|Dan and Marion in the last photo taken of them.|
It is the most tender, perfect family portrait I have ever seen.
Used with permission of the family.
I had called Dan on his cell phone as we drove past their house. I'd found it was the best way to catch he and Marion these days since she had been so sick. Marion was often sick, but you never really knew how sick she truly was because Marion had the tenacity to go straight from the hospital right to the church building to help with an activity or to play the organ. Nothing could slow her down and I knew that this little bump in the road could be no exception.
"Hyeee-llo", Dan said in his pleasant sing-song as he picked up the phone, like always. After a few pleasantries, I asked, "So how's our Marion today?"
"Not s'good. The nurse came a little while ago. They don't expect she'll last more than a few days."
I was shocked and could only utter a feeble apology. Dan is one of those folks who seems to see right through you, and I have always felt a little nervous talking to him. Now I had no words at all. Through a mist of tears I told Guy what Dan had said. How could it be that this amazing lady, my friend Marion, was going to leave?
I don't remember the first time I talked to Marion, but the first time I was invited to her home is burned into my memory in silver and blue. It was Christmas (at this moment, any of you who knew her are smiling). Marion had come to a church activity for the sisters at my house. I had our place all decked out for Christmas. We tend to put quite a lot of time end energy into our decorating, but Marion only seemed to view my festive efforts as quaint. Later that week as my family stood in her entry way I learned why.
Marion's house was more elaborately decorated than the North Pole itself. She had an angel room, and one of all Santas. She decorated each bedroom and bathroom, her kitchen, and even her laundry room. She placed an immense, glistening village, composed of dozens of gleaming buildings and houses along the cabinets that skirted her own bedroom. The warm light reflected off of the mirrors and flooded the room with an ethereal glow. It took she and Dan nearly 15 minutes to switch on all the lights and music boxes, and then at least half an hour to give us the tour.
It was, as was Marion, amazing.
She was a storyteller, she was a musician, she served her family and friends and she served the Lord. One of the most beautiful gifts that Marion gave my family was that of her music, or more specifically, her time. She provided music lessons to our family, free of any compensation, for over two years. She didn't mind when the girls decided to take a break after the first six months, and told me not to worry, they could come back any time. Sadly, that is no longer the case. Adam stuck with it, though sometimes with less devotion than was deserved. On those times when I begged her forgiveness when Addy came week after week not having practiced (not for my lack of nagging), she would sweetly say, "Oh, now, don't worry. Boys do this. What is important is that he's here and he keeps trying. He's a good boy." She had a way of making my feelings of shame melt into comfortable normalcy.
Marion could make you feel so good about yourself. She always had a compliment to pay, a kind word of encouragement, or a little story that bridged decades to help me through a mothering challenge. She knew how to turn a bad moment around. Though I knew she'd had many trials in her life, she didn't wallow in them. She seemed perpetually happy. When asked the tired question, "How are you?", she almost always replied, "Great!"
The thing I loved most about Marion was that she was the lovely half of a mighty whole. She and her sweetie, Dan, were such a tender pair. When I imagine what I would want my marriage to be like, now and forty years from now, it is after the template made by Dan and Marion.
In fact, there isn't much about Marion that I don't aspire to be. Marion used her talents to bless the lives of others right to the end of her life. She was one busy lady, never resting on her laurels or taking a "sick day". In fact, when I had my last blood clot removed I thought of how often Marion had come straight away from the hospital to some church event, and so I told Guy I wanted to go to our church activity that night. If Marion could power through the way she did in her late 80's, well, certainly I could try as well.
That day, the day I called Dan and learned Marion's lovely light was fading, Guy and I decided we would go see her the next day to say goodbye. But we didn't get a chance. Marion passed away that night.
And Marion left this life the way I would like to leave; in her sweetie's arms, surrounded in spirit by dozens of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Her mind was clear and, right to the end, we were told, she bore testimony to her loved ones of her faith in a Divine Creator, a loving Heavenly Father who had provided a plan for her and her life. Marion shared her faith with everyone in the beautiful way she lived her life, and though we heard it from her lips often, we would have known it had she never spoken a word.
I sang this morning at Marion's memorial service. I was so glad when I glanced at the program before the meeting started and saw that I was to sing in the first few minutes of the service. I can't cry before I sing because it turns on my waterworks, and I don't get through the song. And I wanted to weep -no, bawl! - but weeping would have to do. And weep I did at song's end before I even left the front of the chapel after Guy played the last notes on the piano.
Marion's family was so calm and peaceful. I felt almost ashamed in front of them over my bursts of tears during the luncheon. After all, I am not even related. But then it dawned on me; her family has had her all their lives; lifetimes of her wonderful sense of humor and radiant smile. Sadly, I have only had Marion as my friend for ten years. I certainly don't feel done. Not that any of them do either, of course, but I can still feel jealous. How would it have been to have a whole lifetime with Marion?
"...weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning."
Post Script: Marion asked me years ago to sing for her funeral,
and she knew just what song she wanted.
"Oh, that I were an angel,
oh, that I were an angel
and could have the wish of my heart!"
Marion, you got your wish.