‘A Gentle Warrior’

June 28, 2013
BY David Snyder

070513_a_gentle_warrior1The last two-plus years of Marcie Jeffers’ life were a battle. However, most people never would have known. She simply didn’t let them.

Staring down brain cancer, Jeffers continued living the life she genuinely loved and enjoyed. And although she passed away on Tuesday, June 25, just one week after her 59th birthday — a milestone that medical statistics suggested she was unlikely to reach — the last thing she would ever want from anyone is pity.

“She didn’t want people to feel sorry for her,” said Michael Jeffers, her husband of more than 22 years. “Nobody had a clue a lot of times how seriously ill she was because she didn’t present herself in that way.”

Instead, Jeffers just kept on living.

After chemotherapy and radiation treatments, she’d shuffle into her sales job at the Baltimore Jewish Times, where she worked for 15 years, donning the infectious smile and sparkling personality that her colleagues said would light up a room. Jeffers took pride in her work, paying attention to detail to perfect each aspect of an ad — from placement to design. On the holidays, when many salespeople were buying gifts for their customers, she was receiving gifts from hers.

She loved exercising, Zumba in particular. She loved the activity so much that even after her illness limited her ability to dance along, she’d attend the workout classes and sit in a chair while moving to the energetic music as best she could. Jeffers was also a self-taught artist and took pleasure in working with tiles, ceramics and collage art.

“She saw the good in everything and everyone,” said Beth Tfiloh Congregation Rabbi Chai Posner, who also emphasized Jeffers’ devotion to her parents.

No matter where she was, she treasured spending time with her family. Friday nights together were a foregone conclusion. In fact, Marcie and Michael — aside from one night several years ago when Michael was away on business — were together on every single Friday evening for the last 23 years.

It all started at an Etz Chaim basic Judaism class taught by Rabbi Shlomo Porter (who would go on to marry the two and who spoke at Marcie’s funeral service Wednesday). That night, Michael responded to one of the rabbi’s questions, and Marcie, intrigued by the answer, piggybacked on his comment. Afterward, the two stood outside in the Fords Lane parking lot talking for 20 minutes. They exchanged numbers.

Only a couple days later, it was Marcie — never the shy one — to ask Michael on a date. The two went to dinner, and Michael ended any of the suspense, telling Marcie during the meal that he already knew he wanted to see her again.

“She was so happy,” Michael remembered.

Six months later, Marcie and Michael were in the Etz Chaim parking lot again. This time, it was so Michael could propose.

Marcie nurtured a truly special relationship with her only child, Matthew, now 21, who staved off incredible odds himself by enduring multiple surgeries stemming from a rare form of dwarfism to blossom into a supremely talented young adult.

“He’s an incredible kid, and I’ll give Marcie 99.9 percent of the credit. She made him strong,” Michael said. “She was determined to keep him confident and let him live a normal life.”

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Marcie Jeffers, shown here with husband Michael and son Matt, would say that she did not care where she was as long as she was with her family.

Michael said Marcie lived for Matthew, and he meant it literally. Just weeks ago, as Marcie’s condition worsened, Matthew — a rising actor and motivational speaker — was set to leave for a workshop at the Kennedy Center in New York City. Before departing, Matthew said he shared a special moment with his mother.

“I knew it in her eyes,” said Matthew, who added that his mother never wanted to let anyone see her cry. “I knew she knew the circumstance and that she was going to fight through until I got back.”

Matthew takes comfort in knowing that his mother got to see the foundation for his career. She was elated to see him featured in a nationally broadcasted ESPN segment about the wonders of a positive attitude. She got to see him graduate from Towson University with honors. As Matthew embarks on his career, he will always remember that it was his mother who put the wheels in motion.

“I’ll just be carrying out her legacy from this day forward,” Matthew said. “I may not have the rest of my life with her, but the years I did have with her are priceless because she made me who I am. I wouldn’t trade these next years for the years she gave me, because those were the important ones.”

Michael pointed out that Marcie was great at living the moment, and because of her strength and determination, those moments kept on coming even when medical statistics dictated otherwise.

Marcie was diagnosed with an incurable brain tumor in February 2011. Although doctors didn’t give a timeframe, Michael did research and found that 50 percent of patients with Marcie’s condition live less than a year. Twenty-five percent live less than two years. Marcie persevered for more than two-and-a-half.

And for the majority of that time, while there were good days and bad days, Marcie’s attitude never wavered. She continued to enjoy and appreciate her life. The two men she left behind will be stronger for it, and they know it.

“She was the epitome of what it meant to be a classy, caring, loving and devoted person,” Matthew said. “Everyone says that about people, but people who know her know she was on a different level. She was a gentle warrior. We were very lucky to have her.”

 

Marcie also was the devoted daughter of the late William and Shirley Sapperstein; devoted daughter-in-law of Herbert and Myra Jeffers; dear sister-in-law of Brian and Ellensue Levinson-Jeffers; dear aunt of Adam and Alyssa Jeffers. Contributions in her memory may be sent to HopeWell Cancer Support, P.O. Box 755, Brooklandville, MD 21022 or Beth Tfiloh Congregation, 3300 Old Court Road, Baltimore, MD 21208.

 The family will be sitting shiva at 2804 Laurelwood Court, Baltimore, MD 21209, beginning 12 p.m. with services at 7:30 p.m. next Sunday, July 30, Monday and Tuesday.

 

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