Apr 1, 2014

Remembering Mary


The day that Mary died, I ate a cheese Danish, a square of pecan pie, an entire bag of Lays and two vanilla cokes. Real cokes, not diet ones. She would understand this. If that horrifies you, read no further.

In her honor, I also watched 3 episodes of the first season of Star Trek that were made when she and I were just nine years old, and lived almost a thousand miles apart.

Even with that distance, our lives were so similar that we could have been two facing sides in a Rorschach inkblot. We were both smart, and we loved to read more than anything else on the planet. (Except maybe to eat while we were reading, especially if the character was chewing on something delicious we could replicate.)

Mary and I were both the babies of our families, and our older sibs thought we were pretty spoiled. But we talked about that and agreed they didn’t know what they were talking about. We were just really wonderful as kids.

Were we ‘pugnacious,’ as John has stated? We didn’t think so, because that was just one facet of our personalities.  It helped us to defend ourselves from brothers locking us in closets and later came in handy fighting for our kids and helping the underdogs we liked to represent.

We were also about the same age when our parents divorced; something that was really, really hard for us. There was stigma back then when you had a broken family, and we both felt as if we needed to defend their actions to others by denying our own broken hearts.

Mary was my husband John's first wife, and we met in December of 2010, when she and my stepson Jack came to my house for Christmas Eve. John and I had just started dating. I always have an open house on Christmas Eve, and wanted to invite Jack, but not make him choose which parent he'd spend the holiday with. That meant inviting Mary too, so I did.

Mary and I ended up spending the entire night in my kitchen, laughing hysterically. We shared the same sense of humor (typically the things teenage boys find funny) and had so much in common it was almost shocking.

I guess it’s no wonder we ended up with the same husband (thankfully not at the same time). We did have fun with that though. When I was Mary’s guest at the shooting range, I filled out the relationship line with “Sister Wife.” We hooted over that, and used that phrase a lot down the road, taking great pleasure in our nontraditional relationship.

So Mary and I developed our own sisterhood – one independent of John, independent of family dinners and kids. We became the closest of friends, sharing confidences, hopes and fears. We ate cream puffs at the Big E, went on a road trip to Pensacola (fighting only a little) and looked out for each other. It extended our families in the most beautiful way.

We celebrated all holidays, birthdays, and special occasions together, succeeding in putting our own broken families together again. We folded each other’s laundry, cooked, helped the kids and sometimes snapped at each other – just like anyone else in a family.

We lent each other a sympathetic ear, sometimes about her former and my present husband. She’d say “Oh, that’s just John being John,” punctuated with an evil grin, adding, “And I don’t have to be married to him, because you are, ha, ha!” Can you imagine what a gift it was when I got to see them profess real love for each other at the end?

I was by Mary’s side at two of the most painful moments of her life – when the Dr. told her she had leukemia, and just weeks later when she told her son that she couldn’t go on fighting, and he’d have to let her go. My heart breaks at those memories, yet I am so grateful that she loved and trusted me enough to have me there at those unbelievably vulnerable times.

But back to Star Trek, 48 years after it began, and the bag of Lays washed down with a way-too-sweet drink. In episode 5, under the influence of a virus that simulated drunkenness, Mr. Spock cries, and later tells Captain Kirk, “My mother… I could never tell her I loved her. An earth woman… living on a planet where love, emotion… was bad taste.”

During Mary’s hospital stay, I had the honor of seeing Jack tell his mom he loved her, too many times to count. They were beyond close. She put every single drop of love she could into bringing him up. Not perfectly, because there is no such thing as a perfect parent, only people without kids giving advice they themselves couldn’t follow. Once, when someone online intimated that Mary was a bad mother, I had to be physically restrained. They were very, very wrong.

Being with Mary over the last seven weeks was so painful, yet not without its gifts. I got to see that there were hundreds of people who loved her. I got to meet and bond with her sister Karen, who I now love as my own. I watched as women who have known and loved her for years tenderly looked out for her, and united, we all held hands and supported her to the end. They are now my friends as well.

Mary was the most authentic woman I have ever known, and I loved her and all that she stood for. She was brilliant, kind, adventurous, irreverent and intellectual. She was also a woman who laughed at fart jokes. At the end, everything but the love just falls away.


  1. Wow. Beautiful. Reading this makes me realize why I have been so drawn to you two - Maripat and Mary. We seem to speak the same language, and enjoy the same jokes! I long to have the friendship you two shared. I long to laugh, and fight, and drive, and cook, and cry, and hope, and eat delicious cream puffs with another - as you've done with Mary. And I know, one day, I'll get through the past and allow myself to trust and let go. You two have inspired me. And I cannot imagine the pain you have in your heart that she isn't there to call up or share a laugh with. I'm so sorry. Sending love, hugs, light, and laughs to you. Thank you for sharing your heart with us.

  2. Beautiful, Maripat. Thank you for being there for her.

  3. Your relationship with Mary was precious. Thank you for the peek into it. May God comfort all of you as you grieve the loss of Mary.

  4. What a loving tribute! You were both so fortunate to have one another.

  5. My dad made the cream puffs for my 40th birthday because my stepmother had had a mini stroke - she instructed him the whole way through and they were just beautiful - because of the love in them. What a blessing to have had such a beautiful relationship Maripat. I never met Mary but I met you and John and I see how it all just fits. My love to you all.

  6. What a lovely tribute to a wonderful woman. I got to know both of you through John, whom I've known online since before LMITE was first released. I have always been amazed at the bond you two shared, not just John, but your kindred spirits as well. Mary made me laugh as she took that journey to the final frontier. I hope I made her laugh, too.

    Hugs to you and John.

  7. I have eaten many cream puffs. I'm so sorry for your family's loss. Your post brought tears to my eyes. What a wonderful relationship to have with the exwife of your husband... more like sisters and yet he is what brought you together.

    Good cream puff story: Way back, my brother let out the secret that his fiance was going to bring homemade cream puffs to Easter dinner. It was a secret because she wanted them to be perfect and if they weren't, she'd bring something else. Well, she came without them and my uncle (who is the most acerbic person I know) asked her where the cream puffs were and wouldn't let up the whole night about "the cream puffs"... made her cry. We got with her after he left and said that to deal with our uncle, she needed a very tough skin.... This she DID know already as she had been with us for 10 years. Anyway, we told her that she should make cream puffs and fill them with shaving cream and give them to my uncle. Sadly, she never did it, but I still think it's a great idea! Again, I'm so sorry for your loss.

  8. Maripat- I'm so sorry for your loss. But so happy for your description of this relationship, which must be such a blessing to Jack and John, as well as you and Mary. It is a testament to truth and authenticity over how people "should" act- (bitter, snipey stereotypes and all that.)

    I met John once at a conference a few years ago, and he made such an impression on me as a lovely, brilliant guy. I'm so happy to "meet" you online, and wish you comfort after Mary's passing. She sounds amazing, and I'm glad you found each other.

  9. The most fine example of honoring another sweet human being. Your ability to not be jealous and love unconditionally is inspiring. There is no love..none, like that of a child for their mother. That's why it is such a huge responsibility. My son STRUGGLED with CBD/Autism. To a mother, it is like having your skin burned off to watch your child hurt from this condition. I have the utmost respect for Mary. She was a wonderful character and an honest person. I hope more can be written about her!

  10. A beautiful, moving tribute, Maripat. Thank you so very much for sharing this. Steve Ross

  11. Beautifully written. I am weeping over the loss of such a wonderful person, and how she must have felt knowing that she had to leave her son. Both my son and husband are Aspergians, and I know I have had to develop a pugnacious side to be their advocate! I am so glad that you had this friendship. Thank you for sharing.

  12. Thank you for sharing this lovely, loving tribute. What wonderful memories! Even though I imagine they make the sense of loss even more painful, little by little the pain will ease, but the memories will abide. How lucky you all were to have each other, I felt so fortunate to be included in this circle through facebook. I will miss Mary tremendously. Juanita

  13. Thank you for sharing this,yes I am crying. What a beautiful tribute to your friend. I hope when the end is near for me I have a friend such as you to make the hard more bearable. John and Jack are lucky to have you in their lives as well.

  14. What a beautiful tribute to your friend, yes I am crying and trying to figure out where my recipe for cream puffs might be. I hope when the end is near for me I have a great friend like you to help make the hard a little more "bearable", no pun intended. John and Jack are lucky to have you in their lives as well. Thinking of you all at this sad time and hoping you find comfort in writing about her. I hope you will write more and share your Mary with us. <3

  15. So amazing. How fortunate that John loved, and was loved, by two amazing "Mari" women. So sorry for your loss.

  16. Amazing how the two of you were able to rise above any female jealousy and become so close. Such maturity, and what a gift for Cubby. Thinking of your family.

  17. Elizabeth Marie Kass4/26/14, 5:29 PM

    Thanks for a wonderful tribute to Mary and testament to sisterhood.

  18. Thanks so much for sharing your beautiful words about Mary and the relationship you both enjoyed so much. A loving eulogy. (Bridgit)

  19. Yes, you knew our Mary. Sunday evenings she would often call me as she was driving home from having dinner at your house. I always thought it was so crazy that she had Sunday dinner with you and John! I miss those phone calls. The phone went dead going over the Notch, but one of us called the other one back and we continued our conversation until she got home.
    Those were the good old days!


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