My dear friend, Mary, can throw one hell of a party.
There are many things that make her a fabulous hostess. She’s willing to put in new hardwoods and replace baseboards to make her house look perfect. She is a meticulous planner, detailed to a fault. She makes a damn good South of the Border drink in The Margarator. She is passionate, devoted, focused, and driven. But most of all, she’s kind-hearted and generous and accommodating. Her house always feels like home, her door is always open, her arms are always warm and inviting when they envelop you in a hug.
In early August, Mary hosted a fundraiser for Riley Children’s Hospital’s Urology Department. Her beautiful son, Ben, has been a patient there from Day One. The Riley doctors and nurses have poked and prodded him, operated on him, gone through rehabilitation with him. They’ve partnered with his parents to make his life as easy as possible, to help them all traverse his health challenges with grace and stamina. They are Mary and Scott’s heros. Ben is a superstar.
So when Riley asked Mary to host a fundraiser, she never looked back. All summer, she was devoted to making their party the Best Damn Back Yard Fundraiser Riley had ever hosted. We painted the dining room together, ran to Lowe’s in our dirty, paint-flecked clothes, shared lunch and laughter and lots of music. Scott replaced baseboards and wall switches, Mary ordered new furniture, Stella learned to traverse the new floors.
And then the Tribe moved to Mississippi.
But I knew I’d be back to celebrate with and support them. Something so important to my friend was equally as important to me. And we’ve had a critically ill child. We know firsthand of the heartbreak and pain that a sick baby can bring. We understand how doctors and nurses become heroes, how hospitals become sacred. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.
The event itself was lovely, perfect, breathtaking in so many ways. Heather created stunning centerpieces with Ball jars and hydrangeas. Mary and Scott spoke, Ben’s doctor discussed their mission, we were all humbled and moved and immersed in the eloquence and emotion of the experience.
And the rain stayed at bay. Because the evening was too magical for rain.
When it was time for us to leave, Andi asked me to grab a couple of donation envelopes. As we hugged and said our goodbyes, I complied.
After I’d driven the ten hours back to Mississippi with the warm glow of love and friendship guiding me across the Natchez Trace Parkway, Mary and I de-briefed.
“Did you do well?” I asked. “Did you raise a lot of money?”
“Oh, Katrina, it was so fabulous,” she answered. “Everyone was so generous. I couldn’t be happier with the final numbers. There’s one weird thing, though. We ended up missing two donation checks.”
“What do you think happened?” I asked. “Do you think they got thrown away during clean-up?”
And we discussed and dissected and went over all the details. Surely no one took them. Everyone there was a friend, a supporter, an advocate of Ben and of the life-altering work that takes place at Riley. Did they slip under the furniture? Get swept up with some napkins?
We hemmed and hawed and mulled over the possibilities.
And life marched on.
Late last week, I sat down to pay our bills, to open our mail, to catch up on the drudgeries of day-to-day life. It’s not one of my favorite tasks. I tend to avoid it as long as humanly possible.
And in the stack of bills I was sorting? The two Riley envelopes I’d picked up while in Indiana. I noticed right away that they were sealed.
Humidity, of course, I reasoned. I mean, we DO live in Mississippi.
And then I noticed they were written on.
With a dull ache in my chest, I opened them. And you know what I found. Yup. The missing checks. They’d been sitting on my desk all along.
I called Mary immediately, gushed apologies on her voicemail, sealed the checks up in an envelope addressed to my friend and drove them straight to the post office.
And then the following text conversation took place between me and my dear husband…
ME: I just found Mary’s missing Riley checks. I am such a loser.
CHRIS: What are you talking about?
ME: Mary was missing two checks from the fundraiser. I picked up donation envelopes for me and Andi on the way out, and I obviously picked up envelopes that were already used. Gah.
CHRIS: Neat. Way to steal from sick kids. Why don’t you go club some baby seals this afternoon?
So many reasons why I love my husband…
(Oh, and if you’d like to make a donation in honor of my fabulous friends, feel free to send a check to Riley Hospital for Children, 705 Riley Hospital Drive, Indianapolis, IN 46202, Attention: Urology Department. It’s best not to send it via Starkville, Mississippi. Trust me on that one.)