Elizabeth Lesser has devoted her life to helping others find their way to health, healing and spirituality, writing books that include Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow and cofounding the Omega Institute for Holistic Studies. In Marrow: A Love Story, she chronicles a deeply personal crisis: Her younger sister Maggie’s lymphoma had returned after seven years of remission, and she needed a bone marrow transplant. Lesser turned out to be a perfect match.
Lesser and her three sisters hadn’t always gotten along, so Lesser decided that she and Maggie also needed what she terms a “soul marrow transplant” to fully understand each other and to help provide optimum body-spirit conditions for Maggie’s healing. Marrow is thus part medical account and part self-help/spiritual discussion, ultimately showing readers how to find their “authentic selves” as well as to better understand those close to them. While this may not be every reader’s cup of tea, Lesser is a clear-spoken, truly helpful guide who realizes that one approach rarely suits all.
Raised by fiercely anti-religious parents who turned to the altar of The New Yorker, the outdoors, social justice and literature, Lesser was born with what she calls “a spiritual ache in my bones.” As the only adult sister not to live in Vermont, she sometimes felt she didn’t fit in, while the other sisters thought she was bossy. Meanwhile Maggie, a loving, free-spirited nurse, mother and accomplished botanical artist, left her marriage after many years and was diagnosed with cancer not long after.
Sadly, Maggie ultimately lost her battle with lymphoma, but the sisters’ “soul marrow transplant” worked beautifully. Maggie ended up living what she called the best year of her life, while all four sisters reached out to each other to overcome childhood misunderstandings. Meanwhile, Maggie and Elizabeth became the best friends they were always meant to be.
As Maggie explained, “the big trick” of “just being who I am” worked. “The more I stopped trying to be a perfect little human being for everybody else,” she said, “the more I stopped expecting other people to be perfect. The more I trusted myself, the more I trusted other people. It’s the darndest thing.”