Monday Morning Music Ministry

Start Your Week with a Spiritual Song in Your Heart

A Life, a New Life, a Newer Life


On January 20, 2013, less than a month shy of the day we met 40 years ago, Nancy Marschall was taken off life support. My wife was a strong Christian, an amazing mother, and possessor of a modest personality that everyone loved. Her shyness masked a robust faith that touched and inspired uncountable people. Many of us would have defined ourselves by the ailments she endured: a diabetic since 13, she sustained several heart attacks, a heart and kidney transplant, thyroid cancer, legal blindness, toe amputation, broken bones, celiac disease, several strokes, dialysis, and, last week, a ruptured stomach ulcer that saw her lose 14 units of blood, outpacing transfusions. She experienced miraculous healings, and some healings by doctors’ hands. Other healings, she is experiencing right now.

For a long time she was unable to exercise, as you might imagine. But she exercised her faith. While waiting 18 weeks for a heart and kidney transplant, she overcame her shyness to pray with patients waiting with her at Temple University Hospital. Then she held services. I assisted, and she recruited our children Heather, Ted, and Emily, to participate in the services and room visitations, and pray with our counterparts in recipients’ families. Our faith was strengthened too as we dealt with heartache, unanswerable questions, grief, and shared joy. We witnessed healings, and helped lead people to conversions, in a ministry that lasted more than six years.

I could write many tributes to Nancy… or share how her life was a tribute to her Savior. Rather, recalling the “great cloud of witnesses” in Heaven who watch us, according to Hebrews chapter 11, I will quote from one of the many articles and media stories about Nancy, additional witnesses so to speak, and her affect on people on behalf of Christ.

“Giving Heart To Those Awaiting A New Life At Temple University Hospital, Nancy Marschall Leads Weekly Prayers For Patients On The Heart-Transplant List. Not Long Ago, She Was In Their Place,” was the headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Feb. 28, 1999. By Ellen O’Brien:

Nancy Marschall got a new heart and a new kidney on Valentine’s Day, 1996. Naturally, this is not something she would forget.

But Marschall does more than remember, when she wakes up every morning, that she’s still around at 45, and that – yes, again – she has a whole new day to live. Once a week for the last three years… she goes back to the seventh floor of Temple University Hospital, where she spent what may have been the longest 18 weeks of her life – the floor known officially as the Heart-Failure Care Unit….

“We’re just trying to open ourselves up to what God would have us do,” Marschall said, by way of explanation. “He’s just leading us.” Last Sunday, 14 patients and family members piled in to the prayer service, filling the little room to bursting – white, African American, West African and Asian, all of them speaking of life in very, very simple terms. “Our health is out of our hands. There’s nothing we can do any more,” Marschall said.

But still, she said, there is God to rely on: “He’s here. He’s with us, and nobody can separate us.” She was sitting in a wheelchair near the door, with one foot propped up in a plaster cast. She’s had diabetes for 30 years, which can numb the extremities, so when she broke a bone in her foot, she continued to limp around on it for an extra week, unaware of the injury.

The room where the Marschalls lead their service is small and modern, high off Broad Street, with a line of windows that curve into a bay. Three philodendron plants hang like leafy green globes in the sunlight…. When Marschall was waiting for her heart, patients couldn’t leave their rooms without an intravenous pole – and a hospital nurse to roll a heart-monitor along beside them. But not all the change is good: Now the wait is growing longer because the number of heart-failure cases is increasing every year while the number of heart donors has stayed the same.

“When people would go down for transplant, we’d say we’d pray for them. But did it really happen? . . . I just felt God speaking to me. And Rick had the same call,” Marschall said. “We’re talking about Christ, and the love of God, and the change He can have in our lives,” Marschall said. She added that she prays for guidance in this new missionary role: “I don’t want to mislead people.”

“We try to point everything to a better relationship with Christ,” Rick Marschall added. “We’re Christians, we’re not deists [or mere feel-good cheerleaders].”

In fact, until the transplant, the Marschalls attended services at the Pentecostal Christian Life Center in Bensalem every Sunday, and they still consider themselves part of that congregation, although they’re otherwise engaged now on Sunday mornings. … “I think we’re just like everybody,” Marschall said. “When there are things or burdens upon you, you tend to pray more. When things are going well, you tend to do it less.” Personally, she thinks this is a human trait that God understands.

At Sunday’s prayer service, the last hymn was “Amazing Grace,” but the tape that the Marschalls had brought along – to guide the impromptu choir – failed to include the second verse. This was a verse that Rick Marschall found particularly meaningful. As the tape rolled to the end, he urged everybody on: “Through many dangers, toils and snares I have already come. . . .”

The sound of singing rose, strong and healthy and enthusiastic. You could hear it out in the hall…

Out in the halls, indeed. And far beyond. For the first time in decades, Nancy is now healed and whole and pain-free. I imagine she will look around Heaven for her granddaughter and our own stillborn baby, and the many people she inspired through the years, unless, of course, they see her first. In my picture of Heaven, all those wonderful reunions will have to wait a moment until Jesus stops hugging her as He whispers, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

+ + +

Christians often refer to death in a biblical way. It is not a euphemism like “passing away,” but the literal situation – “home-going.” Those of us who remain cannot fail to be a little jealous of sick people who become well, the lonely who embrace their Savior, the troubled who find peace. It is the home prepared for us, a place with many mansions, joy unspeakable and full of glory. This picture finds musical expression in the Negro spiritual based on the tune of the second movement of Dvorak’s “New World Symphony.” Performed here, with beautiful images, by the London churchboy’s choir Libera.

Click: Going Home

Category: Hope, Life, Service

Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

24 Responses

  1. Pen says:

    Well said…we wished we could have met Nancy…but what a blessing and a joy she will always be to her family, and may her legacy be continued in those precious grandchildren. We are praying and grieving with you and your family.

  2. Nancy says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing her life with your readers.

  3. Deborah Hays says:

    Dear Rick and family…. part of me wants to say that I am so sorry.. and I am, for all of you, but not for Nancy. How lovely it must be for her now… I can’t even imagine. The Perry’s sing a wonderful song, “Celebrate Me Home”, I have always thought that song reflects exactly how I would feel when the time comes. I have been praying for you all for days, and I will continue now. Much love, Debbie

  4. Barb Haley says:

    Beautiful testimony. May God comfort you and your precious family as you take the future one day at a time. I’m rejoicing in my spirit that Nancy has been totally set free but am saddened deeply for the pain you are experiencing. I will definitely be praying daily!

  5. Susan Hammond says:

    Dear Rick,

    May you, and your children and grandchildren, always sense the Lord with you, comforting you, healing you, bringing sweet remembrances of your beloved Nancy.

    Though we do not grieve like others who have no hope, still a death, especially of a beloved wife (or husband), is profound. Half of you is gone, and the wound left behind is long and deep.

    Thank you for sharing your grief (and hope) with all of us. We will be faithful to hold you up before the Lord.

    In Him,

    Susan H.

  6. Your wonderful words for your wife have blessed me this evening. I’m honored to hear her story. Praying for you.

  7. Irene Clemmer says:

    So sorry for your loss, but we rejoice in Nancy’s ultimate healing and we look forward to the time when we who love Christ as she did will join her in His presence.

  8. Rick!
    What a beautiful tribute to your beloved wife! I am so sorry for your loss.
    I too can picture her many happy reunions, but especially her time on Jesus lap, and those words we all long to hear from our best friend. “Well done goo and faithful servant.”
    God Speed!

  9. Hope Flinchbaugh says:

    Rick, I am in tears. I have to tell you this. On Friday I stopped outside McDonald’s where we wait to car pool my daughter Judah to school. She pointed inside the restaurant and said, “Mom, look, that man comes to our McDonald’s, too (another McDonald’s where my 15 year old works). Doesn’t he look like Uncle Rick?” It was incredible. It’s as though your twin is here in Pennsylvania. As we transferred kids for school car pool, I couldn’t get you off my mind. Even though it’s been months since we talked, I suddenly felt connected to you again. God was urging me to pray for you, urging me to thank him for the wonderful influence you had on my teenage daughters at the writers’ conferences. Hugs from all of us to you and your beautiful family. I’m still praying for you, now more than ever.

  10. Marti Pieper says:

    My friend, thank you for sharing this beautiful tribute to a wonderful servant of the Lord. I know your marriage blessed and extended her ministry exactly as He intended.

    I’m praying for you and your family in your loss. We do not grieve as those who have no hope–but we do grieve. May the strong promises of Scripture and your precious memories carry you through these days.

  11. Georgene Kruzel says:

    Dear Rick and family,

    My heart breaks for you in the moments when you think you hear her voice, or her cadence of doing something familiar. And, my heart rejoices for you. You stand on the hope and promise of the resurrection. You know Nancy’s faith – sharing in it’s remarkable journey. I join with you in song. I cry and smile.


  12. Linda Reiter says:

    Rick, Heather, Ted & Emily,
    May God’s promise comfort you. I am so sorry for your loss, Nancy was a beautiful woman. I feel honored to have known her.
    Linda Reiter

  13. Carol says:

    You have our deepest sympathy, Rick. Thank you for the beautiful writing. Heaven is a sweeter place for you. Even so, come Lord Jesus!


  14. Karron & Johnny Diamond says:

    Rick. We are so sorry that Nancy has died – we know how much you and your family will miss her. We pray that The Lord will give you comfort and strength to face the coming days. This testimony of Nancy is so uplifting and an inspiration to us all – a true ‘good and faithful servant’ of The Lord she loves. Karron & Johnny

  15. Jo Lauter says:

    Dear Dear Friend,
    I pray that you can feel the loving arms of our Lord holding you, right now, speaking those same words to you . . . “Well done, good and faithful servant . . .”

    Though your own journey has not ended yet in Heavenly reunion, you have done SO WELL accompanying your wife . . . been such an important part of her story . . . helped her to keep that faith you so beautifully expressed.

    If I were nearby, I would be hugging you . . . in lieu of this, I pray that you’ll feel my love and support from a distance. I am honoroed and blessed to know you.
    Your forever friend,

  16. Beth Davies-Stofka says:

    You are one of the bravest people I know and I love you very much. May God’s spirit be with you tonight. I feel comforted knowing Nancy is speaking straight to Jesus right now, and I know she’s telling him about you. xoxo Beth

  17. George Hurst says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. May the peace and comfort of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit be on you and your family. You have reminded me that it will be 40 years this July when I first met my wife. The love I have for her just reminds me more of the tremendous burden on your heart right now, but He has overcome death for all of us. Peace to you.

  18. Waldemar & Edith Makus says:

    Rick, Thank you very much for the post of Nancy’s going home. We are so sorry for your loss and are thankful for the memories of her courageous life. May God comfort you and your family in a special way and be near to all of you in the days to come.
    In Christ’s Love,
    W&E Makus

  19. […] For a long time she was unable to exercise, as you might imagine. But she exercised her faith. While waiting 18 weeks for a heart and kidney transplant, she overcame her shyness to pray with patients waiting with her at Temple University Hospital. Then she held services. I assisted, and she recruited our children Heather, Ted, and Emily, to participate in the services and room visitations, and pray with our counterparts in recipients’ families. Our faith was strengthened too as we dealt with heartache, unanswerable questions, grief, and shared joy. We witnessed healings, and helped lead people to conversions, in a ministry that lasted more than six years…. Read this in full at […]

  20. Oh, Rick,

    My heart goes out to you. I cannot imagine life without the love of my life–how I would do it if I were in your situation. But as you have been an good example for others in so many ways, I believe you will show us how to do even that with honor and godliness. And your tribute here to Nancy was a good start. My prayers are with you, my friend. -Tim

  21. Jim Whiting says:

    Dear Rick,

    I’m so sorry to hear of your devastating loss. Your Nancy must have been an extraordinary woman. My thoughts are very much with you.
    Most sincerely,

  22. Karyl Miller says:

    Rick, I am so sorry to hear about your loss. Very sad.
    Karyl Miller

  23. Dear Rick,
    Though I never met her, I was truly touched by your uplifting words for Nancy, her triumph through her struggles, and how fortunate you were to have had her in your life. My condolences. – Janet

  24. Rob Stolzer says:

    Dear Rick,

    I am so, so sorry to to hear of Nancy’s passing. Such a wonderful woman, fighter, and partner. Our love to you, Heather, Ted, and Emily.

    Warm Regards,
    Rob & Kim

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About The Author

... Rick Marschall is the author of 74 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia magazine called him "perhaps America's foremost authority on popular culture") to history and criticism; country music; television history; biography; and children's books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals and magazine articles; he was co-author of "The Secret Revealed" with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. Read More