The following is a tribute to my sister who led me to Christ, became my first Bible teacher, and was my best friend.
On February 4, 2016, the Cedarville University nursing students who Marsha Swinehart, RN taught, presented a plaque to the School of Nursing in honor of Marsha’s life.
Dr. Rachel Parrill, Marsha’s colleague, accepted the plaque on behalf of the School of Nursing with the following words:
I was honored to be asked by the leadership to say a few words today about Marsha on behalf of all of those in the School of Nursing who loved her and were influenced by her life. This presentation specifically illustrates the love and respect that our nursing students held for Marsha. It is very significant that this initiative to honor Marsha has been completely student-led. It is clear that it is your desire to love and honor Christ that has compelled you to remember Marsha in this way. Anyone who was acquainted with Marsha knows that it would be her desire that Christ would be glorified in the presentation of this plaque. So, I will try in the next few moments to highlight how Marsha strived to live the words of John 3:30 so that Christ be would become greater and she would become less.
On this plaque, we have remembered Marsha as Beloved Professor, Compassionate Friend, and Humble Servant. It is difficult to sum up a life in just a few words, but we felt these words best represented what Marsha meant to students, faculty, and staff of the School of Nursing.
Marsha truly was a Beloved Professor to students within the classroom and clinical setting and to those she advised and mentored. One former student said of Marsha: “She challenged me to walk closer to Christ and dream bigger about my future. She helped me find my love of nursing and didn’t let me quit. She shared a vision to serve the hurting and broken in the world.” Another graduate wrote: “She encouraged me to strive to follow Jesus more and more each day. She didn’t just teach her students about nursing: we learned about life and Jesus and passion. Using nursing as a ministry for Christ wasn’t just a saying anymore, but a true mission statement that I use as a reason for why I am a nurse.” The words of these graduates demonstrate the investment Marsha made in the lives of students during her time at Cedarville.
These same sentiments hold true for those of us who knew her as a colleague and Compassionate Friend. I had the privilege of teaching with Marsha for six years in the specialty area of public health nursing. I could share with you what a godly influence she was among her colleagues, which she was, but I thought you might enjoy hearing a story that will give you a glimpse into another side of your nursing faculty.
One summer, Marsha and I were asked to speak at a missions conference in Pennsylvania. About 20 minutes into our drive to the conference, we had a flat tire. I was driving, and I managed to make it safely off the highway onto a nearby exit ramp. As I pulled over, I was rather dismayed to see that I had been followed off the exit ramp by what I assumed and hoped was someone wanting to assist us. I say I was dismayed because based simply on appearances, this person would not have been my first choice for help for two women traveling alone and pulled over in a somewhat remote area.
Our Good Samaritan was riding a motorcycle and covered in tattoos and leather from head to foot. He quickly went to work putting the spare tire on my car. I stepped several feet away to call my husband, but I made sure to stay close enough to pull Marsha off the back of a motorcycle if needed! After a short phone call, I returned to find Marsha and our Good Samaritan discussing the blessings of God. It was so like Marsha to find a way to engage someone in a conversation about spiritual matters anywhere, anytime. It was a pretty neat experience, and it has become a wonderful memory for me.
Finally, we remember Marsha as a Humble Servant of Christ. Marsha’s life is an example of how our extraordinary God can use an ordinary life when that life is submitted to Him. Philippians 2:7 tells us that Jesus provides our example of true servanthood in that He willingly gave His life on the cross. In this same chapter, we are urged to have the same mindset as Christ. We thank God for the many ways Marsha’s humility and servant’s heart touched our lives, but we know that she would not point us to her example but rather to the example of the Christ she followed. In closing, I’d like to draw our attention to Marsha’s life verse which has been included on the plaque. “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21).
I know that Marsha’s desire would be that the message of this Scripture would remain with you as you remember her life.