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 Niver is an award-winning travel expert who has explored 102 countries on six continents. This University of Pennsylvania graduate sailed across the seas for seven years with Princess Cruises, Royal Caribbean, and Renaissance Cruises and spent three years backpacking across Asia. Discover her articles in publications from AARP: The Magazine and AAA Explorer to WIRED and Wharton Magazine, as well as her site WeSaidGoTravel.
On her award nominated global podcast, Make Your Own Map, Niver has interviewed Deepak Chopra, Olympic medalists, and numerous bestselling authors, and as a journalist has been invited to both the Oscars and the United Nations. 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 and been a finalist twenty-two times.
Named a #3 travel influencer for 2023, Niver talks travel on broadcast television at KTLA TV Los Angeles, her YouTube channel with over 2 million views, and in her memoir, Brave-ish, One Breakup, Six Continents and Feeling Fearless After Fifty.