A couple of years ago, I faced a serious health scare. I had long planned to share these stories in a book in hopes of inspiring others. This book was my project for “someday,” but this experience was my wakeup call to make my someday projects now. Not to fear life, but instead, focus on what is really important, and live life to the fullest.
With the permission of these wonderful individuals, I am grateful for the opportunity to share their stories. It was also fun to include my favorite ones that I picked up along the road of life. This book intends to remind people to smile more and cherish every moment of our precious time on earth.
My wish for you is all the joy, happiness, and fulfillment that comes with gratitude, being in the present, and living an authentic life. I hope that you don’t have to go through something traumatic to embrace the gift of being fully alive.
Are you like me? I’m a little burned out on books that preach “at” me about how to live a great stress-free, more productive, or joyful life. The authors are excellent at describing the nirvana-like end state but often seriously lacking on how to get there. This book is refreshingly different. It is filled with real-life examples that can serve as inspiration to living your best life NOW…in spite of whatever is going on right now. It does not describe how to avoid obstacles on the road because truth be told, they are unavoidable. Instead, it highlights and celebrates those who role model what to do when you hit a bump. The stories are enriching and empowering life stories of people who have chosen to claim their joy and not squander it by reliving the past or holding out for the perfect moment in the future.
In Life Is Now: Claim Your Joy and Live It, Lucie Marlo pulls nuggets from her life and experience that others might call rocks or obstacles and artfully builds them into a compelling read. As with any good storyteller, she achieves this without preaching and teaching. She lets the story inspire and guide the reader. She lets the truth of the story encourage us to reach for that elusive “present moment” called life. Although it is clear that the people and circumstances in the book have shaped her, she doesn’t lead with her personal epiphanies. She simply tells each story as a witness and allows the reader to take from it what fits their experience and what they need right now. Whether you choose to read the stories in order or you prefer to wander through, “cherry-picking” chapters to personalize the sequence, I’m sure this will be a book you will read and reread. The stories swing open the gate of self-discovery and introspection. With each story, you may find yourself asking: “If this were my situation, could I handle it as well?” or “I wonder if I could do that?”
Ten years ago, when I met Lucie, simply put…I was impressed. She was already an accomplished artist. Her paintings were in established galleries, private and corporate collections across Canada, US, and Europe. Beyond her creative genius there was something else. I found her spirit to be loving and resilient even though she had faced down serious health issues that may have left others hard and brittle. She was generous and empathetic in a way that can only be learned by personally enduring hardship. She had immigrated to the West, the daughter of a single mom, with no money or English-speaking skills, but thrived. Lucie approached life with an unassuming ease that belied her intellect and credentials. She has a Ph.D in health and nutrition with twelve years of experience in a clinical setting. She has published numerous articles in health and science journals.
After reading Life Is Now: Claim Your Joy and Live It, I now understand some of the amazing people and circumstances that shaped her. The book dives into her world. It is a world filled with an amazingly eclectic range of real people whom she calls friends or acquaintances who in their unique way have extraordinary responses to the “cards they’ve been dealt.” Some stories are heartwarming, some heartbreaking, while others are hilarious. She brings these stories to Life Is Now. Each story is true. Each story is inspiring and empowering. Each story is a precious gem lovingly offered to you. All of them can be life enhancing… if you let them.
Without question, Lucie is a gifted storyteller and she brings her gift to this book. I know you will enjoy it.
With one more birthday around the corner, I established a routine of taking a few minutes each day in order to reflect on life. This time, I thought about the people who, in my experience, stood out as examples of strength and courage. These humble heroes have changed my life by providing me the privilege to share their path. I am honored to share their stories with you.
My Mom, My Hero
When I was around sixteen, I began volunteering at a health clinic. At the time, my mother, who was a physiotherapist and a massage therapist, worked alongside a chiropractor at her clinic. Being a single mom, she worked long hours and was grateful for the opportunity. Long after Dr. Tracy was done for the day, my mother worked evenings and weekends to help her manage other jobs. She could not afford a front desk clerk, and I was happy to carry out the task. She worked hard, and I loved to spend time with her. We would take the bus to work. In retrospect, when I think of waiting for the bus in those vicious prairie winters in Canada, we were happy to be together. We dreamt of a bright future. I guess it was our love for one another and life itself, which filled our hearts and kept us warm.
I still revisit those instances with a smile.
Nearly two years ago, I almost lost my mother when she ended up in the emergency ward for heart surgery. Those months were terrifying for everyone who loved her. We were delighted when she received a clean bill of health a few months later. My mother, who is one of the kindest souls I’ve had the privilege to know, became an orphan at age eleven. Her mother died from breast cancer at the age of thirty-one. Her father died in the war when she was just an infant. Blessed with a close relationship with my mother, I could never imagine losing both my parents at such an early age. Despite the various challenges she faced throughout the course of her life, including her health, my mother stayed happy and optimistic and exhibited courage. She is an inspiration for those who knew her.
After years of effort, my mother opened the first of four multi-disciplinary clinics, with me beside her.
On numerous occasions, strangers would walk up to me, often telling me what a wonderful lady she is and about her kind deeds, shaking my hand for simply being her daughter. These individuals would further share with me the wonderful ways in which my mother had touched their lives unselfishly. We worked side by side for many years at our clinic. Working with her was an incredible example of both dedication and compassion for me. She loves people, and helping them was her passion. She began her career in Canada as a non-English-speaking single parent with four kids. She taught me to face life head-on, to never give up, and to do what is right, not what is easy. At the age of sixty, she completed her doctorate, which had been her lifelong dream. She has been an international speaker and was also given the honor to teach different health modalities in Japan. She volunteered in various women’s charities, aiming for the betterment of women facing abuse and teen pregnancies.
“Have the courage to say no. Have the courage to face the truth. Do the right thing because it is right. These are the magic keys to living your life with integrity.”
—W. Clement Stone
I could really just go on and on about this amazing woman, but what I really wish to say is: Thank you, Mom, for being an inspiration.
It is people like you that make this world a better place.
With all my heart, I love and honor you. You have taught me to live with an open heart and not to judge others.
Cherish Every Moment
Despite the present challenges in the world, if we are willing to open our eyes, peace is always just around the corner.
As I sit with a cup of tea and reflect on people and their life stories, Willie always comes to my mind as one of the most inspirational people I have ever had the privilege to meet. Although the world lost him when he was quite young, he had the magical ability to touch the lives of those who were lucky enough to know him.
A beautiful blond, blue-eyed boy, Willie was only twelve years of age and suffering from leukemia when we met. Being a teenager myself, I was not prepared to deal with this situation, and I still feel the same to this day. When I saw this little boy, I immediately felt love and compassion for him. His condition just seemed so unfair. I did my best to be friendly with him and treat him the same way I would any other patient. I was not a good actress; he was able to tell that my heart went out to him. Incredibly, he tried to comfort me. Although this was many years ago, I will never forget what he told me.
He asked me not to feel sorry for him since he had already outlived the doctors’ initial prognosis by two years. Willie perceived this time as a great gift. He felt blessed to have spent more time with his beloved family. He said that he had more time to listen to the songs of the birds and enjoy all the beautiful little details of the world around him. But most important to him was that he got to spend more time with his mom.
I remember realizing at that moment that Willie was more spirited than most of us could ever hope to be. In his short lifespan, he managed to find beauty in every moment. He not only noticed but also truly appreciated the things that most of us take for granted. He was grateful and always lived in the present.
I prayed for a miracle to happen. Unfortunately, after four months of him regularly coming to our clinic, I got the news of his passing, I tried hard to remain stoic. I managed to keep it up for almost two days before I burst into tears, sobbing. I knew he would understand that after all, I was simply human and that I would truly miss him. When I think of him all these years later, I find comfort in believing that he learned some of the greatest lessons of life in a short time and that he had moved on to a much better place.
Live every moment… for life is truly a gift.
He will always live in my heart as a champion who was brave and beautiful. Willie cherished every moment of his short life. He had a magical way of letting those around him know about how important they were. Against something so challenging with so much physical pain, he remained strong, happy, and grateful for even the smallest of blessings. Although many years had passed, it was still tough for me to contact his parents, Margaret and Bill. I was scared to bring back any painful memories. They had suffered enough.
I told his story to many people, and it had a profound effect. I felt that it was important to share Willie’s story with as many people as I could. This desire helped me to gather the courage I needed to make that call after almost thirty years. I had the pleasure of talking to Bill, who was gracious. Indeed, he was deeply moved by the fact that Willie’s story still had the power to change people’s lives for the better.
Bill told me about the countless letters that came in from other children, classmates, and Willie’s own friends addressing his parents after his passing. They all had shared their unique memories with him; they wished to share their love and appreciation for Willie with his family during the difficult times. Bill told me that when he came to know about Willie’s story of helping others to find joy, it became the only way they could make sense of all that had happened. He found great comfort in knowing that Willie continues to live in the hearts of many.
You Are Bigger Than Your Circumstances
When people like Madeline and Jesse end up as your next-door neighbors, you literally need to look up and say, “THANK YOU!” They proved to be fantastic neighbors, and after a while, we were proud to call them our friends. Once, I remember visiting Madeline, who was sitting in her library. We started chatting, and before you knew it, we were talking about her life story. She mentioned that many years ago, her ex-husband left her to raise their three small children alone.
When Madeline became a single mom, her boys—Bin, Amir, and Mikaal—were seven, five, and two years old, respectively. Times were harsh for them. Even paying for necessities such as water, electricity, and food had become difficult. Madeline told me an endearing story about her two older sons, who were just two years apart, sharing three pairs of jeans for school. By doing this, they always had something different to wear, avoiding any embarrassment. Still, they were a proud family. Madeline emotionally told me about the feelings of her eldest son, who used to share all of his possessions with his brothers. He said that as a child, he actually felt closer to his brothers because of this; they bonded through adversity. This remarkable woman, after many trials and tribulations, managed to work her way up to become one of the top executives at a car manufacturing company. She was financially strong enough to put all her boys through college. Madeline was valued in the company she worked for and, as a result, had the opportunity to travel and lead teams all around the world.
I was speechless, amazed at how she had shared this story with such humility. I realized that I was standing in front of a true figure of inspiration, a hero. Seven years later, I told her how inspiring I found her story and that I wished to include it in my book. Needless to say, I was delighted when she agreed. I was so moved by what she told me that since then, I wanted to use her story as an example of strength and humility. The intent was the same; to share her story with as many women as possible, to remind us that true potential lies within each of us.
If you are stuck in the storm of pain, please remember that life is fluid, shapeless. It is forever changing and that this storm will pass too. My sister said a few times, jokingly, “Yeah, like a kidney stone.” Of course, sometimes it is tough, but know that it will still pass. When I asked Madeline about her source of courage to reach that position in life, she told me something fascinating. She said, “I was too afraid to stop, so I kept going.” A sad look came over her face as she continued. “Do you know what can happen to African American boys living under those circumstances?” It was clear from her answer that failing was not an option for her. The love she had for her boys gave her wings. They were her strength. I asked her, “What was one of the most important lessons you learned along the way?”
She replied, smiling, “Strong women always think we need to do it all alone, but it was the love and support of other women that made a difference in every step I took along the way.”
Many years later, she still refers to a dear friend Annie as an angel. This special lady would make sure her children regularly ate when Madeline couldn’t cover food costs. Madeline also talked fondly about a mentor who not only took her under her wing but also cheered for her every step along the way.
She wanted to succeed, and she did.
Her boys are happy, fine men.
She is now married to a wonderful man who knows how lucky he is and adores her. She is enjoying her well-deserved retirement and traveling with the love of her life.
Madeline has also inspired me to start on my next book, Ordinary Extraordinary People Living Extraordinary Lives. In this book, I will examine stories like these in more detail, where people do what is seemingly impossible and bring about hope and strength in the hearts of many.
“You have powers you never dreamed of. You can do things you never thought you could do. There are no limitations in what you can do except the limitations of your own mind.”
—Darwin P. Kingsley
"Life is Now: Claim Your Joy and Live it is a must-read book for anyone who is looking to live their best life! While the stories may be emotional, they are told in a way that shines light on finding the positive in any situation. What I like about it is that it’s something you can reach for when you’re having a bad day or while having your morning coffee, wanting a little something to boost the start of your day. Not only will this book leave you smiling, but it’ll provide you with the tools necessary to live a more positive and happy life. I cannot say enough great things about this book and I highly recommend it to anyone!"
"This book is a wonderfully inspirational read! It is full of examples drawn from the life stories of real people who have chosen to live a joyful life in spite of tough and sometimes tragic circumstances. Whether their stories make you laugh or cry they will also give you ideas on your personal journey to your best life!"
"Lucie Marlo inspires and stirs emotions with LIfe Is Now, a Chicken Soup-style book with her own personal twists. Inquisitive and optimistic by nature, Marlo has delved into heartfelt conversations her whole life, unearthing stories from fascinating everyday people. The stories in this book are the best of the best. I’ll never forget Marlo’s story of the hospital janitor who broke into an angry rant, chastising everyone in his vicinity. A male stranger responded by embracing the disgruntled worker with a hug and thanking him for providing a hygienic hospital for the patients to heal. The janitor smiled, apologized to everyone, and got back to work. Simple stories can make the biggest impact, and that’s why Life Is Now! made a big impression on me."