“Arms Wide Open”
By Debbie Rich
Have you ever felt someone’s energy through a phone call? It is rare for me, but when I spoke with our Tu Nidito volunteer, Mary Wallace, I felt her energy – and her warmth, compassion and sense of humor. Mary came to Tucson after having lived 30 years in Los Angeles as a television reporter, producer, director and writer. Her work took her on travels around the country, meeting real life people and sharing their stories through segments and series on HBO, NBC and PBS. She loved her work and shared “I had fun almost every day.”
Mary came to grief work after having her best friend die from breast cancer. Although she had experienced grief before, the death of this friend moved her to explore grief support groups in her area. She landed at one in at Glendale Adventist Hospital. During her 8 months with the group she grew into the role of facilitator. She found grief work extremely fulfilling and helped to start a group for adults grieving a death by suicide.
Fast forward to Mary’s retirement to Tucson. She found Tu Nidito after exploring volunteer opportunities to work with those grieving. She shared, “while at Tu Nidito’s one night, I spotted someone who was so familiar to me and I asked if she had attended a grief support group at Adventist Hospital in Glendale?” She had! This person was Tu Nidito’s Support Specialist (now Bereavement Programs Manager) Serena Sahajian. Mary was so happy to see Serena and shared that it gave her the strength to go forward through the world with her arms wide open.
Mary values Tu Nidito’s grief support programs because they are experiential and not just rhetoric. She found her heart with the Middles and shared, “I love the Middles because they are ages 8-12 and so am I. It is a high honor to walk with these kids and it means so much to be with them – to giggle with them and cry with them.” Completing her thought with, “we cry because there isn’t a definitive answer.” Mary ended the conversation with, “in many ways my heart would sometimes miss a beat without Tu Nidito.”
Mary is enjoying her retirement. She fills her time with art of all kinds. Once a year she finds herself in the small town of Dillion Montana fly fishing, which is her passion. She has only missed one season in the last 20 years. She describes her time there as spiritual “there is so much room for me there and we have a million laughs together as we fish the clear fresh waters.”
Mary is a Tu Nidito treasure. Her energy is effusive. Her passion and compassion are contagious. It was an honor to learn her story and to share it with all of you.