Community Stories

How One Grandmother Built a Foundation of Love for Her Grandson

After a heartbreaking loss, Debra used EarlyBird to honor her son's memory and build a legacy of love.

Last updated:

September 15, 2022

EarlyBird helps parents, family, and friends collectively invest in a child’s financial future. Learn more.

What You'll Learn

Sometimes, everything goes according to plan. For Debra Lewis-Mahon, that was certainly the case when she gave birth to her son Marlowe.

“It was a textbook delivery,” she said. “Even in birth he was considerate and organized.”

Debra describes Marlowe in glowing terms: “His mind was huge, and his heart was still bigger. He shone with intelligence, laughter, and love.”

Marlowe spent his childhood battling medical emergencies and had 5 surgeries before the age of 6. Despite these setbacks, his light never dimmed.

“I think his empathy and compassion grew from these experiences,” Debra recalls.

Through his adolescence and adulthood, Marlowe pursued a range of passions, approaching each with voracious curiosity and joy. Debra remembers coming home to osso bucco for dinner, listening to her son play pipe organ during lessons at a local cathedral, and feeling inspired to turn her own garden into a verdant oasis when Marlowe’s pursuits took him into the world of botany.

“Our house and garden became, and still is, a tropical jungle,” she says. “Most of the plants that remain in our home are propagated from his own massive terrarium that he made.”

As so many do, Marlowe struggled against depression and substance use disorder. He fought back hard, says Debra, joining detox and recovery programs in order to combat and heal his illness.

When Marlowe’s son Felix was born, he had new and deeper motivation to prioritize his healing.

“Felix shone just like Marlowe,” Debra said.

And Felix’s bright light helped draw out the pride, joy, and love within Marlowe that could occasionally get buried by his health battles.

“Marlowe doted, taught, tickled, fed, cleaned, cuddled, and whispered in his little ears. Felix looked at him and saw a hero, a truth that Marlowe could not see himself,” Debra says, adding, “He delightedly became master and expert of all things Felix. He not only was Felix’s sole financial provider, working remotely, he juggled caring for Felix, too. He loved to make his meals special. He was the first to hold him when he cried. He changed his diapers and played with him, cuddled and kissed him. He was an amazing Dada and Felix adored him.”

Marlowe excitedly found an apartment in Los Angeles for himself and his son and filled it not only with plants, of course, but with love and warmth, cooking beautiful meals for his little one in the sunny kitchen. He was offered his dream job working in developing the metaverse.

Marlowe’s journey into fatherhood was full of delight and joy, with Felix as the beautiful centerpiece. He worked hard to battle his illness, but Debra notes that the healthcare system, coupled with the isolation of the Covid pandemic, made wins feel hard to come by.

Debra recalls in perfect detail the night that Marlowe passed away. He was staying at her house, and had been up late finishing a project for work, plus planning Felix’s second birthday celebration. He was thrilled that he would get to be with his son for the milestone. He filled a glass of water to have at his bedside, took his vitamins, and went to bed.

“He then left this realm with his glass full, excited about tomorrow,” she says.

Despite this tragedy and loss, Debra’s words indicate a deep well of empathy, love, and gratitude.

“I had the opportunity to tell him—just the week prior to his passing—that he was my greatest teacher. He was surprised to hear this and so I explained,” she says, before launching into a list of spaces where Marlowe helped expand her world:  

“He taught me to be a mother. He taught me love. He taught me to question my beliefs and opinions. He led me to meditation, self compassion, and Buddhism. I learned about plants, the stars, the universe, music, snakes and sharks, death and grief, and loss.”

She says that Felix wonders where Dada is and lights up when he sees photos of them together.

“I have told him that Dada is inside him, inside all of us and all around us,” she says.

While Marlowe entered the world “according to plan,” his passing was of course a loss and tragedy no one could have planned for.

While on the journey of processing her and her family’s loss, Debra found EarlyBird and launched an account for little Felix.

“EarlyBird is a way for him to get to know his dad and all those in his life who loved him. It also provides an opportunity to show how many caring, kind and helpful people are in the world,” she says.

Just like his father before him, Felix is “pure wide smile,” obsessed with music, and full of warmth.

While Marlowe is no longer here to nurture Felix’s dreams, Debra knows that he would have fostered an exploratory sense of confidence and freedom in his son. No matter what Felix pursues, be it film, or botany, or music, like his father did, or Hot Wheels, as is his current passion, Debra hopes that his EarlyBird account can help provide the financial support that Marlowe is no longer here to give.

“EarlyBird will help Felix to know more about his father when he is older and see how special he was and see all the people that knew and loved him,” she explains, adding that she hopes his account is filled not only with financial gifts but with videos, photos, and notes of love.

Currently, Felix’s account is filled with dozens of contributions, videos, photos, and notes from loved ones. Debra even took the time to scan physical cards and deposit any cash gifts that were sent to her grandson, knowing that when invested, they could make an even bigger impact in his future.

Just as Debra’s garden was borne out of Marlowe’s own plants, passion, and care, Felix’s future will grow on the foundation of humor, curiosity, kindness, empathy, and respect that his father nurtured for his lifetime.

We at EarlyBird are honored to provide the space for this beautiful family, and for any family hoping to leave a legacy of love for their little ones.

This page contains general information and does not contain financial advice. All investments involve risk. Any hypothetical performance shown is for illustrative purposes only. Actual investment performance may be different for many reasons, including, but not limited to, market fluctuations, time horizon, taxes, and fees. Please consult a qualified financial advisor and/or tax professional for investment guidance.


EarlyBird Team

Was this helpful?

Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.
Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.
Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.
Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.
Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.
Download EarlyBird today and start investing in your child’s tomorrow.