Sunday, March 3, 2013


What does it mean to have a life well-lived?  For Marian living well meant relishing the moment.  Through travel, through work, through adoring nieces and nephews, through heartbreak, Marian lived life in the present.  She lived her moments to the fullest.

On Saturday we celebrated the life of Marian Jackson.   She was the Texas aunt—born in Minneapolis, she moved to Texas and spent all her adult life in the big space until she came to Rochester to be with her sister, her nephew and me and our two kids during the last chapter of her life.  

One of many moments lived to the fullest… 

The time was during her Texas years.  Ben was just a baby, crawling and beginning to move through the world.  Rachel was a spritely three year-old.  Our family travelled to the Lone Star State to visit our Texas aunt.  After arriving in the late night, we settled in.  Rachel spent the night in Marian’s room, wanting to be close to her aunt from Texas.  We all went to bed very late.  At about 5:30 in the morning, Marian opened her eyes, and Rachel, who had crawled into bed with her, was staring at Marian as she slept; waiting for her Aunt Marian to start her day.  When Marian peeked through her morning eyes, Rachel, inches from those eyes, smiled at Marian and asked in her soft three year old voice, “Aunt Marian, do you want to play home with me?”  Tickled to be invited to play, Marian and Rachel climbed out of bed and spent the next hour playing home and drinking imaginary tea, while the rest of us slept.  
Marian’s was a life well-lived.  She was the world traveler.  Her home was a showplace of safaris in Africa, tours throughout Europe, Asia and South America.  She traveled extensively in the US as well as the rest of the world.  She was a fiercely independent woman who lived the life of a single woman in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.  She loved the Yankees and she loved her career.  She loved her family and she loved her friends.  Whether she was riding a camel in the Egyptian desert or playing home with her three year old great-niece, Marian lived the moment she was in with zest and appreciation.
Marian spent the last five years of her life in a hospital bed in a nursing home.   In the waning days of her life, through loneliness and changes not anticipated, she continued to live life to her fullest.

Today as we honored her, we heard from staff, family and friends of her kindness and her interest in them, in the most-lively moments of her youth and adulthood and even as she rested dormant in her bed.  She showed us, through her gracious interactions with staff and family, that a full life can happen, not only in the trips and the excitement—it can happen within the confines and limits of a frail body and a small living space.  It can happen in a bed.  I don’t think there was a time, even as she began to go towards her last days that she didn’t show caring toward others.  A full life continued… in acceptance and in showing interest in others.  Graciousness came in gratitude. Gratitude given and gratitude received.  It came in living even those lonely, confined moments with honor and an extension toward others.   

Marian’s was a full life.  Through threading the events of her life with appreciation, whether she was traveling the world, playing with a three-year old, or sharing stories and prayers with those who came to visit, Marian lived that moment in presence. 

Marian’s was a life well-lived.   She will be missed.

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  1. Through your words I came to miss her, too. Thank you for documenting her well lived life. "Graciousness came in gratitude.". What a model to emulate.

  2. Wow, it sounds like she had an amazing life! You wrote a very sweet and thoughtful tribute for her. :)
    --jee young

  3. "Graciousness came in gratitude." This is such a lovely slice about her, and one I bet your whole family will enjoy. Your piece passes her lesson on, and I simply adore that image of little Rachel staring at Marian's sleeping face. Amazing how one story can tell the whole of a person. a.

  4. "A full life can happen, not only in the trips and the excitement—it can happen within the confines and limits of a frail body and a small living space. It can happen in a bed." We need more stories and messages like this. I often wonder how we can inspire elderly people to tell their stories and share their wisdom with us. We could learn so much from them. Your aunt sounds like an inspiration, Deb. What a gift she was.

  5. You were fortunate to have your Aunt Marian...and it sounds like she was fortunate to have you. What a gift she was to your children and they to her. I love this story, it reminds me of what I hope to do with my blog called the Family Trove...I wanted to collect family stories from everyone...stories like yours. Family stories are the best!

  6. What a great lesson to learn (lead by example) about living life. Thank you O'B

  7. That's the kind of aunt I want to be! Thanks for sharing! I hope this look back gave you the joy it has given this reader.