and it’s not my niece who had her baby boy last night at 10:49, even though you can bet your sweet patootie you’ll be hearing about him soon. isn’t he a beautiful baby?
today it’s my cousin mary (the one who always makes sure we take plenty of pictures at every family gathering) i want to tell you about. that’s her there on the left. (then there’s my mother in the center. then there’s me on the right.)
if you pay attention to my facebook feed, you know that 14 months ago mary’s oldest boy (that’s him – billy – there with the blue oval around his handsome face and that’s mary there on the left with the pink oval around her) was diagnosed with cancer. you know that he endured everything science has in its arsenal to throw at cancer, and you know that it wasn’t enough. mary buried her oldest son today – on mother’s day.
at first i thought that was an awful, horrendous, unimaginable thing to do – i initially felt physically sick for mary. but as i talked with her over the past few days, i tell you what: i’ve never loved her more or been more proud of her. that cousin o’mine really knows how to throw a good funeral.
she didn’t opt to have billy’s funeral on mother’s day to cast herself as a martyr. she didn’t want pity or attention or people fawning over her. you see, this wasn’t about mary at all. this funeral was a tribute to billy, and mary made sure of it in every way large and small.
friends were important to billy, so mary and her husband danny decided to have the funeral today because they knew a lot of billy’s friends would be in town visiting their mothers and could attend the funeral.
during the visitation that preceded the funeral when mary spied somebody she didn’t know, she walked right up to them and introduced herself and thanked them for coming then listened to their stories about billy.
she was right there every minute. she was so present.
she made sure people had plenty to eat. she asked if they had moved their car to the line that would go to the cemetery. she thanked people. she fed people. she hugged people. she listened to people. you might think she was distracting herself with busy work, and you’d be wrong. mary was there, she didn’t shy away from the reality of the occasion, she cried – she cried plenty – she just never lost sight of the fact that today was about honoring and memorializing billy.
when danny (billy’s daddy) cried, mary put her arm around him and patted him. when the preacher came to clarify what song would be sung, she directed him to danny because danny had selected the song. when the pall bearers (some of billy’s friends from college) arrived, she took them all into her house, and when they got upset, she comforted them.
she told the preacher story after story after story to make sure it was a fitting, story-filled tribute to the multi-faceted, multi-talented young man billy is . . . was (it’s hard to use past tense). in the past few weeks and especially today, mary exhibited every trait and characteristic that made billy the fine and good young man we know him to be.
(that’s billy there with the orange oval with his hand on mary’s shoulder.)
as an actor and a managing director of a theatre, i see my fair share of drama queens, and as a woman of that certain age, i’ve dealt with a lot of women who desperately want to be seen, and i want to tell you one very important thing: mary focused that spotlight on her son billy, and she made sure it didn’t stray, not one little bit. and in her unfaltering selfless mother love, i saw her more clearly than i’ve ever seen her before.
i love her so much.