This morning I attended a memorial service for a friend of mine, someone who was almost exactly two months younger than me. I first met Mary at the elementary school, where her son and my daughter were in the same grade. She had lost her husband when her children were 2 and 5, and despite the challenges of being a single mom, she was an active volunteer at the school. When our kids were freshmen in high school, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She fought long and hard to beat it, and for awhile it seemed she had succeeded.
Unfortunately the cancer metastasized, and it went everywhere. But she did not give up hope, or her fight to be there for her kids. I would see her out and about when she felt well enough, and after she could no longer drive she still walked to the places and events she wanted to attend. And she kept going to our local fitness center up through November. She became the inspiration for those of us in my small group training. By God, if Mary could undergo chemotherapy and still come to work out, there was no reason for us not to be there!
She was genuinely the nicest person I have ever known - inside and out. And that was reflected in the turnout today. The church was packed with those whose lives Mary had touched. The minister encouraged us to attend a reception after the service to share our stories with the family and each other. I took the opportunity to tell her son a couple of things. I reminded him of the time my daughter invited him to her birthday party. "Yes, I was like five or six," he said. I told him I had asked his mom if it would bother him that he would be the only boy there - he was the only boy that had been invited. "Oh no," Mary said to me, "he gets invited to all the girls' parties." All the girls liked Paul. I also let him know what she meant to all of us at the recreation center. The big, burly guys that worked out when she did all rushed to see if she needed help with anything. And they all asked about her when she could no longer come in.
I will never be able to understand why someone so wonderful has to face the many challenges that Mary faced. Or why these two young people have to go through their lives without any parents. But I am grateful that she is finally without pain, and feel so blessed that I was able to know her.