Remembering Marian Robinson: The Gift Of An Extraordinary Life

Marian Robinson, former First Lady Michelle Obama’s mom, was known for her grace and warmth, leaving a profound impact on her family and the nation.

Marian Robinson was a kind, caring, compassionate, and supportive mother. Her children, Craig Robinson and former U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama, witnessed through her, the transformational power of love which extended to their respective families. Her life embodied resilience, compassion, and an unwavering commitment to her loved ones. Her legacy lives on through all the lives she has touched.

The Obamas and Robinsons, through a joint statement, revealed her death on May 31. The family expressed that she will be gravely missed, but they will honor her by upholding the values she instilled upon them.

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Marian Robinson and her two children, Craig and Michelle
Marian Robinson and her two children, Craig and Michelle/Photo via Instagram @michelleobama

Spreading kindness, generosity, and encouragement

Marian studied to become a teacher and worked as a secretary. According to her family, she taught her children to read at an early age. “[She gave] them the strength to walk to school – and out into the world – all on their own,” they said.

She supported her son Craig when he left his stable finance job to pursue his dream of coaching basketball. When her daughter, Michelle, embarked on the political path with Barack, her son in law, she backed and encouraged them from campaigns to election night.

Marian spread kindness wherever she was. She was never big on the glamor of living in the White House and spent her time with a TV tray and stayed in her room. The matriarch was good friends with the ushers, butlers, and a couple others who made the executive mansion a home. She would also smile at everyone she saw or interacted with. 

Marian as a mother, in law, and grandmother

“As a mother, she was our backstop, a calm and non-judgemental witness to our triumph and stumbles,” the family’s statement read. “She was always, always there, welcoming us back home no matter how far we’ve journeyed, with that deep and abiding love.”

Michelle told the Obama Foundation that Marian fostered a deep sense of confidence in herself, her beliefs, and her voice. “My mother gave me non-stop, unconditional love in so many ways,” she expressed. “I simply wouldn’t be who I am today without my mom.” The organization dedicated a space in her honor at the Obama Presidential Center Museum in 2022. They held an exhibit called “Opening The White House,” which the family infused with her legacies: values, community, family, and creating a warm, welcoming space.

The family mentioned how Marian was also the best mother-in-law to Barack and Kelly, Craig’s wife. They teased her, saying she should stop thinking that she was “imposing” on them because they wanted to be around her more, not less. 

As a grandmother, Marian ensured she was present in their lives from infancy through adulthood. She made sure they are always loved, supported, and heard. 

“We will all miss her greatly,” the family expressed. “We wish she were here to offer us some perspective to mend our heavy hearts with a laugh and a dose of her wisdom.”

“Only one Marian Robinson”

Marian passed away peacefully at age 86, according to her family.

Marian lived a full life which she spent with her family, friends, and acquaintances
Marian lived a full life which she spent with her family, friends, and acquaintances/Photo via Instagram @michelleobama

At first, they were uncertain how to move forward without her presence. However, they took comfort in the thought of her going back to her husband, Fraser, and catching him up with her incredibly prosperous life.

She often told her children the world is full of little Craigs and Michelles, implying that there is beauty and potential in every child. The family admitted that what is also true is that there was only one Marian Robinson. “In our sadness, we are lifted up by the extraordinary gift of her life. We will spend the rest of ours trying to live up to her example.”

Among her many teachings included passages that summed up her musings about life. These included “Don’t sweat the small stuff” and “Don’t worry about whether anybody likes you. Come home. We’ll always like you here.”

Banner photo via Instagram @michelleobama.

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