“Death destroys a man. But the idea of death saves him.” –E. F. Forster

We are traveling the pilgrim’s path between love and death. Our home is filling up with emblems of beauty, hope, and care from thoughtful people who have chosen to come on pilgrimage with us. Our neighbors, family, and friends near and far have picked up the pilgrim’s staff and are traveling with us. Our pastor’s visit and prayer this past Monday, the day before surgery, enveloped us in all your love and the peace that passes understanding.

The journey started in November with Stuart’s diagnosis of malignant melanoma. Now, the surgery on his parotid gland is finished. Next week we will return to Philadelphia twice. Once to remove the drain from the incision and once for a post-operation consultation with Dr. Rajasekaran, the surgeon.

CaringBridge, the wonderful online service, has allowed us to communicate with hundreds of people without having to write the same thing over and over. It also allows people the option of commenting with encouraging stories and memories of influence Stuart has had in their lives.

Reading a CaringBridge message comes close to eavesdropping on one’s own funeral – like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn.

And when surgery occurs close to Valentine’s Day, it’s also like being showered with hearts, flowers, and candy from a lover.

A wedding? Funeral? Valentine’s Day? A Get Well Bouquet is a little of all of these.

For those of us in the smallest circle of family, it was also a time to pull close. We texted and FaceTimed all day with our children and grandchildren. Lydia sent a video message and Owen and Julia sent cards.

The super hero theme and cut-out truly made our spirits soar.

Julia, age 10, continued the theme, sending love.

Before Stuart was taken away to the pre-op area, we took one last selfie, just in case the knife nicked the nerve that controls muscles on the left side of the face.

The pre-op selfie at Pennsylvania Hospital

After almost eight hours (only two of which were actually devoted to surgery), I was able to visit Stuart in his room. He was his usual cheerful self, chatting with the many members of the medical team. Within 24 hours we had permission to leave, took the Amtrak to Lancaster, and were walking in Lititz!

The left side is bruised but healing

The left side is swollen and bruised but healing. If you look closely, you can see the drainage tube due to come out on Monday. The incision is in front of, and behind, the left ear and not very noticeable on the face.

Having cancer, and loving someone who has cancer, peels away the pretense most of us live by in order not to be paralyzed by the thought of death. Any time we undergo surgery, we wonder, “Will I come out from under the ether?” The closer we come to death, the more precious life is. We hold each other and say “I love you” often. We cherish life.

Our wedding vows (54 years ago this August) featured the word “cherish.” We promised then and we promise now to cherish each other all life long.

Stuart and I have greatly expanded hearts right now. Just in time for Valentine’s Day. We are looking forward to the date we made several weeks ago for this coming Monday night at the Blackworth Live Fire Grill. 

Unless it rains, we will walk there, through a landscape I have loved all my life, the Lititz Springs Park, and that we now love together.

We are saying prayers of thanksgiving to God — and for you. The journey is not over, and we know better than ever that it will end for both of us, but until then, we cherish it.

We have only one request of you. It’s not for meals or flowers or candy, as much as we have enjoyed and deeply appreciated such gifts.

Cherish each other. Cherish life.

Shirley Showalter


  1. nadine block on February 11, 2023 at 11:16 am

    What a lovely memory of your challenging journey. I smile with a tear in my eye. God bless you each and every day as you courageously walk forward. I will be thinking of you.

    Nadine Block
    Notintheslowlaneyet Blog.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 11:32 am

      Nadine, it’s good to hear from you again. God less you too. Love the name of your blog.And here is a link for others to find you. https://notintheslowlaneyet.nadineblock.com/?author=1

      • Susan scott on February 12, 2023 at 2:51 am

        All loving thoughts to you both Shirley! my heart is much warmed by your post. And your request of ‘cherish each other’, ‘cherish life’. Reminders are particularly apt at certain times –

        • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 1:41 pm

          Susan, if the timing is apt for you because of your own struggles with love and death, you have my heart also.

  2. Laurie Buchanan on February 11, 2023 at 11:54 am

    Shirley & Stuart — My heart is bursting with love for you!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:03 pm

      Laurie, we cherish you too.

      • Judith Valente on February 13, 2023 at 4:58 am

        Thinking of you and Stuart and lifting you both. You remind us all of how precious life is and those we love. We can’t say ‘I love you’ enough. I went through similar experience with my husband this past summer. (He is doing much better).
        Blessings on your and Stuart’s date this Valentine’s Day at the Grill. Savor every moment.

  3. Lois Kauffman on February 11, 2023 at 11:59 am

    Thanks very much for your update. We have been praying for Stuart, as well as you and your family.
    I loved seeing Grandchildren cards. What a joy Grandchildren are!!
    And I especially will treasure your words of wisdom exemplified in your last paragraph: THANK YOU, Shirley,
    Lois ❤️🙏

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:13 pm

      Yes, Lois, those homemade cards are the very best. They bring our love for our grandchildren up to the surface and bubbling over.

      You are so welcome. I know you have a ministry of cherishing. God bless you and it.

  4. Susan Ackerman on February 11, 2023 at 12:00 pm

    May the recovery go well and may you continue to cherish each other for many, many more days. Robby had surgery for melanoma three years ago and recovered well. We too are thankful for the incredible gift of days and hours together, with bluebird song.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:13 pm

      We love the stories of recovery and remission, Susan. Thank you for sharing. And blessings to Robby — and the bluebirds.

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on February 11, 2023 at 12:02 pm

    Brought me to tears, as we are on the same journey. There is a whole different side to love when you sense that the one who has been beside you for over 50 years, giving you strength and support, rain or shine, has become the vulnerable one! The love and support of friends and family means everything! Prayers and hugs for both of you!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:15 pm

      Dear sister Elfrieda, you know about the many sides of love. May you be given many gifts in your own journey, and may your friends and family continue to be the “wind beneath your wings.”

  6. Mary Jo Short on February 11, 2023 at 12:14 pm

    Walking through the valley of illness definitely make one cherish life more. After the loss of Jim I have always tried to cherish our grandchildren deeply and love them for both of us.

    Blessing to you and all of your family always, Mary Jo

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:18 pm

      When I think of our 53.5 years and recognize how much longer we have had than many, I think of friends like you who show the way to love through grief. I see Jim smiling invisibly when I look at pictures of you so in love with your grandchildren. Blessings to you and yours also.

  7. Marlena on February 11, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    Shirley, you and your family have been in my heart and in my prayers. You are such an inspiration! I will be thinking about you with a smile on Monday evening.
    Cherishing every moment,
    Much love,

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:20 pm

      Thank you, Marlene! If Monday goes as planned, we will be taking a train to Philly, getting our Senior Septa cards, going to the Physician Assistant’s office to remove the drain, coming back on the train. Taking naps! And then walking to our restaurant. Cherishing indeed.

  8. Tina Glanzer on February 11, 2023 at 12:30 pm

    May love mercy and grace continue to be your yours! Your life has been rich!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:21 pm

      Thank you, Tina. It’s good to have a testimony from someone who has known me long and well. 🙂

      • Carol Bodensteiner on February 11, 2023 at 6:56 pm

        The love you and Stewart share is so wonderful and such an inspiration, Shirley. I’m happy to hear that Stewart‘s surgery went well. Relax, breathe, and love!

        • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:58 pm

          Thank you, Carol. There have been quite a few times when that mantra was needed and useful!

  9. Audrey Denecke on February 11, 2023 at 1:45 pm

    Thank you for sharing your journey and strong bond with each other. I love the grandchildren’s notes; no greater health and well-being support than the love behind the notes!
    Praying for all the best outcomes.
    Enjoy your special 14th dinner together.
    Much love and positive energy,

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:23 pm

      Thank you, Audrey. I still remember our meeting on the campus of St. John’s University. Thanks for continuing to connect and care!

  10. Judith Trumbo on February 11, 2023 at 1:56 pm

    “Cherish each other. Cherish life.” Indeed, Shirley, indeed!

    I am reminded of George Eliot’s poem:
    What greater thing is there for two human souls than to feel as if they are joined for life-
    To strengthen each other in all labor,
    To rest on each other in all sorrow,
    To minister to each other in all pain,
    And to be with each other in silent unspeakable memories…

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:24 pm

      Thank you, Judith. George Eliot says it better than I can. We have many “silent unspeakable memories” and are hoping for more!

  11. Carolyn Yoder (the one in Illinois) on February 11, 2023 at 2:17 pm

    Warmest wishes and heartfelt thanksgiving for both of you!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks for clarifying which Carolyn you are. 🙂 Warm wishes on your own journey.

  12. Elaine Mansfield on February 11, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    The love comes spilling out of your words. I’m sorry this is happening to Stuart (and you), but thank you for sharing your love and difficulties. My prayers are with you as you deal with the challenges and soak in the affection from close family and friends. It’s a sacred time, filled with blessings.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 5:28 pm

      Yes, Elaine. Your word “sacred” is a good one. I have learned so much from the way you continue to love Vic long after his body is gone from this earth. You have inspired me and many others. Thank you.

  13. Linda Gartz on February 11, 2023 at 2:33 pm

    Dear Shirley,
    I’m so glad the surgery has seemed to go well. We’re at an age now where any day can bring unwelcome news. As you know, I was diagnosed with cancer in 2014 after the “Early cancer detection” program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital failed to inform me of a growth they discovered on an ultrasound in 2013 (!!!). I had several appointments for chemo, and luckily am still cancer-free.
    I’m sharing this just to say that I understand the difficulties and scary parts of being a partner of someone with cancer. I saw the tears in Bill’s eyes when my oncologist only said, “I hope so,” when I asked if I’d live another year!
    My heart goes out to you and Stuart. What a lovely photo you two took just before his surgery. This May 30th will mark our 53rd wedding anniversary (63rd year of being a couple, May 30, 1965, being the day we met). We, who are in these decades-long relationships know love on a different level from those married just a few years. Your love and positivity always shines through your words.. I wish you both the best healing possible and many more years together!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:24 pm

      Dear Linda, there is a deep knowing we share now about both love and life-threatening illness. Thank you for sharing these memories, good and bad. I wish you both many more years also!

  14. Patricia Lehman on February 11, 2023 at 2:36 pm

    Shirley and Stuart too,
    Blessings as you cherish each moment with each other. May God bring good health and much joy as you catch each moment. The wonder of life and the mystery of death are more alike than we realize.
    Love and prayers,
    Pat Lehman

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:26 pm

      “The wonder of life and the mystery of death are more alike than we realize.” Yes indeed!

      Thank you.

  15. Tina Barbour on February 11, 2023 at 2:42 pm

    Shirley, I’m glad to hear that the surgery is over and Stuart is home and healing. You both are in my prayers, and I hope that any additional treatments go smoothly and easily. Thank you for reminding us to cherish each other and for truly modeling that with Stuart.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:33 pm

      Thank you, Tina. You are a cherisher.

  16. Janet Givens on February 11, 2023 at 2:56 pm

    You two are so cute together. How lucky you are. I think you know that.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:34 pm

      🙂 We have not lost humor and playfulness, I am happy to say. Thanks, Janet.

  17. Mary Ann Miller on February 11, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    Thanks for this blog Shirley,. you are such a good writer! And thank you for reminding us to “cherish” each precious day we are given.. It is so easy to become complacent and then something smacks us into reality( like a scary cancer diagnosis) and we are each faced with our own mortality. Each and every day is so very precious.. Continued thoughts for you both as you continue to navigate recovery.. We are anticipating that we will see you In March. 💕

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:38 pm

      Mary Ann, you are one of many women friends who has been through this experience, the diagnosis part of it, before me. Thanks for continuing to love no matter what and for showing the rest of us how to do that. Just a few more hurdles between us and a reshaped plan to travel. Hoping it happens!

  18. Norbert Krapf on February 11, 2023 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you both for being such wonderful models of how to face and share illness. You are an inspirations as a couple and as individuals. You are in our thoughts, hearts, and prayers. We are pulling for you.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:39 pm

      Thank you, Norbert. We feel the tug!

  19. Herb & Becky Noll on February 11, 2023 at 4:29 pm

    So good to hear this positive report. Know that your family and friends pray for both of you and think of you often. Enjoy your special dinner together.
    Herb & Becky Noll

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:39 pm

      Thanks, Herb and Becky. It’s wonderful to be closer to you and to know that support is there.

  20. Maren C. Tirabassi on February 11, 2023 at 5:05 pm

    I am so grateful that you chose CaringBridge which has been my lifeline to folks so very many time. My prayers are ongoing for you both for there will indeed be times of challenge, but glad to celebrate with you this moment of relief joy and Valentine’s dinner! Many blessings on the path to come.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Maren, I know you must have ministered often to folks in similar circumstances. And, yes, CaringBridge is a ministry too. Blessings back to you.

  21. Melanie Springer Mock on February 11, 2023 at 5:21 pm

    What a lovely tribute to your enduring love, and to the community you’ve built up around you. Continuing to pray for healing and for peace.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:41 pm

      Thank you, Melanie. Your care travels all the way across the country.

  22. Marian Beaman on February 11, 2023 at 5:27 pm

    Shirley, some folks live their entire lives without knowing the love of a soul-mate. Now in our 80s, Cliff and I feel our mortality more intensely than ever. And like you and Stuart, we cherish each other even more.

    If good wishes (and sweet grandkids’ cards) can heal, you both are home free. I feel all the love through the screen. . . and then some!

    You know me; I can’t resist sharing some tidbits before I go: One from Mary Pipher: “Grief [even experienced prematurely] is a “reflection of our capacity to love.” And from the Song of Solomon 8:6 “Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm: for love is as strong as death.”

    • Shirley Showalter on February 11, 2023 at 6:44 pm

      Yes, Marian, love can come through the screen, and indeed it has.

      Thank you for both those quotes. Mary Pipher is profound on the subject of anticipatory grief, and I am teaching a Sunday School lesson tomorrow on Solomon, so thanks for this reminder of a favorite verse.

  23. Richard Kauffman on February 11, 2023 at 7:14 pm

    Embracing life while not in denial about death. Bravo.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 7:44 am

      Yes. Thank you.

  24. Richard Gilbert on February 11, 2023 at 8:00 pm

    Beautiful, Shirley! What a team. Sending good thoughts.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 7:44 am

      Love seeing your own team thriving on IG. Thanks.

  25. Sara Wenger Shenk on February 11, 2023 at 8:15 pm

    Thank you Shirley, for these glimpses of cherishing every day, and especially in vulnerable times. Nothing like a serious illness or a close brush with death to remind us how precious our dear ones are and how marvelously fortunate we are to have and to hold. Sounds like you’ve crossed a major hurdle, and are catching your breath for the next lap. May the healing journey continue for you and Stuart!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 7:46 am

      Your words describe where we are succinctly. We love having pastor-writers as friends. 🙂
      Thank you, Sara.

  26. Betsy Hay on February 11, 2023 at 8:37 pm

    As with every journey you undertake, Shirley, you are both a student humbly learning and a teacher deeply sharing. I am grateful for the care and compassion of a community that holds you and Stuart in abundant love. Cherish life indeed!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 7:48 am

      Betsy, you have described one of my deepest impulses so truly. Thank you for that glimpse into my best self. And it takes one to know one! You do the same.

  27. Les Helmuth on February 12, 2023 at 7:35 am

    Thanks for sharing this journey with us. Yes, cherish life and each other.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 7:49 am

      Les, you would have written this post as a haiku. You have been one of our teachers on the journey. Thank you.

  28. Saloma on February 12, 2023 at 12:05 pm

    Shirley, thank you for your caring and sharing. I hold you and Stuart in the Light. This is a hard journey you two are on, and you’re walking it beautifully. Peace and Joy to you both.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 1:17 pm

      Thank you, Saloma, It is good to hear from you and to have this encouragement.

  29. susan scott on February 12, 2023 at 1:22 pm

    All loving thoughts to you both Shirley! my heart is much warmed by your post. And your request of ‘cherish each other’, ‘cherish life’. Reminders are particularly apt at certain times –
    The above is a copy and paste of an earlier comment by me. You and your husband are in my prayers.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 12, 2023 at 1:42 pm

      I just found and replied above. Thanks for coming back a second time. Hugs,


  30. Mary Gottschalk on February 13, 2023 at 8:59 am

    Shirley .. cancer is a frightening thing, but I am hoping that the positive outcome from the surgery means you and Stewart have turned corner.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 13, 2023 at 5:46 pm

      Yes it is, Mary. I have a feeling you know that personally. Today the drain came out from the surgery, and Stuart already feels a great relief. Thanks.

  31. Roxanne Landis on February 13, 2023 at 3:26 pm

    He looks amazing! My prayers continue for both of you as well as your family. Not a journey anyone wants to take but you are doing it with dignity and grace. Thank you for the update in the midst of it all!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 13, 2023 at 5:47 pm

      Doesn’t he? We are going to head out to our date night, and he looks really good to me. No more drainage tube. Thank you for your prayers.

  32. Elton and Helen Bomberger on February 13, 2023 at 7:36 pm

    Thoughts and prayers.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 14, 2023 at 9:18 am

      Thank you, Elton and Helen

  33. Harvey Yoder on February 14, 2023 at 5:39 pm

    Thanks for your good words. Until I had a similar surgery, followed by radiation treatments, in 2019, I never knew I even had a parotid gland. Best wishes to you all!

    • Shirley Showalter on February 15, 2023 at 8:08 am

      Harvey, you can identify completely! We are waiting to hear from the oncologist about whether Stuart will need radiation treatments as a follow up. Good to know you are doing well!! God bless.

  34. Sherrey Meyer on March 2, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    Shirley, my comment has been a long time coming as I needed time to digest our own crises and your words, especially the word “cherish.” I have always described Bob’s feelings for me as “being cherished.” I’ve always hoped I returned that blessing to him. Recently, we faced a crisis in Bob’s health that could have taken him away from us. Today’s medical fields have such tools at their disposal that they work the next best thing to miracles. Bob’s life has turned around health-wise, as we pray for Stuart’s to heal. I loved reading this post and derived a great deal of blessing and peace from it. With my love and God’s blessings, Sherrey

    • Shirley Showalter on March 2, 2023 at 7:19 pm

      Oh Sherrey, I am so glad that Bob’s health has returned. Stuart and I are optimistic that he is on the same path. Thanks for your caring. Wishing the same for your continuing mutual good health.

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