Today we posted a new story on the website. I proudly dedicate Suffering Is The Only Honest Work in honor of and gratitude to Marilyn Willison.
Marilyn Willison and my wife Hilary have been friends since the early 1970s when they worked together at Coldwell Banker in Los Angeles. Marilyn was an administrative assistant and Hilary had landed her first job—receptionist. A little over a year ago, she sent Hilary a packet of articles she’d been collecting. Most of them dealt with loss, grief and suffering—and hope, continuing on and growing. Marilyn has a great deal of first-hand experience with this—particularly the suffering part. Marilyn’s body has been ravaged by MS—Multiple Sclerosis—that she has battled for thirty years. Unless there’s a miracle out there for her, she will never beat it—but she refuses to let it break her. Marilyn is a voracious reader and writer and has written six published books and countless articles and stories with the MS monkey on her back. She has also trained many want-to-be writers—including me. I call Marilyn “Coach.” She read and edited many of my early stories and provided me guidance and, more importantly, encouragement to continue to write and go deeper with my writing. She also inspires me with her courage. Her courage is contagious. One might think MS has stolen her beauty. I couldn’t disagree more vehemently. She is vivacious—she is one of the most beautiful human beings I’ve had the pleasure and privilege to be touched by. She is also blessed with an angel—her loving and caring husband Tony. Slow, painful, life robbing diseases like MS puts the marriage vows to the ultimate test— I will love you and care for you in sickness and in health until death do us part. All married couples could learn much from Marilyn and Tony.
One of the articles Marilyn sent to us was written by Donna Jackson Nakazawa entitled Four Minutes With My Father that appeared in the July/August 2010 edition of More Magazine. Ms. Nakazawa describes her near death experience when the medicine she was administered to treat a rare neurological autoimmune disease caused a sudden and very dangerous drop in her blood pressure. In those four minutes she was reunited with her father who had died 29 years earlier when Ms. Nakazawa was 13 years old—her father died in the same hospital she was now laying 29 years to the day. He was 42 at the time of his death—she would, hopefully, reach the same age in three days. Her father repeatedly told his daughter to “Choose Life.” She lived to tell the story and celebrate their birthdays.
Ms. Nakazawa was deeply moved by her NDE. “Nothing like those four minutes has ever recurred. And yet everything was altered. I’d always hoped there existed a greater presence. Yes, God. Now I felt sure there was the possibility of something more, another layer of meaning, bigger than our daily striving.”
Marilyn Willison has chosen life every day for the last thirty years. Her choice inspires me. Her choice grounds me.
Thank you, Coach, for all of your lessons.
Your forever grateful student
Please visit Marilyn’s website ( marilynwillison.blogspot.com ) and learn more about this amazing woman.