A lot has happened since my last update! We’ve enjoyed the dedication of precious little Alivia Merrell
Oliver, moved Nathan and Amy to West Palm Beach and experienced the home going of my beloved older
Christ on October 24.
Marsha was born on May 28th, 1942, in San Francisco, California to George and Leona Oliver. She
grew up in Long Beach, California, was a graduate of Millikan High School, attended Biola
University and graduated from Long Beach City College. While she was a California native her
heart was always in the big sky country of Montana.
Marsha contracted polio at the beach on her 5th birthday and despite significant disabilities spent
many years working for the State of California Department of Employment as a manager and a
supervisor. She received numerous awards and citations and was appointed by the Governor to the
California State Employment Development Task Force where she served until her retirement.
She was preceded in death by her parents, her sister-in-love, Carrie Oliver and her nephew, Matt
Survivors include her brother, Gary J. Oliver; nephews Nathan Oliver and his wife Amy and daughter
Alivia of West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andrew Oliver of Siloam Springs; aunts Norma Jackson of
Great Falls, Montana and Cecil Jackson of Dallas, Texas.
Marsha loved to travel and to prepare gourmet food but she was most known and loved for her love
for the Lord, her family and friends, her sweet smile, her kind, generous and unselfish spirit and her
gift of encouragement. Everyone who knew Marsha was inspired by her and felt better after being
around her. Marsha was active at Christ Community Fellowship in Siloam Springs.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations to the Marsha L. Oliver Memorial Scholarship
Fund at John Brown University in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
It was quite a shock when on Friday morning, October 24th, I received a call that my dear sister Marsha had
fallen asleep the night of the 23rd and sometime early the next morning woke up breathing celestial air. I
know she was met by our Lord Jesus Christ, our Mom and Dad, dear Carrie, Matt and other loved ones.
That Wednesday and Thursday Nathan and I were driving the moving van and Amy and her mom were
driving the car on the kids move down to their new home and new lives in West Palm Beach. I had called
Marsha on Thursday night about an hour outside of West Palm just to check in and see how she was
doing. We had a nice long chat, she sounded good, we laughed about a few things, I told her that I’d see
her on Sunday and that I loved her and the last words I heard her say were “I love you too Gary” and I thank
God for that special gift. You never ever know when a conversation will be your last one with someone you
Marsha contracted polio on her fifth birthday and we were told that she wouldn’t live past the age of 30. She
spent most of her teenage years in hospitals. By God’s grace they were off by 36 years! These past 10
years she had started to experience the effects of Post-Polio Syndrome and was confined to her electric
cart but she lived by herself and drove herself around in her special van and was notoriously independent.
However, she was becoming weaker and she was just one fall away from being unable to take care of
herself and having to go to assisted care. In fact, when I came back from Florida I was going to have to
have a talk with her about making plans for that possibility but now it doesn’t matter since she has been
We almost lost her last summer and I thank God that He graciously gave us one more year with her.
Precious Amy was great in initiating and scheduling dinner times either at our house or Marsha’s. We
would get together a couple of times a week. When she’d come to my place Nathan and I would get her
special ramps out so she could get into our home. When Carrie and I built our house we made the
downstairs wheelchair accessible in case one of our family members had to come and live with us so
Marsha was able to zip around (and she could go fast in that scooter) our home without any problem. We
would have dinner, watch Lost together and just enjoy being a family.
Here is what Nathan and Amy wrote about Marsha on their blog:
rising above pain and beating the odds. You taught us how to have joy and happiness even when
life is not what you hoped it would be or as easy as you'd like. Thank you for enriching and blessing
our lives with being a faithful servant of God and for being exactly who He created you to be. We
rejoice that you are whole, that you are free and that you are worshiping our good God. We will miss
you, sweet Marsha.”
Wow, it seems unreal that in only 18 months we’ve experienced the loss of a son and brother, a wife and
mother, a sister and an aunt. We Oliver’s know where our beloved ones are but there are still massive
holes in our hearts and in our lives. It’s a huge loss for Nathan and Andrew who have grown up with their
Aunt Marsha and on every birthday received an early morning call hearing Marsha’s voice singing happy
birthday. She was just as excited about other people’s birthdays as she was her own. During Andrew’s
high school years as I fought my most serious bout of cancer and Carrie spent two years fighting her
cancer, my sister Marsha was in many ways more than an aunt to Andrew. She and Andrew were very
close and would eat out together at least once a week. As we were looking at some pictures for Marsha’s
memorial service Andrew found one from several years ago with our immediate family and Marsha—six
people. As he looked at the picture he noted that half of the people in the picture were now with the Lord. It
still seems very unreal.
In a card a friend who recently lost a sibling wrote about what it was like for her and it echoed some of what
I am experiencing. It seems like there are a gazillion losses on many different levels. For example,
Marsha and I had made plans to eat together a couple of times a week. In fact, she was going to teach me
how to cook for one person. We had made plans to write a thorough Oliver family history. Only my older
sister Marsha shared my life from the beginning until October 24th of this year and with her loss is the loss
of laughter, tears, intensity, sibling camaraderie, childhood memories that only siblings can share and
help each other remember. In Marsha’s case, she remembered details and dates that I’ll never know.
She was the keeper of the history of two generation of Jackson’s and Olivers. She was my last real living
connection with Mom & Dad, with my childhood, with people who have long since passed on. In fact, in
some ways it’s a different level of loss of my Mom and Dad, of memories of them when they were both
Through yet another loss God is teaching me what it means to be a friend. Immediately upon learning of
Marsha’s death one of my oldest and wisest friends send me the following note:
As I have been praying this is what I sensed the Lord saying to me: ’John (not his real name), don't
be like a friend of Job for Gary.’ I assume that this means I am not to try and answer your questions
that you posed on the phone the other day, when you called and let me know of Marcia's passing. I
too have all those questions and if I were to try and answer, would push you away from the Lord and
His sustaining power. I don't know the answers! I just know that in all of this mess you have are
going through--somehow He is there in the midst of it with you. Gary, keep sharing your frustrations,
anger, and pain with Him--that will not affect how much He loves you. Know that I love you and
grieve with you in these days. May you find in Him just enough to make it through today, and each
day thereafter, until He shows Himself mighty on your behalf. That I know He will do! I love you
Over the past few years I have developed a deep confidence in the goodness of God. I still trust his
intentions for me but His timing doesn’t always make the best of sense. I continue to desire to resign and
relinquish my dreams and expectations to his at time significant updates and revisions. In my experience
there is often a line between a healthy attachment and an undue attachment to any state, place, position or
relationship. At times I feel like Mary in Luke 1:38 where she said, “I am the Lord’s servant, and I am willing
to accept whatever he wants.” But it’s not always easy.
While this past month has brought some deep sorrow there has also been some times of great joy and
celebration. On October 18th we were joined by Amy’s wonderful parents, Rick and Lynn for Alivia’s
dedication at our church in Northwest Arkansas and Marsha joined us for that special occasion. It was an
amazing experience to see Nathan and Amy in front of our church family holding little Alivia and dedicating
themselves and their daughter to the Lord. I’m rarely at a loss for words but I don’t have the words to
express what a joyful and deeply moving experience it was.
Moving the Kids to West Palm Beach
These past weeks also involved Nathan and Amy packing their earthly belongings for a long-anticipated
move to West Palm Beach. On the Sunday before the move we had a lovely going away party for them and
Marsha was able to join us for that fun event. On Wednesday morning the 22nd we drove away from
Siloam Springs with me and Nathan in the van and Amy, Lynn and Alivia in the car and on Thursday night
we arrived in West Palm to begin the new chapter in our lives.
While it’s somewhat bittersweet to have the kids move away it is actually more sweet than bitter. The Lord
has opened some great doors for them there. They will have their own home and Amy will be able nest
and to use her great decorating skills to reflect her own good taste. They’ll be close to Amy’s Mom and
Dad, her sisters and Alivia will be close to her cousins. I’ve been massively blessed to have my
granddaughter living with me for five months. It’s been a joy to watch her becoming more alert, aware,
stronger and wanting to crawl. It’s been fun watching her appear insulted when she is offered a sippy
cup—she wants to drink from the same cup her Dad drinks from. On her last full day here I spent an hour
in the morning with her just holding her, walking around with her, singing to her and praying for her. It was
a joy. It’s amazing to see how her progression accelerates with every new month. I can’t wait to see her
again at Christmas. If you want the latest update on the kids go to nathanandamyoliver.blogspot.com.
Please pray for the kids as they look for a new home, arrange for financing in a difficult economy and as
Nathan starts his own counseling practice and is involved in some other ministries. There are many
opportunities there for them and one of their greatest challenges will be to discern what God would have
them to do and what they need to say no to.
Andrew’s Birthday—November 7th
Due to Marsha's memorial service Andrew came back home the week before his birthday and we had Part
1 of a great celebration with Nathan and Amy. Amy made some amazing carrot cake, we shared some
gifts and some memories of many happy family times. Since I had already purchased the airline tickets for
his actual birthday Andrew came back home the following week for Part 2 of his birthday and we had some
great father and son time together. We spent his actual “birth day” in Tulsa. I’ll be out in Southern
California the week of November 17th so we’ll have Part 3 of his birthday celebration in (comparatively)
warm sunny California. By the way, Andrew recently had his phone number changed. Email us for his new
A Beautiful Fall in Arkansas - 2008
|November 16, 2008