Marye Leigh Wahl was born in Cullman, Alabama on June 21, 1966, and passed away peacefully on March 13, 2023. She is preceded in death by her best friend and husband, Kevin Wahl. She is survived by many family members including her mother, Dianne (Bill), her sister, Kristen (Jeremy), and the light of her life, her daughter, Grace (Clayton).
June 21 is most often celebrated as the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, where the sun’s rays shine closest to the earth. Leigh’s personality was that of a thousand suns: fiery and fierce, bold and bright, warm and nurturing. She was a caretaker from the beginning, taking on the role of big sister, guiding and protecting Kristen from the day she was born. While from a small town, she had dreams of hitting the big city for college: Knoxville, Tennessee. She met her partner for life on her first night living there. They shared her favorite sandwich from Gus’s Good Times Deli, and the rest was history. After graduation, Leigh and Kevin moved around some, making lifelong friends in each new city. They finally settled in Nashville to be close to family. This was especially important after Grace was born. Grace was their entire world in every sense of the phrase. They woke up eager each day to make her breakfast and missed her in the night, though she was never far because she slept in their bed until she was 8…
Leigh spent much of her career at Abintra Montessori School. There, she was an innovator, a master of her craft, and a lifelong learner. This place became a second home to Leigh, Kevin, and Grace, especially so when Leigh was diagnosed with kidney failure when Grace was only 2 years old. Though odds often didn’t feel in Leigh’s favor, her health did not define her. She worked long days at school, went straight to dialysis for 3 hours, then home for whatever surprise meal Kevin had encouraged Grace to tinker with in the kitchen. Nights were spent watching movies (for which Leigh would never not talk through) and going along with whatever games Grace had created. Leigh and Kevin even went head-to-head during the interview process for Grace’s new nail salon. Though it was operated out of their guest bedroom, sadly, neither made the cut as manager… Naturally, it went to their dog, Emma. Weekends were spent watching Tennessee football with family, spending time outside or trying out new restaurants.
Though life was throwing her challenge after challenge, Leigh continued to pray and go to church because faith was important to have in many settings but was especially important to model for Grace in times of stress and in the unknown.
Leigh, Kevin, and Grace were constantly embraced by loved ones, and a day never went by without laughter; this felt like the only cure some days. Thankfully, Kevin was the permanent in-house comedian and Leigh was the second act. She was funnier than she thought, she was smarter than she knew, and she was stronger than anyone could have ever imagined. She was the best partner, mother, sister, daughter, friend, and teacher anyone could have asked for.
When Grace entered high school, no matter the club or sport Grace had convinced herself into, Leigh and Kevin rarely missed an event— choir, softball, cross country, bowling (for a week). They hosted many sleepovers and preparations for Spirit Week, even creating fake obstacle courses to ensure the success of Grace’s class. Kevin and Leigh also entertained Grace as her chauffeur until she went to college. In the moment, it was bizarre why Grace wouldn’t get her driver’s license, but in hindsight, this was all such precious family-time together. Leigh and Kevin both had great taste in music. No car rides went silent! Leigh would go anywhere and do just about anything with Kevin as Kevin would with Leigh. Kevin had spent much of their relationship as the caregiver when Leigh struggled with her health, but in 2016, the tables turned when Kevin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Leigh stopped working, and in turn became his caregiver. Defying the odds of his prognosis, Kevin’s 6-month life expectancy turned into 2 more serendipitous and poignant years together.
It is unique to find 2 people so authentically made for each other, but Leigh and Kevin were truly soulmates. They were dedicated to each other, they grew with each other, they fought for each other, and they created something truly remarkable together. Leigh would always tell Grace that she would pray to God, “If I can just make it until Grace graduates from Abintra… If I can just make it until Grace graduates from high school… If I can just make it until Grace graduates from college…” After 3 kidney transplants, and dozens of other surgeries and procedures, Leigh’s last couple of months seemed to be her final challenge. Not to worry, her strong will and sharp tongue did not waver. And although she was in the hospital 2 days prior, Leigh made it to Grace’s wedding on October 21st. What seemed to be an already perfect weekend, is so much more special now.
Leigh would start each day outside with a cup of coffee with her constant companion, Tilly, her Great Dane, and ended each night usually with a coke and popcorn, even if she’d already eaten or wasn’t even hungry. She talked more than anyone you’ve probably ever met, but every word had substance. She was so silly. She loved documentaries and reality TV. She had a beautiful long nose and the hair of a lion’s mane. She was the kind of teacher people wished to have. She loved the beach and shots of Patron. She loved trying new restaurants and had a knack for finding the most expensive thing on the menu, only to eat 3 bites. She was understanding and forgiving. Most of all, she was resilient.
What made her beautiful was not her appearance,
Or what she achieved,
But in her love,
And in her courage,
And in her audacity to believe:
No matter the shadows around her.
Light ran wild within her,
And that was the way she came alive.
And it showed up in everything.”
The visitation will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church (Nashville, TN) on Friday, March 31, 2023 at 10:00 a.m. A service will follow at 11:00 a.m. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to Gilda’s Club Middle Tennessee, a place where Leigh found friendship and understanding.