A Death in the Family
When her son Warren called me early last Friday morning to tell me of his dear mom’s passing, I was not surprised.
I had visited Mary Higgins Clark in the hospital in early December – only to see her at the Catholic Charities luncheon the day after her release! – and I had found her fragile on Christmas Eve when I offered Mass for her and her wonderful family at her home in Saddle River. Realistic she always was, as Warren told me that his mom had mentioned when I left, “I’m glad Cardinal Dolan came, because I’m rather sure this will be my last Christmas.”
But, while no surprise, it’s still a jolt. Simply put, it’s hard to think of Mary Higgins Clark gone! She was so vivacious, and she was everywhere!
I loved her. Early on did I become a big fan of her books, and, while Archbishop of Milwaukee, I had invited her to give an address, which she brilliantly did.
When I arrived here in New York eleven years ago, our friendship deepened. I enjoyed her and John’s hospitality in Spring Lake and Saddle River, and jammed into their booth often at Jimmy Neary’s. Rarely would she miss an archdiocesan function, or ignore a request for donations.
Her Catholic faith was deep, sincere, and humble. She publicly remarked frequently how her Irish Catholic imagination and art of storytelling inspired her writing. References to faith and the Church were subtle and natural in her celebrated writings.
Never will I forget her painful attempt to stand-up out of her wheelchair, when I went over to her to give Holy Communion at Christmas Eve at her home.
So many people have asked me why she not being buried from Saint Patrick’s, the cathedral she loved and often wrote about, and why I’m not having her Mass. That’s no shocker to me at all, as those decisions are quintessential Mary: She, who never forgot her Bronx-neighborhood roots, and the neighbors and friends with whom she was raised, stipulated years ago her desire to be buried like any other Catholic, from her home parish of the last nearly four decades, in New Jersey, at a Mass celebrated by her former parish priest, now retired bishop of Metuchen, and loyal friend, Bishop Paul Bootkoski. Brava!
You’re a class act ‘till the end, dear Mary! Your laugh, your wit, your smile, your wisdom, your faith…you!…are eternal!