On 9/7 a tweet from Lissa Rankin caught my eye. I follow almost 1,000 people on Twitter. I am amazed and in awe of how I see just what I'm supposed to see. I clicked on the link that Lissa had put in her tweet and felt this overwhelming urge to do as she suggested - write my obituary. I wrote a first draft, let it sit overnight and then wrote my final draft in the morning. Here it is:
Mary (Alper) McManus died on 12/26/2053 the day after she celebrated her 100th birthday surrounded by her husband of 76 years, Tom, her twins Ruth Anne and Tom,Jr, her grandchildren, great grandchildren and adoring friends and fans of her poetry. She made her transition peacefully in her sleep.
Mary will best be remembered for her gentle, loving spirit and radiant smile. She experienced the gift of grace at the early age of 5 when she contracted paralytic polio. She saw a vision of God which sustained her through endless hours of painful physical therapy and childhood abuse. Mary faced life’s challenges with courage and determination. All who knew her felt blessed by her presence. Her award winning career at the Department of Veterans Affairs ended after she was diagnosed with post polio syndrome. She touched the hearts and lives of countless veterans and their families. She provided them with counseling and was a fierce advocate to ensure they received the benefits to which they were entitled.
Although her body was initially immobilized by the symptoms of post polio syndrome, she found her poetic voice and her spirit soared. She healed her life and went on to run the 2009 Boston Marathon at the age of 55. “Keeping the Pace: The Mary McManus Story” about Mary’s journey with post polio syndrome and her Boston Marathon run won an Academy Award. Mary helped to change the face of post polio syndrome and inspired researchers to examine the positive effects of exercise and strength training in post polio survivors. The teachings of Science of Mind became a part of the protocol for treating post polio survivors. Mary was passionate about raising funds and awareness for polio and post polio syndrome. Her work with the Rotary Club helped to eradicate polio worldwide.
Mary’s messages of hope, gratitude, possibility, faith, healing, and releasing thoughts of lack and limitation were expressed in her many books of inspirational poetry. Karen Campbell, freelance reporter for the Boston Globe had this to say about Mary’s first book of inspirational poetry, “New World Greetings:Inspirational Poetry and Musings for a New World” :Although never formally trained in poetry, McManus’ work is not the sophisticated poetry of journals. It is unashamedly sentimental and sincere with simple rhyme schemes reflecting early indoctrination in Dr. Seuss – he was the childhood favorite she would read prior to painful polio treatments. But the directness of McManus’ poetry,anchored in spiritual faith and positive energy, has brought her enthusiastic fans around the world.” Mary’s blog “Welcome to a New World” was followed by her fans from around the world. She inspired others through her positivity, honesty and connection with her own Divinity. She brought healing, joy, love, laughter and celebration with the original poetry she created as the owner of New World Greeting Cards. Her love and light live on in her poetry and the hearts of her family and friends.
I had known about The Gates Foundation contribution to Rotary International in January 2009 and Rotary's Polio Plus Program. Until I wrote that obituary, the passion for this cause and the role I was to play in it lay dormant.
Since writing the obituary, I found myself at the podium of the Topsfield Rotary Club, The Peabody Rotary Club and being Jordan Rich's associate producer for his WBZ Radio Show on 1/10/10 entitled Polio:Forgotten But Not Gone. As I spoke to the Rotary Clubs, I shared my journey and diverted from the talk I had prepared as I felt a deep connection to the children in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and Nigeria where polio still exists. I found myself become emotional and passionate about creating a Polio Free World.
On Polio Today , I 'met' Joanne Brooks. Please take a minute (or 8) to watch her inspiring story at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lMo4XEkkdcw&feature=related I called her and we instantly connected. She shared with me that about 35 years ago she watched a story on 60 Minutes about a woman with no arms who learned how to drive and do things a 'normal' person would. She lost use of her arms as a result of polio. She said that she now wants to inspire others as that story inspired her! She will be a guest on the Jordan Rich show along with a Rotarian I met in the Peabody Rotary, Fred diNapoli, also a polio survivor. And this is only the beginning....
I had no idea that writing my obituary would ignite a spark within me and set a cascade of wonderful events in motion as my path for a passionate cause opened before me.