No, before you get started thinking this is a reflection on the life of the mother of Jesus, let me clarify. This is the story of one of the heroes in my life, my sister Mary, who was the inspiration of my cancer bracelet. Her full name was Mary Elizabeth, but she preferred that we called her Mary.
Mary was the second oldest in our family. I adored her as an older sibling and wanted to be just like her. She was smart and seemed to have it all together. She could also be very kind – except for the time when she slammed the bedroom door on my finger! Ouch! On the positive side of that, I didn’t have to go to church that evening. 🙄
One of my earliest memories of Mary was begging her to read out loud the book that she was quietly browsing. I remember her saying that I wouldn’t understand what it was about. I didn’t care. I just wanted to hear her voice.
Another early memory of Mary had to do with a moose! Yes, a moose! We grew up in the small community of Freshwater, Placentia Bay. Mary and two of her best friends had been walking down the hill when they had been chased by a moose! This caused some real drama in the household! I remember thinking how brave they were.
Mary was brilliant. She never seemed to have to study. She always got top marks. As a young teen growing up, I looked up to her as a role model and a guide. I watched her carefully. I do remember, for example, being fascinated as she put rollers in her hair. She would put those rollers in perfectly each time – not even using a mirror - not a hair out of place. I thought that she had it all together.
One day, however, I did a regretful thing. I found her diary and read a part of it. Mary wrote how ugly and fat she felt. I was ashamed and sorry for what I had done. I did, however, learn a lot more about my sister then. It was an awakening and the start of the end of innocence for me. I saw her then as a real human, struggling to find her way as well. I think that it did help me love her more and want her to be happy.
It was a sad day when Mary left home to go to St. John’s to what was then called Trade’s School. She was enrolled in a two-year Laboratory Technology course. In her second year, Mary found out that she was pregnant. My younger sister, Maria, and I knew nothing about this. Back in the late ’60s, this was an area of real shame. All we knew was that Mary was getting married. It was a quiet, simple wedding. I was the maid of honour. I can still remember our father going around all night with his wallet out, paying for things. The look on this face! We had a flat tire on the way home. It was not a joyous, happy memory.
Mary gave birth to a baby girl, Lisa. She was a bright, beautiful little girl who gave joy to Mary’s difficult life. She did not have it easy. Gone were the dreams of her career. Money was extremely tight, and I can remember Mary carrying a little counter (precursor to a calculator) with her when she got groceries. She made every penny count. She lived in a house with no indoor toilet, with a bucket that had to be emptied in the backyard. She kept the house spotless and never complained.
Then Mary was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma when Lisa was just a baby. We will never know the full extent of what she went through over the next nine years until her death in 1978. She never complained, but remained stoic, positive, and ever loving! I know that not being there for her daughter was one of the things that troubled her the most. It wasn’t until I became a mother myself, that I realize how much of an impact that this had on her. When Mary died, I remember watching my father cry. It was the only time that I had ever seen him cry.
Fast forward a lot of years. I was at a show selling my jewellery. I had just retired from teaching and had started my business to help support my own two children. I saw a bracelet with stones that represented different cancers and it hit me. This is a way that I can honour Mary! I decided on that day that I was going to create a bracelet that represented all the cancers that I could find. It took many months of research and ordering and trying out different colours of crystals. When I finally created the bracelet, I knew that it was meant to be. When I touched the lime-coloured crystal that represented Mary’s cancer, I felt a powerful feeling of connection. That is why I often tell people that the bracelet came THROUGH me, not FROM me.
It is dedicated not only to Mary but to all of those who have lost their lives or the lives of those they love to cancer.
This bracelet is all about love, it is about healing, and it is about connection.
I miss Mary even after all of those years, but I know that she is at peace and free of pain. She is still in our hearts and still connected through our Hope Crystals Cancer Awareness bracelet.