Not Now, Saint Margo!

A Saint-Sighting in Ojai

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If well-being, wisdom, and wonder are our response to a personal wake-up call, service naturally follows as the response to the wake-up call for humanity.                                             –Arianna Huffington


I recently lost a very good friend. She was kind and loving, caring and thoughtful. Always willing to help and give of her limited means. Unfortunately, I wasn’t always there for her. Especially in her final year, she spoke often of how difficult life was and how she was such an unworthy person. Sometimes, in my own state of depression or anxiety, I simply couldn’t hold another’s pain. If she told me I made her day or I was her reason to wake up, I changed the subject. Not now, Margo.

Margo M. Geiger, also known to some as Susan, was a curiously complex person–a fine artist by training and skill, a poet and peace activist. She was passionate about issues of politics, peace and justice, the unemployed, the homeless and anyone in pain, physically, emotionally or socially.

She prepared a nutritious weekly meal for her parish priest at St. Aquinas, persimmon or bran muffins for the homeless, and lentil casseroles and gingersnap cookies for fieldworkers. She crocheted blankets and caps for preemies in the NICU, scarves and caps for others. She sewed flannel blankets for newborns and collected books for children who have none. She shared her storage unit with friends, bought some high-ticket items such as appliances for friends whose own had broken. She collected clothes and household items for Friends of Fieldworkers, Inc., did laundry and repaired clothing for those in need. One year she went through all her heirloom Christmas decorations and gave ones to specific people in her life.

 Every Wednesday, on Goodwill’s 50% off sale, Margo took energy bars or muffins to the employees there to boost their morale and give them energy.

Margo wrote passionate poetry about the world around her and her personal struggles at Christmas. She published a book of poems and a book about her passion of creating art with children, When Angels Gather Here (Susan M. Geiger).

Margo could always be depended on to listen to a friend, serve tea and muffins. If she had food, clothes, plants or other things people might need, she’d share. Her garden gave her immense pleasure and comfort. She talked to her plants and trees. She coaxed even the frailest, for example, the potted white sage to thrive. She did the same for her rescue pup, Toby, who warmed to her love and attention.

But Margo had a very heavy burden. She was a victim of chronic and severe mental illness which robbed her of joy and self-esteem. 

Managing a nonprofit that serves fieldworkers of Ventura County and their families, I often called her with requests: Margo, I need a hot casserole for a family who has a sick baby. I need a little blanket for a preemie in the NICU. I need little board books and flannel blankets for the little ones in First Five’s Neighborhood for Learning. Can you help me? I feel overwhelmed today. Please pray for me. This call to action gave Margo joy. “You made my day,” she’d say.

Margo was a devout Catholic. And what I learned from a Catholic funeral service, is that when a person you care about dies, she or he is now available to you in a different dimension–as a common saint. Our own personal saint. My Saint Margo will always stay close to me as a reminder that a body and mind broken by disease are redeemable and transformable by the love and healing power of Christ. And that every person, animal and plant matters to God. Love and generosity of spirit that Margo exhibited, allow us a preview into the face of God.

If you ever visit the post office in Oak View, California, population 4,066, notice the memorial plaque to Margo (Susan) Geiger by the succulent garden, 18 inches by 50 feet. A forgotten, unclaimed patch of weeds, rocks and trash was transformed into a living reminder of her, by which Alma Ramirez of Greens Nursery (her closest friend) and I tended our grief in her honor.

 Vaya con dios, mi amiga,

Judy Fisk Lucas

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