Below is a reflection offered by Malachi member Mary McNamara at the memorial service for Mary Milo.
I wanted to share a bit about Mary before we begin Mass today. I do only know part of her story as we met when she was 78 years old.
Mary and I have been friends for the last 9 years. But we had met many times at Malachi’s before we became friends, but to be honest she was notthat charmed by me. She used to swoosh me away, say something muffled under her breath and rattle her bags when I got too close. And then oneFriday afternoon in August 2003, I met her on Bridge Avenue, in front of Dave’s. I had just moved to the neighborhood. She was at the bus stop witha load of blue grocery bags. She never admitted it, but I think the reason she responded to my greeting that day was because I was with a goodlooking man, Casey. I told her he was in seminary and she grinned. We asked if we could help her carry her groceries home, and she said yes…..and 9 years later here I stand.
Mary and I became fast friends- we shared many things in common besides the same name. Let me share a few:
A love of diet coke. A real love. Always in a can. She liked it with a straw though.
We both collect way too much paper. She was just smart enough to sort it all into blue bags.
We both found a real sense of home/community at St. Malachi’s and loved the back left corner. Even liked standing in the back corner. And nomatter how early we got up on Sunday morning- we both were usually late to mass.
We both think we look better in blue.
An appreciation of our heritage- she born to Slovenian parents and my Irish roots.
A love of Wendy’s. Frosty, fries and a burger. Always the same. You might know that back in 1991, I met Dave Thomas of Wendy’s- and all I couldmuster after being star struck by him- was ” I love Wendy’s.” 20 yearsclater, I still do. It was the meal that Mary and I shared weekly for thelast 9 years. She sometimes called me cheap for buying her the 99 centscburger. And despite all doctor’s advice to her about managing herdiabetes, she still believed a chocolate frosty was good for her. She told me every time it was because her throat was sore and she had a cough.
A fierce independence. I don’t know much about Mary before I met her at 78 years. But I imagine she was always a strong woman.
Our Catholic heritage- although we celebrate it differently. She withcscapulars. Me through Future Church.
A desire to speak the truth- although I usually have more of a filter thancMary had. Not always. She sometimes said the things I thought- butwouldn’t dare say. Like, “Lady, you are late”. “Or don’t you understandcEnglish” if I asked a clarifying question. Or “Lady, your car is toolow”when she would try to slide into my Saturn. All truths. I would just keep them to myself.
But Mary was teacher to me in many ways and I was the student/grasshopper- let me tell you 3 ways.
She taught me about faith in God through her life witness and through her suffering. Mary was a daily mass goer, when she was able. She sent prayerrequests to Ernest Angley. Her pocketbook was jammed with more prayer cards than dollar bills. She has more rosaries than pairs of shoes. Herbirthday cake candle wishes were always for God’s protection. She spent 45 minutes walking to church. Down each step from the 3rd floor- one at time-and then would make the 1/2 mile trek from the Guernsey Building to Malachi’s where she encountered many people who frightened her. You mightknow that Mary was diagnosed as paranoid schizophrenic. Malachi’s was a safe haven for her. She taught me about commitment. I had recently movedback to Cleveland when I met Mary. In the back of my mind, I wondered whether I might move back to Kentucky or even to Kenya. Mary helped groundme in Cleveland. She invited me to be her friend in 2003 and then later the court asked me to be her guardian in 2006. That invitation settled me.
She taught me about love. She taught me that love wasn’t always patient and kind, but strived to be. She taught me that loving people was toughwork and required real work. She taught me that love showed up. She taught me that the fruit of love was joy. She taught me how good it was to beknown and how safe it was. She taught me that family was not always defined by shared blood. She allowed me to see more clearly a gift God hadgiven me. It is easy for me to connect people. And Mary thrived with those connections. Once I connected her- she had her own relationship with myparents who took her shopping and talked about Medicare, with Dorsey who bought her a new watch every year, taught her how to take her blood sugarand got her to vote at the age of 82 for the first time, with Mike and Colleen who invited her to their wedding, with Casey who prayed with herand made her grin, with my aunts who loved her and never missed a birthday or Christmas card, with Ursula who tried to help her fit her hammer toesinto the perfect pair of shoes, over and over again. I could go on and on. Mary showed us the gift in our interconnectedness and the love that comesfrom needing each other. So thank you Mary for being friend, teacher, comedian, fellow Christian on the journey, member of our family. I knowmany of us are changed because you trusted us and asked us for help. And thank you to each of you for being here this morning and helping tocelebrate a life well lived- in a place that she loved, in the Mass that was so important to her and with “her family” alongside. Mary McNamara