It’s the top-grossing film so far this summer. “Wonder Woman” tells the back-story of DC Comics’ iconic Amazon Warrior Princess Diana. Movie trailers show Wonder Woman filling the big screen with heroics in her quest to save the world during “the war to end all wars, discovering her full powers and true destiny.” (Quote: IMBD.com)
The heroine could have been modeled after our community’s own wonder woman and warrior princess, Marie.
Marie, a 78-year-old redhead who stood barely five feet tall, was killed in an automobile accident in late May. She had just spent the morning with a fellow church worker and was on her way to run errands when another car traveling at a high rate of speed hit her car head-on. Marie died instantly.
In the days leading up to Marie’s funeral, people from throughout our small community shared stories with one another about Marie’s heroics, about all the ways she touched the lives of adults and children alike. Marie’s exploits are too numerous to list, and many were done without recognition or fanfare. But, the children she taught in her trailer park kids club, the inmates she visited and prayed for and the lost and needy souls who somehow found her, will not soon forget Marie.
As is often the case with someone who wants to save the world, right up until the Lord took her home, Marie was concerned that she might not be fulfilling God’s purpose for her life. Marie answered her own question about her life’s purpose in a God-ordained video testimony recorded just days before her death. In her own words, Marie declared her only desire in life was “to give back to Jesus because of all He has done for me.”
Marie gave back to Jesus souls who turned from sin, kindnesses that could not be returned, commitment that was unparalleled and a love for scripture that rolled off her tongue. Without even trying, she spent her life “discovering her full powers and true destiny.”
Marie waged her own wars in our community. I’ll never forget the time she stated boldly that she intended to wipe out the disease of meth addiction in LaGrange. We believed she could do that, and so much more.
Marie planned to travel with a team of a dozen women to Honduras next week. There, she would have shared her Jesus with the children of Forgotten Children Ministries and families living in and around the capital city of Tegucigalpa. Since Marie is tending to other business, those of us left to travel without her are charged with trying to fill Marie’s shoes. They’re awfully big shoes to fill.
I was one of four friends asked to speak at Marie’s beautiful worship service. Because I believe this wonder woman’s legacy should be known and remembered, I’m sharing my words for Marie here.
Sweet Marie. I met that vivacious little redhead because of a vivacious blonde woman — Beth Moore. Marie and her best friend, Judy, caught wind that LaGrange First Church of God (down the road from her Methodist church) was hosting Beth Moore Bible studies. We were studying Breaking Free at the time and Marie joined us. She called the studies “a fresh drink of water for her soul.” Her presence at the studies brought light and a new dimension that was refreshing for all of us.
If you talked to Marie more than once, you know how she loved her Bible and loved Jesus. I’ve learned as much in my conversations with her as in most Bible study classes. She not only loved the Bible, she lived it.
I only had the blessing of knowing Marie for about eight years, but the woman I came to love and respect is a product of everything in her life that came before. I recently mentioned a book to Marie, and she wrote it down. In the book, Eugene Peterson, the author of The Message, says this:
“Apart from the before, the now has little meaning. The now is only a thin slice of who I am; isolated from the rich deposits of before, it cannot be understood.”
I didn’t know Marie before, as many of you did, but in knowing her now, I understand that Marie is resilient, kind, positive, forgiving, loyal, independent, determined, sometimes impatient, gracious, generous, devoted, tender…….and so much more.
That little redhead who sat in Bible study classes, in Sunday school and church, who visited the incarcerated, who taught trailer court kids about Jesus and planned to join us to minister to orphans in Honduras — she’s a product of her roots and her life experiences. I think she would tell you she wouldn’t change a thing about her life. I hope she wouldn’t, because it made her who she is for us today.
I was having lunch with Pastor Ben a few months ago when Marie swept into the restaurant for a gathering of the red hat ladies. She popped over to our table and just poured her joy out all over us. When she left, I told Ben “I want to be Marie when I grow up.” I do.
No one can replace Marie, but if we each take up a strand of the work, the heart-filled philanthropy that was part of Marie Dwight, maybe together we can continue her legacy and make a difference in our community.
I mentioned that Marie could sometimes be a little impatient, and I think she might have known her time on earth was winding down. I imagine that when Jesus called her home, she said something like “Alright! Let’s do this!”
Our Sunday school teacher shared these words from Alistair Begg with her class when we learned of her death. I want to close with them now. I’m pretty sure Marie would approve.
“We are not far from home – a moment will bring us there. The sail is spread; the soul is launched upon the deep. How long will its voyage be? How many weary winds must beat upon the sail before it shall be berthed in the port of peace? How long shall that soul be buffeted on the waves before it comes to that sea that knows no storm? Listen to the answer (from 2 Corinthians 5:8) ‘away from the body and at home with the Lord.’ The ship has just departed, but it is already at its destination. It simply spread its sail, and it was there.”
Join me in Honduras! Beginning Sunday, June 11, I’ll share daily reports and photos from the mission field as we minister to the children at Forgotten Children Ministries and to individuals working in the dump outside Tegucigalpa. We covet your prayers — that God be glorified and that our journey is a safe one.