March 24, 2016

On March 24, God called His precious daughter, Shelby Sakelakos home to heaven.

We love you, Shelby, and we'll miss you!


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Auntie M and Uncle Joe: At times like this there really are no words to fully express how you feel but here are a few that come to mind:  

You ask yourself how it is possible that such a kind, loving, thoughtful girl would have to endure so many years of not being healthy and living a normal carefree life.

She fought hard every day while being constantly tested, probed, injected, treated and having to worry if she would ever be 100% healthy like other people her age.  Although sometimes discouraged, Shelby never gave up.  She was by far the strongest, most courageous girl we've known.  Robbed of much of her childhood, she had to grow up fast and learn to cope with things no one her age should have to.  Yet despite all this, Shelby graduated high school, was attending Raritan Valley Community College - on the Deans List, worked part time, taught CCD and belonged to several church organizations.  Her goal was to become a special education teacher.  

Shelby had the sweetest demeanor, was always ready with a quick smile, a genuine thank you, and a "that's so awesome".  All who knew or ever met her loved her immediately.  You just could not help yourself.  Shelby had a special love for young children.  She loved entertaining the neighborhood kids, babysitting, tutoring and of course her CCD kids.  She loved to color and create art and was very gifted artistically, and of course let's not forget her favorite TV show: Law and Order.  

Had she been given the chance to grow and become who she wanted to be, her family, her friends, and yes the world would have been a better place.  

Shelby had that special glow that only comes about once in a while. It is a shame she will not get the chance to spread that glow for many more years.  

Shelby will be missed more than these words can say.  Our hearts are broken.  

Love you forever... Auntie M and Uncle Joe


Shelby and Aunt Mary in Orlando, FL
in early March 2016

Anne Marie Fierst: The world has lost an angel, and Heaven has gained one. A very good friend of mine who was only 24 years old passed away yesterday after losing her battle with liver cancer. Shelby was indeed an angel on earth.  

Shelby and I became friends while working together at our Mary Mother of God parish teaching both Children's Liturgy and religious education to adults. She was probably the kindest, gentlest, and most sensitive and selfless soul I've ever known. I never heard her speak a negative word about anyone, and despite many hardships in her very young life (she beat brain cancer at 4 years old and had a liver transplant at 19), she always had a positive attitude about life.  

Shelby had a great love for children, and was working on her teaching degree. She also dreamed of someday volunteering her time at hospitals working with children who would be receiving organ transplants... Shelby wanted to be there for these kids, allaying their fears and letting them know that everything would be okay.  

Over the past five months, I was privileged to have spent much time with Shelby both at Steeplechase and at home as she bravely fought her battle. We had fun doing crafts and coloring together, and what a joy it was for me to witness Shelby bake Christmas cookies for the first time this past Christmas! My Izzie and Maggie took to Shelby immediately, and when Shelby was around, my dogs favored her lap over mine. They say that dogs have a sixth sense, and my dogs recognized the innocence and goodness in this girl.  

Shelby taught me so much about love, forgiveness, acceptance, and charity. My life has been forever changed for the better by this beautiful soul, and I will honor her memory by continuing to try to help others who are in need.  

Thank you so much for being my friend, Shelby Sakelakos. I told you when we went to Longwood Gardens that this was what Heaven looked like... full of flowers, streams, butterflies, and waterfalls. I'm grateful that you're finally at peace and that you will enjoy the beauty of Heaven for all of eternity. I'll see you again someday among the hibiscus and hydrangeas... love you kiddo... now and forever...

This is Shelby after she had a makeover from the American Cancer Society. I love this photo of her as she looked radiant...she was simply beaming!) 
I taught Shelby to crochet one night and this photo was taken as she was playing around with the yarn.  She was a quick learner!
Shelby standing next to the Christmas tree she put up this past Christmas.  Her aunt bought her the tree and I gave her a box of ornaments and lights to put on the tree.

Shelby with my dogs...they loved her!!!!

Grace Mc Allister: Shelby was 24 years old and loved children. She was a CCD and liturgy teacher at Mary Mother of God parish, and also a Girl Scout leader assistant. She was working on her degree to be a teacher. When she was 4, she beat brain cancer and at 19 she had a liver transplant. She has been through so much, but always had a smile and loved to laugh. Her faith was very important to her. She loved to do arts and crafts, and play cards. She was a very positive person bringing joy to everyone she met. Although it is our loss she is gone... she is with the Lord and out of pain. She will be very missed.  

Shelby made this card at art class for Grace

Marianne Khare: I've known Shelby for about two years.  We met at our church.  I was impressed by her faith, maturity and commitment to the Lord and to her ministries in the parish, in spite of all the challenges from her health issues.  

My heart feels so heavy right now. Shelby was able to fight the cancers for so long, and after this latest turn, I think I just assumed that she would beat this one, too.  She had so many hopes for the future, and she longed to work with the children that she loved so dearly.  

When Shelby took up a cause, she was very passionate about it.  And she was fiercely loyal to her friends and those she loved.  She showed an amazing amount of courage and strength.  

God could have taken Shelby home to Him so many times in her young life.  He allowed her to stay here for 24 years, to be an active witness and example of God's love.  We don't always understand God's will or His plan.  We do know that Shelby touched many lives in her own special way.  And I am absolutely certain that at this moment she's up there in heaven, tapping Jesus on the shoulder and pointing to the people she cares about here below, saying, "Jesus, they need your help and your mercy.  Please help them."  She is praying for us.  Heaven has attained an avid prayer warrior and another advocate for the children.  

Shelby passed away on Holy Thursday and was buried on Easter Monday.  The funeral service was poignant and lovely.  I will never hear "Over the Rainbow" without thinking of Shelby ...  Jesus, we trust in Your Divine Mercy.  

In her brief life, Shelby was able to unite her suffering to that of Jesus... and now she is wrapped in the love and peace of our Heavenly Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.  

"Sing for joy, O heavens, and exult, O earth; break forth, O mountains, into singing!  For the Lord has comforted his people, and will have compassion on his suffering ones." (Isaiah 49:13) 

Mary, Mother of God Women's Group and friends at Carpaccio's Restaurant, Dec 21, 2015
(this photo and the top photo, courtesy of Barbara Porter)