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Mary Ruth Warner (1946-2009)

There’s a Dylan line in “Just Like a Woman” that goes, “Queen Mary, she’s my friend,/Yes, I believe I’ll go see her again.” I always thought of Mary when I heard that line, and I always will.

Mary had class, her own unique style of class: part small-town, part downtown, part queen of the road; ironic, tough, no-nonsense but always gracious, always generous, always thoughtful, always kind. Mary put us, her family and friends, first, and when we had children, she was unfailingly interested in, and kind to, them. Mary is the only person in the world besides my mother and wife who never failed to remember my birthday. When I told my son David the terrible news, he said just that: she was always kind to him and he would miss her like a member of the family. She thought about us, she looked after us, she cared for us all, in every sense of that phrase.

As long as I live, I’ll see Mary’s hands, which always seemed too strong and capable for her slender frame.

I’ll see her squatting to make a fire with a bit of paper and some twigs, to gather us around on a walk or at the end of the dock.

I’ll see her looking up from a book, because Mary the Honours English student loved literature all her life and read a staggering amount of it.

I’ll hear her throaty, incredulous laugh at the idiocies of the world.

I’ll see 8 Howard, the green amethyst-stone jewelbox of a hearth she kept for us for forty years.

I’ll see the exotic spreads of food she’d lay out, with no apparent effort or expense but in fact with great expense of time and energy and consideration. Mary was always the perfect host, just as she was the perfect guest, always conscious of what people needed, what needed to be done, and doing it.

I don’t need to say that depression is a terrible affliction. Most of us have had a taste of it, but few of us, I expect, have suffered it as Mary did this past year. Sometimes talking to her lately was like talking to a lost and bewildered child at the bottom of a well. It’s an absolutely unbearable state of mind to be in. I know that. What I also know is that her departure was not selfish and it was the last thing from intentionally cruel. She left the stage because the pain was too much to bear and because she wanted us simply to be, without her suffering in our lives.

Here is what I believe:

To the end, Mary cared for us all. She was the queen who was our true friend. She did not want us to know her pain. We are never going to forget her.

 


Greg Hollingshead
27 August 2009