Marie Walls, Stoic To The End

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Marie Walls wasn't a local celebrity. She wasn't a mover or a shaker.

She worked in the drive-up window at Burger King.

She didn't live in a hilltop manse with a panoramic view of the Mogollon Rim.

Her home was the cramped trailer in a mobile home park that she shared with her husband, Ted.

Marie was simply one of the people we all refer to when we say that we most love the Rim country for its people.

I met her only twice both times after a routine medical exam turned into a too-optimistic three- or four-month death sentence imposed by colorectal cancer. Cancer which by then had silently crept into every major system of her tiny, 46-year-old body.

The physician given the job of sharing this shattering news, Dr. Gary Cornette, uses words like "strong" and "stoic" to describe Marie's demeanor in the face of absolutely certain death.

Two weeks after the diagnosis, Walls was indeed steeped in worry that she might not make it to her son's wedding in North Carolina. She did not.

"Well, I guess it just wasn't meant to be," Marie said a week before her death last Wednesday. You could tell this was not the kind of cheap philosophy humans often sigh to mask their disappointments. You could tell Marie believed that how things turn out whether she understood them or liked them are how they're supposed to turn out. Period.

Of course, Marie was not just "strong and stoic," and you didn't have to meet her at all to learn that. You just had to meet or talk to her friends. Her family. Her co-workers. Her drive-up window customers. All of those who snapped into action with prayers, donations, fund-raising drives, letters of sympathy and expressions of love the moment word got out that Marie needed help.

In the end, it's safe to say, all of us are best defined by the company we kept. And Marie Walls, bless her, very clearly kept world-class company.

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