What a Glorious Life She Led

Selected Writings of Shirley Martha Mackey Westerman

The City

The beautiful city, the black-velvet city,
All spangles and sparkling with sequins of gold.
You stretch from my window and beckon me onward
As soft as the nap of a carpet unrolled.

You whisper of mystery, hint of adventure,
You laugh at the story of fraud that you bring;
You murmur of love and you grieve in deep sadness,
Then soft in your great husky throat do you sing.

Oh, strongly you lure me, you tempt me to follow,
As wildly you call, or as softly you plead.
Speak on, soft-tongued city, I listen, I hear you;
I hark to your murmur, I go where you lead.

A Mother’s Prayer

Dear Lord,

Through all the petty cares that fill my day
And worries of the night,
Be at my side, that I may feel Thee near –
I need Thy hand to hold.

Soften my words with gentleness and love;
Guide Thou my feet lest they falter from Thy path;
Temper my passions, anger and despair
And lead me in Thy way.
(some time in the ‘50’s)



To try to show you Capping through Freshman eyes is almost an impossible task, for many Freshmen eyes were rather blurred on that “occasion” which was to them “an epoch.”  Those tears were caused by many thoughts; and many a cocky Freshman, who laughed at the very thought of crying over this service, had to swallow mighty hard to get rid of the great lump in her throat, not once did it rise, but many times.

The first cause for regret came when we stood in line to have our bibs put on by our supervisors.  Suddenly it occurred to us that this was the last time that they were really our supervisors; and that was not at all a pleasant thought, for memories of our Freshman days will always be sweeter because of the contact we have had with those who have guided and directed us.

Again, as we were standing in line, we felt our expectations drop because we had no one else there to be so thrilled as we would be, when our caps were being pinned on; for there is not much pleasure to be derived from winning a prize all for yourself, if no one else is to appreciate it with you.  How many Freshmen thought inwardly, “This would be perfect, if only my Mother were here!”  Of course we did have our “Big Sister” to be pleased by our achievement, but even that couldn’t fill the bill.

At the thought of what this service signified, many a sigh was sent winging after that gay irresponsibility which was to vanish with the donning of the bib and cap; for these are the symbols of service, and hand in hand with the acceptance of responsibility must go the signing away of carefree youth – and youth is sweet and hard to part with.

Of course, the most thrilling moment of all was that when, holding our newly acquired caps in place, we were congratulated by Miss Durell.  It was at that moment that all our regrets and sadness were wiped away; for then it was that we realized that there are those who are watching our progress with interested eyes, eager for us to make the grade.  These people who are accepting us are counting on us to keep faith with them, and are wishing for each one a happy successful life through the years we spend with them and through the years beyond.  We are not alone, but among friends who are willing to advise us and help us to climb the heights which they have scaled before us.


The Office Wife

You’ve heard about the “office wife”,
Who complicates the “home wife’s” life?
Well, I am hear to vow and swear
That she can have him while he’s there!

In spelling words and dotting i’s,
In all the crises that arise,
In situations unromantic,
She’s kept my man from going frantic.

1)     She files the forms that she has filled;
2)    At record keeping she is skilled;
3)    Her shorthand and her typing’s dandy;
4)   She’s kept the office stocked with candy;
5)    She’s memorized all office numbers;
6)   She won’t disturb him when he slumbers;
7)   She’s figured budgets to the dime,
8)   And tried to send him home on time.

She’s fed his ego, nursed his vanity,
And helped maintain his waning sanity.
So, if it’s time that someone leaves,
I’m sorry that it’s Mrs. Greaves!
(June 28, 1979)


Strife seems to be deeply entrenched in the nature of mankind – to struggle, to conquer, to prove himself master of the environment in which he finds himself: the savage against the hardships of primitive life; the educated being against the challenges offered him by other educated beings; even, at the highest level, man against the decisions which rightfully belong to God. “Why,” we cry when faced with disease or loss, “Why me?”

How do we find the grace to accept – not just in mind but truly, within the very core of our being – that we need not understand, we need not question, God’s decisions. Birth, life, death – these are all in God’s realm; whatever He has designed for each of us is right & good – NOT TO BE QUESTIONED! When we can recognize & truly accept this, then perhaps we can experience a soul at peace & get on with the business of doing our very best at our level & trust God to look after His level.

(December 7, 1982)


To Savor Every Day

I’d like to savor every day that comes,
for each new day is unique:

no one ever rose to greet the rising sun in this day before,
nor ever will again;

nor will I ever meet another day just as I do this day,
for each one makes some change in me.

So I shall try to see each new day as a shining treasure
– to sense its special quality,

to cherish as a gift, to fill with the stuff of memories,
and to let it help me grow and be enriched and strengthened.

Thus it can serve to give me joy today
(to be returned in praise to God)
and memories of joy as life slows down toward my end.
(January 1, 1983)

Mother 1

My time with Mother left me with one prayer:

I hope, if I live to be a tired and helpless old lady,
that someone will still have for me the love I have for her today

– that I have lived & will continue to live
so that I earn this from my children & my husband.

I should not want “duty” or “service”
– any kindly hands & heart can give this
– but the almost helpless love that wells up in me when I am with her.

I would not spare them the pain that goes with it,
for that, too, is a bitter-sweet companion of the love.
(March 23, 1983)

Mother 2

Dear God in heaven, unless this be your path for me in my last days on earth,
I pray I may not reach the state of my dear, dear mother.

And, if it be the picture of things to come,
dear Lord sustain me and lend your grace & strength to those who love me.
(January 23, 1984)

Mother 3

Had an early call:

Mother slept her life away this morning
with no awareness of taking the step into the dark unknown.

There is no sadness in any of our hearts,
only gratitude for her and her life
and for this painless ending of her time on this earth.

I find it strange, however, to know that someone,
who has known & loved me since before I was even born,
has gone ahead into a new dimension that I cannot know. (December 2, 1985)

I asked for patience some short time ago
Unknowing that I asked for hardship, too,
To prove my patience.  I asked peace and woe
Alike from You.

I ask for patience now, Lord, and I stand
Ready to answer for the things I ask.
I ask for courage, too, and a strong hand
To do my task.

It little matters if the way be rough,
If we should seem to find no gain – all loss.
It little matters if we face rebuff
To see – a Cross.

Ours is a pilgrimage too great to hide,
Too high for stumbling, yet too humble far
To hurt the weakest soul, to turn aside
The questing heart.


Fog on My Face

I love the feel of fog upon my face
Its myriad diamond droplets clinging there
To mask my cheek beneath a silver down
Soft as a whisper and as light as air.

I love its cool caress upon my brow
As sweet as touch of angel wings at dawn,
As gentle as a mother’s good-night kiss
That soothes but never wakes a sleeping son.

I love the way the fog shuts out the world,
It muffles sound, dulls even thunder’s roar;
But most of all in moments hard and grim
I love the way it cools my fevered soul.

The Children of God

We are the children of God.
Brothers and sisters of a single Father.
Our love, our allegiances, our heritage go back to Him
And extend out to each other.

He is our center, our lodestar.
Through him we are related and joined.
He was at our beginning and will be at our end,
Our guide, our strength and our protector.


How can we be so blest?

What have we done right to make our beloved, totally different four children really want to share family time together?  And with us?

I thank my dear Lord that our mistakes have been forgiven by my children and that my wish – my hopes – have been recognized as they have matured & can recognize that we thought we were doing the right thing as we dealt with their earlier years.

I thank my parents & his for the principles they instilled in both of us.

What a blessing to have had such a basis!


These, then, are mine –
The memories, the dreams,
The people I have loved,
The days & nights of joy;
The problems we have solved,
My love & I;
The pain & grief we’ve shared;
The pride, the faith, our trusting
Hands in God’s.
The worries & the fears,
The prayers for strength;
Acceptance of His rule,
His wisdom, grace,
Forgiveness & support.

This, then, I pledge –
Acceptance of His will,
A joy in memories,
A thanks for blessings known;
Though I will grieve if I am left alone,
To face the rest of life
With strength & love, & with a
Helping hand

For those in need,
In loneliness or fear,
Until the time will come
When I am called
To take a place with Him.
May 28, 1992

Ian Westerman, Christmas 1996

I’ve racked my brain for something to buy
For a great energetic, 9-year-old guy
Who has nearly everything (hamsters & such);
I looked in the stores, but I didn’t see much
That he doesn’t have & I thought he’d like—
He has skis, a canoe & a wonderful bike.

Then I had an idea & laughed with glee—
I’ll get something to hang on his Christmas tree!
Then he’ll be the one who can scout around
For the “special thing” that I haven’t found
(And he’ll also learn something, I suspect—
That’s how to endorse a Christmas check!)

Tyler Westerman – February 1997
Recipe for a fun, late birthday

Open in order:
1) Share this with Mother to bake in a pie.
2) Share these with Dad whose cholesterol is high.
3) Here are some goodies from our Christmas tree.
4) And here is a picture of Poppy & me.
5) This is a strange one – it’s for the birds!
6) This you’ll find handy to write a few words.
7) These are to share – they’re juicy and sweet
For breakfast or lunch or an after-school treat.
8) These are just for fun – you may think we’re nutty,
But we still like to play with Silly Putty!


Blue of sky, green of grass,
White of clouds that slowly pass;
Sight of flowers, scent of pine,
All of these are surely mine.

Song of birds, sounds of sea,
Gentle breeze to comfort me.
All these gifts the Lord has given
To make this earth a touch of Heaven.

May I ever thankful be
For all that He has given me.
March, 1997

My Silent World

My silent world enfolds me safe within,
Removed from noise, from anger & from strife;
Here I am peaceful, quiet and serene,
Untroubled by the clamor & the din.

My eyes reach out to welcome others in;
All shape & color re-affirm my life;
My memory of beauties I have seen
Provides the spark from which my dreams begin.

Why should I grieve that sound is lost to me
When I have music locked within my mind,
When hands can touch & arms can hold me dear,
When loving smiles can set my spirit free?

Perhaps this gift that God has gently given
Lets me rejoice and, in my silence, find
The message only He and I can hear
That leads at last to life with Him in heaven.
August, 1997

The Center of My Life

You are the center of my life,
The axis of my balance wheel
That keeps me steady & serene
Through all the storms & blows of fate.

I have no fears of future days;
I know your wisdom & your strength.
The years that I have shared with you
Have taught me truth, have brought me faith.

I thank you for the problems solved,
The patience you have always shown
When jobs were hard & time was short.

I bless you for our family
Whose love for you is freely given
I’m glad they see what I have seen
And cherish you as I have done.

Whatever else is left for us,
However many days or years,
I shall remember what we’ve had
And thank my Lord with all my heart.
October 11, 1997


And so, this night, my Savior came:
To Man was then a promise given
That, should we give our hearts to Him,
A place was there for us in heaven.

This is the song the angels sing;
This is the pledge He died to prove;
This is the promise Christmas brings—
The answer always lies in Love.
December 24, 1998


1 Response to What a Glorious Life She Led

  1. Joan McKay Callahan says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your Mother’s poetry. They give a special insight into her and your Dad’s lives and the life they shared. Such special people!

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