There have been many women who have influenced my life in various ways -- some more than others. Perhaps none more than Mary White.
When I wrote my first book about Teddy Bears I joined a local fan club. They were a delightful group of warm-hearted people who loved their bears and took them everywhere. They also insisted on "good works" and "spreading the love" associated with Teddy Bears.
And so I joined them one Sunday afternoon and visited sick kids in a local hospital. We had a great time distributing bears to kids recovering from various operations and altercations with strange objects. Mary White was our nurse guide through the afternoon. She was a large black woman with a powerful, but gentle, voice -- dressed in a starched uniform. She exuded authority and no nonsense as she dealt quietly with each child's needs.
I must confess that hospitals are not my favorite idea for a Sunday afternoon outing but that day was exceptional.
As we were leaving, Mary touched my arm and smiled at me, "You'll be back. I can see it."
Well, she was right. I did go back and over the years that followed I became a counselor for terminal kids and their families. I've worked in hospitals around the globe and been on call for the Red Cross in times of crisis. The entire direction of my life changed that Sunday afternoon and the mentoring efforts of nurse Mary.
As Easter approaches I'd like to honor Mary's memory by telling an amusing story about another Sunday afternoon. Mary sang in the choir of her church up in Harlem. She invited me to attend services and hear her solo. So on a bright Sunday morning I jumped in a cab and headed up to Harlem. The first thing I saw was a sight I will never forget. All the ladies were wearing amazing colorful and highly imaginative hats -- all beautifully crafted. Flowers, veiling, and ribbons festooned each brightly colored straw brim and matched or accented the ensemble of the wearer. As we sat in the church the hats created a garden of color that took on a life of its own as we stood to sing and sat to listen. Heads bobbed from side to side sending blossoms rippling as if in a gentle breeze.
Afterwards, I told Mary how impressed and delighted I was by the array of bonnets. She smiled her beautiful smile and took me hand.
"Honey, you can't talk to God without a good hat."