There are no words that I could write that would better characterize this amazing woman or her life than those her husband, Dennis Ownby, wrote as part of her online obituary. You can read Mr. Ownby’s statement, along with comments from those who loved her, on her obituary here.
Everyone Deserves a Mary by Rev. Taylor Stevens
Shared by Dennis Ownby on June 25, 2020
It ended the way it began.
No one could point an index finger quite like Mary.
I met her in a small coffee shop across the way from the spiritual center in which I was then employed. I entered midmorning to get a cup of tea and was cheerily greeted by name by the owner and barista. A small yet mighty woman stepped out from behind a bookcase and asked of me” so you are Taylor?” I replied in the affirmative. “You are the reason I moved here.”
After a brief explanatory conversation, she pointed her index finger right at me and declared “you should teach a class on The Seven Spiritual Laws.” I took a moment or two to stare down the barrel of that finger and matched her sense of authority as I said to her “maybe YOU should teach a class on The Seven Spiritual Laws.”
She stepped back ever so slightly as her mouth opened and her eyes danced. She would later report that in that moment she knew she had met her match.
We were inseparable from that moment on.
We traveled together. We prayed together. We built and maintained spiritual community together. We cried and grieved together. We spoke literally every day. And oh, did we laugh together. We shared deeply and loved relentlessly. Beginnings, endings, holidays, milestones, even hurricanes. All together.
Our final encounter was through a window of a care facility on the occasion of her eighty-ninth birthday. It took quite a while for an aide to get her into a wheelchair and then roll her over to the window. Our eyes met and oh did hers dance! It was a look I knew well. It was a look of love beyond any I knew before or will likely ever know again.
Everyone deserves a Mary.
It did not take long during that brief but blissful final face to face for that finger to start pointing. Thanks to a sister in spirit who arranged for our birthday encounter I even have a photo of it. The photo is slightly blurred, but the memory is emblazoned forever.
She was beyond frail. She struggled to hear and seemed slightly confused. The protective mask slipped in and out of place until she finally just pulled it off. I do not recall what point she was emphasizing as she punctuated it with the same intensity as she had decades before. She pointed that index finger at me, and the frailty and confusion were gone in a flash. Mary was back. Mary was strong and prayerful and funny and loving. And though she belonged to countless other beings in that moment she was mine and mine alone. That look and that index finger were reserved for me. The history and all of our countless shared adventures were all held within that moment.
And I rightly suspected as I left that I would never see her again.
I would ponder later if that precious, yet crooked finger was telling me to go. To go and to live and to be and to serve. To move on without her. As if I could ever be without her. As if I ever will be without her. “Go, she seemed to say.” “I can go no further. I can live not much longer. You go ahead. Remember our times together. The travel, the prayer, the community, the tears, the laughter. Yes, never forget the laughter.”
Every ensuing phone conversation there was a little less of Mary. Our final chat was really a monologue. The only thing that she said with unmistakable clarity and authority was “I love you.”
And then came that fateful diagnosis.
She reportedly collapsed shortly after our last conversation. Then it was ICU. Total hearing loss. No visitation or communication. A short but surprising rebound. Back to ICU. And then hospice.
And then she was gone.
So many have decried her dying alone. I get that, at a level. But Mary was never alone. She was totally plugged into her Soul. She was surrounded by her own luminous being. And the person in front of her rapidly became her best friend.
I am well aware that I am writing these words from a place of only slightly underlying disbelief. Though eighty-nine I had long thought Mary would preside at my memorial. Which she would tell me was her worst of all fears.
That I would go before her.
I am grateful to spare her that. And I am now left to come into a relationship without my Mary by my side. For those prone to platitudes, please spare me that. I know she is with me in spirit. I know our Souls will one day merge again. But spirits and Souls do not eat most of a shared dessert. They do not ride in a car through familiar terrain as if they had never had such a pleasure. They do not purse their lips when they sign a tab or enter all rooms like everyone there was eagerly awaiting to celebrate her arrival. They do not laugh in hoots or yawn like lions. And they do not point their index fingers in ways that completely defy apt description.
They do not look at me with a look that speaks of adoration. Pure, unconditional, relentless adoration.
We had three disagreements in twenty-two years. I am grateful for those, for they told me that what we shared was real and unbreakable. And after the heat the look remained. The laughter returned. The love deepened. There was no backdoor on this friendship. Except the one she took on Saturday.
So, Mary has moved on to another room where everyone will cheer her arrival. It will not take long for the laughter to roar and the finger to point. She will hog the desserts and not understand half the jokes. But she will laugh just as if she had. Really laugh. Just for the sake of laughter.
And I will go on. Mary is forever a part of me. I will always live in that loving gaze. I am forever changed and there is no going back. I have been loved by love. A love that can never, will never die.
Everyone deserves a Mary. I will spend the rest of my life being that for others. That will be my living memorial. I will love like Mary. Live like Mary. Pray like Mary. Give like Mary.
Thank you, Mary. Thanks for all the years and all the laughs and all the prayers and all the points. You are the best friend a person could ever have. It feels somehow hard to believe I deserved you.
But then, everyone deserves a Mary.