Navigation Menu

Sheryl Rae Nordin-Caruso

1949  –  February 26, 2003

Sheryl Rae Norlin-Caruso, 54, died at home in German Village, Ohio, with her husband Ray Caruso by her side. She is also survived by her mother, Veola Nordin; sister and brother-in-law, Phyllis and Rich Sandberg; niece, Missy and nephew Ryan; stepdaughters, Laura Pratt, Kimberly Caruso- Jordan and Dana Grollman; international daughter, Marisol Mendez Palma; mother-in-law, Patricia Schullo; brother-in-law, Bob Caruso; and 6 grandchildren.


Sheryl lived her life to the fullest and leaves behind a rich legacy for her family, friends and colleagues. Sheryl and Ray were married in 1988 in Wichita, KS where they met. They moved to Columbus with Ray’s job that year.


Sheryl’ s professional experience centered around clinical and managerial social work, strategic planning, training and consulting. She held positions as director of Child/Adolescence Outpatient Services at OSU/Harding Behavioral Health, executive director for Alternatives for Children and Teens, and most recently as founding partner of the Center for Participative Leadership. She earned an MSW/LISW from the University of Nebraska and was on the board of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, USA. She was a member of the International Association of Facilitators, Trinity Episcopal Church, and the Columbus Chamber Singers.





January 1, 2001  – Written by Sheryl and Ray Caruso



Those present: Sheryl Nordin Caruso, Ray Caruso, Jim Troxel, Donnamarie West, George West, Donna Marie West, Judith Hamje, Mitzi Moore, Helen Heal, Terry Bergdall, Pam Bergdall, Jan Sanders, Jim Troxel, Karen Snyder, Richard Simms, Jack Gilles, Judy Gilles, Rod Worden.


This year, the story in the community has turned out to be my story of my healing from non-Hodgkins lymphoma in the past 6 months.  Although the results of the test are not conclusive at this time, there has been a great healing, and for this we celebrate.


Following the lighting of a candle and the sounding of a gong, the following was read: “I am fully present in the place of Mystery wherein desire and destiny becomes one.  Into this clearing of pure energy, I release my fear and awaken to my experience of true peace and serenity.  I embrace the sweetness of life, without reservation or limitation.  This or something better, is manifesting for me now.  And so it is.”


Sheryl stated the intent of this celebration, which is to “celebrate and honor the healing that has taken place in my life in the past 6 months.”


A Greek myth, “Demeter and Persephone: The Abduction into the Underworld” was read.  The following is an excerpt from Jean Shinoda Bolen’s book Close To the Bone. “When there is a before and an after, when there is an event that marks the moment that brings ordinary life to an end, which is often the case with medical conditions, the shift that occurs has the force of a natural disaster, a personal earthquake that disturbs the ground under us. Before the diagnosis, before the discovery something is wrong, we live in innocence or denial.  Then everything changes, and we feel that nothing may ever be the same again.  We may feel like Persephone, the maiden in Greek mythology who was gathering flowers in the meadow when the earth opened up in front of her, and out of the deepest, darkest vent in the earth came Hades, the Lord of the Underworld, to abduct her.  Hades grabbed her and they plunged back from where they came, and the earth closed over as if nothing had happened.


“One moment, Persephone had nothing more on her mind than which beautiful flower to pick.  The next moment she was in the underworld and nothing was the same as before.  Her innocence and security were violated.  Persephone is the innocent part of men and women, youngsters and elders, who encounter Hades as the perpetrator of any unexpected and unforeseen act that shocks us into an awareness of our emotional or physical vulnerability.  Demeter searches for Persephone and finally, after many days, they are reunited.  Demeter asked, “Did you eat anything in the underworld?”  If she had not, it would be as if nothing had happened.  She would be as she was before, a maiden and a mother’s daughter, and could resume spending her days gathering flowers.  But Persephone had eaten pomegranate seeds in the underworld, which meant that she must periodically return to the underworld.  Metaphorically, eating the seeds meant that Persephone could ‘take in’ or integrate the experience.  It meant that she would now go between the upper world and the underworld – never again as a victim, but as a guide for others.  To integrate an experience like this is an act of consciousness.”


Sheryl, with assistance from her Director of Research, Ray, shared highlights/events of the past 6 months in her medical and complementary treatments’ journey.  Sheryl read the following from her own journaling: She gratefully acknowledged the contributions of Jann McGuire who has shared her writings and her learnings with her, which have influenced her own writing:


“As I celebrate the healing journey of the past 6 months, the two words that come to me are ‘Gratitude and Abundance.’  This has been a valley – underworld – that I have been in.  Yet in this valley there are so many gifts/blessings.  The image is of soft rain that has fallen on me as I have opened to the universe.


As I have let go of previous held assumptions about life, and myself and opened myself, the healing power of the universe has come to me: the love and support of family; the care of friends and colleagues; the unexpected understanding of acquaintances; and the kindness of strangers.  All of these have filled me with gratitude.


Yet in this underworld there is great creativity – for family, colleagues, acquaintances, and friends are not the same – but are also constantly changing and giving new forms.  So, now it is time for me to give voice to this experience – I experience the abundance of the universe and yet I let go of all that has been given to me so that new creativity may arise.  Just as my body has been purified by a chemical fire – each cell is being recreated and new life has come to me.”


The group sang “On A Clear Day”.  Members of the group brought symbols of healing and shared them. The group remembered others who are on the healing journey including: Nadine Addington, Lee Early, Marginel Knutson, Larry Henschen, Ruth Gilbert, Abe Ulanca, Mary Work.

In closing, Ray read from Ray and Anderson’s latest book, The Cultural Creatives. A personal and intimate cataclysm – cancer, the death of a child, a loss of work that you loved  – suddenly catapults you far beyond the old sense of self.  Leaving the old story behind doesn’t necessarily mean that you leave anything; sometimes someone leaves you.  Nor does it necessarily mean that anyone actually goes anywhere, because after all is said and done, what is left – or lost – is not a relationship or a place or even a context. What is left is a consciousness that once felt secure, had categories to fit things into, and knew who it was.  And what replaces this sureness is not knowing, and openness, and something unspeakable, and sometimes almost unbearably new.  Once this process is under way, openness and not knowing become your constant companions.  The change is above all a change in consciousness; who do you leave behind and who do you become as you make your way toward a new kind of life?”




Celebrating Sheryl’s Life


On the evening of May 24, 2003 the Litibu Association celebrated the life of Sheryl Nordin-Caruso. Sheryl had been the designated Litibu Association storyteller.  In this event the community became the storytellers, telling stories about Sheryl’s life.  The following is the ritual that was created for the celebration.



  • The Gathering: people gather on the patio

  • The Welcoming Context: the four parts of the celebration outlined

  • The Singing: Morning of Freedom and The River

  • The Remembering of Sheryl’s life: eulogy by Ray

  • The Singing: Those Who Wait on the Lord while

  • Processing to the Healing Space



  • Entering the Healing Space: At the arch entrance to the healing space, a flower is placed in each person’s hand and they are welcomed to the healing space and then offered up to the fire as the offering of Sheryl to her spiritual home

  • The Context

  • The Community Offerings: Individuals tell how Sheryl has impacted their lives and offer the memory as a symbol of giving Sheryl to the mysterious power that gives and takes our life and directs the course of history.

  • The Offering by the Family

  • The Recalling what Sheryl was and thus will always be

  • The Words of Assurance



  • Context: Release Sheryl to the universe as symbolized by the ocean into which we scatter her ashes

  • Words of Dedication: [poem] Giving Sheryl to the universe

  • Receiving the Ashes: Ray gives each person a portion of Sheryl’s ashes

  • Processing in Silent Contemplation to the ocean to release the ashes

  • Scattering the Ashes

  • Return to the House for the Celebration Feast.



  • Feast and Conversation

  • Benediction


Remembering Sheryl from Litibu

Columbus, Ohio  –  March 2003

A little more than ten years ago Sheryl and Ray convinced my husband Jim and I to join them in an adventure in Mexico of building a creativity center, a place where each of us would discover the culture of Mexico, where we would have the time and space to discover and develop our own individual creativity –  place called Litibu Playa, an hour north of Puerto Vallarta on the Pacific coast.  I remember they brought a video to show us and convince us to join them; in the video Sheryl was whacking away at the jungle life, exposing the big boulders underneath with her machete.  For some strange reason we bought into this dream and followed them.  In the years following, I experienced the joy of being in Sheryl’s presence and saw her great loves:


  • First her love of family: She had such a deep love for Ray, her husband, her colleague, and her soul mate.  When I think of Sheryl, Ray is always in the picture.  I don’t really know where the creativity of one ends and the other begins.  Together in Litibu they designed and built a home of elegant simplicity, named it La Cancion de Mar, Song of the Sea, and filled it with a spirit of welcome and love.

  • Secondly she had a great love for building community.  In fact she volunteered the need for a having a community storyteller and became the storyteller as each year she shared 2-3 stories that had happened in the past year in our community.  So isn’t it appropriate that we are in turn today telling stories about Sheryl?


  • And she was always expanding her community, symbolized by her being a mother and mentor to Marisol Palma, inviting Marisol to go to college here in Columbus and live with Sheryl and Ray for four years.  Marisol sent an email saying, “Sheryl was like my mother…she made me feel comfortable and cared for” and signed it Su Hija, your daughter, Marisol.  In the past couple of years Sheryl continued to expand her community as she helped to sponsor the Learning Basket in the neighboring Mexican town of Bucerias to help mothers care for their infants.


  • A third great love she exhibited was her love of learning.  In Mexico she was constantly learning about the culture, taking Spanish lessons, and learning yoga, which I was able to share with her each morning on the neighbors porch.  In the past two years she was constantly learning about multiple health alternatives.  She was always learning and becoming new through meditation, Qi energy, massage, and bringing her learning to Litibu to others who also needed healing.


  • Overall was Sheryl’s great love of life.  I miss her laughter, her joy of living, her always being positive about whatever life handed her.    Judy Hamje, a member of our Litibu community, sent a quote on hearing of Sheryl’s death that speaks of the lifestyle that Sheryl embodied:  “Faith is the courage to go beyond what one can see and blessed is the life that finds JOY in the journey.”


We are grateful for the love Sheryl exhibited to us.  May we also be such lovers of life as we journey on our own paths.





Remembering the Life of Sheryl Caruso

Litibu Playa, May 25, 2003

Throughout this week whenever I have thought about Sheryl, the word that kept coming into my mind with her memory was “Dayenu”.   It is a word the Jewish use in telling the story of the Old Testament, and it means, “It would have been sufficient.”  So in their story it goes something like “…And if God had given us only the rainbow sign, and not the promised land, dayenu, it would have been sufficient.  And if he had only given us the promised land, and not…dayenu, it would have been sufficient.  That is their story.

I keep thinking of this word in relation to Sheryl’s story.  Here are a few lines of my story about Sheryl.  You can help me tell it when I say “dayenu”, by responding “It would have been sufficient.”

  • If Sheryl had been born and grown up in Nebraska, and not become a singer and actor in her high school days, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had been a singer and actor and not pursued becoming a social worker, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had been a social worker and not married Ray Caruso and moved to Columbus, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had married Ray Caruso and not played the role of being a mother and grandmother to many, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had played many roles among her family and friends and not learned methods to become a facilitator of change, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had become a change facilitator and not built with Ray La Cancion del Mar, the Song of the Sea, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had helped to build La Cancion del Mar and not learned Spanish and helped to bring the Learning Basket to Bucerias, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had learned Spanish and introduced mothers in Bucerias to the Learning Basket and not learned Qi energy, yoga, meditation and other healing methods, dayenu.

  • If Sheryl had learned multiple healing methods and not been a demonstration of living a full life in the midst of a devastating disease, dayenu.

The thoughts and stories we have been telling here are woven into this understanding of life.  For me the joyful spirit and energy Sheryl lived her entire life, even in the midst of illness, is her demonstration of living the dayenu understanding of life.  Life – in its fullness, its ups and downs – is sufficient as it is.  I believe she would want us to be saying today:  her life was sufficient:  “Dayenu”.