Eulogy as Read by Trisha Klassen and Anita Hiebert (Melanie's Sisters-in-Law) at Melanie's Celebration of Life, August 28th, 2015
MELANIE SHANNON PENNER (nee KLASSEN) - March 23, 1976 - August 21, 2015
Our hearts are broken to announce the passing of our beloved Melanie Penner, wonderful wife, loving mother, treasured daughter and sister and loyal friend. Melanie is lovingly remembered by her husband, Darryl, her two beautiful daughters, Kira and Teagan, her parents Dennis and Marion Klassen, her brother and sister-in-law Jeffrey and Trisha Klassen and their son, Otto. She has joined her brother, Jason in Heaven. She is also dearly missed by Darryl’s parents, David and Hilda Penner, his sisters, Anita and Ramona, and Anita’s daughter, Kai.
Melanie grew up in Roseisle, Manitoba and attended school in Roseisle and Miami. Melanie accepted Christ as her saviour at a young age. She attended Roseisle EMC and was baptized into that church as a teenager. Melanie put her faith into action when she worked as a camp counsellor at Turtle Mountain Bible Camp. This would also change her life in other ways, as it would be where she met her future husband, Darryl. She moved to Winnipeg to attend the University of Winnipeg and to be closer to Darryl. They made Whyte Ridge Baptist church their home, where they both became actively involved in Ministry. Melanie married Darryl in 1997 and shortly thereafter she graduated with her Bachelor of Education in 1998. She worked as an early years teacher at various schools around Winnipeg, the most recent being Phoenix School in Headingly. Although Melanie loved the children she interacted with in the classroom her desire to impact children took on new meaning when Melanie gave birth to two daughters, Kira in 2003 and Teagan in 2005.
Melanie was a loving and caring wife and mother. Together with her husband, Darryl she poured into the lives of their two beautiful daughters. Despite her own busy schedule, she managed her household’s sports, social, school and church schedules with the skill of an air traffic controller.
She encouraged every interest her girls had, whether they be athletic or artistic. Melanie would spend many hours every week attending or preparing for dance, piano, basketball, track or any number of other activities. Spending time with her family was a priority for her. It didn’t matter if it were playing games, walking the dog, riding bike, or playing in the yard, Melanie knew the importance of time with her family. Melanie’s family enjoyed many vacations and camping trips together. The entire family shared a love for travelling and the outdoors, which included things, like water sports, hiking, and beach time.
Melanie was a great cook. Despite being busy with all her health concerns, she was able to develop a talent for making healthy and great tasting food for herself and her family. She loved her garden and found peace in the beauty of nature. Melanie loved to read, you could often find her immersed in a good book.
Melanie was a passionate early years teacher who touched thousands of young lives with her innovative and nurturing take to learning. Melanie had a special approach to the well-known Daily 5 program that was published and circulated for teachers across the province to learn and use in their classrooms. Many teachers came to her classroom to observe her unique approach. She also had additional training in the Roots of Empathy program. This program teaches young children to care for and appreciate others through interactions with a baby and mother that visit the class. It was so fitting for Melanie to be tasked with training future generations on how to care for others. Her dedication to this program continued even through her illness as she committed to voluntarily lead monthly visits so that another class of children could benefit from it. In recognition of Melanie’s admirable achievements in early years education her colleagues nominated her for a YW-YMCA Woman of Distinction award in 2012.
Melanie was a true friend. Her honesty, loyalty, and boldness meant that knowing her was to be impacted by her. Her relationships were never superficial. She never approached anyone with kindness just to be polite. Her kindness was always genuine and from the heart. Her love for others is what made Mel such an attractive friend. This was never more evident than when Mel needed her community. The response from her work, church, neighbourhood and sports friends was nothing short of overwhelming. The size and depth of response to Melanie when she was in need is a testament to her investment in others. From the hundreds of people that purchased tickets and attended the fundraising social to the many people that brought meals and helped transport the girls to their activities - Melanie and her family have been extremely thankful for the outpouring of support.
Melanie was a gifted writer. Over the last two years, her blog gave the world a glimpse of her courage, struggle, and faith. She never held back and at times it was gut-wrenching, but it was an amazing insight into Melanie’s life as she taught us all what it really means to lean on Christ. Even early in Mel’s writing she knew she wanted to have an impact. We found some of her writing from her grade 12 year and it is evident that even then God was preparing her heart for a journey. These were some of her words:
“From this day on I shall not stand placid, but I shall conquer great battles, make myself known in the nation. I will visit places I have never been, and bless each person I meet. I will bring good to all, and in return will be rewarded. My name will go down in history, and after death, memories of me shall last. Memories of success, memories of respect, memories of bringing good to all. Oh, as my ambition rises, I want to cure the world of illness, set free any captive, and provide for the needy. I now have new hopes that when I abandon this world I shall leave behind pleasant memories.”
Little did she know at that time the truth these words would hold.
Melanie was a fervent servant of Christ Jesus, and the strength of her faith was truly inspirational. It seemed no matter what challenges their family faced, her faith and trust in God would only be bolstered by these events. She believed that a walk with Christ extended beyond the church walls and was an active leader in their local Love Winnipeg outreach projects. Connecting the church with a Daycare, the local police and fire departments, and being part of the Parent Advisory counsel at the girls’ school were all things that she knew would show the love of Jesus to the community around her. Because of her gift of discernment she was chosen by her church, Whyte Ridge Baptist, to go to Bolivia in August of 2013 to help chose a new mission endeavour for their congregation. Melanie’s faith impacted so many people, even until her last days her faith in Jesus Christ was present and evident.
Melanie was diagnosed with cervical cancer in October 2013 despite regular screening and follow up with various health care professionals. Melanie underwent chemotherapy and radiation therapy from December 2013 to January 2014. In the midst of Melanie’s stressful therapy, Darryl also struggled with health issues. He required surgery for a benign mass behind his right eye. Thankfully, Darryl’s surgery was complication free and his recovery was quicker than expected.
During this time Melanie started a blog, documenting her cancer journey. Mel had a unique gift to turn her struggle into encouragement and enlightenment for us all. She also used this gift to do numerous public speaking engagements over the course of her illness.
Unfortunately, Melanie’s cancer persisted. Her doctors attempted one last curative surgery in June 2014, but during the operation it was discovered that her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes. It was felt that the surgery was no longer curative given the extent of the disease, and was aborted. Melanie was informed that there were no further conventional medical therapies. Melanie decided to increase her natural treatments and made radical changes to her diet. With this intense regimen, Melanie enjoyed many months of relatively good health. In this time, Melanie was able to enjoy trips to both the Dominican Republic and Memphis with family and friends. The family also welcomed the addition of their dog Jett. He was a comfort to the entire family and was a constant companion for Melanie as she wrestled through her journey.
In June of this year it was discovered that Melanie’s cancer had spread to multiple places, including her spine, causing multiple fractured vertebrae and a significant increase in pain. Her level of function declined over the next two months, as did her appetite and her ability to cope at home. In this time however, she was able to organize a 40th birthday party for Darryl and attend a party in her honour at the home of Sandra Nickel, where numerous friends honoured her and showed her their love. At that party she received the beautiful painting you see on the back of your program, inscribed with the words of her friends as they saw her.
Melanie was admitted to Riverview Health Centre July 30th, 2015. Her health continued to decline over the next three weeks, but she was lovingly cared for by the Riverview palliative staff and was always surrounded by her family. During this admission, Darryl and Melanie were able to celebrate their eighteenth wedding anniversary. On August 21st, with all of her family near by, Melanie entered the arms of her loving Saviour. Although our hearts are filled with such great sadness, we take comfort knowing that she has received complete healing. She no longer struggles with sickness and is filled with complete peace. Today she is standing in the amazing presence of God.
The following are the pages of the program from her service:
The following are the pages of the program from her service:
Below is the bookmark presented to guests as a gift and keepsake: