“As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” –Marianne Williamson
“I’m so excited!” Mary Ann said, waving her hands in the air and stamping her feet with the exuberance of a child who’d just entered the gates at Disney. “When I heard Bruno Mars was coming to town I just thought, ‘Who’s crazy enough to go with me?’” she added.
“I’m so happy to be your ‘crazy-enough’ friend,” I laughed. “Call me anytime you need crazy!” We get along with the ease you see in women who have life-long friendships. We’ve known each other for about a year.
When I first moved to my condo after selling the house that my late husband and I had shared I was looking for a new sense of community. I joined the communications committee and met some neighbors right away. They kept saying, “You’ve got to meet Mary Ann. You’ll really like her.” She was out of town for a few months.
One day we were all sitting out by the courtyard enjoying cocktails and conversation when Mary Ann walked up to join us. A pretty woman with a big smile, bright eyes and curly brown hair, she was dressed casually but very chic. Both her look and her demeanor had a youthful energy that denied her 50+ years while at the same time being perfectly age appropriate. Not the look of someone trying to appear younger than they are but of a woman with style who fully owns and appreciates where she is right now. Her energy encircled the rest of us. You would have guessed that she’d just returned from an exciting vacation—not from Houston’s MD Anderson Cancer Center where she’d had surgery to address the second occurrence of cancer.
As I quickly got to know Mary Ann I learned that she has two grown children, had been a nurse in hospital and hospice, had traveled the world in corporate relocations with her Fortune 500-executive ex-husband and she is on the boards of various committees and charities. Our morning walks reveal her intelligence, seasoned spiritual side and the deep wisdom that comes from living a full life.
At the same time, I quickly saw that in our neighborhood, Mary Ann’s is the party house. There are always people coming and going at Mary Ann’s. Her children are coming to visit, friends stopping by on their travels, people staying for the week or the weekend, neighbors popping over for wine. Mary Ann always has lots of good food, bottles of wine and the music is cranked up loud. There is dancing. A full-on party always involves dancing but at Mary Ann’s dancing may break out in the kitchen while preparing food or in the foyer welcoming arriving guests. There are hugs. Hello hugs. Good-bye hugs. ‘I’m happy in this moment and glad you’re here’ hugs. It’s always happy at Mary Ann’s! You are always loved at Mary Ann’s. There is always laughter at Mary Ann’s. I’ve never met anyone—young, old, male, female—that lives life with such gusto.
When I feel blue because my life didn’t work out as I’d planned, my husband died, my career hasn’t made me rich and famous, I can’t get a date or I stubbed my toe–whatever I’m whining about–I just think of Mary Ann. She’s collected true friends around the world. She’s given birth to two babies and raised them into fine upstanding adults. She’s gone through divorce without becoming bitter. She’s nursed hundreds of sick and injured. She’s held the hands of men and women as they died. She’s battled cancer a couple times herself and she still sees every day as a new adventure. I think of Mary Ann and get my whiny-self up off the couch and crank the music loud. It’s a new day. A new adventure. A new opportunity for a miracle.
Thursday night Mary Ann and I had a great dinner then walked over to Atlanta’s new Ferris wheel. We couldn’t believe that there was no line. We walked right up, had our picture taken and bantered with the guys working there. Up, up, up the wheel took us. We ooh’d and ahh’d over the view, snapping pictures of downtown Atlanta as if we’d never seen it before. We walked to Phillips arena and found our seats at the concert, fully expecting to be the oldest folks there. The opening act was good. And then there was Bruno Mars. Bruno Mars! “You are my treasure!” “I should have brought you flowers.” He sang. He danced. He played guitar. He played drums. He flirted with the audience. We sang. We danced. We waved our arms in the air. We giggled like teenyboppers at their first concert. “You’re amazing just the way you are!”
If you want to live life with passion, surround yourself with passionate people and crank up the volume of your life!
I don’t know you but Mary Ann was my friend and I thank you for writing this beautiful piece about her. I too remember her this way. I just learned of her passing and a full of grief. Your writing was a joy to read. God bless Mary Ann!!