Beyond Love
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 by Ron Cruger
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       Everything was set to celebrate Maryís 100th birthday in eighteen days. The congratulatory letters from the President of the United States, and the Mayor of San Jose had already arrived. Her family, friends and neighbors had made their plans to attend the party at Maryís house.
       Mary hadnít been feeling all that well for the past few days, but she had been looking forward to seeing her old friends and family and those wonderful neighbors who knew her from her fifty eight years of living in the same house on the peaceful tree lined street in San Jose.
       Recent days had found Mary confined to her comfortable chair in the family room. Walking had become difficult for her.
Her son and her daughter cared for Mary. Their lives were devoted to her care.
       Then one recent day Mary had some difficulty in rising from her bed. She was rushed to the hospital. The tests were performed but a cause for her difficulties werenít found. A few days went by and then Mary died. It seemed as though Mary was tired. She had lived almost a hundred years, offering love and caring for scores of friends, neighbors and family during her century of giving to others.
       The immediate shock of losing Mary struck like a thunderbolt. Mary was such an important part of so many lives that the thought of her not being with them was staggering.
       The astonishment of not having Mary was close to unthinkable. Then, as the hours went by, the realization became truth that Mary would always be with everyone she had ever met. She had touched so many lives with her caring, her honesty and her love that Mary would live forever in their hearts.
       Her family had to make plans for a funeral now, instead of a 100th birthday party.
       Neighbors and friends joined Maryís family in expressing their condolences. Almost all mentioned how Mary had impacted their lives in special ways. They told of their admiration for her and how her life was devoted to others.
       Her family felt their loss but a feeling of gratitude accompanied their grief. They knew of their good fortune in having had Mary in their lives for so long.
       At the services one of Maryís two brothers, himself in his eighth decade, leaned closer to his younger brother and reverently said, ďGod, Mary was good to us. She took care of us. She was like our mother and our sister. She kept us going straight. She taught us how to live good lives.Ē Maryís other brother replied, ďShe devoted her life to all of us; brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, plus her own children. We all owe Mary a great deal.Ē
       A neighbor said, ďI donít think things will ever be the same without Mary being here. Iím just glad we had her here with us for as long as we did.Ē
       Maryís four children, two sons and two daughters, stood together after the services. They agreed that the only regret they shared was that their mother was no longer with them. But, they agreed that their motherís life filled their own with love and compassion. There were no regrets of the past. A pride filled their hearts that their mother had given each of them her full love and attention. They said that their mother was strict but kind. Each was thankful that Mary was their mother. Not a single complaint was offered by Maryís children. She was the object of their adoration full and total.
       The services ended and family and friends gathered together to share their thoughts of Mary.
       Her children hugged each other as did her brothers and sister.
       Standing alone, one of Maryís brothers stood still by a bouquet of flowers. It was as though he wanted to envision Mary once more time when they were both children, playing and enjoying the day as they did so many years ago.