Mary has three big brothers. We were sure she’d be a boy too. When she was born, people who know us (and a few we barely know) sent and brought all manner of sweet, pink, soft, girly baby things. I’ve never gotten so much cute stuff for any of the boys. I think women, the principal gift buyers of the world, just have a soft spot for little girls. One empty-nesting friend who also has three boys and a girl said, “Now you have a best friend for the rest of your life!”
Matt’s Aunt Linda very generously offered to stitch a special something for Mary, and would I come with her to pick out a pattern? It took her nearly a year to complete, not because she’s slow, but because it was a hard one, and here it is (the photograph doesn’t even begin to do it justice).
Linda and I liked the round shape, and Mary had a Little Lamb theme (I know you might think this is Bo Peep, but the baby’s name is Mary — just go with it).
Not long after Linda gave us this lovely thing, Matt’s Granny Mary, for whom our Mary is named, passed away. She was 88, and about four years past having any quality of life. Linda had been caring for her for many, many months. She told me one day that she knew the reason Granny had continued to live, in spite of being in bed, not really speaking or doing anything, was for Linda’s benefit — so that she could have the experience of taking care of her mother. It had been a tender and healing experience for her.
At Granny Mary’s funeral, family and friends were invited to stand and share memories or thoughts, which isn’t generally done at Mormon funerals. We were regaled with funny and touching stories. Granny had tons of spunk — she once took about 10 little grandkids to the zoo BY HERSELF. Everything was fine until one of the boys climbed into the monkey cage and got bitten. She was fascinated by life and by nature, and if she found a dead snake or mouse in her yard, she would save it in the freezer to show her grandchildren.
I never knew the Granny of these funny stories. When I met her, she had reached the stage of life where one tends to repeat oneself, and she would tell again and again the stories which must have been most meaningful to her. I remember her telling Matt and I (more than once) how affected she had been on a trip to India by the great poverty and suffering of the people. Many of her stories were in this humanistic genre. Here’s an exerpt from her obituary:
“Of all her wonderful traits, her love of children, music, nature, and her intellectual curiosity stand out. She never missed a teaching moment, whether it was looking up a new word in the dictionary, discussing archaeological ruins, the plight of sick children at work, or bringing home with great care and enthusiasm a remarkable seashell from a far-flung corner of the globe. She was fascinated with the human condition in all of its beauty and tragedy and was grateful to have been able to experience and learn much via her travels abroad. She was a self-sacrificing person who was devoted to her family, service in a variety of callings in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and her community. She was highly regarded by those who knew her as a model of charity, compassion, and kindness. A more angelic person cannot be found. ” (I added the italics.)
I wonder if I am living such a life. I have a terrible fear that I am much more often the recipient of kindness than the bearer of it. We live in a neighborhood where people tend to leave cookies on your porch, usually anonymously. (I know, lucky us!) I’m embarrassed to admit that we’ve been the recipients of far more cookies than we’ve ever given. I’m not trying to beat myself up about this — the last thing mothers of young children need is a self-induced guilt trip — but I don’t want to just let myself off the hook, either. We can make the time to do caring things for other people, no matter how busy our lives are. That feeling of being remembered — by a gift, an invitation, a telephone call — that great feeling that someone else cares enough about me to think of me and do something about it — am I passing it on? I want to be a better friend than I sometimes am.
I hope I am teaching my children to be the kind of people who treat others with compassion. The kind of people who recognize human suffering in all its forms, and strive to do something about it. The kind of people who make the time to do thoughtful things for others. I don’t think I even realized what a perfect namesake Mary has until I read her obituary.