Torie Costa & Marnae CostaMarnae Costa’s daughter Torie was runway model beautiful, whip smart and fiercely courageous. When she lost her hair during cancer treatments, she still walked the runway rocking her bald head. Marnae was in an intense personal development class with me and a group of about two dozen others that year. We all got really close during that time. We raised about $10,000 for kids with cancer. We donated hundreds of hours of our time. We all agreed that if the only thing we accomplished in that class was to prepare Marnae for her daughter’s passing, it was all worth it.

Torie Costa died on Christmas day 2015. Her beaming face appeared on fundraising letters from Novant Presbyterian that year. She was an exceptional human being. She had two funerals. I attended the second. Both were mobbed. I sat in the back. I just wanted Marnae to know I supported her. I didn’t really know Torie. On the way out of the church Marnae locked eyes with me and mouthed “thank you.” Marnae is also an exceptional human, a courageous, powerful woman.

When she agreed to speak with me on tape for my ManListening podcast, we both knew we would be talking at length about Torie and her last years in this life. But this isn’t like my years in TV news. It’s not an interview. It’s a conversation. I let Marnae dictate where we went. She was extraordinarily generous. I am extremely grateful to her.

Marnae wants to write a memoir about her life. I think she’s off to a great start with this conversation. Because of how close she was to Torie, Marnae has tons of credibility when she speaks to any other parent or family member of a child with cancer.

She believes strongly that more funding should be given to research of pediatric cancers. She founded a charity in Torie’s name but she says bluntly that’s not where her passion lies. She wants Torie to be remembered, but she doesn’t want to spend all her energy fundraising. So you can relax. This interview is not a prelude to a charity pitch.

We sat in wicker chairs on a porch overlooking Lake Norman as ski boats roared past. I apologize in advance for the distraction of all the waves lapping on the shore. If you know my podcasts you know I never record in a studio and never on Zoom or Skype. Marnae was trading out child care with a friend in exchange for free rent and a million dollar view of the sunset over the water. She’s since moved on.

We took time with our conversation. We breathed. We laughed. We both cried. We honored Torie. We honored Marnae’s pain. She talked about what it all meant, what it still means, about life and death and her life after Torie’s death. I did my best to listen. You can hear for yourself.

Some people might think this conversation is a tough slog. It ain’t comedy if that’s what they mean. But there is laughter and it’s real. And it’s not doom and gloom. Torie taught a lot of people a lot of lessons while she was here. She inspired strangers like me. On a warm day on Lake Norman, her mother and I celebrated her life. We will always be filled with gratitude.


Marnae Costa’s story drops Thursday, August 20, 2020 on ManListening, available by streaming through or at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Play or in many other podcast players.