In our Advent texts, we hear the call that the Angel Gabriel placed on Mary’s life – that she would give birth to the savior of the world. In that story, we hear Mary’s response – “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” I’ve often marveled at the simplicity and intensity of that statement and wish I could be so humble and willing.
Today, as the life of my friend Marilyn was celebrated at her home church (and my former congregation), I realized that all I really need to do is look at Marilyn’s life because I believe she is one of the best examples of what it means to live as Mary did in that moment.
I knew Marilyn for more than 8 years. And in all that time, I watched as she freely offered all of herself, living her entire life as God’s servant – pouring out lovingkindness as a Deacon, offering her talents in worship, lending her strength to Habitat, contributing her skills as a teacher as she tutored kids. Those of us who knew her at all have seen her do all of this and more. So many of us have been on the receiving end of her compassionate care.
I know the church will miss her “can-do” spirit, her tenacity, her generosity, and the gracious welcome she offered. Our family and our extended Oakland family will miss her smiles and her presence at our dinner tables and parties. (We’ll also miss the 7 bean salad which she brought to every potluck party we had.) I will miss the way Marilyn took time to understand our daughter’s transition and the intentionality with which she educated herself around genderqueer and transgender concerns so she could be a better support for us. I will miss our Bible Study conversations and our coffeeshop discussions about things like iPhone cameras, Hawaii, feral cats, and the health benefits of Tai Chi and hiking.
I could go on and on because Marilyn’s death has left a big hole in my life and it will be a long time before it will be filled. But in my heart I still hear her voice and see her smile and suspect that if she has a chance, she will simply present herself to God and say: “Here I am! How can I help.” This is who Marilyn was and who she ever will be.