Margaret Hope Dixon Lyons died peacefully on May 23, 2016, amid song, fresh-rain air, and the scent of lavender, in the Takoma Park, Md., home of her youngest daughter Beth. She was 88.
Born on May 19, 1928, in Berlin, N.H., to George Reid and Bessie Faye Dixon, she was raised in the tiny town of Union, N.H., and educated in its one-room schoolhouse. She left Union to take a job as a mother’s helper in the city of Rochester, N.H., so she could attend Spaulding High School, as her parents could only afford to send one child, her brother, to school. She graduated from Spaulding in 1946 as valedictorian.
This was the first of several instances of the running theme of evolution and transformation in Hope’s life. It wasn’t that she wasn’t worried or frightened by discovering she needed to transform and evolve; it’s that she didn’t let the fear block her way.
After high school, Hope attended Bentley College in Waltham, where she received an associate’s degree in accounting. After Bentley, Hope moved to Boston and worked as a bookkeeper at the Algonquin Club, enjoying the life of an independent career woman for several years, until her mother’s illness necessitated a return to Union to care for her. It was during her mother’s convalescence that she met Donald Lyons, whom she married on August 30, 1954, in Watertown.
Upon marrying Don, she became mother to his children Laurie and Mark, and deferred her career in favor of family. In May 1966, Hope and Don, their four children plus a fifth on the way, and their dog arrived on Martha’s Vineyard. Soon after, Hope spearheaded a public swimming-lessons program for the town of Tisbury, and collaborated with early childhood education guru Helen Maley in founding the still successful Grace Church Cooperative Preschool. Additionally, as a stay-at-home mom, she raised her five very creative and opinionated children while also performing the many unsung duties of a minister’s wife. She loved how unique her children were, and tried to nurture and celebrate each of their talents and individuality.
Following a bout of ill health, she discovered a passion for healing and self-empowerment. She began working for Dr. Nancy Berger of Vineyard Haven, and went on to study Touch for Health Kinesiology, reflexology, and the Bodytalk System, becoming a certified Bodytalk practitioner in 2003. She used all of this knowledge daily to keep herself healthy and active, and passed on her love of learning and healing to her children, who still use what she taught them every day.
At the end of her marriage to Don, she moved to Jacksonville, Fla., and transformed again, buying a house and earning her real estate license. After her youngest finished college, Hope returned to higher education by enrolling in Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar and graduating in 1991, at the age of 63, with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. After Smith, she returned to Jacksonville, working for the Department of Children and Families in a variety of capacities, then ultimately retiring to pursue her passion for healing while sharing her home with her son Christopher.
Continuing the family tradition of daughters caring for their mothers, Hope moved to Takoma Park to be with Beth in 2010. Although diagnosed in 2011, she did not “suffer from Alzheimer’s.” Instead, through a combination of complementary healing strategies, the willing and collaborative caretaking approach of her daughter Beth, and a shared improvisational life philosophy of “accept what is, and make the best of it,” Beth and Hope were often found laughing and singing while navigating through both the ease and hardship of senior life.
Jung said, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” Her final transformation and evolution was defined by the grace with which she was willing to slowly let go of all she had learned and the ways she had defined herself in her past, and embrace being loved, living in the present moment, and needing to be cared for.
At the end, she was clearly at peace, and visitors often commented on her lightness of being and ready smile. We are all grateful and better for the time we shared with her.
Hope was preceded in death by her parents, her brother Robert, and her beloved sister Shirley Forder and Shirley’s husband Bob Forder.
Survivors include her children, Mark Lyons (Cindy Walker) of Norway, Maine; Laurie Redgate (Russ Redgate) and their children Christopher and Michael of Marstons Mills; Christopher Lyons of Jacksonville, Fla.; Naomi Lyons (Jeremy Cox) of Prescott, Ariz.; Beth Lyons (LeAnne Matlick) of Takoma Park, Md.; and her former husband Donald Lyons (Joan Merry) of West Tisbury.
Interment is private. A celebratory memorial service will be held in midsummer at Paint Branch Unitarian Universalist Church in Adelphi, Md. Celebrants both near and far will be asked to wear pink or purple, and come ready to sing and share some of Hope’s favorite dark chocolates. Bonus points will be awarded for hot pink fingernail polish, a hobby Hope embraced during her final years.
In lieu of flowers, the family requests memorial donations be made to the Cure Alzheimer’s Fund at curealz.org. Condolences and memories may be left on Hope’s online tribute at memorial.yourtribute.com/Hope-Lyons.