Marilyn Ehlers and Julia Child. The first name is unknown to the world. The second needs no description. They are two women who existed in this glorious world of ours and are no longer. Marilyn was a wife, mother, friend and utterly lovely lady. I knew her in the last years of her life, during the time that her youngest son and I became close, had an intense relationship of nearly four years and parted company as friendly soul mates.
Julia Child was of course the world renowned wife of a diplomat who needed something 'to do' whilst living in Paris with her husband during the mid 20th century. As chronicled in the new film Julie & Julia, Mrs Child serves as an inspiration for fine living and never giving up, whatever obstacles may be thrown in our path.
Marilyn, on the other hand, did not achieve great things - she neither lived the life of a diplomat's wife in far flung locales nor contributed to the popularity of good cooking. But I knew Marilyn, and I always enjoyed her company intensely. Here is a woman who battled cancer for nearly two decades and never complained - not to me, not in public, not in private. Lesser souls succumb to sadness or even depression. Marilyn never succumbed. She lived her life as if it would continue forever, happily married to her husband Don of more than four decades. Marilyn always sported a winsome smile and had this laugh I can still hear in my head. She embraced me wholeheartedly when I came into the family, and I can proudly say I was able to say goodbye on her last day on planet earth.
The intense sadness of losing someone as special as Marilyn cannot be explained away or underestimated. She left this world on 21st September 2009 at the age of 71 years young. She went out as I remembered her in life: gracefully and peacefully.
This blog is not about loss, however. It is about valuing life. It is about charging forth in this world with the knowledge that one's most personally held values matter. Those things we pursue to attain happiness are what keep us going even in the saddest or most trying of times. Politicians and intellectuals of our current era ceaselessly remind us that we ought to live for others, be they starving kids in war ravaged nations or our neighbours who are less fortunate than we are. For my entire life I have challenged the poisonous notion that other people's lives matter, but not our own. I am living proof that the pursuit of my own highest values is the reason I get up in the morning. It is the reason I have sought out adventures across the world, finally settling nearly a year-and-a-half ago in Sydney, Australia.
And so, dear reader, wherever you may be, whatever the circumstances of your life, I offer this blog as a regular reminder that your life is your own. You have every right to live it. Marilyn Ehlers knew this. So did Julia Child.