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Friday, March 10, 2006


Service of Remembrance: what Sylvia Furlong said

I first met Mary Lee on February 10, 1998 in a meeting room at the King Edward Hotel. We had both just been elected to the first Board of Directors of the condominium we lived in.

We worked closely together on many condominium projects in that first turbulent year, and in subsequent years — projects that she tackled with what became her usual energy, dedication and thoroughness.

As might be expected, it was not roses all of that time. Two strong and opinionated women are bound to have their “moments” and Mary Lee and I were no exception. We had our share of “differences of opinion” over the years before we finally settled down and learned to “not sweat the small stuff”.

Mary Lee lived her life flat out, without guile or pretence. She always spoke her mind and left little doubt as to what her feelings on the subject were. Anyone meeting Mary Lee for the first time soon learned that “What you see is what you get”. She was always straight up, never played mind games nor got bogged down by “political correctness”.

She was kind, passionate and caring. She was generous to a flaw and supported every charity that came her way. She especially cared about animals, particularly the four-legged kind. As for the two-legged kind (unless they were birds), she was more selective and had no time or patience for those who felt society owed them a living. She never failed to stand up for her beliefs. Whether you agreed with her or not, you could not help but admire and respect her honesty.

Her love of animals was sincere and reciprocated. She never met a dog that she didn’t like or that didn’t like her. She could instantly befriend any dog she met on the street. The dog would wag his tail and lick her hand and then he would growl at me.

The number of lives Mary Lee touched is truly extraordinary. It was truly humbling to witness the number of people that surrounded her bedside day after day, morning, noon and night, for weeks. She was greatly loved and cared about by many. There’s a saying that it is easy to have a lot of friends when times are good, but only real friends are there when times are bad. Mary Lee had many, many real friends.

She finally realized this with great and genuine surprise. A few short weeks ago, while she was still able to speak, and in a rare moment when there was just the two of us, she said, with real wonder in her voice, that she couldn’t believe how many people came to see her and really cared about her. For whatever reason, she had always felt that she didn’t have many friends. How sad that she felt that way at all, but how wonderful that she was able to realize that she had been wrong while she still could.

It is a great privilege to have had her in my life, albeit for far too short a time. She never failed to amaze me with the depth and versatility of her knowledge about a phenomenal number of subjects. I was quite in awe of her ability to process, absorb and retain information in exquisite detail and accuracy. She kept me up-to-date on current events, and science (especially medicine), and politics, but most importantly, which of the current crop of TV shows were worth watching.

Mary Lee got me hooked on several TV shows which we enjoyed discussing, analysing and speculating about future plot twists after every episode by email and/or over coffee and cookies at our local Starbucks’.

Speaking of cookies, Mary Lee had an intriguing habit. She only ate the edge of a cookie and threw the middle away. Go Figure. That wasn’t the only anomaly she had when it came to food. She also liked her toast one stage below charcoal. Ditto for the tops of chocolate chip muffins. They had to be very “crispy” and were the only part of the muffin that she ate.

Starbucks’ will never be the same. I got a knot in my stomach every time I passed it when it became evident that Mary Lee would not get better. It is now an ache in my heart that will not go away anytime soon.

You were a remarkable woman, Mary Lee. An original. I miss you Doll.

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