Marion Smith

Marion Smith — a funny, charismatic, talented and beautiful woman, honest to a fault and a founding member of the Voodoo Vamps — would have been 87 years old May 27.

Marion was the life of the party. Yet she never knew what she had or who she was. How could she? As a lonely young mother stuck at home all day and night, her husband working long hours, doctors wrote her endless prescriptions for tranquilizers, amphetamines, sleeping pills and other drugs — as they did many unhappy working class women back then.

Among many talents Marion was a natural born artist. Pushed by her third husband — an arrogant businessman who felt she lacked sophistication — she took up oil painting. Though she had no experience and little training, Marion created several lovely landscapes.

Presented by her third husband as a trophy wife at a bourgeois cocktail party, an aristocratic woman in firs and pearls approached her, martini in hand, wearing an expression that Marion described this way: “She sneered as if she had a shit mustache.” The aristocrat looked Marion over and then said, “Oh, I understand you paint. What sort of work do you do?” “Bathrooms, living rooms, hallways, mostly,” she replied, much to bourgeois woman’s chagrin. Two years later, husband three left Marion; he took every penny she had and much more.

After one more failed marriage Marion decided she didn’t need a husband. She lived alone the rest of her years, happy to see her friends — Vivian, Marylyn, Ron, and her two adult boys, though they lived five hundred miles away. She dearly loved her two sons, daughter-in-law, María, and her two darling grandchildren.

Marion tried to be happy her entire life. Maybe she tried too hard.

I was at her bedside when she died. It was an agonizing, drawn-out death. After battling to breathe for several hours, Marion took one long difficult breath, opened her eyes wide and gazed skyward with a sublime, radiant expression, as if she was gazing into the grandeur of heaven itself — though I could see nothing there.

I love you, mom, I said. Then Death slipped in beneath the door and took her away.