HOUSTON—A Methodist church in northwest Houston held a memorial service Wednesday for a homeless woman whose last act on earth was to curl up outside a church sanctuary door.
On Dec. 10 a custodian at Spring Woods United Methodist church located on FM 1960 West found the 50-year-old woman. He assumed she was asleep and found an extra blanket and covered her with it to help keep her warm. Then he brought her food from the church pantry and placed it next to her so she would have something to eat when she woke up.
Hours later he checked on her again. She hadn’t moved. The woman was dead.
She was identified as Sherry Ivy. Her belongings included a birthday card. She turned 50 just last month. The church didn’t know where she came from, or if she died from natural causes or the bitter cold. But Rev. Heather L. Sims knew the church had to do something.
Sims stopped to talk to the first homeless man she saw as she drove to the church the next day. His name was Stewart King and he just happened to be Sherry Ivy’s long-time partner. They lived together nearby in the woods in a tent. Sims said the church wanted to hold a memorial service for Ivy and her homeless partner agreed.
Wednesday morning church members and members of Sherry Ivy’s extended family of fellow homeless men and women sat side by side in the church sanctuary to honor her life.
“What you see here is what I got,” said King at a reception following the service. “And I am absolutely amazed at all these people showing up.”
After the service King and other attendees placed roses at the site where Sherry Ivy died.
Homeless assistance groups estimate that there are close to 9,000 people living on the streets in Houston. The death of one led this church to reach out to the rest. Methodist churches throughout the Houston area helped provide blankets, sleeping bags, clothes, fellowship, and food for the homeless who attended the service.
”Sherry was a life. And she was loved, deeply,” said Spring Woods United Methodist pastor Jonathan Sims. “And having passed away on our property we kind of feel like she is one of us.”
Pastors are still piecing together the fragments of Sherry’s Ivy’s difficult life. But they know her last act was to seek help at a church: an act that brought two worlds together and restored a little faith for a group of homeless people who have little else.
”Because I thought we were just people living in the woods,” said King. “But apparently we’re not,” he said after the outpouring from the church congregation.