently, we made two trips to England and Scotland with my choir from Christ and St. Luke’s Church in Norfolk, Va. and a trip to Ireland with the Bella Voce Women’s Chorus of Vermont.  I’m so glad that the 5 ½ year age-gap had become insignificant for us as adults.  I thank God for my wonderful sister and I’m so grateful that she had her soul-mate Mich to share the last 25 years of her life’s journey with her.  There is a saying that “death leaves a heartache no one can heal, but love leaves memories no one can steal”.  (Anon)

I’d like to share a poem titled “I’m Free”. (Anon)  Think of Sylvia saying these words to us.

“Don’t grieve for me, for now I’m free. I’m following the path God laid you see. I took his hand when I heard him call.  I turned my back and left it all.  I could not stay another day – to laugh, to love, to work or play. … My life’s been full, I savored much.  Good friends, good times, a loved one’s touch.  Perhaps my
time seemed all too brief.  Don’t lengthen it now with undue grief.  Lift up your hearts and peace to thee.  God wanted me now.  He set me free.”

So, in the words of a song called “FLY”, we say to Sylvia:
           “Fly, fly precious one
Your endless journey has begun
Take your gentle happiness
Far too beautiful for this
Cross over to the other shore
There is peace forevermore
Until we meet
Fly, fly do not fear
Don’t waste a breath, don’t shed a tear
Your heart is pure, your soul is free
Be on your way, don’t wait for me
Above the universe you’ll climb
On beyond the hands of time
The moon will rise, the sun will set
But I won’t forget.”  (We won’t forget.)
                                                 Mary Louise Nichols Stanley


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