I don't believe that grief passes
away. It has its time and place forever.
time is added to it; it becomes a story within a story. But
grief and griever alike endure. -Wendell Berry
Elsbeth Shannon - Bio
Born and raised in her native Switzerland, Elsbeth
left her motherland to work as a volunteer in the Congo in the 1960s. There she met her husband, Ralph
Shannon. They raised four children and served as medical missionaries in Central Africa (Congo
& Rwanda) for 40 years. Elsbeth had a great love of and talent for music, studying ethnomusicology
and working with church choirs.
Ralph and Elsbeth retired to Check, VA in 2004 to be near us and to help out here at Weathertop
Farm. During her time in Virginia she enjoyed working in the garden, hosting many family gatherings,
cooking magnificent meals, teaching piano to the grandchildren, representing Weathertop at the Blacksburg Farmer’s
market, and singing with the Roanoke Symphony Chorus. She was a woman of many accomplishments and a great zest for life
who is sorely missed.
Often when I'm walking around the farm I catch glimpses of mom. I can see her coming
down the driveway in the big old suburban returning from the mill with a load of feed, a trip she often made because
she so loved to help out. I can hear her, too, because whenever she made that trip she did it with enough enthusiasm
to outdo the sound of the lumbering car, as she practiced for an upcoming performance with the Roanoke Symphony Choir.
A friend gave her an i-pod, and since the car
had no working sound system, she plugged it into her ears and practiced away, in spite of all our dire warnings to
her to leave one ear open. We worried and wondered how she survived those roads, because unlike other elderly
women who may drive cautiously in such a large vehicle, Elsbeth reveled in the powerful feel of the beast and took
on those windy mountain roads like a true Swiss driver, there was nothing tentative in that trip.
I can see her other places, too. Heading down to the bonfire for a cookout with
family and friends where her renowned prowess at culinary arts always delighted the participants. I see her grilling
rabbit or chicken, and convincing reluctant eaters to try out livers and gizzards. I can see her yodeling
with her sisters when they came to visit from Switzerland, and I can hear it floating out across the treetops and through
the neighboring farms, and beyond. I can see her digging up potatoes, getting the kids excited about helping
out with the hunt. I can hear her dramatic "oohhs" and "aahhs" as she listens to me tell her
a story, sympathetic to the core.
I see her on her bike. Whether she was coming from her home, through the woods along the bumpy path on her way to feed
the hogs (which she did frequently until they grew large enough to scare her just a little bit!), or headed out to
the gardens, which she did most every day the weather was permitting, or on her way home with Nadine on the front
handlebars heading to a piano lesson, she always rode that bike gleefully.
But no matter where I see her she always has a smile on her face, she is always cheerful and always
optimistic, nothing gets her down. If it's work she does it cheerfully, if it's a rained out picnic it's
an indoor party instead, if its a mishap it becomes a funny story.
Never have I known a person with so much determination and cheerfulness packed into one live
person. And all that fierce energy flowed from her love for all of us. And I can see that, too, like a web woven
with her bicycle tires, criss-crossing our land in every direction, binding us all together with her love.
Losing mom has been difficult. And it is difficult, if not impossible,
to find meaning in such a loss. The best I can do is honor her memory by thinking of how she would have taken joy
in each small wonder of the moment. I can enjoy spring because I can see her digging in the garden. I
can hear her coming down the driveway, singing.
by Natasha Shannon
You whose smile lit the sun
You whose music moved the stars
pen cannot write
all that should be said
Your endless love
Your delightful interest
And overflowing heart
Left undying imprints
That could not be forgotten
Your face no longer with us
But the memory living on
prevailing strength you fought
The raging battle's curses
Your steadfast faith
It burned with passion
God was ever there for you
To him you went with joy
Our tears are shed
Your spirit rests
You are in a place
We love you.