I never believed that anything could defeat her. She grew up an only child. Her mother and father had to work. A lot. She had stories about days, nights, weekends, holidays, spent alone or with neighbors. It was a lonely place to be. I wonder how she managed. But she certainly learned to take care of business.
Maybe the nuns helped during eight years of Catholic school. Make that seven; she skipped first grade. The Baltimore Catechism, daily mass, perfect penmanship – she developed a keen sense of personal discipline that would carry her through life’s later troubles
Like getting pregnant at twenty. Imagine! She, the straight-A student, had to drop out of college to get married. But that didn’t stop her. Neither did the divorce less than ten years later, or the prospect of raising three young daughters alone. She took care of everything somehow. The years alone ended. She remarried and had a son. But through it all she never lost sight of what she needed to realize her goal for herself.
She finally finished her degree 25 years after she started college; we graduated in the same year. A year after that she was teaching elementary school.
She juggled teaching alongside service to the church, marriage, mothering, grandmothering, and caring for her own mother for ten years, managing to spend every spare summer minute on the beach in Tahoe, reading like crazy and laughing with good friends. I thought she could take care of anything.
But even she couldn’t take care of the leukemia. It took care of her, in six short weeks.
She was so many things to so many people, -- teacher, wife, daughter, friend, grandma – but I was the first one to call her “mom.”
Marilyn Grace Handley
January 10,1947 - April 1, 2000