Merilyn Zia was born Merilyn Edith Roushey on Dec. 16, 1927, somewhere in Africa. But the real story of Merilyn has little to do with dates and schools and the usual litany of dry facts. The real story is of a woman who left an amazing legacy for family and friends.

The real story starts in 1954, with a young teacher swept off her feet by a dashing young student from Afghanistan. It's a love story that spans more than half a century and half the globe. It tells how they met, married, had a son and returned to Afghanistan, where she quickly won the hearts of his extended family. It tells how their love bore two daughters in a country she embraced as her own, and a people who loved her in return. It's a story that transitions six years later to the United States because of intrigue involving the CIA, the KGB, and a clandestine return that could easily be made into a movie.

Merilyn's story continues in Albany and El Cerrito, Calif., where she rebuilds the life she loved but had to leave in Afghanistan. It involves investing her life in her now four children, then her church, than her extended family of friends. Her life was a saga of teaching, learning, and giving. She taught her students as a young teacher, she taught her children, she taught her students in Bible Study Fellowship, and later she taught for years in various Sunday School classes.

Uprooted to go to Afghanistan, later uprooted to return to California, Merilyn found herself uprooted once more in 1978 and planted on 20 acres in the lush Rogue Valley near Ashland. There she finished raising the two youngest of her children. But learning and teaching were in her blood, and she couldn't sit still. The next two decades were invested in her Afghan family brought over compliments of the Russians, her grandchildren, and in her church. That was her life-family and church-and that's the way she finished her life.

Merilyn's final lesson was how to truly love someone. She invested her last two years taking care of her invalid daughter fraught with a constant litany of physical challenges. Night and day she and her husband labored as two 80 year old nurses. With nothing but love and every ounce of energy she could muster, Merilyn took care of her daughter till she was stopped by a stroke in Dec. 2009. Though unable to care for her family any more, Merilyn inspired them with her wonderful attitude and humor. She'd lost her right side but that didn't stop hernot at all. She and her Afghan love spent her last nine months of life tenderly caring for each other. Their love story was interrupted by a massive stroke. She fought to spend her last few days surrounded by her family. But, when her time was up, she was ready. Finally, she handed her ticket to the gate agent and boarded for her final journey. Merilyn left a legacy of many lives enriched by her love and her teaching. The dates really don't matter, but her legacy does.

Those who would like to celebrate her legacy are invited to join her family at Gracepoint Church on East Main Street in Ashland at 2:00 p.m., Saturday, September 25, 2010.