Earth Angel

I have seen and met angels disguised as ordinary people living ordinary lives.

—Tracy Chapman

While running by the river a few years ago in the midst of my life turning inside out and upside down, I noticed another woman runner, who looked familiar to me. As she ran closer, I recognized and remembered who she was. She recognized me, too. We stopped and began excitedly talking at the same time.

     “It’s so great to see you! Oh my gosh, how are you?!?!”

She admitted that this was the first time she’d ever run in this neighborhood. She liked running outside but usually drove to a fitness center to work out.  I shared that I ran almost every single day on this path.

We had met several years ago. She facilitated seminars for transformational trainings in which I had participated. I felt the warm rush of gratitude all over again for her guidance, wisdom, and coaching. Her bright yellow running jacket complimented her smile, presence, beauty, and radiant energy on that dark, cloudy, cold March day.

She asked about my life. I told her my marriage had ended, that I was selling the house and moving to another house in this same neighborhood in the beginning of May. Hearing about my divorce, she noted that her long-term relationship had also come to an end, that since her break-up she had met another love.

     “When are you moving, Laura? I can come help you move!”

     “In the beginning of May, and that would be great. I’d love your support. That’s really kind of you to offer! Thank you!!”

We exchanged contact information along with a hug and more words of what a wonderful surprise to see each other again.

Moving day arrived. The sun shone brightly through clear blue skies that morning. She drove up and got out of her compact car. We hugged each other. I introduced her to my friends, my daughter, who had just completed her freshman year in college and her friends. I felt this overwhelming sensation of love for all these wonderful people who had generously shown up to help me alongside my focused “Let’s Move!” self. Much squealing and hugging took place as we gathered ourselves together.

When the young men from Two Men and a Truck pulled up, the moving party began. I felt the excitement in the air as all these young people-the movers and my daughter and her friends seemed to notice one another in a kind, celebratory way. Some innocent flirting may have taken place.

Friends commented on how incredibly organized I was. Stacked labeled boxes filled the living room ready for departure. The grab, load, and go began in earnest. The movers loaded the large furniture and containers onto the truck. The rest of us loaded vehicles and a pick-up truck. Everyone knew their tasks.

By noon, my kitchen had been unpacked by my daughter and her friends. At this juncture, I offered all of my team food. Maribeth declined. Instead, she made another generous offer.

     “I would like to mow your front yard.”

Like every person in the entire neighborhood, she had noticed the knee-high grass mixed with thousands of dandelions in both the large front yard and the bowling alley back yard. Renters had vacated the house in November. The previous owner lived out of state and had hired people to do only the bare minimum to sell the house.

     “Really?” I didn’t have much experience with this chore. My son and his dad had been the lawnmowers at the family house.

      “Hey, Laura, I love to mow lawns! I mow the lawn at my house. I really would like to do this for you, but I need to change into other clothes because it’s gotten really hot.”

      “Okay. Thank you so much, Maribeth! Again, this is such a kindness. I really appreciate this. I will get the lawnmower out of the garage for you.”

Those who could stay ate pizza and drank water or soda on the back patio.

Maribeth returned and mowed the front yard until the electric mower’s battery needed recharging. I thanked her, hugged her, and promised to take her to lunch with the other friends who hadn’t been able to stay for pizza.

Four of us, including Maribeth, met a couple months later for lunch, laughed a great deal about the move, and updated one another on good things in our lives. Happy to treat these dear friends to a meal, I felt much joy and gratitude for the ways they had shown up for me.

Maribeth and I promised to stay in touch after that lunch. A few months flew by. On a cold February morning close to Valentine’s Day, I received a call from a cherished long- time friend, who had helped me on moving day and laughed with me during that lunch gathering.

       “Laura, you probably want to sit down. I have awful news. Maribeth is dead. She was murdered. I know you don’t watch the news and probably don’t want to. I just knew I needed to call you right away—as soon as I heard. She was stabbed to death in her own home. There were no signs of breaking and entering. She likely knew the suspect. The story is all over the local news stations and on Facebook. I knew you’d want to know. I’m so sorry. This is so unbelievably tragic.”

I could barely breathe. Shock left me almost speechless. Finally, some words spilled out of me.

     “I’m so grateful you called. Thank you for being the person I am hearing this news from. Oh, I’m stunned. I love you so very much. Oh, Teresa. I love you so very much. Oh, kind, loving Maribeth. Oh. Oh. Oh. Thank you for calling. I love you.”

    “I love you so much, too, Laura. We’ll talk really soon. I will see you at the library on Thursday morning.”

I had no idea Maribeth lived at risk of death, let alone murder. I knew so little. She is the only person I know who has died so violently. The difficult process of accepting her death continues even after a handful of years have passed.

By sharing this with all of you, I celebrate her life, her love, her kindness, the earth angel she was and now heavenly angel she will always be.

By choosing to be kind to other people, by thinking of the many positive ways she touched my life and many other people’s lives, I honor Maribeth. I will always remember her.

May you know how precious life really is. May you graciously receive the kindness of friends and give generously of your gifts while you are here. May you break your silence if you suspect domestic violence. 

Laura Staley
Laura Staley
The founder of Cherish Your World, Laura helps people thrive in the physical spaces where they live and work. She educates people about the optimal arrangement of belongings for comfort, safety, and flow; de-cluttering for freedom; and planning transitions to new or updated spaces for optimal joy in life. Laura knows that the conditions of our homes and workplaces shape the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by more than a decade working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to help her clients produce remarkable results in their lives. Her own awakening to the power of feng shui came on the heels of a flood and the realization that she could live with beloved belongings rather than unloved hand-me-down stuff. Her trifecta of serving people includes public speaking, writing, and compassionate coaching. Laura is a published author of the books Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui and Cherish Your World Gift Book: 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Your Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a full-time parent and an assistant professor at Ohio Wesleyan University. She earned a Ph.D. in political science from The Ohio State University. Her joys in life include loving her dog, laughing with great friends, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. You are welcome to connect with Laura below.
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Sora Garrett
Sora Garrett

Oh, so sad and so true … I’ve lost people suddenly and after long-illness, and no way is easy … but a violent death is so much harder to embrace. I celebrate this earth angel with you, Laura. May she rest in peace. (This also inspires me to share an article I wrote about another earth-angel friend who made a sudden transition.)

Maureen Y. Nowicki
Maureen Y. Nowicki

My heart sank reading your story about your connection with Maribeth and really what a darn good person she sounded like. I choose to hear your gentle message about living and loving those that come into your life for a reason, season or even a lifetime. To cherish each moment and each connection for what it offers. Thank you Laura this feels like such a good moment in my journey to be reading this today – as often your pieces are when I do introspect your words. Thank you. Cherish you.💓

Mark O'Brien
Mark O'Brien

What a devastating loss, Laura. And what an incredibly sad and frustrating story. Since I’m something of a crime junkie (I binge-watch Investigation Discovery on occasion), I looked up Maribeth’s case. As far as I can tell, it remains unsolved.

Ironically, Grandma O’Brien’s maiden name was Quinn. No one in the family had ever used it as a first name. So, I named my #2 son Quinn. I’ll think of Maribeth — and of you — when I see and think of Quinn. Maribeth is resting more easily knowing how you honor her and her memory.

Thank you for honoring all of us with this story. We’ll all cherish life a little more vigilantly thanks to you.


Laura, truly a touching story and one full of life’s truths. Earth angels are put where they need to be and at the right place and time. God knows this and so we are blessed immensley when we personally have our own earth angel.

Darlene Corbett
Darlene Corbett

Dear Laura, Thank you for sharing this story! How very, very sad! Truly, life can be a glorious journey, but it can be riddled with sadness and much unfairness. What a lovely tribute to your kind and remarkable friend!💖

Kimberly Davis
Kimberly Davis

Oh Laura… my heart hurts terribly reading this. What a beautiful woman and a beautiful testimony. Life is so very fragile and this is painful reminder that we never know what tomorrow will bring so it is our imperative to live and love to the fullest.

Larry Tyler
Larry Tyler

Laura, This was sad, tender and emotionally powerful. Your words were felt with my heart.

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