Last Sunday on a beautiful sunny day in Simi Valley at Marsha Wachtell’s funeral, her spirit and connections were evident as many of the over 500 people present commented on her positive outlook and how she never complained or focused on having an incurable disease.
She continued to live her life to the fullest, taking every opportunity to travel, see family and hold her grandchildren.
The struggle with ALS was different for Marsha with her cup runneth over personality; it was never a half empty cup or even a half full one; only a full one would do for Marsha. For example, “Laura Lyn Guerry is struggling to come to terms with her aggressive ALS. Her frustration is evident. It’s the “quiet disease,” the “nice person’s disease.” Not very much is known about it. Even the medical experts can’t do very much.”
The Wall Street Journal reported this summer that while ALS is known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, it seems that now he may not have had amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Other journals also report how little we know about this incurable disease.
I know that while in the end, her body was devastated by ALS; it could not steal her spirit. See her obituary LA Times.
Donations in honor of her memory can be made to: ALS Association – Golden West Chapter, P.O. Box 565, Attention: Elizabeth Bloom, Agoura Hills, CA, 91376.
Being present with her and her family, in their home and at shiva and with so many friends and family leads me to think about what is a successful life? Marsha is remembered by her grace, her style, her courage, and her amazing ability to be a connector; and as an incredible wife, mother, grandmother, friend.
Not everyone can keep a positive attitude in afternoon traffic in Los Angeles, yet Marsha knew her amazing life would be cut short and still kept all her appointments, helped others and even managed to vote by absentee ballot the day before she died.
When George and I were in Siem Reap, Cambodia with my parents, we visited many temples of Angkor Wat. Ta Prohm, one of Jayavaraman VII’s first major temple projects, was dedicated to his mother. Preah Kahn was his memorial in honor of his father. After a week touring temples by foot and tuk tuk, I asked George if he thought of a project to honor his parents. We talked about honor, memorials and legacies.I thought about how are you remembered? What is your living legacy? Is it your family? your work? what you build? who you know? All of the people Marsha connected and all the memories she created by her trips, parties, phone calls, cards and contact will continue in the minds of others.
The Wachtell family and mine have been intertwined for over forty years. As my mom said at the funeral in Marsha’s honor: “When the moment comes to close my eyes on this beautiful planet, my heart will thank and honor all those who gave me life, and the warmth of love; and to God, who permitted me to devote my earthly sojourn to peace, justice and the betterment of the human condition. I will go in peace and joy, thankful for having been blessed with the miracle of life.
I have loved my life with passion, embraced it with fervor, cherished every single moment of it. I have contemplated with wonder the sky and its running clouds, my brethren the humans, my sisters the flowers, and the stars. I have feasted unceasingly on the treasure of life in all its forms.”
I hope someone will say these amazing words about you, your life and your legacy. I will miss Marsha; I hope to live my life in a way to do her legacy proud.
Lisa Ellen Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 101 countries and six continents. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, she worked on cruise ships for seven years and backpacked for three years in Asia. She is the founder of the website WeSaidGoTravel which is read in 235 countries and was named #3 on Rise Global’s top 1,000 Travel Blogs.
With more than 150,000 followers across social media, she has hosted Facebook Live for USA Today 10best, is verified on Twitter and listed on IMDb, and is the Social Media Manager for the Los Angeles Press Club.
You can find Lisa Niver talking travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, Satellite Media Tours, The Jet Set TV and Orbitz travel webisodes as well as her YouTube channel, where her WeSaidGoTravel videos have over 1.5 million views. After three months on TikTok, Instagram Reels, Facebook Reels and YouTube Shorts, she had over 500,000 (1/2 million) views.
As a journalist, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors and been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. She has been a judge for the Gracie Awards for the Alliance of Women in Media, and has run 15 travel competitions on her website, publishing over 2,500 writers and photographers from 75 countries.
For her print and digital stories as well as her television segments, she has been awarded three Southern California Journalism Awards and two National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards.
Niver has published more than 2000 articles, in more than three dozen magazines and journals
including National Geographic, Wired, Teen Vogue, HuffPost Personal, POPSUGAR, Ms. Magazine, Luxury Magazine, Smithsonian, Sierra Club, Saturday Evening Post, AARP, AAA Explorer Magazine, American Airways, Delta Sky, enRoute (Air Canada), Hemispheres, Jewish Journal, Myanmar Times, BuzzFeed, Robb Report, Scuba Diver Life, Ski Utah, Trivago, Undomesticated, USA Today, TODAY, Wharton Magazine, and Yahoo.
National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards
2021 Winner: Book Critic: Ms. Magazine “Untamed: Brave Means Living From the Inside Out”
2019 Winner: Soft News Feature for Film/TV: KTLA TV “Oscars Countdown to Gold with Lisa Niver”
2019 Finalist for: Soft News, Business/Music/Tech/Art
Southern California Journalism Awards
2021 Winner: Technology Reporting
2021 Finalist: Book Criticism
2020 Winner: Print Magazine Feature: Hemispheres Magazine, “Painter by the Numbers, Rembrandt”
2020 Finalist: Online Journalist of the Year, Activism Journalism, Educational Reporting, Broadcast Lifestyle Feature
2019 Finalist: Broadcast Television Lifestyle Segment for “Ogden Ski Getaway”
2018 Finalist: Science/Technology Reporting, Travel Reporting, Personality Profile
2017 Winner: Print Column “A Journey to Freedom over Three Passovers”