On August 20, 1955, Edward and Joan Opatken named their third-born child Mary in honor of the Mother of Jesus Christ. Mary lived up to her namesake. God’s love manifested itself through her. She was blessed with a free spirit and strong will and possessed a unique and special talent when dealing with children. She exuded a sense of love, kindness, cheer and joy and lived according to her own internal song reminiscent of Maria in the Sound Of Music.
"How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you keep a wave upon the sand?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?
She'd out pester any pest, -- Drive a hornet from its nest,
She is gentle! She is wild! -- She's a riddle! She's a girl!
Oh, how do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you hold a moonbeam in your hand?"
To know Mary was to know love and experience God’s love through her. It has been said, “If we have but one true friend in this world we are blessed.” To have known Mary, if only for a moment, was to be blessed.
Mary chose a life of love with Brian. They were blessed with three sons and two daughters and over the years five grandchildren followed.
Meals at Mary's house were always an event frequently featuring spaghetti and meatballs and her famous sauce. The table was filled with sons, daughters, visitors, friends and neighbors. Everyone was welcome at Mary's table. Everyone added to the banter at the table and left full and delighted.
Mary always had a special relationship with children. As a freshman at Bellarmine College in 1973, her major was Special Education. Whatever prompted her calling, we may never know, but countless children have been blessed to know her. As a five-year old, Andrew, her son, asked her how in the heck the world could be made in seven days. Without hesitation, Mary answered, we are man, and our days last 24 hours… but God’s days can last millions of years.
Mary never gave up learning and giving back to her community. After raising her family, she returned to college. At the ripe youthful age of 50, Mary graduated nursing school. For ten years, she served the most acutely sick, and dying patients of the community as a palliative care nurse. Mary’s itinerary was full with never a dull moment. How could one person be in four places at once? Eating sushi with her daughter, teaching a CPR class, watching her grandchildren, and cooking dinner for her husband. All at the same time. The secret goes with her like a candle losing its flicker; the dance of her random but constant fire forever with us.
Mary met all of our needs. She would continually take on new roles as necessary to meet those needs. At St. Edwards Church, she served as a substitute teacher / nurse, Gym teacher, cake maker, crossing guard, Eucharistic minister, and member of the Women's Auxiliary of the Knights of Columbus. We remember her as a baker, bus driver, mentor, 4H Camp counselor, coach, handicapper, expert game player who was never beaten at Monopoly, bridge player, confidant, joke teller, story teller, Palliative Care RN, sister, mother, daughter, cousin, aunt, Wife, Meema and Gooma, the endearing nick names assigned by various grandchildren. She was a Nurse Administrator with Path Forward of Kentucky, member of the KY. Nursing Association, and to all who knew her, a dear friend. Every role had a story highlighting many wonderful aspects of her personality, stories we will remember and cherish forever.
Mary was diagnosed with cancer on Labor Day 2017 and passed on Valentines Day 2018. Indeed, Mary achieved her God given imperative to love and to serve. Her spirituality has been her gift to us. She remains forever in our hearts, in our own spirituality.
Seated at the great table set by God, by Mary we have been fed, nourished in mind, body and spirit.
We are forever grateful, Mary Frances Opatken Gregory, your love lives forever in our hearts. Amen.
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