Memories of Sheila Stone Dill




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Recollections of Sheila Dill

I think we need to stop assigning memorial events to the teachers in the family because they keep assigning essays to write. But then they are mostly all teachers, aren't they?

Wayne Dill with Sheila Stone Dill seated in front of an outdoor crowd

I met Sheila on a hike to Twin Lakes in the Kaiser Wilderness area, near Huntington Lake. Dad was anxious to have his new "girlfriend" meet his kids and wanted to have a fun family day in the mountains.

Unfortunately, I was a pigheaded teenager who thought he was a real mountain man and who thought he was a rock climber, simply because he had seen a film or something, and thought he knew exactly how a real climber did things.

So, while Dad, Sheila and Jan were enjoying fishing or something like that (I never could sit still for such a pursuit) I was out rock-hopping and exploring. Aaaand... falling off a rock precipice.

So that took the "fun family day in the mountains" to a whole different level. Sparing details, the rest of the day involved transporting me on a makeshift stretcher to a meadow, where a rescue helicopter could land to evacuate me. I was attended to by a troop of boy scouts camping at the lakes, and a group of men from the Coca-Cola bottling company in Fresno, as well as Jan and Sheila. Dad had run out to the main road to get help.

Sheila ended up flying with me in the helicopter to St. Agnes. When the day was done, she might have had reason to question her involvement with the Dill crazies. But somehow miraculously, she stuck around. I'm so glad she did.

Our family was broken -- the divorce between Mom and Dad, and all the disfunction that brought that on had left us in a mess. And I know that Sheila had gone through such difficult times too, that she must have been reeling from her own wounds, but somehow, she found the strength and empathy to treat me with love and compassion, to be patient with me, to still be an adult who could guide me into an acceptable path for my life. She knew when to love and accept the ridiculous mess that I was, and when to help me make better decisions, firmly but gently (that’s a contradiction). She was loving, kind, wise, and giving, even when she must have had her hands full with her three boys, and the biggest boy of them all -- my dad. She was a true angel in our lives.

I did not appreciate all this immediately. I was an adult when I began to realize what a special person she was. Intelligent, but humble, she lived in Dad's shadow, but over the years I began to see that she was the true hero of the family—the one with wisdom, the one I wanted to be like, the one who I needed to watch and follow, and emulate.

This was supposed to be a letter of memories of good times. I certainly remember best the many Kith and Kin reunions that we had. These were mainly inspired by Sheila, and they were great. They are a legacy to her love and compassion for both sets of children, spouses, and grandchildren. These came about from her desire to have a whole family, and it was Sheila that made that happen.

When Dad passed away, I sensed in Sheila a relief that she had some time on her own to live the last years of her life exactly how she wanted. I remember shortly after dad was gone, I was there in her home and I remember hearing music playing, and I realized that I hadn't heard her play music for many years. She said that she hadn't because Dad didn't like to hear the music. She was joyful and seemed light as air as she was able to brighten life once again with the sound of music.

I know she missed Dad, but I think she also felt free and released from the burden of his cantankerous pessimism. And that was Sheila -- she was the opposite of Dad in many ways -- bright, cheery, happy, and fun to be around. She was an optimist, loved life, loved adventure, and always was very giving. And she had faith in people -- she had a vision of the potential of those she loved, and loved them whether they soared or stumbled, but always believed that they would recover from any stumble to be better. I think she instilled this in Dad too and made him a much better person than he ever was, or would have been without her.

She was a great cook (again I didn't appreciate this strength until I was an adult), always able to whip up a meal that was healthy, delicious, and novel. She was also a fantastic gardener, having created a jewel of a backyard that was lovely to sit in, and to meditate in.

When Sheila succumbed to a failing heart after battling COVID, I thought it was all too soon. I had thought she would be around for many years, and I looked forward to visiting her often. Of all the parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles I have lost, I miss her the most. But just remembering her makes me a better person and makes my life brighter; I am more optimistic remembering her. When I think of Sheila, I feel hope, love, beauty, and appreciation for simple things. That is perhaps what I liked most about visiting Sheila and Dad -- was her appreciation for simple things, for her ability to see everyday beauty, and appreciate the small things that are really the big things in life. I will miss Sheila. But I will also hold her memory very dear. I don’t think that I ever let her know how much I learned to appreciate her in my adult life -- I tried toward the end, but I just was not very good at expressing it that well. I really loved Sheila.



Marc Elliot Hall Henderson, Nevada 

Page created: 14 January, 2023
Page modified: 1 June, 2023

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