The news I received this morning demolished all possibility of the post I was going to write: My friend Mary is dying. I heard it straight from her daughter Tracy, one of two foster children Mary raised and later adopted. She was a “single mother,” in her own inimitable fashion. Mary never wanted to get married. She is too feisty for that, too independent, too…Irish.

I met Mary at church. She walked right up to my husband and me (we’re not the most social types), introduced herself and started talking, drawing us out. Why? I’ll never know. Pretty soon, we were meeting for dinner after Mass, on the regular, chatting on the phone about our cats (she has several, all strays, like ours were) and life and her ever-expanding rock collection. Mary’s a storyteller; you can’t help but admire her gift of gab. It’s a gift I lack, and appreciate in others. Mary has it in spades.

It seems like just a few days ago — and it was — that we were last talking on the phone, making plans for a long overdue dinner together (the holidays had gotten in the way). She was regaling me with the tale of how she foiled a break-in at her house. She’d been sleeping when someone broke her bedroom window. I was aghast, terrified just listening to the story. “Oh, don’t worry,” Mary said. “I sleep with a gun under my pillow.”

Mary may be petite, but she’s no delicate flower. It took cancer to knock her down — suddenly, and with great ferocity. The results of her biopsy aren’t even in yet, but she is fading fast. I want to be there with her, but I am battling an upper respiratory infection (again). Her daughter told my husband that her hospital room is like “Grand Central Station.” Everybody knows Mary and loves her. Her flow of visitors bears that out.

A light is going out of this world with Mary. It’s the kind of light that turns a group of parishioners into a family. This sort of light is badly needed in the Church now — in all churches. Young people are turning away from religion, not finding what they need there. Maybe if they could meet someone like Mary, a Catholic through and through, living by example what the Church teaches, they would begin to see that their faith can find a home.

Maybe one day I’ll be inspired to walk up to a couple of newcomers at church, introduce myself and invite them out to dinner. Mary would like that, I think.

 

 

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