A Tribute to My Beloved Cousin Mary
(In the center, our cousin Mary Weingart Slattery, with my brother John and myself.)
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.