There were so many people at Mary
Ellen's wake that the funeral home director had to take the
unprecedented action of asking those who were sitting in the viewing
room to please leave and go to the church so that the rest of the
mourners could get in to pay their respects. The room was filled to
The procession of cars from the funeral
home to the church was a long and winding one. When I looked back
from the lead car, the parade trailed back as far the eye could see.
In the church, there was standing room
only. The parking lot was so full that people were parking on the
lawn and in entrance and exit lanes.
Was this the burial services for some
head of state or some other internationally known dignitary? A movie
star perhaps Some UN ambassador?
No. She was just a school teacher. And
a wife. And a mother. And a grandmother. And a friend. Nothing
special in any conventional way, but Mary Ellen was never
conventional in her life, and she was, indeed something rare and
When Mary Ellen came into my life, I
was a pretty miserable excuse for a human being. I had a temper, a
mean one. I had few to no friends. AND I was estranged to my two
kids; neither one of them had spoken to me for years for a number of
reasons, not all of which had to do with me.
With her loving patience, understanding
and endless compassion, she turned me around. When I spoke at her
funeral the other day, I said, “If you love me today, it is because
of Mary Ellen.”
She taught me that relationships were
the most important things in the world, and that love triumphs over
everything else on the planet.
She showed me God. A God that I could
accept. A God who was nothing but pure love. (She refused to believe
in Hell.) It was quite a departure from the Catholic Deity of my
youth who seemed so stern and ready to punish me at a moment's notice
for natural things like “impure thoughts”. (I LOVE impure
thoughts!) This new God loved me and the world no matter what. He,
(God was always masculine in Mary's mind.), accepted me where as I
And this God shown through Mary and
reached out to touch all who came in contact with her.
Mary Ellen changed everybody who knew
her, and she did it not by force or by giving unwanted advice. She
did it by example. People saw how happy and energetic and loving and
forgiving she was, and they wanted to emulate her.
Mary also changed people whom she never
met. She would often walk into a coffee shop, pay for her drink and
then give the clerk another two dollars and say, “This is for
coffee of the next person who comes in.” She would do the same
thing at highway toll booths.
In all the years that I knew her, I
never once heard her gossip about anybody. Not once. She would say
that disliked somebody, but that was as far as it went, and she would
say the same thing to the person's face.
She was always willing to give somebody
a second, third, and thousandth change. She never gave up on a human
being. And, even if she disliked or distrusted a person, she would
always find the good in him or her and expound upon that.
She loved me through and through, and I
loved her just as much. Does that mean that we never fought? Hell
no! We fought, but we fought
fairly. No name-calling or deceit.
And never once in
the twenty-two years that I spent with her did we go to bed without
telling each other that we loved each other.
Mary didn't care if
you were a homeless person or multi-millionaire, Democrat or
Republican, man or woman, physically beautiful or just plain
butt-ugly. She gave everybody a fair shot and loved most people that
She always entered
into a new relationship with exuberance and an open mind. She always
started off liking a new acquaintance right off the bat, and they had
to really prove that they were despicable over and over again before
she would change her mind.
The glass was
ALWAYS half full..
No matter who or
what you were, she always made you feel important and interesting and
And that's why her
wake shattered the attendance records at the funeral home. And that's
why they were standing in the aisles at her memorial service. And
that's why the minister had to put a limit on the number of people
who talk at her service.
And that's why I
loved her, and why I will continue to love her until the day that I