Today is the seven-week anniversary of Mary’s death. Â There is a part of me that still finds it hard to believe that I just typed the words “Mary’s death.” Â There are moments when I just can’t quite accept that I am not going to see her again in this lifetime, and then there are other moments when that reality is very stark and incredibly painful.
But it Â was very nice, this past weekend, to drive out to her hometown of Lodi for a celebration of her life. Â Family and friends from all parts of her life — from her childhood, from her college years, from her San Francisco years, from her teaching career — gathered atÂ Bare Ranch, as per Mary’s request. Â It’s part of a winery that is owned by some very dear friends of hers, and it is stunningly beautiful: a lovely old house and grounds, right in the heart of the vineyards.
It was a glorious day, the kind of day that feels almost like spring. Â Compared to the pouring rain we had the Saturday before, we could not have been luckier.
The tables were set with framed photos of Mary at various points of her life, along with roses and votive candles of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Â The Willy Wonka candy scattered about is a nod to the fact that Mary’s husband Tom proposed to her after a showing of the old Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory movie. Flowers, spirituality, friends and family, and whimsy: some of Mary’s favorite things.
We ate good food, drank excellent wine from the vineyard, and there was an open mic where people could share their Â memories of Mary. Â There were tables on which were displayed photos, albums, and letters from her elementary school students, written right before she passed away. Â I read them and they made me both smile with their adorableness and cry with their sincerity. Â â€œI am preying [sic] for you,” one student wrote. Â â€œI hope you survive. Â I want you to live forever,” another student wrote. Â I know exactly how he felt.
It was extremely comforting to have this event seven weeks after Mary’s death, and six weeks after her funeral. Â It was so cathartic to gather with other people who loved her, to share the hilarious and moving stories and to learn some new ones. Â And I enjoyed being in Lodi, Mary’s hometown, a place which she’s spoken of so often over the years. Â Â As the sun dipped down lower in the sky, everything was beautiful: a photographer’s paradise. Â My photos don’t do it justice, though Mary’s would have.
And I thought about how Mary loved beautiful places, good wine, and kind people. Â It seemed only fitting that she was bringing all of that together, even after her death.
I have a hunch she’ll keep on finding ways to make that happen.
Mary had what is called cholangiocarcinoma, or bile duct cancer, Â a very rare and terrible disease. Â She was very sensitive to the sufferings of her fellow cancer patients, especially those who, like her, had Â forms of cancer that don’t get much press. Â Please consider saying a prayer for those who suffer from this disease. Â You can find out more about it at cholangiocarcinoma.org.