Cheryl L. Yerkes
Though Cheryl's body has been consumed, her vibrant spirit and deep faith continue to encourage, as well as live on in the lives of her family, friends, and students. Passion coupled with compassion, prophetic vision filtered through healing touch, Cheryl's life has been energy filled, love tempered, exciting, curious, courageous, and faithful. Affirmed and confirmed, her life has been especially full in revealing God's presence and abiding love through words, heart, and hands bringing both health and harmony.
Whether guiding a young child's hand across a keyboard coaxing out the melody of their first "twinkling" piece, massaging the tight neck muscles of a musician after a grueling gig, or gently holding the hands of someone who has just returned from surgery as a chaplain in a modern medical center, Cheryl's tenderness and strength emulating God's always was evident.
Cheryl delighted in her role as a mom raising her children, laboring long - loving, persevering the growth pains, celebrating as each grew up and entered the world on their own. She marveled always at the persons that they have become. For forty years Cheryl taught children and their parents the finer art of playing the piano according to the method of Shinichi Suzuki. Always about appreciating the music, yet even more about encouraging her students to grow in grace as well as confidence in their abilities in all areas of their lives. She would often beam with joy to hear how a student, now in their twenties or thirties was still playing some piece they had learned years before, or to hear one of her students play professionally and speak of recording a CD.
At mid-life Cheryl decided to push the margins of her understanding of health embarking on the study of the various modalities of therapeutic massage. Opening herself to the miracle of God's creation in the human body she discovered the dynamic connection between body, mind, and spirit, so often missed by physician, therapist, and pastor alike. Combining healing touch with healing prayer opened up for Cheryl a new and exciting arena in which ministry could occur (ministry meaning revealing God's healing and transforming presence in the midst of human life). This was only the beginning of an adventure in health and harmony as Cheryl integrated her gifts of music, touch, prayer, and presence in all of the avenues of her work.
How thoroughly amazed and humbled Cheryl was when she began to realize that her many gifts could be woven into a powerful ministry extending God's healing and love out into the world to places where the church community rarely reached. To refine and strengthen her work Cheryl studied at Lancaster Theological Seminary and then in two clinical chaplaincy training units - one at Philhaven Hospital in-patient unit, the other at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. One great joy in her life took place when her gifts, graces, and ministry were formally recognized in her commissioning as a Deaconess in the United Methodist Church.
Never one to avoid a challenge, Cheryl faced probably one of her greatest when diagnosed with breast cancer. While the treatments were grueling she continued with her teaching, healing touch, and ministry studies. She had learned one very important fact of life: Life is fragile. Rather than facing cancer as a battle, Cheryl entered into a healing dialogue with life and cancer. Investigating movements such as "No One Dies Alone", extending healing touch to persons at the end of life, Cheryl developed and led workshops on ways to prepare for death. Taking the idea that mothers spend nine months to prepare for the birth of a baby, why couldn't people take nine months or so to do the necessary preparations for their own deaths? The workshops were well received and most certainly prepared her for her death. In her dying, Cheryl has certainly ministered to others through her inner peace despite the pain, her confidence, and above all her abiding faith.
Many feel the loss of Cheryl, yet they celebrate her own and their fragile but powerful gift of life. Among them especially are her husband Charles Rothermel; children Mark and Amy, Matthew and Kristin, Michelle, Maia and Brian, Paul and Stefanie, and Christine; grandchildren Olivia and Ben, Emily, J.R and Viviann, Olivia, Owen, and Ava, Alyssa and Ashley, and Leah Marie; siblings Boyd, Bernard, Kathy, and Blair and their spouses and children.
Cheryl's memorial service will be held at First United Methodist Church, Duke and Walnut Streets, Lancaster, PA on Saturday, May 5, 2012 at 2 pm followed by a celebration of new birth honoring Cheryl.
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