Happy New Year!
As another year greets us, we often find ourselves reflecting on the year behind us. The joy and sorrow sketched on our faces are evident of the year's ups and downs. Though everyone's experiences differ, one thing remains constant - we are hopeful for new beginnings. We take what we've learned, look forward to applying it to the future, swearing and hoping this time will be different. Nobody has adapted this approach better than Mary.
To do Mary's story justice we need to start at the beginning. I won’t lie to you, this one was very difficult to write but this woman has a spark and strength that outmatches anybody's I’ve seen. If Mary can hold her head high with a smile that can brighten the darkest rooms, then I most certainly can write about her.
I first met Mary at Burton's Grill to talk about my personal project, "What's Your Story?", in early November. After talking to her for three straight hours sharing life stories, I not only knew that I have the right woman for my first story, but I also knew, in my heart, that I had just gained a new friend. We laughed. We cried. We celebrated being women. The stranger sitting across from me had now become someone I will remember and know for the rest of my life...
This is Mary before her make-over.
And here she is after!!! Her reaction upon seeing her transformation was PRICELESS. :)
Mary spent her early childhood days on a street called Child Avenue right outside of Philadelphia. As the name implies, that street was full of children! She spent her days jumping from backyard to backyard, friends and family in tow as she unknowingly became an intuitive, compassionate and active child.
Just before middle school, Mary’s family moved to Needham, Massachusetts leaving behind her elementary school friends and the safety net that they provide when heading into that awkward stage of life. Before the days of texting and facebook, when people moved away, the connection would slowly fade. The friends you told your deepest and darkest secrets to would slowly become strangers unless you were lucky enough to see them once or twice a year. Already a shy child, Mary was embarking on her life adjusting to the loss of her friends while being in a new environment. Though the adjustment was tough she once again found her days spent in backyard bliss surrounded by new friends.
While Mary’s high school days were what she considered a ‘normal experience’, life had plenty in store for her. After getting married, she and her husband found they were unable to conceive. For any woman this would be a crushing blow but for Mary it was much like adapting to her new life in Massachusetts. Mary took some inspiration from her sister who adopted her son - she set out to start her own family.
Jocelyn, now 22, was born in California and adopted as a newborn. She became the first of Mary's three children and gave the new couple the full child rearing experience they always wanted.
Cory, would have been 20 this year, was adopted from Columbia, South America when he was two months old. He was smiling the first time they met him and went on to be a very happy child and much like his mother.
And Jian, their youngest at 17, was adopted from China. Though she had been sick as a baby, her new family provided her the love and care she needed to get better.
Events just seem to come at Mary one after another. With every blow Mary coped with these circumstances by shielding herself from the outside and grieving on her own. One of the first of several events to hit Mary was the loss of her father. Shortly thereafter, the family was blindsided with the unexpected passing of her nephew. Her pain just seem to ripple with yet another misfortune to the family; the loss of her mother. This season in Mary's life only became more difficult as her own marriage ended in divorce, carrying the toll of the split coupled with the financial burden. As difficult as this all had been, something much more devastating was to come with no hint or explanation - the loss of her second child and only son, Cory…
Cory was a fun-loving, athletic, compassionate & smiling young boy. Handsome as he was, he befriended those who were less popular and came with a swagger in him that generated a positive vibe to those around him. No one could ever say they were prepared for that sad day in June 2012 when a boy who was seen to have had so much, felt his life was not as important to him as it was to those around him. That tragic day came when Cory looked to a higher being and left our world well before his time…
It is tough to put to words the devastation felt when you lose a loved one who has lived life to the fullest let alone one who was barely a few years removed from adolescence. Often in times like these we can only rest in our faith knowing Cory is in a better place and think back to all the good memories we had with him while he was with us.
These memories help Mary with the shield she has used to separate her emotions from those who love her. While she admits that the untimely and unwarranted passing of Cory has made it difficult at times to lower that shield, she knows that her inner strength has grown. Knowing that she is in the midst of the storm, she understands that there is still work to be done. The fond and loving memories of Cory has and will continue to provide the much needed emotional lift to one day rid the shield, become stronger each day and start her life anew again. Her journey begins now and it is Cory providing the guidance to Mary this time around.
Mary has been no stranger to life’s emotional twists and turns. Her patience, perseverance and fortune have all been tested and tried, but much like a downtrodden warrior these things have inevitably challenged her and made her stronger. She is a woman of strength, resilience, love, redemption, and compassion if only to name a few. Now filling her days helping people become healthier with Yoga or creating new fitness regimens for her clients, she brings peace to others by helping them become more centered.
Though she can’t hide the fact that Cory took his own life, can’t hide the fact that she and her former husband have divorced, as much as she would like to protect her children from the tougher parts of life, they also need to learn to accept the ebb and flow of life.
After listening to Mary answer the questions I had to write this story, I found myself in a state of deep reflection. I think we all tend to doubt ourselves to the point where it leaves us with an inability to move forward in life. Our wants, wishes and dreams often seem so out of reach that we just let them dance among the stars. I wonder what would happen if that little voice in our heads telling us we can’t move forward would suddenly fall upon deaf ears? Imagine if you and everyone else in the world had nothing holding us back - what would we be able to accomplish? I even wonder if Mary really understands how amazing she really is, how her will to rise above has inspired us all, or even how powerful this experience of meeting her has been in my own life.
After Cory passed his sisters have established a Facebook page in his honor called Cory Kindness which supports The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. A tree has been planted in his memory and is synonymous with Cory’s spirit which continues to grow.
“Grief does not change you. It reveals you.”
~John Green, The Fault in Our Stars
I wish you all a wonderful 2013! Never give up, and ignore that little voice that tells you you can’t do it.
Stay strong and happy,