In May of 1992, my eighteen-month old son and I moved into a 1252 sq. ft. airplane bungalow on the east side of Brookside. A handful of friends dragged my boxes, rocking chairs, futons, and Patrick’s toddler bed across the polished hardwood floor. By mid-morning I had come to realize two salient facts which would have a powerful impact on the coming months: I did not own enough furniture to fill the house, and I would be sharing a driveway with an amazing woman whom I would come to regard as a treasured friend with a boundless heart and an endless smile.
Marcella Womack had two children, one grandchild, and a myriad of devoted friends. She had a full life, rich and complex. But she made each person the center of her attention. She never took her eyes from your face as you spoke. She’d gesture to the couch and hand you a cup of herb tea. She would settle next to you, and open her space to whatever you offered. Each hour that I spent with Marcella improved my attitude beyond measure.
She had lived an amazing life and eased into middle age by the time I met her. She had succeeded in a series of phenomenal and impactful careers, most recently by teaching people how to do their own jobs with more empathy and compassion. Her spiritual journey had deepened her connection to the physical world in ways that I still do not quite comprehend. Marcella touched lives with a powerful but gentle hand. I spent hours in conversations with her, on my porch, in her living room, on the back stoop while my son played with her grandson Austin.
That first year in my new house posed many challenges for me, from rats to flooding to a sudden loss of income with a car payment, a mortgage, and challenging health issues. Once Marcella fielded a nosy repo guy for me. A couple of times, she watched Patrick while I scrounged for contract work in the months when my new law firm did not yield enough money to support us. In the deep winter, when I fell on ice in the driveway, she opened her door to my toddler and followed him through the dark to the place where his mom lay battered, sobbing, and desperately unable to stand. Marcella dragged me into the house and poured hot tea down my throat, made dinner from my meager groceries, and held my hand while she rocked my little boy to sleep.
Marcella moved from our street a few years later. We kept in touch, though not as often as either of us would have liked. She came to my wedding in 1998, and to several gatherings. Mostly she and I met for coffee or lunch. Those times became less frequent in more recent years, as I weathered a divorce, my son’s departure from home, medical issues, another failed marriage, and, ultimately, my own decampment from the Midwest.
I last saw Marcella just before I sold the Holmes house. We shared a meal and strolled through a public park. She brought an angel for me, which I hung on the house and later left for the new owner. She encouraged me. With her gentle ways, and boundless enthusiasm, she promised that my life would only get better, that I would find comfort and peace, that my spirit only needed rest and it would soar again without fail.
On one of my visits home in 2018, I planned to visit Marcella but had to cancel. In a flash of prophecy, I feared that a bad head cold might pose an issue for her, given her age and her own health issues. We spoke on the phone, her voice still lilting and cheerful. For the next year, we communicated by messages on social media, comments on each other’s posts, and the occasional email. Marcella’s love for her daughter, son-in-law, and grandson shone in every facet of her existence. Her passion for justice, peace, and harmony; and her incredible enthusiasm for new ideas; never abated.
Marcella died during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. Her faithful family strove to be with her as much as the lockdown allowed. I watched for posts about her. I followed her journey from this life. I mourned the world’s loss of her. I cried because I would never see her face again, though I know her spirit endures. She is truly a being for the ages, an old soul, an indispensable part of the eternal cosmos.
Tonight, at the end of a long and challenging work-week, I came home to a parcel from Marcella’s daughter, Diane Womack Leff. When I lifted the note from the box and saw the lovely objects beneath, tears slid down my cheeks. A string of hearts which I vividly recall at Marcella’s home; two angels that I had seen in the photos of the estate sale items; a pretty pin. And a smiling photo on the program from her memorial service, which I had seen live online.
I held Marcella’s photo in my hands for a long, lovely moment. Then I lifted the angels to see which ones I had been sent, since I know this line and I know that each has a special purpose. My heart was made glad; and I smiled through my tears.
Angel of Healing.
Angel of Miracles.
It’s the twenty-second day of the ninety-second month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.