Tribute to a Dear Friend

by Don Meyer, Ph.D. | Feb 28, 2009

Hold a true friend with both of your hands.
A Nigerian Proverb

How I wish you could have known our dear friend, Maralyn Mathias. After an 18 month battle with ALS (Lou Gehrig's disease), Maralyn entered heaven on January 4, 2009. She and Jim were married 40 years. She was only 59. 

But what an incredible life Maralyn had. Perhaps her greatest influence was upon her own family: husband, sons, daughters-in-law, grandchildren, siblings, etc. For 15 years she taught kindergarten and first grade in the Nekoosa (Wisconsin) Public Schools. For nearly 20 years she and Jim served as Assemblies of God missionaries in Belgium and Finland. 

Her influence on everyone was profound: an inspiring teacher; dynamic speaker; serious academician; accomplished author; superb cook; stellar hostess; amazing tour guide; and a conversational specialist with the gift to make everyone feel like her best friend. She passionately lived every day of her life. 

Watching Maralyn live was truly inspiring. She resembled a saint more than a onetime ranch-country girl from western Nebraska. But watching her die was simply profound. Actually, it was awe-inspiring.

We all know that death is a normal part of the circle of life. But Maralyn's death was anything but normal. After the diagnosis was confirmed, Maralyn began writing a blog about her journey from this life to the next. Whether from her blog or the direct exchange Evie and I had with her, we felt like we were looking over the shoulder of an angel making her way home. 

After the phone call telling us her battle was over, I reread her blogs, all 53. If you want to be inspired, go to and you will be able to look directly into her good soul. 

Here are some of the titles of those blogs. As she said, we can be "Cautiously Optimistic" as we move "Blindfolded" into "God's Perfect Timing." We can have "Contentment 101" through a "Shower of Tears" when we cry hard. We can experience "Resurrection Peace" when we are "Invincible No Longer." We can find "Pain's Potential" through the "Gift of Suffering." We can know "It all comes down to Trust" during "The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly." 

Her pastor, Rev. Dean Anderson, said, "You can't write like that unless you lived like that." Dr. Daniel McNaughton, her youngest brother said, "Maralyn was one who made her life count by giving her life away." 

In the words of Walt Whitman, "I no doubt deserved my enemies but I don't believe I deserved my friends." That's how Evie and I always felt about Maralyn and Jim. 

The final words of her last blog captured her good heart. "Here's a piece of motherly advice: Don't wait until you have a terminal illness to seek a true friendship with Jesus. He's ready! It takes setting aside some less important things. It takes listening. It takes openness. But it's so worth it! I hope you become literally thirsty for Jesus." 

"Soon I'll be in heaven, and it will be great to see the scenery, gardens and mansions. It will be great to hear the singing and see what's on the banquet table. BUT! I can tell you, the thing I'm looking forward to is meeting my Best Friend face-to-face for the very first time. I'm trying to imagine the thrill..." 

And in less than 72 hours, Maralyn arrived safely "home." 

I love these simple words by a poet, "Death is not extinguishing the light. It is turning out the lamp because the dawn has come." 

Yes, Maralyn, our dear, dear friend, for you, 'the dawn has now come." 

Evie and I love the Nigerian proverb, "Hold a true friend with both of your hands." Maralyn, we will always hold you in our hearts with both of our hands. And, Jim, we will always hold you the same way. As we have always said, "Forever friends." 

Think about it.