Rev. Mary “Azima” French Jackson, 77, passed away peacefully on Friday, February 17, 2023 at her home in Guilford, CT. Mary was born in Seattle, WA in 1945 and graduated from the Ethel Walker School in Simsbury, CT. Known as “Bonnie” in her youth, she was a natural leader, athlete, and musician who loved animals. Mary received a B.A. in French from Sweet Briar College and went on to earn an M.S. in Biological Sciences from Fordham University, M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and Doctorate in Ministry from the University of Creation Spirituality. She is survived by her daughter, Elizabeth French Werbe, two brothers, Richard Seymour Jackson, Jr. (Linda), and James Mathes Jackson (Valerie), and former husband, Thomas Chandler Werbe III. Mary was preceded in death by her mother, Mary French Mathes, and father, Richard Seymour Jackson.
Before moving to Guilford, Mary spent several years in Greenwich, CT, where she grew up and raised a family. She was a member of The Grace Notes, a female a cappella group, served as co-president of the PTA at Glenville and Central Middle Schools, and worked as Director of Christian Education at Round Hill Community Church. Mary’s love for the ocean arose from idyllic summertime visits with family in York Harbor, Maine. She played numerous musical instruments and would return from her travels with exotic instruments from abroad.
Mary blazed an innovatory trail through life, uplifting all whose lives she touched. After graduating from Yale, she worked as a chaplain in hospitals, providing spiritual support to those in the process of passing. She was ordained as an Interfaith Minister and inducted into the Sufi Order, taking on the name “Azima,” an Arabic name meaning ecstasy and light. She loved leading universal worship services and studying Indian devotional music with Sri Karunamayee. Together, they laughed and engaged in deep spiritual exploration through sound.
A perpetual seeker, Mary navigated serious health challenges throughout her life. The debilitating pain she experienced from Crohn’s disease set her on a path of spiritual inquiry and led her to embrace music as a primary avenue to healing. Soothing melodies and lyrics would come to her when she needed comfort and protection. Mary was called to foster healing through music, ritual, and spirituality, guiding others in awakening to their soul’s wisdom. She loved weaving together different religious customs to create sacred ceremonies honoring life’s transitions and helping people navigate rites of passage without fear.
In the Fall of 2019, when Mary was told she had Stage 4 cancer, she viewed this health crisis as her own moment of awakening. Once again, she sought to transform darkness into light through the healing power of music. Determined to beat the odds, she assembled an entirely holistic support team and sang traditional Indian songs with her oncologist, despite not allowing him to treat her. By fully embracing her own voice, embodying her soul’s essence, and channeling the angelic light and love that holds us all, Mary shared her soul’s gifts through song. Her music comes from the heart and reflects the messages she needed to learn.
Mary produced four CDs of original songs: Journey of Song: Coming Home, Journey of Song for Life’s Transitions, Angel Love, and Passages Through Light. In addition to her role as Founder and Director at House of Light, she was a Dean and Spiritual Director at Awakening Awareness Academy. She was also a certified leader of Music for People and was recognized as a Vedic Master by Chopra University.
Mary will be dearly missed, but her legacy will live on through her music and in loved ones. In addition to her wisdom, courage and inspiring presence, she will be remembered for being true to herself. She aspired to Rumi’s quote: “My religion is love and every heart is my temple” and ultimately came to recognize her own heart as her temple. The radiance of her being will forever abide in the hearts of those who knew her.
A private Celebration of Life will be planned by the family in the coming months. Financial contributions may be made in honor of Mary’s life to the Awakening Awareness Academy: awakeningawarenessacademy.com. More information about Mary can be found on her website: maryazima.com.