All posts by MaryMac

MaryMac is a grief and bereavement specialist, host of The Mary Mac Show podcast, award-winning author, speaker, executive grief coach, consultant and founder of The Foundation For Grieving Children, Inc., the first national public charity of its kind which raises funds to assist, counsel, comfort and educate children, teens, young adults and their families after a loved one's death.

Tunnel To Towers Run โ€“ Firefighter Stephen Siller

Regardless of the dreary, rainy day in NYC today, the spirits are extremely high as nearly 15,000 dedicated folks run from Brooklyn through the Battery Tunnel to the site of the World Trade Center in lower Manhattan.

It was there that Firefighter Stephen Siller, dedicated husband and father to five young children ranging from 10 years to 9 months, was killed on September 11th, 2001. To assist in the effort, he ran through the Battery Tunnel back into Manhattan with all his gear on.

To honor his memory and that of his fellow 342 New York City Firefighters killed that day in service to their fellow citizens, this race is held to raise funds for a Foundation in his name, started by his wife Sally and his family.

Nothing touches my soul more than other individuals who understand the great need to assist young children after the death of their parents or siblings. There are many organizations which only help 9/11 families but this organization helps children whose parents have died in any manner.

The Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Run (http://www.tunneltotowersrun.org/) raises funds to provide counseling and financial assistance to children under the age of 10, whose parents have died.

I admire and praise their efforts as folks who believe as I do that little ones grieve just like adults do, and we must care for them early, when they need us.

If you enjoy runs, I encourage your participation next year as they do wonderful work for young people.

And to the thousands of brave members of the FDNY, including my wonderful cousin Lt. Sal (Peter) Pastore in Inwood, please accept our sincere appreciation for everything you do to keep us safe everyday.

9/11 โ€“ 7 Years Later

I don’t think I’ll ever stop yearning for the images of the Twin Towers whenever I admire the majesty of the New York City skyline. This week the beams of white light rise from the ground through the sky to once again remind us exactly where those towers stood. From the first time I saw those beams, several years ago, then in purple, the images and placement in the New York City skyline are forever etched in my mind, never to forget how they graced the sky.

In Shanksville, Pennsylvania the heroism of the passengers of United Flight 93 thwarted the plan to destroy either the White House or Capitol Building. Such love for our country, to come to the decision that they would rise up and do what was right for our land disregarding their own lives. To know that you might die and still, in a just a few minutes, decide these enemies of our country needed to be stopped, was the ultimate act of heroism.

In Washington, at our Pentagon, 125 people died within that building along with 59 passengers of American Flight 77. A wonderful new memorial is now available remembering those who died in Washington. I so look forward to visiting it.

A total of 2,751 families lost their loved ones that day. Studies show when a single individual dies there can be upward of 300 family, friends, business colleagues, classmates, social circles, neighbors and others who are affected by their deaths. On September 11th, 2001, all Americans and citizens of the world became their family members, too.

Our country was forever changed that day. Through unspeakable tragedy, we became closer and kinder as a people toward one another and we became more resolute in securing our land. Let us always remember that we have passed seven September 11ths on our calendar, but we have not experienced another 9/11.

Let us give credit to our President, George W. Bush and leaders who changed the structure of government at many levels to insure we have not repeated this devastating day. Regardless of your politics, we have been kept safe since 2001. Our government’s main mission is the security of its people. And they have succeeded and for that we are eternally grateful.

God bless all who have been affected and have suffered as a result of the attacks on our great nation and for all who, in their own way both large and small, from the first responders at all three sites, to the military who fight for our liberty, to the counselors who help the emotional pain, may we always honor their work.

No matter what our America has endured, no one, and nothing will ever kill our spirit!

Tony Snow โ€“ A Good and Faithful Servant

I can’t remember the first time I saw Tony Snow on television. But I know it’s been very many memorable years ago.

What struck me most about this fine man, was his optimism about life. Whether I saw him on Fox News Channel, or listened in to his own radio show or Rush Limbaugh’s, I knew it would be a thoroughly captivating and educational time. I knew the time I spent with him would leave me feeling there were options out there I may not have considered. Options that would uplift our America instead of trash it. Options that were feasible.

And when he moved into the White House as Press Secretary, how happy I was to know I’d get to hear from him almost every day.

His husky yet soothing voice was unmistakable. And I would often be thrilled by the manner in which he would deliver his thoughts. As an author, I admire how others string sentences together and he did it so elegantly.

When a man dies, you usually get to know his character by the tributes of his family, friends and colleagues. Everyone was in awe of the manner in which he lived his life before and after he learned of his cancer challenges.

It’s said it’s not how we lived, but moreso how we died. From the accounts of all his colleagues, Tony worked through his illness with class and grace. He was a wonderful example of keeping his hopes high that he would beat his colon cancer.

My thoughts these last few days have been with his family, of course, but also his colleagues. It’s an interesting dynamic which takes place when it’s a dear friend who dies.

In Tony’s case, he’s in the media spotlight. Most of us will honor our friend and then go back to work immediately. But their loss and presence will be felt when we see their office empty, when they aren’t around to reach out to when you have a thought or are working on a project you know their advice would be valuable.

So I want to acknowledge and validate the pain of a friend’s grief. It’s real and sometimes it’s more real than grieving for a distant relative or other relative with whom we barely had a relationship. But a friend, and especially a business colleague…well, we’d see them or speak with them continually in the process of fulfilling our work. The vacuum left by their empty office, voice, writing, strategy, humor, talents will be felt for a very long time.

And when we lose a man like Tony, the level of that pain and loss, felt at FOX and on the radio and in the White House is significant.

When I think about the people I’d like to have the honor of meeting in my lifetime, Mr. Tony Snow was right up there on the list. I feel sad I’ll not get that pleasure now.

Lord, Can We Please Replay This Tape

Remembering Tim Russert 1950 – 2008

My love of politics began at the assasination of President Kennedy when I found myself looking up at all the crying adults in my elevator wondering what would bring so many grown-ups to tears.

I woke up in the middle of the night when Senator Bobby Kennedy was killed to find my Dad on the edge of his living room chair staring at the television and there I was sitting next to him. The pain on his face was intriguing to me and I wanted to share that with him.

It caused me to walk into New York City Mayor John Lindsay’s storefront campaign office at the age of 11 with my best friend who sat behind me in class, Ellen McHugh, to ask if we could help. They put us to work hanging posters on street lamps and we were so proud to be a part of that campaign.

The summer I was 16, I worked for the Mayor of my Village on Long Island and had a blast. I’ll never forget those funky colored outfits he’d wear to go golf on Wednesdays.

As I went onto college, I ran and was elected to floor rep and dorm president and was active in school government. I loved it. And later I helped run Perot’s NYC campaign and became Head of the Petition Drive to get him on the ballot in NY State. Eventually I ran the campaign in Queens and Staten Island.

But the most memorable was as a Precinct Captain and member of the Executive Committee in Florida during the 2000 election. What a wild ride to live that there.

Although I had many wonderful experiences during that election cycle, what stands out in my mind so vividly was the reporting and white board of Tim Russert that year. I was amazed at how he knew all the electoral votes within each state and I found myself working the numbers with him. It was heaven for me. It was thrilling and challenging and so amazing that it kept you hanging on for all the latest projections from Tim.

On Friday when I went online to see my email and there the headline said he had suddenly died, I was shocked as was most Americans who follow politics. I just stared at the computer screen and slumped in my seat.

I told a friend who said, “Tim Russert? Meet the Press Tim Russert?” To which I replied, “Yes, THE Tim Russert.” And everything within me just simply could not believe this.

I spent the majority of my weekend watching all the tributes on MSNBC Friday night and Saturday night and then today I taped Meet the Press. How could I not.

I guess because my love of politics coupled with my passion to help the bereaved, makes me somewhat more sensitive to these kinds of things.

I looked at the Lord’s picture which hangs in my home and said, “Exactly what were you thinking? Can’t we rewind this tape?”

From my perspective, and others are saying this as well, it was absolutely, postively NOT the right time for him to leave us. His work was not done here, in my eyes. He had so much more to tell us and educate us on the political process. And he had so much more to give humanity and his family and friends who deeply loved him.

So I ask you Lord, “Can’t we please rewind this tape? Can’t we at least finish out this incredible election cycle because nothing would have been more thrilling than to see him play with that white board scribbling down possibilities as we come close to election day?”

Yet from a bereavement perspective, I’m aware that death is never fair. It doesn’t come in the time factor we’d request. Because there really never would be a good time for someone so great to die, would there be. When exactly would the right time be.

If it were after the election, then we might enjoy his play-by-play, but his family wouldn’t see him and his beloved wife watch Luke marry.

If it were after the marriage, perhaps his family and friends wouldn’t see him as a grandfather sharing the joys of grandparenting.

But it turned out, God called him now…bad timing for us, but obviously the right timing for the Lord. That’s the sucky part. We don’t get to be in on the decision. And quite frankly, it never seems like good timing anyway you look at it.

So since the Lord can’t rewind the tape I wish he would, I must be content to wish his family and friends comfort in knowing that there were many of us, who never had the privilege of knowing this gentle giant, but saw through the television that he was indeed so genuine, so pure of heart, so committed to those around him, so funny, so real, so enthusiastic about what he did in life and from my perspective, he gave us a legacy of love that will never leave any of us.

Someone like Tim Russert lived his life to the fullest. I often say I want to live till I die. And it’s rare I find others who share that passion. Tim had that. He was a rare and treasured man to his family and friends and I, for one, will miss his smiling face and exuberant energy and laughter.

His passion to engage and educate Americans in the political process was simply divine.

So now God gets to have the firsthand play by play this election cycle, while He’s greeting Tim and saying, “Well done my good and faithful servant.”

The Ultimate Sacrifice

It’s a very hot and sunny day today and while I expected to be at the pool by this time, I found myself working on the computer much longer than anticipated.

In the background I had C-Span on listening to the ungratefulness of the Iraqi Ministers testify in front of the Congressional Foreign Affairs, Int’l Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight Committee.

When it was over, it replayed the Monday service at the White House where President Bush presented the Medal of Honor to the parents of Private First Class Ross McGinnis of Knox, Pennsylvania, whose brave service in Iraq saved the lives of four fellow servicemen when he put his body in the way of a grenade on December 2, 2006.

I found myself moving away from the computer and standing at attention in front of the television. I found myself moved to tears. As President Bush recounted how this young man wanted nothing more in life than to be a soldier, from the time he drew his picture at age 6, to the comedian he became, even being able to make his drill sergeant laugh, to always being there for his friends and family.

Although I may never meet any of the McGinnis family or other servicemen and women who were killed, I feel blessed to know there are people who call themselves United States military who protect me all over this world.

It’s easy to measure deaths and destruction, but our inability to measure what has not happened is what we should also concentrate on. We have not had a major attack on our soil since September 11th, 2001. Our President and his administration needs to get credit for that.

We cannot measure how many people may have died in our country had we had other attacks. We cannot measure how many cities might have been destroyed, how many avenues of transportation may have been suddenly halted (remember how there were no planes for nearly a week after 9/11), how many neighbors would have been displaced or homeless, or how much destruction we would have needed to clean up, repair and rebuild.

If we leave Iraq tomorrow, as many citizens and elected officials prefer, would we still be able to gain the intelligence needed to stop attacks? Unsure.

Sometimes we feel we need to just worry about our own people…bring all the troops home from everywhere on this planet, isolate ourselves, close our borders, move the United Nations to some island where they can foot the bill to house them, exclude everyone who doesn’t belong here and let them all handle their own lives. Let all the folks who hate our country leave and leave now. Let all these ungrateful ministers and heads of other states fend for themselves. After all, they hate us but, of course, they’ll take our money and curse us as they ask for more.

I don’t know the perfect answer and maybe there isn’t one. But today, I want us to remember a valiant man who gave his life for the lives of others – Private First Class Ross McGinnis.

The scriptures tell us, “no greater love than this, than a man who lays down his life for another.” The ultimate sacrifice.

And I don’t know too many people who can ever say they’d do that.