There was just something about Mary. She and I hit it off from the beginning.
She, age allowing her to be my older, much wiser sister, left a smudge on my heart that will forever remain.
Mary wasn’t much taller than me. Absolutely gorgeous inside and out. Her eyes told of a woman who had a story to tell. I was only allowed to grace her pages for a short time. She helps write the pages of my story daily.
Mary had the sweetest spirit. She reminded me in personality of my granny. Soft spoken and deliberate with her words. Caring with kind eyes.
I wish I could have known her longer.
The genesis of our friendship isn’t important. It’s the journey that is distinguished. The traversing through life together, if only for a short time, that left that smudge.
Mary had cancer. If you met her on the street, you would have never known that she was in incredible pain. Always the optimist, walking with faith unparalleled. She spoke often of her Savior. She knew folks were watching and she wanted to make sure to do Him justice. She did not fail at that task, even in her last moments.
When she realized there was not much else that could be done medically to help her, we talked and cried together. She spoke of her family with such adoration. Her children hit the jackpot with Mary. The sentiments she shared about family often times spurred envy in my heart. I was part of her family too she would say. I felt privileged to be part of her world.
I was blessed to be a fly on the wall for what I feel Mary would say were some of her most precious days on this earth.
One day in June, gathered by the lake, I photographed Mary and her family. There were upwards of thirty folks including her husband, children, siblings and grandchildren. The love and adoration I felt among these individuals is hard to describe. Maybe I’m not supposed to be able to put words to what I witnessed, allowing them those moments to stay private. The inside jokes that led to laughter. The bond between a mother and her daughters. The look of a husband who knew time was fleeting. The grandchildren, hand in hand with Mary, not fully understanding what an incredible treasure they had at their fingertips. Brothers and sisters praying silently for a different outcome.
I was a spectator behind a lense. If you are a shutterbug, you know that when looking through a lense, you are privy to emotions and reality only you can see. You only hope that you capture the raw emotion and alter life by freezing those moments in time. If not careful, you can get wrapped up in the moment and lose the opportunity. What my camera and I witnessed that day is the stuff that movies are made of.
Mary would be one of the first people I told that my daughter was engaged. At this stage of the game, her health was failing and at breakneck speed. She told me she would do everything she could to be there. In my heart, I knew that Mary wouldn’t be there. This was in May.
She and I spent several summer evenings walking the shaded streets of our neighborhood. We often had a “gang” walking these shaded streets. Friends, walking and talking. Visiting with the neighbors as we strolled. Our neighborhood is a special place. We take care of our people. We actually know each other and take the time to love one another.
As the summer months got warmer, it was more difficult for Mary to be outside. She was ever spunky though. She would walk once or twice around the block. I walked with her, watching in awe.
Even with her health failing, Mary took time to care about me. She would check on me when she knew that vertigo was getting the best of me. She genuinely loved me.
I started teaching again in August this past year and was only able to visit her after school. I thought of her often throughout the day. She was the kind of person that made it easy to think and worry about her. My students started praying for her. They wrote her letters. They loved Mrs. Mary and hadn’t even met her. Mary told me as soon as she got stronger she would come have lunch with my kiddos. Mary wouldn’t ever make it up to school but she sure was loved and prayed over.
I was privileged to spend the last week of Mary’s life by her side off and on. I would have been there everyday if proper, but I knew I needed to let her family soak up the fleeting moments. I will be forever grateful to her family for indulging my selfish desire to spend time with her.
Even in her last days, Mary’s sweet, caring nature shined through. I sat beside her in bed and she would ask how I was and tell me she loved me and was glad that we were friends. I tried hard to keep my tears at bay, not an easy task.
Even in her weakened state she was a beauty. What I would give to see her “kind eyes” one more time. She was frail but oh she had the heart of a warrior.
Mary passed late October of 2017. My last day to visit Mary, I sang one of my favorites to her, When He Was On The Cross, I Was On His Mind. Her sweet sister joined in. It was a moment in time I will never forget. We did change up the words a bit. When He Was On The Cross, Mary Was On His Mind. Her eyes never opened but I know she heard us. When I left that afternoon, I knew I wouldn’t see my sweet Mary again this side of Heaven.
Not many days go by that I don’t think of her. It’s hard to walk through the neighborhood without her by my side. Maybe she is with me on occasion. I will hold on to that notion.
Mary made everyone’s life better.
God filled a void in my soul in the form of Mary. She assumed the role of big sister and played it so well. The pages of my story that Mary so boldly wrote on are dogeared and tear stained. I visit them often. I miss you, friend.