Columbia and our entire Midlands community experienced an incredible loss last month. Though it’s not at all close to adequate, we wanted to take a rare opportunity to remember our fellow board member and friend. Marie Stallworth was kind, gracious and had a kind of fire within her that can only be understood first-hand. Though ovarian cancer eventually won the battle, Marie’s life– her tenacity, humility, intellect and legendary compassion– will be remembered by so many that she will remain victorious.
We will carry Marie’s torch because her roots burrowed to the inner-most parts of our souls.
For all of those who loved her dearly, and for those who sadly didn’t get a chance to meet her, please read the eulogy below by her surviving husband, Hal Stallworth. On October 23rd, Hal read this to a packed memorial service audience at Stone River, following dozens of heartfelt stories by friends near and far. Not a word has been changed, it didn’t have to be. We appreciate Hal for sharing his sweet Marie.
With so much love,
Tia Williams, Founder and Editor
A Eulogy by Hal Stallworth
Please don’t expect much of this. I will not be offended if at some point your mind wanders. In fact, that’s the point. Follow the meander with Marie as I yammer, and find something you can do for and with her.
Please do not expect much of this. It is only a loose collection of memories that will not do her justice… After all, nothing can. For her, the fairest of us all (in every sense of the word), to be robbed first of the chance to have a child, and then of her life, far too early is testament to the majestic arbitrariness of our existence. Yet, the way she lived her life, Marie’s Way, was in direct opposition to that ambivalence. Her Way was a genuine, fierce kindness that left no doubt about her love for us all. She gave purpose to so many, it is heart-breaking to have that stripped from us.
Y’all knew Marie from before she was sick and that’s the way she’d like to be remembered. However, I must begin at the end. For those of you who didn’t get to visit her when she was homebound, she had two rules:
“No Sad Eyes; No Solicitations.”
The reason for these rules was obvious enough b/c almost everyone began to break one or both w/in the first five minutes of sitting down w/ her. At which point, she would gently interrupt and remind them.
“No Sad Eyes; No Solicitations.”
She wanted her guests to interact w/ her as if she was not sick. She didn’t have the time, and she was never one to be trifled with.
It was truly amazing to see and be with all of the folks who came to visit. The whole community was represented. It was touching to see one of Marie’s favorite aphorisms come to life:
Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu, “A person is a person because of other people.”
She learned it from Nelson Mandela, and she could actually pronounce it properly. But it’s really hard to understand this notion in our culture. It’s really hard to understand until you see something like this [gestures to the crowd].
This didn’t happen by accident. This is not arbitrary. This is who she was. All of us are who she was. And, as long as we keep this community strong and vibrant, she will be alive and well within us…
Her community was not bound by geography: people travel for days and leap oceans to celebrate with her.
Her community was not bounded by race, creed, or class. Her community was bound by love, and that love is abounding still. If you had asked her if Love was eternal, she would have said, “only if existence is.” Maybe her passion for the here and now is why she had such a capacity to be present and genuine… She was the most Real person I’ve ever known.
I want y’all to know that a few of you have wished you could have traded places with her. But you also know she wouldn’t have let you. And she did have a way of letting you know, didn’t she? She was so adept at finding the right task or gift for the right person. I’m not so good at that, so if you want more to do more, don’t ask me. You’re going to have to listen for Marie to tell you. If you hear her voice, do it, then you and our community will be better for it.
Many of you, most in fact, have offered and given help of all kinds. I want to sincerely thank you for the generosity of spirit that has often overwhelmed me.
I want to leave you with a few memories of her.
- First, she could read a map. You should see the book of maps that she used to navigate us around southern Africa. We were on dirt roads for hundreds of kilometers, making turns on roads with no signs. All she had was that map and her dead reckoning, and she never missed a turn.
- Second, she conversed with depth, uniquely. She could discuss philosophy with the ease of breathing, and connect with almost anyone in a mere 10 seconds.
- Third, I loved watching her put on her “war paint,” as she called it. The theatrical precision was only superseded by her artistic touch.
- Fourth, many of you witnessed her spontaneous eloquence, but to see her spew fire when her dad provoked her was something else entirely to behold.
- Fifth, imagine her sitting next to you at 2:00 in the morning under the tent at Singleton after our wedding guests had all gone to bed, staring up at the soft glowing orbs above, talking quietly about all that had gone on, and what was to come.
If we all tried to hold onto Marie through our memories, we would lose her eventually. For these are but momentary fragments, poorly related. What I am here to tell you is how she lived – how she led – so that you may continue to live with her in your heart, following her lead. She wanted me to tell you that the highest form of leadership is Service.
When I went back and looked up her favorite aphorism, I found Nelson Mandela’s interpretation of it. Instead of You being who you are because of other people, he said it differently. He said,
“Umuntu ngumuntu ngabantu – it means you must serve your fellow man.” ~ Nelson Mandela
Marie has requested that in lieu of flowers, memorials may be made to the ACLU, Congaree Land Trust, SCETV, SCOA Cares, SC Planned Parenthood, and SC Sierra Club. Thank you.