A letter to Mary Beth MacDonald O’Leary

Dearest Mac,

This weekend, your family, your extended family, and a new family came together to celebrate the wedding of your second-born son, Kevin Thomas. His bride, Meaghan Elizabeth Bryan, is a beautiful woman with a bundle of energy that you would be proud of and would deeply appreciate.

You were there with all of us. The wife of your brother-in-law John, Cindy O’Leary, said she looked up at the center skylight at St. Anselm Abbey Church during the ceremony and felt there was a shadow that looked like a dove. She believed it was you, watching down over the ceremony.

Your memory was invoked more than once, during the ceremony and the reception, as was that of Meaghan’s father, who also left her family early on.

In February 1997, at 45, you left us all, but especially your husband, Richard, and your sons, Brian, Kevin and Michael, way too soon.

Richard and I had developed a deep and abiding friendship when I was the crime reporter for the local newspaper and he was then a Manchester police sergeant running the Special Investigations Unit, narcotics and gambling. As he progressed in his career, we didn’t always agree on what I should be reporting but we continued to respect each others’ work.

As you well know, he was one of the good guys. He treated the drug dealers and addicts with a great amount of respect, understanding that their crimes were not always easily come by. In fact, when you left us, at least one of the addict/dealers he had helped send to a federal penitentiary wrote him about how sorry she was that you had died. He has always honored the good in all people.

The Christmas before you were gone, you gave Kevin a cookbook. It was about how to handle a kitchen if your mother is not around. It was almost as though you were prescience that your son would need this help soon.

The evening after your funeral mass, a member of the Manchester Policeman’s Wives said to me, “Please tell Richard we will set a schedule and make dinner for the family every night for the next month.”

Richard’s response to me was: “Don’t cook for my boys. Teach my boys to cook.”

So, Detective Peter Waligura took on Brian, and I worked with Kevin. Mikey, your 12-year-old, was already making Sunday breakfast, so he had a head start.

“Mr. Kev” was, I think, a sophomore at Trinity. And he has always been known as a hugger. He still is and we all love him for it.

And all of your boys had learned to grocery shop by helping you, which was a great start.

So, Mr. Kev and I worked on roasted chicken parts, potatoes and vegetables. (Although, I have to say, the whole vegetable and salad thing was sometimes a struggle. Not so much with Kevin, but Brian {and you know I love you}, was known to say, “We don’t eat vegetables.”) He does now.

So, thanks to you and Richard, your boys learned to cook. I know you have watched over them all these years and sent them your love over and over.

I know you were there watching over Brian and Margaret Brennan’s wedding four years ago, and before that, Richard and MaryAnne’s, as your sons embraced an entirely new family.

This weekend, at Kevin and Meaghan’s wedding, your siblings and their families joined with the O’Learys, the Bryans, the Dubois and Laliberte families and all their other friends to welcome this lovely young woman to the collective family.

You know Kevin has become a teacher, as you were, and he has a passion for his students. Meaghan is a nurse with a passion for her patients. I firmly believe you had a hand in bringing these women to your men. I know their happiness was always your greatest wish. And I like to think you were instrumental, along with their father, in bringing the great men to the Laliberte women, and working hard to find the right woman for Stephen.

Mary Beth MacDonald O’Leary: You are in everyone’s heart. Please continue to watch over all of your loved ones.


About Cissy Taylor

Cissy is a retired journalist who spent any number of years reporting and writing about crimes in New Hampshire, seeing up close and personally just how much harm one human being can inflict on another. Those are not the things she intends to write about here. A Southern Belle, born and raised in Kentucky, she has lived in the frigid north for nearly 39 years. Her faithful companion, Bebe, is a black rescued greyhound who, enviously, sleeps 20 hours a day.
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