Missing Mary {A Tribute to a Life Well Lived}

June 17, 2015

It was just a couple of months ago when we got the call about Kyle’s Aunt Mary passing away. It already had been one of those weeks when you feel like you need to just stop, take a breath.

I’d been fighting off illness, my body willing me to stop, but obligations kept me going.

And so as we drive to Mary’s wake, a priority in an already busy week, we explain to the kids about death once again. How Mary’s body will be there, but that she’s in heaven now. They sit in the back and nod, appearing to understand.

Not all, but many of the cousins.
As we walk into the church, we’re immediately greeted by familiar faces. Aunts. Cousins. Family. These people who’ve been together and lived together and created what has now become a rather large group of people.

Our people. Who hug big and laugh loud. Who smile and encourage you. Who look you in the eye and tell you how much their mother loved you. Who aren’t afraid to shed tears and share stories. I tell Kyle as we drive home, “Your cousins are so kind.” Authentic. And I am humbled by their love. It's a mirrored reflection of their own mother’s love over the years.

Mary. The aunt who’d sit by me at family gatherings, ask me how I was doing after my sister’s death. Years later, she’d remember. The woman who told me she was praying for me, who never forgot to send birthday, anniversary, and Christmas cards each year. The one who knew my love of stories, and each time we were together, would tell me more tales of growing up in Foreston. About their family farm and parents' lives, little details about school and work.

One of our many family celebrations, this was my
sister in law's bridal shower! (Mary's in the back row, right in
the center.)
The last time we were together, just a couple of weeks prior to her death, we sat in her living room while she laid in a hospice bed and told stories and shared recipes from her parents. We laughed with her kids, talked about cookies kept in Pringles jars and how Kyle has gotten his love of cooking from his grandpa, Mary’s dad, Ed. It was the last time we got to pray together, hug her, and whisper we love you.

My social work tendencies showed through as I leaned in to ask, Are you sure you have everything you need? No other concerns? “No,” she replies, a grin on her face, “I have everything I need.” So accommodating to others, so like the Mary I’ve come to know and love over the years.

She (and her siblings) teaching us that this is family. This is what it means to gather together. This is what it means to love.

And these are the people my husband comes from. Solid. Hard-working. Loving. I’m proud to say they’re mine now, too. This is what made Mary so special. She’d bring you in and include you as your own story would start to become their story, too.

I'm so thankful that this weaving together of lives doesn’t end in death, not really. Legacy, Mary’s legacy, lives on in her children, her siblings, in memories. In her family. And in me.

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-14

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