Goodbye, my friend
Iím grateful for everyone who reads this column each week, but over the years one reader has been a special one.
Of course, Mary Ann Bell was more than just a reader. When I came to Berryville in 2014, Mary Annís husband, David, was one of the first people to go out of his way to make me feel welcome.
David was our staff photographer then and we quickly became very good friends.
I was living paycheck to paycheck at that point, still paying a significant chunk of my income in child support. I cannot count the number of times David bought my lunch because I didnít have the money to spare. More than that, though, he and Mary Ann sort of adopted me. I spent several holidays at their house along with their daughter Emily and sons John and Robert. They always made sure I had a place to go if I wasnít able to spend the holidays with my own family.
Anyone who had the pleasure of meeting Mary Ann knows what kind of person she was. She simply exuded goodness and kindness to everyone she met. She always put othersí needs before her own and I never heard her complain once about her chronic illness.
David always called Mary Ann not his better half, but his better seven-eighths. Now, David is one of the best people Iíve ever known, but he was right about Mary Ann. She was very special.
I canít count the times that David stopped by my apartment over the years with a plate of cookies or a slice of cake that Mary Ann had made. Once, he dropped off sort of a sampler plate with slices of various pies and cakes. One of them was a slice of Mississippi Mud Cake ó the cake my mom always made for the holidays. I hadnít tasted one in years. I will never forget the feeling I had when I took a bite of that cake and thought of my mom.
Even though Mary Ann never had a bad word to say about anyone, she did have a razor-sharp wit that always seemed to catch me just a little off guard. She was mild-mannered and sweet, but she was also sharp as a tack.
She read my column every week and she would often comment on it. Mary Ann and I had a lot of the same ideas from a political perspective. David is more conservative but we can have friendly discussions about political issues without either of us taking it personally. I wish more people could do that.
Iíll never forget the last day I saw Mary Ann. It was Nov. 23, the day I married my wife, Lisa, at David and Mary Annís church in Berryville. David officiated, which meant a great deal to me, and Mary Ann was one of a couple of witnesses.
Before we left the church that day, I asked Mary Ann for a hug. I knew she hadnít been doing well and I wanted her to know how much she had meant to me. I told Mary Ann that I loved her and she said she loved me too. Iím so glad that I was able to say those words to her.
Mary Ann died Saturday at her home with her family by her side.
My heart breaks for David and for the entire family. I wish there was something I could say or do to ease their pain but words donít offer much consolation. But hopefully there is some comfort in the knowledge that Mary Ann is no longer sick, no longer suffering.
Mary Ann, my life was better because I was blessed enough to know you.