In the next 30 days a Mass will be celebrated in Santa Maria degli Angeli, in Italy, in Mary Arthur’s name.
Mary, the former director of Prestige Care and Rehabilitation Center died one year ago, on Aug. 18, 2017 at her home in Sunnyside.
I met Mary one day in 2002 at a train station close to Assisi. Mary and her friends Robert and Laura were on a tour around Italy and had left the group to spend one more night in Assisi before heading to Rome.
I was going to Rome, too.
As I heard three people speaking English, they were not sure if that was the right platform for the train, and that’s how our friendship started. We chatted for a couple of hours on the train, and I can still remember Mary listening to my grandmother’s story. She had died a few months before.
Once in Rome, I took my new friends to a bar where they had cappuccino, and we waved goodbye.
In the following months, we kept emailing and talking on the phone. In the end, we met several times, sometimes in Italy, then Spain and U.S.A.
Every time Mary came to Italy, she spent hours praying and visiting churches.
One of her favorites was “Porziuncola,” a small church that St. Francis repaired after his conversion. She used to kneel and pray.
Mary truly believed in God, she was always ready to pray to God for everyone. I still remember when I took her to Assisi during one of her visits and we reached her favorite hotel, obviously because it is close to the main church dedicated to St Francis.
She used to go early in the morning when no one was there. The owner of the hotel had had surgery in her knee, and I can still hear Mary’s voice saying, “Do you want us to pray for your knee?” That was Mary, always ready to serve.
Mary was always ready to listen, she was never intrusive, letting me reach the solution of the problem by simply making the right questions at the right time, guiding me through. It was as if she already knew where I was going, doing nothing to force me.
Mary always had a clear mind. She told me she was using about $850 per month to live, which was around 1/8 of her income, so I asked what she was doing with the rest of the money, perhaps saving.
“To help people and for charity,” was her answer, and she told me that was a family habit. Her mother used to give a lot of money for charity.
The last time Mary came to Italy is clear in my mind. We met in Florence, and in Rome, Mary could barely walk since her hip had to be replaced.
As a doctor, I told her to have surgery years before that, but she was too busy serving, running the manor first and then the rehabilitation center.
I knew that was Mary’s last journey abroad. She had told me that months before.
We were about to say goodbye, and I told Mary “This can’t be the last time for you are in Italy.” She replied, “It has to be.” Then tears came out of my eyes, and I said, “You are going to have hip replacement because I want you to come here one more time.” She looked at me and said “Ok, I heard your heart talking.”
I knew that Mary was sick a few months before she died. I complained since she didn’t tell me anything, and she replied, “I didn’t want to disturb, you have a wife now and a son.”
In the following months, things were not going well, but Mary was happy she could get an experimental therapy in Seattle.
I was on vacation with my family in August 2017 and I woke up early in the morning on the 13th. I checked my mobile phone and 5 minutes earlier my friend Robert texted me saying that Mary wanted to talk to me for her last time. She was on morphine but still alert. I immediately called back and I had the chance to talk to Mary for the last time. She was quiet and peaceful. She knew she was dying, and she was consoling me.
Mary told me she had a party in her house and let people take whatever they wanted from her place, since she didn’t need anything anymore. I was crying, and I asked Mary one last favor, to give me something that belonged to her as she did for her friends.
She decided to give me a cameo we gave her as a birthday gift years before.
That was the last time I heard Mary’s voice before she died I was deeply saddened and started reading the email she sent me, and I was surprised as I read an email Mary had sent me in which she said she was praying for a new kidney for my father.
My dad has been on dialysis for five years, going to the hospital three times a week and feeling bad.
Well, a few days later my father received a phone call saying, “You need to come here, we have a kidney for you”. I did not even say thank you as I didn’t realize what she had done.
We often say, “I will pray for you,” now I know Mary really prayed for me and I’m sure she is now close to the Lord, saying thank you and “How can I serve you?”
Matteo Brozzetti lives in Italy. He sent this guest column so that Sunnysiders who didn’t know Mary Arthur before could know a little about her.