Last Sunday I attended a memorial service for my ex-mother-in-law who recently passed after a long hospitalization. Like any finely-cut gemstone, Mary Lou Lange was multifaceted in life. My having been an ex-daughter-in-law since as long ago as the 1980s, I admittedly was granted only a limited number of firsthand interactions and yet, somehow, I still feel I got a glimpse of the essence of the woman or at least the highlights of her spirit. I call those assembled glimpses and highlights, "My Mary Lou."
My Mary Lou seemed ever open to love, both to receiving it and more importantly giving it. Her professional life had revolved around nursing, a loving-oriented career to be sure. And in her personal life, My Mary Lou seemed ever open and ready to accept a loving relationship.
She put her nursing skills to purposeful and extended use caring for her last husband after a devastating accident. In so doing she prolonged his life and the quality of it with her excellent care. Years later, in a chance meeting in a grocery store, she shared with me that it took her almost a decade and a half to recover from his loss when it ultimately and inevitably came. And yet, even having experienced all that, I'm aware Mary Lou later put herself out there again, taking the risks we all take when loving, ultimately forming yet another loving relationship during 2016 while in her 80s. Good for you, My Mary Lou! Your adventurous spirit and bravery—not only in love but indeed in all things you undertook—are among your most admirable and memorable traits.
While her life was remarkable in these and indeed many ways, what I really want to write about today are the friendships she inspired while living here in Virginia and, more significantly, how she indirectly inspired the kindness of many strangers and the implications that has for all of us.
Mary Lou wasn't from the Commonwealth originally. In fact, she was born a quarter of a world away in Hawaii and then spent many chapters of her life in California. It was actually much, much later in her life when, undoubtedly due to her intrepid nature, she made a series of adventurous decisions, the first of which—a BIG first of which—brought her eastward to move and settle on the opposite coast of the US mainland.
It started out, simply enough, with just a visit to Virginia; but then another visit followed, and another, and another. Evidently Mary Lou liked what she saw of the Commonwealth so much that before you could say, "Which is better cross-country to Virginia, Interstate 40 or Interstate 70?" she'd plunked down a chunk of change, bought a house, moved an entire household and a greenhouse from west to east, started up a couple of small businesses (because, well, why not?), all the while tending her prize-winning orchids and being active with her many other hobbies and interests.
Once in Virginia, Mary Lou also began making new friends. Among them was the kindhearted Anne Garrison, whose acquaintance I was privileged to make at last weekend's memorial service. It seems Anne Garrison and Mary Lou Lange hit it off famously. After a chance meeting in a department store, they ended up fast friends shopping together, crafting together, dining together and traveling together; chatting all the while, of course, as people do in the process of building a close friendship.
And years later, when Mary Lou fell ill, I'm told it was faithful Anne Garrison who was there at the hospital—every day without fail—sitting with Mary Lou, providing her with company, physical support and emotional comfort. What a fantastic testament to true friendship!
If meeting Anne Garrison and learning her story of steadfast friendship to Mary Lou wasn't enough, there were more revelations in store for me at last Sunday's memorial service. You see, attending along with Anne Garrison were several other people—strangers to Mary Lou actually—who not only bothered to attend the memorial service but continued on afterwards to the reception at the family home. And that's where I was honored to meet and chat with three of them: Ann (this Ann has no "e" in her name), Sofie and Edna.
At first I wondered, were these 3 ladies even more of the friends Mary Lou had made in Virginia? Through our conversation, though, I quickly came to understand that, no, these ladies knew Anne Garrison and were connected to her through a church affiliation. Now here's the remarkable part: It was due solely to their connection with Anne Garrison that Ann, Sofie and Edna had—over what may well have been many months—spent their own time and energy praying for Mary Lou, someone they had never met and didn't know. And now, here they were also attending her memorial service and meeting her family at the reception afterward.
Now I realize to some readers it's probably not remarkable that people would actually do this. After all, many churches, or church members certainly, organize prayer groups and other worthwhile activities devoted to helping the infirmed and others among us facing challenges. So it's likely some readers will find this idea familiar, especially in a church context. And others may say it's just old-timey etiquette and maybe even a little small-townish and quaint in its sweetness.
But none of that is what it means to me. None. It's actually so much bigger than that. Why? Because, from the perspective of a universe made entirely of energy, these are not merely the well-mannered, old-fashioned, charmingly sweet acts of people with time on their hands. No. From the energetic perspective, what these people are doing—radiating kindness and helpfulness and comfort and care and remote companionship—using prayer as the carrier and purposeful intent as the steering mechanism to direct these emanations toward a stranger in need, is truly profound. So much so, it intrinsically has the power to bring about huge change in the world.
How? In short, by energetically affecting everything and everyone in range of the emanations. Just like ripples of water expand ever outward from a source, ripples of goodness and positivity radiate outward the same way, affecting everything in their path including, reciprocally, the source.
So what can we all do to make the most of these naturally-occurring phenomena?
Here are 2 small ways to start:
1. Be the change you want to see in the world.
Spread good, you'll get an instant boost, and good will also ripple back to you.
2. Leave everyone a little better than how you found them.
Do you like the cashier's bracelet, tell her. Do you think your co-worker did an especially good job and wish you had done as well, compliment him earnestly (but leave your ego at the door when you do this, otherwise it'll backfire). Have a little extra cash in your pocket today, ask the toll-taker, dry cleaner, barista, or whoever, to put it toward the bill for the next person in line and continue happily on your way.
So long Mary Lou! I appreciated the opportunity to cross paths with you in life. While you were here, you made a difference, were and had a dear friend, and even inspired strangers to broadcast goodness out into the unseen energetic universe where we all actually live and swim, making everything a little better for all of us. I wish you a pleasant journey.
Here in Virginia we have four distinct seasons in our weather each year. Nature provides a soundtrack specific to each, bird songs in particular. There is a springtime bird with a joyful-sounding song who usually makes his or her debut some time in April, presumably after wisely spending the colder months in warmer places.
Earlier this month (January), in the early morning hours following Mary Lou's passing, this particular springtime bird paid me a visit and performed his happy song outside my window. It was just that one morning and just that one day, and he hasn't been by since (although I am looking forward to April). I'm pretty sure this feathered messenger arrived just to say hello and report that Mary Lou has rediscovered her freedom and joy of mobility after being liberated of the ailments that hospitalized her. Thanks for the update, and Godspeed Mary Lou!