luceat ei Domine
October 31, 1928 - August 9, 2002
"Great is Thy faithfulness;
Morning by morning new mercies I see;
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me."
aFor a family contact address , please email her son Paul: pasundberg at (@) yahoo.com
August 17, 2002
Last Friday when I learned that Marianne had passed away, in talking with the family and making arrangements for this service, I was asked by the family to express a few words of remembrance on behalf of the family of our sister and mother and wife, and I want to do that for a few moments this morning.
How does one go about speaking words of remembrance? On the back of your bulletin today you have a biography. That’s one way of doing it, and that’s a very good way of doing it. I’ve been thinking all week, and the things that keep coming back to me have been three words that I think personify something of the faith and life of Marianne, and I just wanted to share with you each of those words and a thought or two on each one.
The word "determination" came to my mind very quickly. When I was a young boy (I'm younger than Mar’anne by about 10 or 11 years), I can remember her resoluteness in knowing what she wanted to do as a teenager. Most of us when we're teenagers aren't always so sure about that. She wanted to be a missionary because in her early girlhood she had talked with many missionaries and had heard them speak and come back from India and China and Japan and Africa and other parts of the world, and she caught that vision and was determined that she was going to be a missionary.
She went to college, to a college a long ways from our home in Wisconsin, way off in Iowa, and was one of the early students from our part of the state of Wisconsin to go to Central College. She knew what she wanted to do. She was there three years, wanted to go on to nurses training so she could get her RN degree, and she was looking for a very, very good school to attend, the best that she could get into. And she was accepted at Johns Hopkins, which I understand has a very high reputation. She excelled very well in her academic work, but all of it was because of that determination that she had. She knew what she wanted to do. She wanted to be a missionary.
I can remember when our family said our good-byes to her in 1952, when she left for the foreign mission field. It was a difficult time. I remember that the tears flowed, and I think my mother figured she would never see her daughter again. She got on a tramp steamer in NY, and I think it took two or three weeks by that steamer to get all the way to Bahrain in the Persian Gulf, And she was there and did her mission work, and I understand did it very well there, along with other mission workers there, doctors and nurses. Art informed me just the past day that Marianne was the first registered nurse to practice medicine in the country of Oman, which is on the southern edge of Sa'udi Arabia if you look on a map. It’s on the southern edge of the Persian Gulf. I can remember hearing her tell stores about going into the internal area of Sa'udi Arabia for six-week periods every year when they would work with the Bedouin who would come in for medical treatment at that time, and the mission would set up a clinic there and she would have to go some five miles to take a bath, she told me, to another oasis some place. That, I think, reflects something of the determination of Marianne, and it reflected itself throughout her life.
Those of you who knew her, you know that when Marianne saw an injustice, she was just irate. She was just irate about injustices, no matter where they were or how big or how small, and she used to show her determination there in seeking justice and righteous where it needed to be.
The second word that came to mind as I have been reflecting this week on Marianne’s life is the word "friend". Of course, we were family and she had to like us (!), but many people always knew Marianne to be really a friendly person and outgoing in the most wonderful way. And she truly was. I don’t think there were many people that Marianne did not like, and she was a friend for life when she was a friend; I know that. I can remember when she would come home and we'd have visits or we'd be together in Wisconsin or she’d come visit us in Michigan or wherever I was living at the time, and as well as my sisters and brothers and other family members too, she would always have friends to look up - friends from Aramco or high school friends or college friends or friends from church - and she always was one who had to make a point of getting around to see as many friends as possible when she was on her vacation. And I think she continued that throughout her life, and I know here in Santa Barbara she has continued to do that as well.
The third word that came to mind, came to my mind because of what happened primarily in April of this year. Marianne made a trip to Wisconsin for about a week or little over a week knowing that she had terminal cancer and that this would be the last trip she would make, but she wanted to see the relatives and friends there in Wisconsin one more time. And the word that came to my mind was the word "joy" because I think that Marianne’s faith is reflected by that word "joy", and it comes because of the foundation that she had so firmly in her Savior Jesus Christ. Those of you who knew Marianne well, knew that she liked to sing, and she loved hymns, and she loved music, and she loved choirs. I don't know of a place where she lived where she didn't join the church choir. I think she probably belonged to more church choirs than most of us have an opportunity to do in our life! But that word "joy," I think, came out of a resolute and strong faith that she had, knowing that she was firmly grounded in her Savior, Jesus Christ and that Jesus Christ would uphold her through all things.
The only thing that she was not looking forward to was the final stages of this cancer. When she heard that the final stage of melanoma is when the cancer goes to the brain, that really worried her. And I was surprised in a way, and a little surprised that she passed so soon, and yet in another way, I thought, no, she was ready for this. She did not want to go through more agony or any more suffering than she had already experienced.
In the 25th chapter of Matthew's gospel, Jesus tells the parable of the talents, and in that parable, Jesus says, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Master." Now, as a pastor, we’re supposed to know our Bibles extremely well, and I’d heard that passage many times before, but this past week those words "Enter into the joy of your Master" really jumped out at me and spoke to me like they had not spoken before. I think you know why. Because ultimately, as followers of Jesus Christ, our greatest joy is not here in this life; it is that joy which is yet to come in the presence of our God and King.
Mary loved music, and one of the main reasons that the service today is so filled with music is because, as Christians, we are truly called to be people of joy and a people of hope, and so I hope you will carry a few of those memories even as we as a family have those memories of our sister Marianne.
is the most infallible sign of the presence of Christ."
First of all, Art, Paul and Ann thank you all for your prayers, letters, cards, calls, emotional and practical support these past months as you have followed both Marianne and Art’s bouts with cancer, broken hip, etc. Whatever sufferings we have met with, we have not been alone!
By now many of you have heard that Marianne passed away Friday, August 9, 2002 at 12:44 pm in a Santa Barbara hospital, where she'd been for barely two days. Since, in the final stage, melanoma (skin cancer) invades the brain, it was a mercy that she entered that phase only the previous week while still living at home, showing signs of increasing agitation and disorientation and refusing sleep and medications. Art was finally forced to have her taken to the ER Wednesday evening, August 7 then put in a private room to be given more intensive round-the-clock treatment.
Beginning in 1999 she was enrolled in a promising experimental vaccine program at St. John's in Santa Monica for 2 1/2 years, but when tumors were found in her liver in October 2001, she was released from the program and began a 14-day hospitalization for hyper-intensive bio-chemotherapy treatment around Christmastime which proved ineffective at halting the tumor growth. This year, her weekly taxotere chemotherapy treatments in Santa Barbara also proved ineffective and were stopped after 3 months May 23. She enrolled in Hospice July 10 so that she could remain at home as long as possible, as she preferred. But at the very end, taking care of her at home proved unmanageable. Her last normal conversation with non-family members was when the LaBarre's visited Sunday, August 4. That evening, the 4-day ordeal with agitation etc. began.
In the hospital, she was able to receive the fluids and nutrients she hadn't had in several days and the pain medication she'd been refusing. By Thursday she was successfully sedated and resting, though her features looked strained. By Friday morning, however, she was resting so peacefully that the group visiting to pray with her, including her pastor Harold Bussell from El Montecito Presbyterian, were encouraged. At the end of his prayer of thanksgiving for her life, she silently mouthed an "Amen" (a friend was watching her face the whole time). By noon, however, when Dr. Margaret Ray, the oncologist mom trusted absolutely, arrived, her vital signs showed she was failing rapidly. Then, 44 minutes later, with Ruth Satterberg, friend from the retirement community and ex-nurse, on her informal bedside "shift", Marianne’s steady breathing began slowing down, then finally stopped. None of the family were present: Art was elsewhere in the same hospital for his weekly chemotherapy and was due to take over at her bedside at 1:00; Ann had ended her shift after the pastor's morning visit and was at the bank, and Paul was on a flight back to Los Angeles from Illinois, where he'd gone for a week to attend a wedding. (Many have since told us that patients often seem to wait until a moment when family members are away to die; death is seemingly the most private and personal of acts.) When Art arrived, he was comforted to see her lying in bed with a "beatific smile" on her face, as though she were merely resting.
The next week was a confused whirlwind of planning for the funeral at her beloved Presbyterian church Saturday, August 17. Almost the entire choir showed up on their month off to send her out with hymns and anthems - exactly the "triumphant" funeral she had requested. Her three brothers flew out from the Midwest: Jack and Joan from Iowa, her youngest brother Tom from Wisconsin, her birthplace, and Mark, a Reformed pastor from Michigan, who gave a moving eulogy highlighting three of her qualities: determination (to be a missionary), friendship, and joy. A more subdued graveside service was held Monday, August 19 at Forest Lawn Cemetery - Hollywood Hills, LA followed by a luncheon for those attending at Art’s cousin Lois Johnson's house nearby.
Her death was no surprise to us or to her doctors, who had given her a 3-6 month prognosis back in January, but it all seems very hypothetical until it actually happens, and knowing ahead does little to diminish the grief. But this foreknowledge has also been a mercy. Paul chose to take a leave-of-absence from his dissertation at the University of Illinois in February to spend the last months with her and Art in Santa Barbara, and Ann was up almost weekly from LA to visit and help out, so we spent more time together this past half year than perhaps at any time since leaving Arabia in 1977. And before she died, Marianne had the joy of being present at Ann's June 29 wedding in Santa Barbara to Cameron Johnston, a fellow "Aramco Brat." Too weak to walk far, she had to be wheeled into the outdoor wedding site in a wheelchair, but she made it, dressed to the hilt and in a new silver-haired wig! Having a time line helped us all adjust our lives to "seize the days" we had.
The three of us now begin a new, and sadder, chapter in our lives. Art will remain in the Samarkand apartment surrounded by caring neighbors and a loving church and backed by Samarkand's extensive care facilities. Ann will sell her condo in LA in the next months and move to San Diego to join Cam. (They've lived apart since the wedding!) And Paul has headed back to Urbana, Illinois to resume his teaching and PhD work until such time as he decides to defend and graduate!
Marianne Sundberg ("Mary" to many of her family and friends), daughter of Chester ("Chet") and Ann Walvoord and sister of John ("Jack") Walvoord of Pella, Iowa; Mark Walvoord of Kalamazoo, Michigan; and Tom Walvoord of Plymouth, Wisconsin, passed away peacefully Friday, August 9th, 2002 at around 12:40 pm in Cottage Hospital, Santa Barbara at age 73 after a 5-year bout with melanoma (skin cancer). Marianne is survived by her husband Art Sundberg in Santa Barbara, California; son Paul in Urbana, Illinois; and daughter Ann Sundberg-Johnston in San Diego.
She was born in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin on October 31, 1928 and was raised in a very devout and musical (Dutch) Reformed home, where she learned to love God and develop a life-long interest in hymnody and missions. She graduated from the local public high school in 1946, a feat neither of her parents had accomplished. An exceptional student, she chose to go on further still and received a scholarship from the University of Wisconsin but chose instead to attend a Reformed Church denominational institution instead, Central College in Pella, Iowa (Class of '50) to prepare for a missionary career. At Central, she excelled in many extracurricular activities including the debating letter society, women’s chorale, biology club, and theatre, playing Mama in the 1949 production of "I Remember Mama". But her heart was in her Bible study and mission groups.
She was determined to get the best quality nursing training she could and was accepted at all three of her nursing program choices: Columbia, Yale, and Johns Hopkins, ultimately choosing the latter. She received her RN from Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing in 1952. A devout Christian since high school, she had dedicated her career - and marital status - to God as a missionary nurse with the Arabian Mission (of the Reformed Church), leaving New York harbor on a tramp steamer in August 1952 to serve first on the island of Persian Gulf island of Bahrain, then in Muscat, Oman (the first RN in that nation's history) from 1954 until 1955. That year she married Ernest ("Art") Sundberg, a young auditor with Aramco (the Arabian-American Oil Company) that she had met through mutual friends on a furlough in Lebanon. She was that rare American who actually learned to speak, read and write another language - in her case, Arabic - and developed life-long friendships with some of the Gulf Arab women she met and worked with.
During 22 very happy years in Dhahran, Sa'udi Arabia as an Aramco wife, she stayed true both to her professional roots, volunteering as an Arabic-speaking nurse with the Arab women’s hospital in Dhahran, and to her spiritual roots, participating actively in the life of the Dhahran Protestant Fellowship, where she was a jack-of-all-trades: organist, choir member, and Sunday School teacher. She bore and raised two children there, son Paul and daughter Ann, and developed tight, family-like ties with scores of other expatriate Aramcons living in Arabia - something only other Aramcons can ever truly appreciate.
In 1972-73, she took a year out and set up a household in the States with Paul and Ann when Paul went away to high school in Pella, Iowa. There she reconnected with the Dutch immigrant community and church where she had spent her college years, then headed back to Hopkins for a nursing refresher course before returning to her life in Aramco.
Unexpectedly later in life, she had the privilege of reconnecting with her Dutch roots during an idyllic 6-year stint with Aramco in the Hague, Netherlands 1977-83, where Art was transferred. There she - as always - was an active church member, this time with the American Protestant Church of the Hague, where she sang in the choir and participated in the greater life of that church. Again, many strong friendships were made.
In 1983, she and Art retired to Woodland Hills in the Los Angeles area, where Art had grown up. As always, she dived in and became active in the Bel Air Presbyterian Church, serving as a teacher and mentor to many in the Bel Air Women’s group.
After 15 years in Woodland Hills, Marianne and Art moved to the Samarkand Retirement Community in Santa Barbara in 1998. Again, at age 70, she accepted the challenge of becoming part of a new community and church - El Montecito Presbyterian Church ("Elmo") - where she loved singing with the close-knit choir and where she had four good years to develop friendships with so many.
The same year as the move to Santa Barbara, Marianne was diagnosed with malignant melanoma, and she enrolled in an experimental vaccine study at the John Wayne Cancer Center at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica. She was in remission for several years until scans in late 2001 showed that the tumors had returned. After two heartbreakingly futile attempts at chemotherapy, she was removed from treatment in May of 2002. In her final six months, many at Elmo Presbyterian with whom she had formed relationships came by frequently to minister to her, and son Paul took a leave of absence from his graduate studies in Illinois to spend time with her. When, in her last week, the melanoma finally began to invade the brain, her suffering was blessedly brief, and she died peacefully, calmed by sedatives, with friends or family at her bedside every moment.
A celebratory, richly musical service of thanksgiving for her life was held at El Montecito Presbyterian Church, Santa Barbara on August 17 at 11:00 am with the enthusiastic participation of her Elmo choirmates. The burial service took place later on August 19 at Forest Lawn Cemetery - Hollywood Hills in Los Angeles (just south of Burbank off I-134, Forest Lawn exit).
If asked, I believe Mom would say she was first of all a disciple of Christ, then wife, mother, friend, nurse, Bible teacher and spiritual mentor of women, musician, hymnologist.
Mom, we can hardly begin to imagine all the ways we will miss you!
(from her obituary in the Sheboygan County paper)
updated 6 September 2006