+Mary’s Memorial will be next Wednesday, June 17th at 4pm.
105 Center St, Pembroke, MA (781) 293-2584
On May 27th my Aunt, Mary Margaret Cahill passed away at South Shore Hospital after a short bout of heart disease at the age of eighty.
Born in 1934 in Squantum_(Quincy,_Massachusetts) to a poor Irish family, Mary suffered a brain injury at birth and was (to most peoples observation) cognitively limited. She never had a job, or got married. Brought up in a Catholic School for Girls, she was only taught to wash, iron and sweep. In the best moment of their lives, my parents took her out of that place and made a place for her in their family a year after they married. In doing so they rescued her from a cruel life alone and without love. It was not an easy decision. At first, Mary was undernourished and very frightened. My mother has told me that at first she had to be shown how to get ready for bed and to take a shower. Showers were not something that she had had access to. When I looked at Mary’s height, 5ft tall, I saw a person much shorter than anyone else in the family. I saw someone that did not get the milk and protein that a human being needs to grow to their full size. I saw a poor hungry child abandoned by her parents and judged by her guardians to be undeserving of the basic goods of life, health and strength.
But in her was a generous spirit. In her was all the generosity of the most beneficent Millionaire. Even better. If a thousand dollars to a rich person is a small portion of their wealth, then a few dollars to Mary was at times all she had and she would happily give it to you if she thought you needed it. Perhaps we who were her friends and family can claim some bit of credit for Mary’s open and generous heart, if we helped to provide for her or to give her a safe haven.
Stories of Mary’s love and friendliness abound. There is a saying, “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Mary thought we all deserved her love. Blessed were those that accepted that love.
There are so many!
A few Christmases ago, Mary’s niece (my sister Kristina) and her partner brought Mary to their towns Christmas celebration at the town square. A State road ran through the center of the square and there were things to do on both sides of the road. To safely provide for the passage of revelers from one side of the road to the other a town policeman stood in the middle of the road directing traffic. Well, if you or I see a cop in the middle of the street with his arms outstretched, palms up. We understand that he is directing traffic. Mary looked at him and decided that he wanted a hug. So before either my sister or Cheryl could react, Mary was off the sidewalk and into the road. The startled Police Officer looked down and there was a little old lady attached to him, arms wrapped around him and smiling.
When (after almost fifty years) my mother and Mary could no longer live alone in the old family home in Pembroke, I brought them to Weymouth to live with me. Shortly after arriving in Weymouth, while I was at work, Mary decided to check out my bureau drawers. You see, Mary had been helping with the laundry for sixty years and particularly she had been putting away my fathers clothes in his bureau until he died. So Mary looked into my drawers and determined that this was all wrong! So she “rearranged” things to emulate my fathers bureau drawers. When I got home and some time afterwards I showered and wanted to change clothes. I opened a drawer to get some socks and . . .
I eventually give up and got used to the way Mary had arranged things. What could I do?
Did I mention that Mary liked to iron? When she got bored and didn’t have enough to do, she ironed my underwear. That was strange.
Before her heart disease became an issue, Mary liked to walk in the park next to the house. I had given her a key to the house because she didn’t always let us know when she was going out for a walk. If we had to go out and lock up, we wanted her to be able to get back in. I was stunned to find out that Mary had never had a key to the house that she lived in. In Pembroke I don’t think the doors were ever locked. But the problem remained, Mary didn’t know how to use a house key. So I gave her her own key, with a wrist bracelet to put it on. Then there was getting her used to taking it with her whenever she went out. Plus she had to learn how to use it. For a few weeks, whenever Mary left the house and I saw she had not taken her key but she had left the door unlocked. I locked the door and waited for her to return. She tried the door, walking around the porch and trying each door in turn until she would have to ring the doorbell. Then she and I would have a “little discussion” on taking her key whenever she went outside. One day she left the house and I saw that she HAD taken her key. I immediately locked the doors and waited. Mary returned and found the door locked. I was waiting on the other side of the door and listened as she tried the door latch then a short pause as she procured her key and fumbled with the lock for a minute until she was successful in unlocking the door. I retreated out of sight before she came in. But I was so proud of her.
One day on one of her walks in the park, two well-meaning women encountered Mary. She loved to approach people walking their dogs and if she thought that the dog would be friendly she ask the owner if she could pet them. But these women became alarmed for some reason tried to question Mary. But Mary could become agitated if questioned and become unable to answer any question. So, while in sight of our house, they called 911 and Mary was transported to the local hospital to be examined. An hour later as I began to wonder where she was at, having called some of her friends in the neighborhood and not locating her, a Weymouth Police Officer came to the door. I went up the ER and found her sitting happily on a gurney with a can of ginger ale and watching the coming and goings of everyone with great interest. That little excursion cost MassHealth about two thousand dollars. Afterwards I made up a ID badge for her to wear when she went out. She loved it.
One story that my mother still remembers, vividly, is from when all us kids were very young and so was Mary. Two or three families went down to Cape Cod in the summer and rented one house into which all the mothers and the kids were stuffed in together. The fathers worked in the city and came out on the weekend. We kids thought it was funny that the daddies had to share a narrow bed with the mommies, we were unfamiliar with vertical stacking. But everyone was young, especially the young couples and the mommies and the daddies had been separated all week. The first weekend came around and the men arrived, there was BBQ and softball and swimming at the nearby beach. Then that first night after everyone went to bed it was discovered that it was a mistake to give Mary a bedroom on the first floor, directly under the bedroom of one of the young married couples. Around midnight, the whole house was awoken by poor, innocent Mary. She had gone upstairs and was pounding on the door of their bedroom and yelling in alarm “Are you alright S****? I could hear you crying and screaming downstairs, are you sick?”. Immediate changes were made in the room assignments and at no time for the duration of the summer was Mary’s room located underneath any married couples bedroom.
Mary always took a great interest in everything, especially the people around her.
I may add to this but what I would really like would be for the people who knew her to have an opportunity to read what I’ve put down so far and comment. Especially I’d like them to add to this in the comments about what they remember about Mary. Update: Disappointing lack of response, tomorrow I need to give the minister doing her eulogy what we want to be remembered about her.
Mary’s Memorial will be next Wednesday, June 17th at 4pm.