Death invariably takes us by surprise, leaving us with a bewildering array of feelings. How could it not be so if the person who has died is one who has loved us, and whom we have loved? First off, I would simply say that whatever it is you are feeling this day is okay; if you need to cry, let the tears flow, for tears are the lubricant of the holy spirit. We are held in God’s tender embrace. But know that in the end, love is the only thing that never ends, and the love of Marcy’s life makes a distinct story, one that we would do well this day to celebrate. And so we remember something of the life that Marcy lived.
Marcy was born on February 17th, 1945, the fifth of six children in the Booth family. Mary Lou, Herb, Marlene, Howard came before Marcy, Al came four years afterwards. The family didn’t have much materially speaking – they lived initially on a small broken down farm in Roseland with an outhouse out back and a goat and a few chickens – but what the family lacked in physical comforts they more than made up for in a family’s love for one another.
When Marcy was nine the family moved to 114 Eagle Rock Avenue to a house where Marcy and Marlene got their own rooms, to the envy to their three brothers who continued to share a bedroom. The house was next door to the home of their mother’s brother, which meant there were five cousins to go along with the six Booths and therefore no shortage of playmates, with a big wooded back yard where imaginary Indians lived, and there were adventures aplenty to share. It was a good place for a kid to grow up.
Marcy was pretty and popular in high school, and tough too. Her father had given her the nick name of “Punk,” and it stuck. “Tough I am” was the quote she selected to go under her year book picture. I am told she was the embodiment of the character Rizzo from musical Grease.
She met her “Danny” appropriately enough at a party she herself was hosting at the house on Eagle Rock Avenue – a going-away party for an old boy friend who was going into the service. Collins showed up — tall, dark and handsome –a charmer with a fast car, and Marcie fell for him hard.
Marcy and Collins were married in 1966, and afterwards lived briefly with Collins’ parents in Morris Plains, then for a time in Passaic, before moving back into the recently vacated house Marcy had grown up in on Eagle Rock Avenue. Soon little BI was born, followed soon thereafter by Scott.
The home became once again the gathering place for the extended family, the setting where Christmas and many another holiday was celebrated. Marcy’s nieces, Kathy and Cindy (brother Jim’s daughters) remember how on a typical Saturday morning they would wake up and say to one another, “Do you think Aunt Marcy and Uncle BI will hold a party tonight?!” And when the call came through inviting everybody to come on over, well, in their minds the Saturday had become what a Saturday was meant to be.
Marcy always loved to cook and to entertain. She was described as being part Martha Stewart and part Fanny Brice, but I suspect that the bigger share went to Fanny Brice. Marcie loved to tell stories from the past; she had this wonderfully, animated style that was sure to get everybody laughing.
At some point Collins’ mother moved in with them. When the marriage of Marcy and Collins got too volatile for them to continue to cohabitate, Collins moved out, but his mother – known as to the kids as “Mom Mom” — kept living with Marcie, and being loved by her, for the next fifteen years of her life.
Marcy loved her boys, little BI and Scott with all her heart, and they refer to their Mom as the best Mother a child could ever have. She gave them strength. They were convinced that, if necessary, their mom would put herself in front of an army to defend them. She was the mother bear, fierce and loyal.
During the boys’ school years, Marcy began working out of the home, taking first a job with the town of West Caldwell, and then with her hometown of Roseland, in a job close enough to walk to. Marcy worked her way up to the position of court administrator, where she worked closely with the presiding judge. It was hard work with long hours, leaving Marcy with a permanent crick in her neck from endless talking on the phone, but Marcy was very good at it, and the judges for whom she worked quickly realized they’d be lost without her.
Over the course of twenty-five years Marcy witnessed an endless stream of folks of all shapes and sizes who, in various ways both large and small, had messed up in their lives and now were obliged to stand before the judge for sentencing. In the privacy of the judge’s chambers Marcy wouldn’t hesitate to give the judge her opinion regarding the sentences he was about to make, or had already handed out. Invariably she would argue on the behalf of mercy: “To tell the truth and shame the devil, judge, that kid deserves a break!”
After her sons grew up, Marcy feigned for a time a distaste of little children. All that suddenly changed, however, the day Sawyer, her first grandchild was born on, of all days, the 4th of July. She’d always love the festivities and patriotism of the day, and that night with Sawyer newly born into the world and the fireworks exploding in a dazzle of color over the Hudson, Marcy described herself as feeling as though her “feet weren’t even touching the ground.” The ecstasy continued in the years to come with the births of Sutton, Kylie and Parker. She adored them, and just loved being “Grammy.” With the floodgates of her love for children opened up through the birth of her grandchildren, she latched on to other little kids as well: for instance, her nephew Eddie’s little boy; Joanne and Bob Vance’s little girls. For the most part, Marcy never cared much for shopping, but the one exception to this came to shopping for clothes for her grandchildren.
Twenty years ago Marcy moved into the condo on Stone Gate. The back door was always unlocked, and she knew how to stretch a dollar to make sure that everybody who sat down at her dinner table got fed. The extended family continued to gather at Marcy’s for Christmas, as well as for Friday night theme dinners.
Her home often served as a place of refuge for various family members who were undergoing hard times. In those inevitable times when life breaks a person, and the place you’ve called home can no longer be home, Marcy would open her heart and her home for extended stays for the healing of her loved ones’ hearts.
Whether speaking to the judge or to a family member, Marcy was always a straight talker who wouldn’t fudge the truth that needed to spoken when somebody had messed up. Marcy’s favorite expression was, “To tell the truth and shame the devil.” She wouldn’t pull any punches. She could be, as Scott said, “incorrigible” at times, stubbornly set in her ways and her opinions.
And yet at the same time, Marcy was remarkably accepting and forgiving. She possessed an extraordinary compassion regarding human frailty. She knew that for the most part we’re all doing the best we can to get by in life, and sometimes there are wars going on inside us and sometimes, despite our best efforts, we lose battles in these struggles, and at times such as these, Marcy always stood ready to provide a place where a person could come and not be judged, and get plenty to eat. A place where the good shepherd could do His healing work, as described in the words we heard earlier from the 23rd psalm:
“He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restores my soul.”
Marcy knew it wasn’t always easy being a human being. Lord knows she lived through her share of hard times – she knew what it was like to walk through the valley of shadow. But Marcy’s personal hard times didn’t leave her bitter; no, they left her gentler. She never lost her capacity to laugh at herself and to laugh at life. The struggles Marcy went through left her with perspective on the trials and tribulations of life. “This too, will pass,” she could declare, knowing of what she spoke. Marcy wasn’t a church person, but she had a deep faith in the mercy and love of God, and this faith never left her. Her instinct was always to worry about others before she would worry about herself.
Marcy’s brother Al remembers being one of the recipients of his sister’s hospitality when his first marriage broke up, and he lived for a time in Marcy’s home. When the wrap up of a church event left Al in the company of Gail for an extended conversation, Al kept raving to Gail about his sister and her cooking. “You’ve really got to come over to my sister Marcy’s house for dinner some Friday night,” he told her. When he said this to her the third time, Gail realized she was being asked out, to which she happily replied, “I’d love to come to your sister Marcy’s house for dinner! How about this Friday?!”
Which she did, and of course Marcy went out of her way to make Gail feel welcomed and at home, and well fed. After dinner, Marcie suggested that the three of them retire to the living room to watch some old re-runs of Saturday Night Live on television. “The two of you can squeeze into that seat,” she said, pointing to a tight little love seat, obliging Al and Gail to their first physical contact. At which point Marcy suddenly felt very tired, excusing her self to head off to bed, leaving the two of them alone to figure out what can be done in a tight-fitting love seat. As Marcy would say at another occasion, “I always loved to neck,” and she apparently she also loved providing her little brother with an opportunity to neck his new girlfriend as well.
Marcy was always very generous. “It’ll be my treat,” she’d say. Every thing Marcy owned she intended to belong some day to particular family members, and she trusted that you’d each be able to tell what she had been intended for you.
Marcy’s mother-bear loyalty extended to her nieces and nephews as well. She always showed up at their special events. She held a special place in the hearts of the sisterhood of nieces – known for years to come as “The Counsel.” It was strangely appropriate that The Counsel was all together at the shore when the news came down that their Aunt Marcy had unexpectedly left this earth.
Marcy’s body couldn’t keep up with her spirit. It began giving out quite a while back – she survived open heart surgery years ago. But Marcy was loathe to admit the things going wrong with her body, intent as she was on focusing on others.
Last summer God made it possible for the family to get together one last time – appropriately enough on the 4th of July weekend up in Vermont. It had looked like brother Al wasn’t going to be able to attend the family reunion because of the scheduling of his bone marrow transplant from brother Howie. When Al came down with an inflamed gall bladder, it was initially highly frustrating; but as it turned out the minor setback opened the door for Al and Gail to be there with Marcy and rest of the family for one last happy time together to laugh and eat and share once more the old stories of good times past.
Marcy, in death, has been perfected in love. She loves you still, and one day you will be together in the glorious life to be revealed to us beyond this life – in the life Marcy already enjoys. In the meantime, let us live life with the same open-hearted generosity of spirit that defined Marcy in her time among us. Let us speak the truth to one another and be tender and merciful with one another, and in so doing we will honor Marcy’s legacy among us.