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 Staley passionately helps people thrive by guiding them to a holistic transformation of space, heart, mind, body, and soul. Laura knows that there’s a relationship between the conditions of our homes or workplaces and the quality of our lives. Trained and certified with the Western School of Feng Shui and seasoned by almost two decades of working with a variety of clients, Laura uses her intuition and expertise to empower her clients to produce remarkable results in their lives. Her trifecta of serving people includes speaking, writing, and compassionate listening. As a columnist, Laura writes personal essays focused on self-discovery, feng shui, emotional health, and transformations from the inside out. Laura is the published author of three books: Live Inspired, Let Go Courageously and Live with Love: Transform Your Life with Feng Shui, and the Cherish Your World Gift Book of 100 Tips to Enhance Your Home and Life. Prior to creating her company, Laura worked as a fulltime 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 laughing with loved ones, dancing, reading, meditating, running, being in nature, and listening to music she loves. She resides in Black Mountain, NC with lovable dog, Layla. Laura is a contributing author to the inspiring book Crappy to Happy: Sacred Stories of Transformational Joy

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    • Difficult story to tell and share, yet important because she was an earth angel and now, a heavenly angel. Thank you for your kind words of reflection and feedback. I’m very grateful, Larry.

  1. 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.

    • Not an easy story to read and I thank you for doing so, Kimberly. I appreciate all your thoughts especially this “we never know what tomorrow will bring so it is our imperative to live and love to the fullest.” I completely agree. And usually that full living and loving happens in the small, ordinary interactions of kindness and generosity between two friends who care. I kept telling my children (when I lived with them full time) that life happens in the nuance-in the smallest of moments. The small moments matter. I’m grateful for you and this moment.

  2. 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.

    • Yes, indeed. I kept being struck by how she appeared in my life after all those years for those discreet interactions and then she was gone. I know I am blessed every day by earth angels when I actually pay attention. Thank you so much for your thoughtful reflections and taking the time to offer them. Right place, right time-always.

  3. 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.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful reflections, Mark. How great that Quinn is a family name-that your son is named Quinn. Hundreds of people showed up for Maribeth’s funeral. She was beloved by so many including four brothers, who told wonderful stories about her as a little girl. She worked on the IT Team at Nationwide Children’s Hospital-a beloved team member, colleague, employee. Thank you for thinking of her when you think of or see your son, Quinn.

      Thank you for taking the time to share, to connect in this meaningful way with this story of gratitude and tragic loss. I appreciate you very much.

  4. 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.💓

    • Thank you so much, Maureen, for your thoughtful, meaningful reflections about this story-which has the both/and of life. You are absolutely spot on about “living and loving those that come into your life for a reason, season or even a lifetime.” I’ve learned from all my experiences to not take anything for granted, to savor and flow with a certain “radical acceptance”-as best I can- of all that life brings. I cherish you, too, Maureen. I’m grateful you are part of my life-here on this platform and LI. (hopefully someday in person!)

  5. 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.)

    • Thank you for celebrating Maribeth with me, for your kind, thoughtful words, Sora. Yes, definitely allow this to inspire you to write about your earth angel friend who made that sudden transition. Losing people suddenly is such a shock-and a reminder-that death is the great equalizer. No one escapes death. May the loss of beloved ones keep teaching us how to live in love, in kindness, in compassion, in grace. I appreciate you.