Photograph by Michael J. Brown
There's A Light Beyond These Woods ( Mary Margaret )
Maggie Heenie (Margaret Mary Graham)has been a lifelong friend of Nanci Griffith,the well known folk singer. Maggie is the "Mary Margaret" in Nanci Griffith's 1978 record album,"There's A Light Beyond These Woods (Mary Margaret)."
It dawned on me that she was a very important person in Nanci's life and I should find out about her life too. My intention was to make this information available on the Internet so Nanci's fans could see it. I like to find out what makes a person the way they are and what they are like. To accomplish this I try to get as much background details as possible. By looking at the events in a person's life, one should get an idea of what that person is all about. Knowing the person is what is of interest to me, and I think will be to other people.
I did not know exactly what Maggie's health status was presently, but I contacted her about granting an interview. She is suffering from a rare disorder called histiocytosis-x. The only facts I know about Maggie is what she has put on her web page. Because of this, all the details I ask about are well known to her, but not to those that are not her close associates. I respect her right not to answer some questions. I ask them because I am curious about what makes a person who they are.
Date: 98-05-23 15:31:33 EDT From: Mheenie To: KFYI In a message dated 98-05-23 00:51:52 EDT, you write: Here we go: 1. When were you born? 2-20-54 2. What city were you born in? San Antonio 3. What was your full name when born? Margaret Mary Graham 4. Can you tell me about your parents? (their names, ages when you were born, a little about their childhood background, and what kind of work they did as adults)? Callan and Maude Graham..my mom was and still is a hardworking, loving mother and wife, my dad was and still is in politics. 5. Did you have any brother and sisters? If so, what were their names and what was the birth order of your siblings? 4 brothers Mike, John, Tim, (me), Pat 6. Tell me about your relationship with your mother as you were growing up? Is there any stories that will illustrate these points? My mom didn't have kids until she was 30 and when i was born she was 43 years old....we had a hard time seeing eye to eye when i was young...but now we are very, very close. She was at her wits end with me most of the time because i never followed any rules. 7. As an adult, what was or is your relationship to your mother now? fantastic 8. In summarizing the influences your mother had on you, what would they be? My mother taught me so much about relationships, how to be strong and love from the heart. 9. Tell me about your relationship with your father as you were growing up? Is there any stories that will illustrate these points? I don't want to tell any stories because it's his life too... we had a strained relationship because of my attitude, but he was a man who never gave up on me and even tho he spoiled me a lot and gave me free reign most of the time...i learned things from him that I will always carry with me....my mom and my dad both taught me lessons from the day I was born ....it's all about integrity. 10. As an adult, what was or is your relationship to your father now? fantastic 11. In summarizing the influences your father had on you, what would they be? i already summarized...honesty, integrity, truth, love. 12. Tell me about your relationship with your brothers and sisters as you were growing up? Is there any stories that will illustrate these points? again, no stories...i am extremely close....our family is as close to perfect as one can get. 13. As an adult, what was or is your relationship to your brothers and sisters now? was very close to my younger brother...we grew up together...and always maintained communication with my other brothers too...we all communicate now thru email everyday and family reunions. 14. In summarizing the influences your brothers and sisters had on you, what would they be? can't really say...we were all influenced so much by my parents in the same way...i could ALWAYS trust my brothers. 15. Tell me about your relationship to your grandparents and what influences they may have had on you? I only met my maternal grandmother once...my paternal grandparents i was very close to.... i used to spend summers with them on the ranch in Junction. They were storybook grandparents...and also instilled the same values in my life as my parents. 16. What kind of religious background did you have as a child and how has it affected you as an adult? raised Catholic. still very Catholic although i did leave the church for a long time.... i rebelled against everything for most of my life. 17. As an adult, what type of religious or spiritual activities do you participate in, if any? That is personal and nobody would care, but I attend mass every Sunday and I am still spiritually involved with Carmelite studies. 18. Can you tell us what general religious or spiritual beliefs you hold today and how they have influenced your view of the world and how they have affected your daily life? No... that is too big a question....i would have to write a book and better ones have already been written, so i defer to Thomas Merton. 19. Other than your immediate family when you were growing up, what other relatives had an influence on you? Aunts and Uncles 20. In getting a general time line on where you lived and went to school as a young person, will you tell us the names and dates of the following? : Year Born; Town Born In; Lived in that Town to what Year? Elementary School Attended; Where; What years; What city school located in? Junior High or Middle School Attended; Where; What years; What city school located in? High School Attended; Where; What years; What city school located in? College Attended; Where; What years; What city college located in? This is hard to answer since i moved around so much..but i stayed in Austin throughout my years in grade school, junior and high school. I left in the 10th grade...ended up getting a GED and going to medical assistant and nursing school. 21. You mentioned leaving home at a very early age to conquer the world. What age were you, and why did you leave home? 15.... i wanted to see everything and do it my way. 22. When you mentioned that you failed at conquering the world, what did you mean by this? The world is not here to be conquered. 23. You mentioned that you have been married three times. Will you tell us the following for your marriages?: a. What year did you get married your first time? 1972 b. What year did you get divorced the first time? 1974 c. Why did you get married and what attracted you to this person? I thought I was in love...he was fun. d. What were some of the positive things to be realized from this marriage? I had a daughter named Melissa.... what a gift she is! e. Why do you think this marriage did not last? too young...we wound up more like brother and sister...also his parents interfered somewhat. Answer along the same lines for your second marriage. got married in 1986 because he wouldn't stop asking me! it was a mistake..he was much younger than me...i did my best to make it work but he was a total outlaw and I was beginning to grow up...then he had a child with another girl and left me in 1991. 24. How did you meet your present husband and what attracted you to him? met on the internet... he is a man of integrity and i could not have met a finer man. 25. What year did you get married to Fred? 1997 26. From what you have posted on the Internet, it sounds like you have a pretty nice guy for a husband; tell us about him. he is hardworking, honest, funny, loving, full of spirit, strong and I love him deeply. 27. What makes your present marriage so different from your previous marriages? i married a man of faith. 28. Tell us a little about your two daughters, what years they were born and how "they are both smarter than I ever was". Ann Marie born in 1972... her father and I did not marry, he is from another country... I had to give her up for adoption and it was the hardest thing i have ever had to do... we are now very close and she is a brilliant, funny, loving, Christian woman married to a great guy. She took care of herself and made good choices .... i didn't. Melissa is level headed and very loving, she didn't go wild like I expected her too since she grew up knowing me. She took a higher road as did Ann Marie.... no drugs, or drinking problems. Melissa too is married and has 2 young daughters of her own. I am very lucky to have them. 29. You mentioned that you are a bird enthusiast. Will you tell us a little about this interest of yours? How did you get interested in this and what types of things bird-wise have you done? I just have a couple of fun pet birds...not much more to say about it... a young cockatoo named Jazz and a Blue Crowned conure named Maire (Moya). 30. Tell us a little about your statement, "I am a lover of...other lives and other places, some of which are non-existent...but then some are". What does this statement mean to you? sometimes i imagine my life being different and i entertain myself this way...i can almost live different lives in my mind...i think it's call "daydreaming" we all sometimes wonder "what if". 31. Health-wise, what is your present status? I am sinking fast. 32. Given your present health situation, how is your mental outlook? Like it always was....I believe in God and I will take life as it comes and be glad for having had the gift of life at all. 33. Would you tell us about your various music interests and preferences? Wide range...almost anything but not much country. Jazz, easy stuff, lately have gotten into the old "swing" and big band stuff probably because of Sinatra's passing... but I love all good music....I like Sting a lot and several others, Beth Nielson Chapman, Nanci,,etc..... 34. On one of your web pages, you have some of your favorite photographs. Would you tell us a little about the following photographs? a. Nanci sleeping on the plane. When did this take place and where was she going? 1994. We were on out way to Ireland to kick off the Flyer tour...I caught her napping and put the rose on the pillow on her lap and shot the photo. b. You and Nanci in Nanci's kitchen sitting on a spiral staircase. What age were you and what age was Nanci at the time this photo was taken? Is it possible to reveal what address this photo was taken at? This is in Nanci's kitchen in 1994 (August) so we are 40. c. You are sitting on highway fence post pointing to the hills. Where was this taken and what age were you? What is the story behind your being at this location? I belonged to a Classic Car club in Kerrville, Tx...i had an old mustang...we were on a trip with the club...my husband had just left me and i was just beginning to get sick with this disease...i was just goofing off. it was 1991. d. You are standing besides a large stone cross. Where is this and what is the story behind your being at this location? This is at Glendaloch, Ireland. Lee Satterfield and I were on a little tour of the area around Dublin...something Nanci arranged for us for the day. Lee just took a bunch of pictures and so did I. I love this old monastery. e. You are sitting besides Nanci in her Ireland home and indicating that you had too much to drink. What is the story behind this picture? That's not at her home (Rob didn't know that and he is the one who made the website). It's in a lounge in a London Hotel... we (band) were all having a drink. 35. When and where did you first meet Nanci Griffith? when we about 10 years old in our neighborhood in Rollingwood, ...hanging out with the gang. 36. Tell us about what Nanci was like as a young girl and what type of things you enjoyed doing together? she was more subdued than i was...i think i was a loose cannon and she was more sensible. we just loved to play and sing and that's what we did. we also partied a lot. 37. What places did you and Nanci enjoy going to in Austin and what did you do at these various locations? i have to think. 38. As a child, what were Nanci's parents like? Her parents didn't like me and mine didn't like her when we were teens.... It's true, but it's not that way now. Funny how things change when you get old. 39. What are the same schools that you attended with Nanci as you were growing up? just Holy Cross 40. Did you and Nanci spend much time in downtown Austin, if so what locations did you visit? Vulcan Gas Company, Paramount Theatre, Red Lion, Woolworths, Picadilly Cafeteria We did what most people our age did at those places. We were wild, at least by our parents' standards, and I suppose I was the wilder of the two of us. Nanci had more sense than I did. I was willing to take more chances. 41. What parks if any did you and Nanci visit in Austin? What were your favorites and what did you do at these parks? Zilker...just messing around .... some concerts in the park 42. As children, did you and Nanci have common musical interests and what were they? Yes, we loved all the music of our youth..the same as anyone else. I won't answer for her but I was a rock 'n' roller at heart ...but the music I played and liked to sing was more the Dylan kind of things. 43. As a young child, did it ever occur to you that Nanci would become a musical performer and song writer? No doubt..we thought we both would...but i KNEW she would! 44. For you, what is the meaning of the song "There is a Light Beyond These Woods"? right now??? On July 21,1998 Maggie completed her answer: TALBTW [There's A Light Beyond These Woods] is always a thing that haunts me... I stayed lost for so many years of my life and now it seems strange to say, but even in the midst of this terrible illness, I do feel there is happiness finally in my life. It wasn't what i had imagined it to be - I didn't do the things I wanted to do in life, but I have the real "riches" in life - I am truly wealthy and in need of nothing. So that song is a reminder to me of how tangled up things can look at times, my life as a young girl was very tangled up.... but not anymore. I know that is a lame answer. The song meant different things during different times of my life. Every word of the song reflects a true event or time of my life and my friendship with Nanci. I think we spent some time being jealous of each other... she thought I had something she could never have because I was always in a relationship that I took seriously. And I wanted to be a musician. We always want what we don't have, don't we? There never was another friend like her ... i had other best friends, but never another Nanci. 45. Have you "appeared" or have been made reference to in other songs by Nanci? If so, what are the names of the songs? I don't know. 46. The "John" Nanci sings about, did you know him? What was he like? What type of activities, if any, did you participate in with John and Nanci? Do you remember what year John's accident occurred? On the cover of Nanci's album, "Once in a Very Blue Moon", there is a motorcycle helmet sitting on the table. Is that a symbolic reference to John? Can you tell us John's last name? I knew John...I won't answer anymore than that unless Nanci asks me to. 47. During your years of 20 to 30, what were you doing with your life, your goals, your ambitions? What was your relationship to Nanci like during those years? WE didn't hang out much during those years ..... i was too busy getting involved in an abusive relationship and she was moving up in her career. We did that album and then we sort of went our seperate ways. She did make me get up on stage once at the album party for TALBTW [There's A Light Beyond These Woods ] and she made me sing with her and i was petrified. 48. What was your life like between the ages of 30 to 40, your goals, and your ambitions? What was your relationship to Nanci like during those years? We kept in touch...i remained in terrible relationships...i did not have a happy life. We spoke occasionally to just say hi and i still love ya. 49. The Desert Sun mentioned that you co-wrote two songs with Nanci. In co-writing these songs with Nanci, how does this process come about? How do two people decide to write a song together and then do so? I was not very involved in the song writing process, even when we were young. For "St. Teresa", I just wrote some lyrics and Nanci did some initial revision. Then a friend of mine died and Nanci did some more revision based on my Carmelite involvement. Her sister, Mikki, also added a line to it. During the revision process, she would play her guitar and sing the song over the phone for me. It just took off from there, with her sending me demo tapes as revisions were made and to get my thoughts. The song ended up totally different than where it had begun. The other song i wrote with her was in 1976 .... "Alabama Soft Spoken Blues." I just wrote some of it ... we were sitting on the bed in a house i was renting in Austin at the time...Nanci was sort of homeless and staying with me, helping me with rent. This was when she was still playing the clubs in Austin. The song was written about Gary, and I won't give his last name... he was a "cutie", alright, from Alabama, a real heart breaker, I thought.
Reading the Desert Sun article and the link "Bill's and Sue's Web Page" brought up more follow-up questions that I would like to add.
50. When you met Fred over the Internet, where were you living? The Desert Sun indicated you ultimately moved to California to marry him. I was living in Junction Texas. The article is right...I gave away all my belongings and moved here to be with him. 51. In "Bill's and Sue's Web Page" already mentioned, there is a picture of a restaurant in Junction, Texas that has a caption that says you would "take the children so's they could see what other children looked like." Can you tell us what this caption means? That was something Nanci said .... it was a joke. 52. In the past there was a post, I think, on the Nanci Net that I think was about you. I forget the exact details but it went along the lines that you drove to some truck stop and played some Nanci tune on the jukebox, and then left after the song was over. Was this about you? If so, would you tell us the story behind this event? I worked at that truck stop as a waitress and cashier ( this was after my husband abandoned me and i needed a job really badly... there isn't much in Junction and that truck stop is in Segovia, just down the road from Junction. TALBTW was on the juke box... people would play it and then when they were coming up to pay the check i would sometimes just say "that song is about me, i am Mary Margaret" and they would say "sure you are". 53. Are you having to use oxygen all the time? I am on oxygen 24 hours a day ... all the time.... every second of my life.
will you please resend the next questions to me?...i am getting so tired............ i have to think about these.
54. During the past several years, what has your life been like? How have you made the best of your health problems? 55. Assuming the upcoming operation is successful and you health returns, what activities, goals, and ambitions do you envision for yourself?
On 7-17-1998, Maggie responded to the above two questions: i really want to answer the last two questions...regarding my health and hopes for recovery if i get new lungs.... i am so lost for words on the subject because it is so, so difficult for me to actually see myself well again. I have dreams, and hopes... i want very much to work with the Histiocytosis Association and help others find a cure, decent treatment, actual doctors who will actually try to help the adults with this thing and believe our symptoms and listen to us....it's a brick wall we run into. have you ever read the posts on the adult lounge at that site.... www.histio.org? i want to get involved in a lot of things... i wish I had the credentials to be a forensic criminologist... i want to raise exotic birds .... i want to do so many things. but will i ever be able to ?????????????? this illness pulled the rug out from under me.... stripped me of all i relied on in my personal existence.... lost my voice, my looks, my ability to work and care for myself, ...but one good thing it did...it made me listen to God. what a gift!!!
The above interview was conducted with Maggie over a period of time. It has been difficult for her to complete this interview because of the present medical treatment she is going through. Here is part of an e-mail she sent me on 7-17-98 that shows just how difficult it is for her: ".i am having a very hard time mentally and physically...i had a rare and unusual reaction to the vincristine they gave me ...it's one of the chemo drugs.... it had terrible neurological effects and my fingertips are STILL numb from it and i have a real hard time concentrating still. I hope all the side effects will dissipate."
56. Maggie, are there any additional thoughts you would like to add? I would like you to add that I am keeping Nanci in my thoughts and prayers as we both seem to be fighting difficult health battles and those kinds of battles do make you feel very isolated at times.
UPDATE - Feb. 25, 2001
In mid October 1998, Maggie received an organ transplant of one lung. This has given her a
new lease on life. Recovery has not been an easy process and has come with numerous medical
complications. Some days are better for her than others. On good days, the true Maggie
comes beaming through!
WE THANK YOU, MAGGIE, FOR SHARING YOUR LIFE.
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Copyright - © - 1998 - Paul Johnston