Now and then I am asked how my friend Marcia Nachreiner is doing, as I've written here before about her courageous battle with ALS.
I am sad to say Marcia passed away two weeks ago.
I am also proud to add that she inspired many with her love and optimism through it all.
She and I met when we were in our 20s through our husbands. Back then, Marcia's husband, Michael, owned a landscaping company and my husband, Doug, owned a fence company. They often worked on jobs together and enjoyed each other's company.
For me, meeting Marcia was like reuniting with an old friend.
We seemed to understand each other instantly, possibly because she grew up in Niagara Falls amid a large Lebanese family and I belonged to a similar tight-knit family of Italians.
In the early years of our friendship, we spent a lot of time pushing strollers at the Summit Park Mall, and we often joked about how perfectly behaved her two sons were in the double stroller while my two ran about like little wild men.
Thankfully, all four of our boys grew into adults that make us proud and that is an accomplishment I like to think partly evolved from years of our conversations about the meaning of life.
Five years ago, Marcia was diagnosed with ALS. It's called Lou Gehrig's Disease, or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a terrifying illness that causes the death of neurons that move voluntary muscles.
We all went to battle against ALS. She and Michael and those closest to her poured through the research, looking for something that could stem the tide of the disease until a cure could be found.
There are so many ideas out there about curing ALS, but there is still no cure. Those who have ALS are sustained by hope, until there is no hope.
Marcia was a powerful human, petite with dark hair and flashing eyes, the queen of her household, always leading efforts to make the world a little bit better, whether it was bringing meals to families of sick children at the Ronald MacDonald House or making wreaths and flower arrangements for the annual holiday bazaar at her church.
A banker by trade, she was an entrepreneur at heart and, in the years before her diagnosis, she created a company called Beach Bright to produce flip-flops adorned with plastic flowers that lit up for late-night walks on the beach.
We created a video about her business and sent it to “Shark Tank” but, by the time producers called her, it was too late. The disease had taken its toll and the business was closed.
It’s been a very long five years watching my friend face the challenges of the disease.
I’m sure there were days when she was very frightened.
She rarely showed it.
Her husband, Micheal, tended her every need, often with a smile and a joke, as did her sons, David and Daniel, each of whom cared for her with gentle and loving good humor, so much so that being around all of them was always a pleasure.
Our fundraising efforts, called Mission for Marcia on the GoFundMe website, were inspired by Michael's favorite quote from his pastor: "Love each other while you have each other."
Days and hours before she died, when she could no longer hold her own head up or speak to those she loved, I'm told she still was able to offer a smile.
I am awestruck by her courage, her dignity and the force of her spirit.
While our spiritual understandings did not match exactly, we shared the belief in a love-filled divinity that is beyond the abilities of humans to truly comprehend.
I know we both believed that while it is impossible to understand many things in this crazy world, in the end, love is the answer to all the important questions.
Family and friends are holding a meat raffle to help Michael with some of the costs of managing her catastrophic illness. It will be from 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday at the Knights of Columbus at 755 Erie Ave. in North Tonawanda. The raffles start at 7 p.m. We were able to find a couple with a business called Fun Meat Raffles, who are running the whole event and all the proceeds will help defray Marcia's formidable medical expenses.
I've never been to a meat raffle, but I'm told they are a great deal of fun. When we planned it, the idea was for her to be there, surrounded by love.
Hopefully, as we gather that night, she will be somewhere even better, basking in the rewards of a life well-lived.
Wherever she is, I know that the light and love she helped to create throughout her lifetime will be with us in her place.
Michele DeLuca can be reached via email at email@example.com or by calling 282-2311, ext. 2263.