Stacy Murphy – A Tribute to a Life Well-Lived!

Stacy Murphy was an extraordinarily strong woman.  And she was oh so much more than that!

Stacy was a bright, shining star!–a beacon of light for innumerable people.  She inspired us with her smarts and her sense and her ability to make us feel comfortable around her. She was one of those rare people who always seemed to have the right answer and the gentle demeanor to deliver even unpopular news.   Like many of you, I admired and loved Stacy because of who she was and how she lived her life.  She was so vibrant and radiant. Her enthusiasm was infectious.  She was fun to be around and she brought out the best in those around her.  We all revel in that kind of environment….and Stacy brought it with her wherever she went.

Despite knowing that she was courageously battling cancer, her recent passing still came as a shock to many of us.  We believed she was going to beat it.  She believed it.  And we believed her.  It was that simple.

Her strength and determination were in evidence to the very end.  During her last 10 days, Stacy worked (as an Elementary School Principal) on Thursday, February 9th.  She went into “Intensive Care” on Friday February 10th; got sent home for hospice care on Saturday night, February 19th.  And she died at home, surrounded by those who loved her most, on Monday night February 21st.  She was fighting the fight, staying positive, continuing to press forward, until the non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma just overwhelmed her.  It was shocking, heartbreaking and very, very sad…on very short notice.  Few of us saw it coming…because we were continuing to share her optimism and enthusiasm for beating this cancer.

I remember my last conversation with her, over the Christmas-New Year’s holidays.  We spoke of looking forward to enjoying some time together this summer, and specifically of her “I beat cancer” party.  I anticipated this being a major event and couldn’t wait to be a part of it. She mentioned that their friends Geoff and Susan had offered to host a party when she had finally beat this thing.  I told her we were in.

Stacy & Tim’s friend Geoff (Tate) just happens to be the lead singer of Queensryche.  Their friendship emerging from their daughters’ (Shannon Murphy and Bella Tate) own school-girl friendship.  The parents bonded…because their kids had.

I don’t know, but I would bet that Geoff and Susan Tate liked Stacy and Tim for the same reasons as the rest of us.  Stacy and Tim were a fun couple.  And they were real, normal folks–just the kind of folks that a seasoned “Rock Star” might logically be drawn to, in the interests of staying well-grounded.  The Murphy-Tate friendship was, for me, another great example of the rich, bountiful life that Stacy, Tim & their girls enjoyed together.  Stacy was our own “Rock Star” in so many ways.  It was fitting that she would have a real one as a friend.

Stacy wasn’t always a Murphy.  She was born a Kulaas, in Yakima, Washington, in November 1962.  She was the oldest daughter of Dick and Patty Kulaas, with older brothers Rick and Mark, and a beloved baby sister Kari.   As a small child, Stacy and her family moved to Wenatchee where she would grow up.  Upon graduating high school, she went to Washington State University in Pullman, Washington. This is where she met Tim Murphy.  They would begin their “till death do us part” journey in Pullman and were married in 1987.

They shared the joy of bringing two bright and beautiful daughters into this world and the Murphy clan. Mali and Shannon were blessed with their Mom’s inherent radiance and were a source of great pride for Stacy.  Stacy’s co-workers and friends who spoke at her Memorial Service spoke of Stacy’s fierce devotion to her family.  Her enthusiasm for Murphy family events being an inspiration for them to nurture in their own family lives.

Stacy’s and my own path crossed as I became close to Tim’s Uncle Mike.  The Murphy’s revere the familial bond and they welcome those who are “one of them.”  No one made me feel more welcome than Stacy.  I will always remember her for that and I will be eternally grateful for her gracious acceptance.

Stacy’s Memorial Service was held March 12, 2011 in Duvall, Washington.  It was a typical day for the Pacific Northwest–alternating between misty and downright rainy.  For those of us not from there, it was wetter than we were comfortable being dressed up in.  For the locals, it was nothing.  I imagined that Stacy would have happily been at the forefront, not even noticing the occasional wet.  I feel certain that she wouldn’t have even blinked an eye.

The service featured some of Stacy’s closest friends, colleagues….and even her hairdresser. They spoke from the heart, offering personal anecdotes, remembering Stacy’s impact upon their lives.  They remembered her love for good coffee, in large quantities.

I too remembered Stacy in that light.  A few years ago, my Mom had given me an espresso maker that she had gotten but never used.  I had it for months, unused, until Tim, Stacy and the girls came to visit us in the summer of 2009.  Upon their arrival, I mentioned to Stacy that I had this machine, but didn’t know how to use it.  We spoke of her showing me how before they left.

When I woke up the next morning, Stacy already had the machine pressed into service, her latte already in hand, as she began the process of teaching me to make my own.  The process and methods she showed me then, in July 2009, were the ones I used this morning.  I also shared her love of good coffee and am a believer in the ease of making them, because she taught me that way.  Her confidence and ease while teaching me infused me with a similar, lasting confidence.  That ease and confidence was purely, simply, Stacy’s signature.

The Murfs in Montana, July 2009
 The words of Stacy’s friends and colleagues at her Memorial Service affirmed for me that my own observations were not unique.  Stacy was that same gentle, inspirational spirit, all of the time.  As a school principal, she used her position to grow other great teachers and administrators.  She believed in people and because she did so with memorable enthusiasm, they worked harder to “not let her down.”

I remember from my own Army career, that the jobs I did best were shaped within that very construct.  When you are working for someone who seemingly believes in you more than you believe in yourself, you go that extra mile to prove them right.  It made me better then…..and it did my heart good, hearing that Stacy was “that” kind of leader–one who believed in and invested in her subordinates.

Geoff Tate was also one of the speakers at the service.  I doubt that folks unfamiliar with Queensryche (and Stacy’s friendship thereto) would have even known that he was “famous.”  He spoke of how he had met Stacy, while at a school event for his daughter Bella.  He spoke of Stacy being fun, of fond memories sharing a bottle of wine, and of Stacy’s ability to “party” with the best of them, of her being the last one to leave the dance floor.

Stacy was a great deal of fun to be around.  We shared similar backgrounds.  We enjoyed the same types of music and pop-culture phenomena.  And we shared a belief in a never-ending education.  You’re never too old to learn and grow.  She believed in the premise of continuing to better yourself.  Stacy worked full-time while she earned her post-graduate degree and principal credentials–at the same time she was being a great mom, friend and Murphy family member.  All the while, she never lost sight of the importance of having “fun” while working hard to improve herself.  In this regard, Stacy truly got it right!

After the Memorial Service, family members went to Tim & Stacy’s home for food, fellowship, and more time together remembering Stacy.  Upon display on the Murphy big-screen TV, was a slideshow chronicling highlights from Stacy’s life.  This slideshow captured photos from Stacy’s entire life.  It was set to music and elicited emotion from all who watched it–even with the volume turned way down to allow for normal conversation.  I remember the glow on niece (and Stacy’s Goddaughter) Jaden’s face as she recognized a picture of her and Aunt Stacy—as she said, “hey that’s me.”

In re-watching Stacy’s Memorial Slideshow for this writing (with the volume at a normal listening level), I realized how exceptionally well-done it is.  Mali, Stacy and Tim’s eldest daughter, a budding artist in her own right, put it together.  Stacy was always enormously proud of Mali and Shannon’s accomplishments.  I imagine now that she is smiling on from the afterlife—beaming over her daughters’ poise and strength now.

Mali is a bright and beautiful young woman.  Her strength and character are immediately manifest within seconds of meeting her.  For those who haven’t met her, you can see a glimpse of who Mali is, from hearing the words that she helped compose as the final Caringbridge message announcing Stacy’s passing.

“Friends and family,

We want to thank you for all of your support this last year and a half. Your love and prayers through this tough time have been so heartwarming.

We want to let you know that Stacy is resting peacefully now with God. She passed away on the evening of February 21, 2011. She was surrounded by her loving family and we were happy she was no longer in pain.

Please keep praying for us and all whose lives she touched.

This will be the final entry outlining Stacy’s fierce battle. She was a remarkably strong woman, and an even better mother and wife.

With love,
Tim, Mali, and Shannon Murphy”

Mali’s beauty, strength, and poise is also manifest in the details that she put into arranging Stacy’s Memorial Slideshow.  It came in at just over 22 and half minutes, including photos spanning all of Stacy’s 48 short years.  The music was clearly representative of Stacy’s stylistic tastes and the richness of the life she lived.   A detailed description is nowhere near as powerful as seeing it for yourself, but short of that, I hope to capture some of its beauty in describing a few high points.

Stacy’s slideshow begins and ends with excerpts from Wicked, the Musical.  The pictures begin with the song, Defying Gravity, playing in the background. Following it, came in succession: .38 Special’s Fantasy Girl, Elton John’s Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, The Moody Blues’ Ride My Seesaw, and ELO’s’ Don’t Bring Me Down. The slideshow culminates with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s – Over the Rainbow.   It is among the most stunning renditions of that song ever done.  And it was a fitting tribute to Stacy—accompanying the photo of a young, adult Stacy walking away, across a parking lot in her white dress and red high heels.  It was a simply stunning—breathtaking image.  You can see for yourself below.

Stacy Being Stunning

Stacy lived her life with such zest and gusto—that her absence will always call attention to that missing energy.  Tim, Mali and Shannon face an enormously difficult road ahead (keep them in your thoughts and prayers and give them a shout when you can).  They had the best wife and Mom that anyone could ever hope for.  And they have a treasure trove of memories.  Time can never fill the void that Stacy left.  We can’t expect it to.  We can only hang on to the beauty of her memory, the profound joy of our shared time, and know that she loved us with all of her being.   She is now in a better place–and undoubtedly she is waiting to greet us with a smile.

The background music for Stacy’s completed slideshow (while it waits for you to restart) is Mumford and Sons’ The Cave.  I can think of no better musical testimony to Stacy than a modern Irish stomp.  It’s brand new, cutting edge music that uses traditional, old-world style and tradition–as they sing of holding onto “hope” and finding “strength through pain.” Stacy did just that, on multiple levels—blending old-school values effortlessly into facing modern challenges, finding strength where others found obstacles.

Stacy Murphy was a leader, a role-model, and a trendsetter.  She forged the way ahead, enthusiastically leading us into an ever changing world, without ever losing sight of that which matters most.  Love and nurture, in a strong familial construct, allow us to thrive and grow, no matter what we may face.

Stacy endured a ton more than most of us could take.  And she did so with a smile on her face.  Stacy battled one of life’s most difficult evils with courage, grace and beauty. As always, she showed us how to live life right.  I will never forget her strength and compassion or her stunningly perfect example.  And I will never forget her ever-present smile.  I will miss her more than she probably would have imagined.

Stacy’s pictorial slideshow finished, like it began, with an excerpt from Wicked, the Musical. The final words depicted sum up my own memories of Stacy wonderfully.  I believe that I will not be alone here.  Mali, ever her Mother’s daughter, truly got this right!  I shall set them apart for them to stand on their own.  To Stacy, I’ll just say–

Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.  Wicked, the Musical.

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3 Responses to Stacy Murphy – A Tribute to a Life Well-Lived!

  1. Kristi Connelly says:

    Thank you for the wonderful words. Stacy is missed everyday. She will always be in our hearts.

  2. Kevin Murphy says:

    Beautifully done Jay. You have put into words what many of us also feel in our hearts, but find it so difficult to express. She was a truly beautiful person, inside and out. A smile that lit up the whole room!

  3. Jan Holt says:

    Jay, your words are as beautiful as Stacy, thank you.

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