Mary’s Smile

In the spring, everything seems possible. The winter melts away. The grass and trees bud all over again. LIFE. We watch it unfold automatically before our eyes. We all know it is coming. We long for it.

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Some of us start begging for it the day after Christmas. We only want winter as an add-on along side the sparkling tree decorations, homemade cookies, mixed nuts and old fashioned candy treats.

We get tired of putting on layers of clothing just to stay warm. The maintenance of winter shoveling, heating bills, and frosty car rides get old really fast. And that yummy hot chocolate by the fire, it’s fun until the scale starts screaming at you.

Then there are the fun things to do when spring comes. Weddings, graduations, lakeside parties, the SUN! Who doesn’t want all that?

We have a flower crab tree in our yard. Most homeowners choose to put this type of tree out front for “curb appeal” when they sell. Not us, we put it in the back where we can look out our sliding glass doors from the dining room table and enjoy it every day. It was a gift I bought my hubby years ago for Father’s Day. But the thing is, It blooms around Mother’s Day – in the spring.

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The exact time, of course, depends on weather patterns but this I know for sure, after it starts blooming, the flowers are gone in less than a week. Their peak is only one day. After that, we watch the blooms become less vibrant and begin the process of falling to the ground. In a few days, they are completely gone.

In 2018, our tree peaked on May 15th. By the end of the day, the blooms were already beginning to fall.

That morning, before I even opened my eyes, I knew she was gone. I felt it in my spirit. As my eye lids lifted, meeting the sun’s rays skimming through the blinds of my bedroom windows, the void was already there. My college friend Mary had lost her battle with Muscular Dystrophy. In a short month’s time, after inevitable complications, she had left us all with only memories of her life here.

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Mary and I went to a small private college in Minnesota. One of the last times I saw her was April 29, 1984 when we walked at graduation. After that, we had a short weekend visit including a serious discussion about her high school sweet heart with whom she had reunited. She later married him, moved to Washington state, and raised a family. We periodically caught up to each other with Christmas cards and more recently through social media.

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I knew the disease would take her life early. I remember her slight limp as she walked down the hall of our dorm floor every day and the devastation in her eyes when she told me about her diagnosis. She said four of her six siblings were also diagnosed, and one day she would be living in a wheel chair. If she had children, that day would come sooner. Not knowing what to think or say, the absence of her smile spoke all I needed to know.

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Mary’s Smile returned in a few days, life at college went on and though her limp grew worse, she didn’t “burden” anyone again with her struggle. That is how she was and that is what I remember most about her. Her smile. And her selfless love, being there for other people, serving them and caring about the most important things in life. People and God. This was her life, even with the disease, what it brings, and how it all ends.

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I had been planning to make time for a trip to see Mary. So, when she passed, all I could do was think about what our visit would have been like. I imagined she would tell me about her children, now grown, like mine. I think we would have “compared notes” about marriage and what we “thought” it would be like. There would be hilarious fun, and crazy wild stories to tell about our lives apart, mirroring stories from our college years. We would have been vulnerable and honest about ALL of our brokenness and need. Unlike our younger selves. We would laugh and hug and smile.

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Today is May 15th, 2019. One year since Mary left us.

Our crab tree is lingering. It hasn’t even begun to bud. But I know it’s coming.

One day soon LIFE will show itself and beauty will arrive, just like Mary arrived in our lives. And just as quickly, the blossoms will begin falling to the ground and be gone.

We all long for it. But it won’t be long. Until we see . . . Her Smile.

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8 thoughts on “Mary’s Smile

    • Thank you Shelly, I miss her but I wouldn’t want her back in this life – she is whole and healed and visiting with her sister who also suffered with MD. She’s met my Dad and is loving on my little girl. I will see her soon.

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  1. Sandy, Thank you for sharing your beautiful friend with us. I know what it like to have a friend that you can feel if she is distressed or sick, I would feel in my heart when she was gone.
    I’m sorry your friend is gone, it sounds like she was a blessing to so many, you will see her again.

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  2. Sandy, I am reading this for the first time. I do not know how I missed it, since Mary was a huge part of my college and special relationships. I write this comment through buckets of tears.

    I have been re-reading & looking at many FB posts and memory jogs from that FB feature. Incredibly emotional responses overwhelm me, in these past few days. I can hardly contain the thoughts and feelings!

    The one thing that I can say is that YOU have been a key player in my ongoing appreciation of those college connections and experiences. I can never reclaim the hours of conversations or personal visits that were missed, for one reason or excuse that interfered with an action of simple love-inspired connection. I missed so many blessings of Mary’s genuine love and sunny & positive affirmations between us.

    Going forward, I will make a more intentional call to action in communicating with friends & family that continue to impact and influence my life. YOU & Dan are two of them. Thank you, sister friend, for penning such a special tribute to our friend, Mary, and for our ongoing conversations of randomness & various topics throughout the years.

    Love to you,

    Buffy

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    • Buffy,
      Thank you so much for popping over here to read and comment. I think many of us miss those college days when we could stop in any time and chat in person. As it happens, I am restarting my writing career today after over a year away. Covid, wedding planning, all have taken me away. I hope you signed up for notifications when I post again. Love you!

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