Sunday, August 08, 2010

A Tribute to My Beloved Cousin Mary

(In the center, our cousin Mary Weingart Slattery, with my brother John and myself.)

Dear Friends,

My cousin Mary died on August 4 in New Jersey at home, after a long battle with cancer. She was surrounded by her loving family and friends.

She will be so terribly missed by everyone who knew her, and will always be in our hearts.

I saw Mary in early July. She was happy I had come back East to see her and say how much I cherished her.

Illness and treatments limited her speech, so she had tremendous difficulty speaking and being understood. During my visit, three words gave her slight trouble: I love you. Her eyes were able to convey the sentiment, but I sense Mary wanted to "speak" the words to me.

Looking at her beautiful face, I spontaneously pointed my two biggest fingers at my right eye, then rubbed the palm of hand over my heart. Finally I made a small circle with my hand and pointed the same two fingers at her.

Mary gave me a smile, nodded her curly head of hair, then repeated the hand motions. I was so choked up, I could only say, "Thank you."

We shared more smiles, looks of love and sadness, a few tears. I knelt at her wheelchair for a tender embrace. Moments later, her hospice-care nurse came over and took her back to her bedroom.

It was the last time we saw each other.

Since that day, when I reflect upon that final good-bye, I think of how Mary showed me the essence of life. That is, to love someone with all your body and soul.

My fondest memories of Mary are from childhood. One frigid Christmas day, we were sledding together down a small snow-covered hill near her home. She had one of those large red plastic saucer sleds, that whooshed down the hill with great speed. It was so typical of Mary's innate generosity that she would invite her cousins to join her on the saucer sled, for a lotta fun. We would sit on it together, get a push, then slide down the slope, screaming at the top of our lungs all the way.

She truly spread joy while she was alive with us.

Mary leaves us way too soon, at only 48-years-old. She is survived by her loving parents Marie and Lin, devoted brother Michael, adoring extended family and circle of friends, and two beautiful teenage daughters, Shannon and Caitlin.

As the Tin Man said at the end of The Wizard of Oz -- a movie that Mary and I used to watch as kids at Grandma's home on North 11th Street in Newark -- I know I have a heart, because it is broken.

Dear Cousin Mary, you were deeply loved by many. Rest in peace.


vcdiva said...

This is a beautiful tribute to your cousin Mary. I kept her in prayer, and I am sorry for your loss and that of your family. My prayers are with you all.

Peter said...

sorry for you loss, Michael. A beautiful tribute.


Peter Staley

Greg said...

Thank you for sharing your memories of Mary. I'm calling some friends and relatives tonight to tell them that I love them---thanks for the reminder.

Be well,

Ed Sikov said...

I'm so sorry, Michael. Your tribute to her is beautiful. Speaking as someone who lost his mother during the past 12 months, I have one piece of advice for you: don't listen to anyone's advice. Mourn your own way in your own time.

Patrick Monette-Shaw said...

I’ve always known you to have a big heart, my friend, even though it is now broken over the loss of your beloved Cousin Mary. Your tribute about her made me cry, and I’m sure your final goodbye sign language must have let her know just how deeply you cared for her.

Just as Mary showed you the essence of life, I suspect that in return you showed her the fierce determination of an activist doing his civic duty all these years to do what he can to make the world a better place, and more accountable. I venture that, in return, her love for you was deepened by the pride she must have had of her cousin Michael.

As you grieve her loss, carry the memories you shared with Mary in your heart as a beacon in all you do. It will help mend your broken heart. My prayers are with you and your family, too.

— Patrick

W. C. King said...

I had the pleasure of meeting Mary years ago when she attended Union County College. She was always laughing, smiling, giggling or up to some kind of mischief.

A whole group of us decided to dress up as the cast of the Wizard of Oz and go to a Halloween party or three. Mary was the most beautiful scarecrow you had ever seen. Jeans bibbers, a red flannel shirt and straw sticking out of everywhere. Her nose was painted in a red triangle. We headed to a party in Clifton only we weren't sure which house. We ended up walking into the wrong house before finding the correct one a few houses down. We went to a bar later on and won a prize for best group costume. It was a great night, lots of laughing. I can still see her standing in someones kitchen in her costume. It was quite a group.

I lost touch with Mary when she got married and I thought she moved away. Hard to believe we lived in the same town. My condolences go out to you and the family for your loss.

As Dorothy said to the scarecrow as she was getting ready to leave Oz, "I'll miss you most of all.." I hope all of Mary's wishes are coming true somewhere over the rainbow. God Bless.