Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Remembering Mary

St. Gianna

Have you ever known someone who really took the lid off your box? I mean someone who, by their example and through the story of their life, opened your eyes to a reality much bigger than the one in which you had been living? Mary (name changed to protect privacy) was one such person in my life.

I met Mary in the fall of 2000 when our husbands began graduate school together. We were both expecting a second child at the time. The families at this particular school relied upon one another in much the same way I imagine military families support and encourage one another through hard times. So, though each of us had closer friends, Mary and I became good friends over the next three years.

We continued to have children at the same pace and while our husbands studied through evenings and weekends, we met up together and with other mothers at the park, at mass, at the gym. We went to pick-your-own fruit fields, met at the children's museum, the library, the pool. We went to a farm in September, trick-or-treating in October, to the lights show in December, a crowning in May and pic-nics in June. I saw Mary at least three times a week, sometimes more.

Mary was always cheerful--she had the loveliest smile; it was her most natural expression. You could hear it in her voice when she spoke. She was gentle and patient and kind. Her faith and her family were her greatest treasures. It was Mary who first introduced me to (then) Blessed Gianna Berretta Molla--she kept a framed photograph of her as one might display a photograph of one's grandmother. In fact, the picture looked enough like Mary that I had thought for some time that she was somehow a relative.

When I learned the story of St. Gianna's life from Mary's own lips, I could see--already then-- that while there was no blood relation, there was a certain spiritual kinship between these two.

Mary was always cheerful, but it was easy for Mary to be cheerful. The sun seemed to shine on her path and the grace of God bless her with every good thing. Why does everything always go so right for Mary? many of us asked one another. But it was hard to begrudge her. How can you envy someone who shares with you her every blessing, as Mary did?

Mary and I had our third child at the same time and the two babies were baptized together in the school chapel. Our family spent Christmas with their family that last year of graduate school, and Easter Sunday--at a larger gathering-- as well. Soon after, graduation came with its purple hoods and golden tassels, ceremony, Pomp and Circumstance. We were happy to move on, but sad to see one another go. So many friends-- real friends--going, godspeed, each their own way. Mary moved to the Midwest while I headed to the Northeast. We were each expecting a fourth child.

The transition proved difficult for our family; we had a hard time buying a house. I was pleased at long last to find this house, but the day before closing I learned from a mutual friend that Mary had been diagnosed with a rare and aggressive cancer and that it had already metastasized. Mary was in the hospital and would undergo more thorough testing in the morning to see just how far the cancer had spread.

The next morning I awoke early--disturbed from the news and anxious about the house closing that day. I remained in my bed and kept my eyes closed a moment. I imagined that I was Mary waking up in a hospital bed. Our lives were so similar; it could just as easily have been me. After imagining Mary's concern for her children-- not the least of whom was the child growing under her heart-- my own heart swelled with grief. Unable to bear it, I woke myself fully and drowned my sadness in the business of the day.

Over the next few months we heard news of Mary through different sources. She had begun treatment that would be safe for her baby, but postponed aggressive treatments until after the baby would be born. I was ever anxious to hear news of her; I thought about her and her family and I prayed for them daily.

Months later, she gave birth to a healthy baby boy at about the same time our Zachary was born. I wanted to call her. After all, I would have called her if she hadn't been ill. I called a mutual friend who had always been closer to Mary and asked her to find out if a call from me would be welcome. Sure enough, this friend assured me, Mary had said that she would love to hear from me.

I called her that very day. "Suzanne!" Mary answered the phone with enthusiasm and I could hardly speak or even breathe because there--in that voice-- was her unmistakable smile. It had not left her, or rather, she had not left it when things had become so hard. She was as cheerful as ever, perhaps more. "It's OK," she reassured me more than once in that phone call. "I enjoy every moment now," she had said. "He's just the most beautiful baby. He's a miracle. I've never been so happy. You know, for one whole week after he was born, I completely forgot I had cancer."

Mary joined her sister in Christ, St. Gianna Berreta Molla, to be counted among the saints on this day last year at the age of thirty--just one week before her birthday. She was survived by her loving husband and four young children, as well as a large extended family. Those who were close to her say that Mary exemplified rare courage, selflessness, and an unwavering faith to the very end.

Please pray with me today for Mary and her family.

25 comments:

Johane said...

Your friend sounds really lovely. I will certainly pray for her and her family - especially today.

~m2~ said...

...as will I.

my daughter received her confirmation last night and guess who she picked (or rather, probably -- picked her --) as her confirmation Saint?

St. Gianna. is that cool or what?

Cheryl said...

I will pray and try to enjoy every moment.

Jennifer said...

What a beautiful and courageous woman. Thank you for sharing the story of your friend with us. We will keep her family in our prayers today.

Lillian said...

What a touching story. Thank you for sharing about your friend's beautiful life. I, too, will try to enjoy every moment!!

Ken Wills said...

Thank you for sharing the story and also the link to Blessed Gianna Berretta Molla so we may learn more. Mary and family are in our prayers.

scmom said...

What a precious friend. You are lucky to have her memory and gracious to share the story. I will enjoy this day in her memory and pray for her children today.

Kristen Laurence said...

Oh, Suzanne, I was just thinking of Mary this morning, as the day to begin a novena to St. Gianna is tomorrow (the 18th). Her feast is on April 27th.

Mary is still a model for me today. It is hard to think of her and not smile, and then cry. This is such a beautiful tribute to her!

Cheryl M. said...

Suzanne, know that I'm joining you today in prayer for Mary and her family. So sad to think of her dear children and husband without their mother and wife.

E Caughron said...

Suzanne, This is just beautiful. I can't believe it has been a year already. We never had the opportunity to meet Mary and her family (through only our own negligence), but knew her parents and about this cross. Thanks for the reminder to pray, especially for those she left behind.

mom-in-training said...

Suzanne,

I read this post and felt as though I knew this amazing woman even though I'd never even met her. What a beautiful tribute to her life - it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you for sharing!

Maryan said...

Suzanne, I'm a sap here -- I'm bawling. Thanks for posting such a beautiful and cheerful witness.

Julie said...

What a beautiful tribute to someone who sounds so beautiful herself...I will offer up prayers for Mary and her family.

forget me not said...

Mary is another saint in Paradise. She may never reach the altars officially but she is nonetheless one of God's chosen! Thank you for sharing this.

Jennifer said...

Suzanne, Thanks for this post; I was very moved! And it is somewhat timely for me, since I've been thinking about the virtue of joy recently.

I just read a great article on www.godspy.com about Mother Theresa's unfailing joy in the face of her dark night of the soul, and what she used to say about joy: that it's hard work and has to be cultivated through the daily effort of drawing closer to Christ and being made like Him.

I guess without that virtue, all the good things in the world might not be enough to make a person joyful! It sounds like your friend had that gift in spades. I'll definitely say a prayer for her soul.

(PS -- greetings from a fellow alum! My sister Amy and I both really enjoy reading your blog.) :)

Jen ('97)

Aimee said...

What a lovely tribute to your friend - her story stayed with me today.

Ladybug Mommy Maria said...

Suzanne,

I actually read this last night and decided to pray to Mary.

What an example of virtue - and you've written a beautiful tribute honoring her.

God Bless!

Kristen Laurence said...

Strike the above. Novena starts the 19th. Her feast is the 28th. Oops!

Beth said...

HI Suzanne,

Thank you for sharing such a beautiful story of courage and faith. May God bless Mary's family as they remember her on this anniversary.

Beth

Suzanne Temple said...

Thank you, all, for your prayers.

Jennifer, hello! I remember you and your sister well. Please tell her I say hello. The point you made about joy is exactly the one I learned from Mary. I haven't been able to be as continually joyful as she was, but at least I've learned to try.

Anonymous said...

I don't know if "Mary" is the same "Mary" I know, but an eerily similar situation happened to a family friend whose husband and four children are living in Omaha, NE. "Mary" resides in her eternal reward, which I believe must be a beautiful heavenly mansion and keeps very close track of her four beautiful babies here on earth. These stories always make me pause and not be in such a hurry to utter a gruff word at the kids, or to push them along so quickly through the days. Thanks for the beautiful post, Suzanne.
--a faithful reader in Des Moines, IA

Ruth said...

Beautiful tribute, Suzanne. You are blessed to have had her in your life. I will pray for her family.

Jane Ramsey said...

What a beautiful soul. May she rest in peace, and may God comfort all those who knew and loved her.

Elena said...

I'm sure when Mary and Gianna met in heaven, they had a lot to say to one another. Thank you for sharing your story with us. May she rest in peace.

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