February 2001 Updates on

Mary Beth's Journey


The following page contains updates regarding Mary Beth's Journey for February of 2001.

Links to other pages:

Home / Pictures / Mary Beth's Obituary

January - 01 / March - 01

If you wish to contact Mary Beth's family, you may do so through contact us.



As a reflection on how Mary Beth touched the life of one of her best friends, neighbors, Pillar classmates and fellow St. Joe freshman, I am sharing the eulogy given at her funeral by Gerilyn Goeddel:

"All of us here today have a special angel, a St. Joe Angel, looking over us from up above.  She is the angel with the brightest halo, the biggest heart, and the strongest wings.  Our Mary Beth is that special angel, the star that shines brighter than all the rest.  Her brilliance was remarkable, but her friendship, love, and faith are incredibly amazing.

            Mary Beth’s smile had a special glow and her eyes had that special twinkle.  However, throughout grade school, Mary Beth was known for her loud, loveable laugh.  Then she adopted her saying, which has won the hearts of so many, “Life is Short, Laugh Hard”.  Her laugh would lift everyone’s spirits.  We had so many great times together.  Those special moments I will never forget.  I remember the late nights when we would laugh the night away, cracking jokes and telling stories.  Then we would wake up to Mr. Ricken’s famous “secret-shaped pancakes”.  Mary Beth lives in each one of us.  An angel has touched us all.

When the church bells ring and the choirs of angels sing, Mary Beth’s laughter will fill our hearts.  Mary Beth is my special angel and my best friend.  Her laugh and her smile will live on, and the impact she has left on all of us will never change.  She will live in each person and her dreams will be achieved through each kind heart here today.  My love for Mary Beth will always be.  The love best friends share that no one can explain.  A love so powerful and true, that it cannot be broken.  We will miss you Mary Beth, but we will always dearly love you, Mary Beth."

Thank you as we continue to feel the power of your prayers.

God bless you,


The following words were written several years ago and have been provided to us by many people during the past 15 months:

Cancer is so limited . . .

It can not cripple love . . .

It can not shatter hope . . .

It can not corrode faith . . .

It can not eat away peace . . .

It can not destroy confidence . . .

It can not kill friendship . . .

It can not shut out memories . . .

It can not silence courage . . .

It can not reduce life . . .

It can not quench the Spirit . . .

It can not lessen the power of the Resurrection . . .

When reading these words again today, I realized that they apply more broadly than just to cancer.  We can use them in our daily lives when we encounter anything difficult.  Mary Beth proved the above statement true.

God bless you,


One of Mary Beth's best friends and fellow classmates at Pillar and St. Joe, Ashley Nusrala, came by today and gave us a copy of her poem that she read in eulogy for Mary Beth at her funeral.  The text follows:


by Ashley Nusrala


Today she goes to St. Joseph’s Academy

An angel proud and true.

She was always bright and brilliant,

Her smile we always knew.


She was always very giving,

We knew that from the start;

Very generous, indeed,

It came straight from the heart.


She always stayed a little more

To lend a helping hand.

She lovingly reached out

To those in help’s demand.


But November 9, 1999,

We got some bad news.

It was that she had a tumor;

The pain inside everyone grew.


Then the high school letters came

And St. Joe wanted MB.

I knew that I would remain in school with her

And I was filled with glee.


High school was about to start.

The beginning would be rough.

She walked in, always smiling,

Even though it must have been tough.


Every night I would lay down to pray.

I would fold my hands in bed.

“Please, God, let her be okay.”

And I’d whisper her name in my head.


I recently found out,

She had a shortened life span.

I thought she was too young to go;

But it must have been God’s plan.


I realized how important that day,

That life is worth a lot.

We worry about the dumbest things,

Compared to what she’s got.


So there she stood before God;

On the edge of life or death,

Hoping a miracle would come along,

Not to take her last breath.


MB is always in our thoughts

And in our hearts with us.

She was always in high spirits,

Which was definitely a plus.


This angel is always important to us.

She has her friends, family and other things.

A permanent halo above her head;

But now this angel has her wings.





We continue to be reminded from all over the globe about how Mary Beth touched so many people.  Yesterday we received an anonymous note from a St. Joe sophomore who share touching words and enclosed a cash contribution to Mary Beth's Angels Foundation in the amount of forty four dollars.  The four dollars is in honor of the entire freshman class of '04.

We know that her memory will last forever through the efforts of all of you as her foundation fulfills its goals of assisting underprivileged children.

God bless you,


We have had fun during the past week, since celebrating Barbie's birthday a week ago yesterday.  Two of the most enjoyable events were the all school mass at Pillar for Catholic School's Week and the all school talent show.  Barbie and Heidi played key roles in both.  The talent show was an outstanding display by all the participants.  As a surprise encore performance in the talent show on Tuesday, I joined my four other N'SYNC Pillar dads in dancing to "It's Gonna Be Me".  If you are so inclined, you can check out the pictures at Pillar's website at http://www.olpillar.com/OLPcandidCamera00_01.html.

Several people have asked about the tax status of Mary Beth's Angels Foundation.  We formed the foundation under the guidance of Section 501(c)3 and have filed as such, so all contributions to the foundation are eligible for a tax deduction.  Friends that work for companies who offer a matching gifts program are submitting requests to their companies  as well, so the amount of the donation is doubled by their employer.

We continue to hear from you that your prayers are being said on our behalf.  We want to thank you for those prayers and let you know that we are praying for you all daily as well.

God bless you,


I woke up at about 2:00 AM in the middle of the night last night probably from snoring.  There I was, laying awake trying to get back to sleep.  The more I "tried", the more difficult it was, so I began to think about things.  I started to laugh because I was reminded of Mary Beth's last joke she pulled on me.

Over the course of the 15 months of her illness, I had the opportunity to sleep in the same room with her on several occasions.  I considered it an opportunity, but Mary Beth considered it a challenge.  Her challenge was to see if she could continue sleeping through the noise and my challenge was to sleep in such a position that prevented snoring.  There were several times when she would wake me up by either saying something or throwing something at me and she would tell me to roll over so she could get some sleep.  You have probably read about a few of these times in previous updates.

A few nights before she left us, I was in the kitchen getting something to eat when Mary Beth called me into the living room for a special presentation.  She was hiding something under her blanket.  She looked at me and smiled and said that she had worked long and hard to find something special for me and she thought she had the most appropriate item in the bag.  She handed me the bag and I found a box of Breathe Right strips, size large.  We laughed and I used them each night without ever awakening her again.  I asked her how she managed to purchase them and she refused to disclose her source.  I have subsequently determined that one of her many angels helped her pull off the prank.  Thanks Mary!

I finally got out of bed last night, opened the cabinet, applied a Breath Right strip, and slept for the remainder of the night.  I laughed again this morning as I took it off.  I will admit that I still have at least one good cry each day as I think about Mary Beth, then I have to start laughing because I know she is laughing at my tears, like she always did.

God bless you,


Heidi was in the car with me this evening singing as we were driving to a meeting.  Her singing made me think of the eulogy song that Barbie and Gerilyn sang at Mary Beth's funeral.  This was meeting a challenge for both of them because whenever they would sing around the house, MB would tell both of them that they couldn't sing very well.  The song Barbie selected was the song that the entire student body dedicated to Mary Beth while she was hospitalized in December of 1999 during the all school Christmas program.  There weren't many dry eyes that night just as there weren't many when Barbie and Gerilyn sang it at MB's funeral.  Here are the lyrics:

All in All

You are my strength when I am weak.

You are the treasure that I seek.

You are my all in all.


Seeking you as a precious jewel,

Lord, to give up I’d be a fool.

You are all in all.


Jesus, Lamb of God,

Worthy is your name.

Jesus, Lamb of God,

Worthy is your name.


Bearing my cross, my sin, my shame

Rising again I bless your name.

You are my all in all.


When I fall down you pick me up.

When I am dry you fill my cup.

You are my all in all.


Jesus, Lamb of God,
Worthy is your name.

Jesus, Lamb of God,

Worthy is your name.


God bless you,


We heard from our dear friend Bet Stapleton that yesterday was the first day for St. Joe Angels to sign up for the new service organization "Angels Helping Angels" established to honor Mary Beth and her dear friend Rachel Baumgartner.  The response was overwhelming with over 150 young ladies showing interest in the group dedicated to volunteer at the hospital to spend time with pediatric patients.  We also understand that other catholic high schools in the area, girls and boys, are also interested in forming their own chapters of this organization.  We can't tell you how happy we are with this response and know that Mary Beth thanks each of you.

It made MB very saddened and upset to see children in the hospital without anyone spending time with them.  She knew how difficult it was to be in the hospital as a young person and couldn't fathom being there alone.  She was very excited about "Angels Helping Angels" and really wanted to contribute her time to such a worthy cause when she finished her treatments and fully recovered.  Since she isn't here to volunteer, we are ecstatic to see so much interest in fulfilling one of her dreams.

God bless you,


When you read the newspaper, watch the news, or listen to the news on the radio, you tend to hear about the bad things that happen throughout the community and the world.  It almost gives one the impression that the world lacks love.  When you hear or see those things next time and have those thoughts, just pause to think about all of the positive things that have come as a result of Mary Beth's 15-year life.  There is a tremendous amount of love in the world and we have witnessed it in each of you through your actions.  We have been told by countless people that they have been changed for the better as a result of Mary Beth's illness and death and by the way she so gracefully and willingly accepted the role God had for her.  Many of these people did not have the opportunity to meet her but felt like they knew her by reading about her.

As a sidebar, Heidi loves to wear her hair short.  She has been growing it out and said she really didn't want to get it cut.  When we asked her about this, she said she wanted to grow her hair long, then get it cut very short and donate her hair to Locks of Love.  Her friend Mary McNulty plans to do the same and Barbie may be joining them as well.  The donated hair is used by this organization to make wigs for children who are afflicted with cancer and other diseases which cause hair loss.  When Mary Beth learned that she would lose all of her hair, she immediately had her hair cut short and donated it.  If you are interested in learning more about the organization you may visit them at their website www.locksoflove.org.  I asked the girls if I could join them in their quest and they politely declined my offer. 

God bless you,

2-9-01 - Fundraiser

One of Mary Beth's friends and former Pillar classmates, Shannon Johnson, launched a fundraiser this week for Mary Beth's Angels Foundation.  Shannon is a freshman at Villa Duchesne High School and designed a long sleeve t-shirt to raise money for MB's foundation.  The t-shirts depict an angel over the left chest area in front with the words "Mary Beth's Angels" under the angel.  On the back of the shirt are the words "Life is Short, Laugh Hard!"  The are available in ash grey or white and are appropriately lettered in MB's favorite color purple.

The shirts are being distributed through Pillar, St. Joe and Villa.  They are available in Youth sizes - small, medium and large and in Adult sizes - small, medium, large, X-large and XX-large.  The price is $15.00 each with the profit benefiting the foundation.  Orders are due by next Friday, February 16, 2001.  If you would like to place an order, you may email Shannon Johnson at foofooskj@aol.com or phone her at (636) 343-6653.  Payment is in cash or check and checks may be made payable to "Villa Duchesne".  We wish to thank Shannon, her family, Villa Duchesne, Ralph Rockamann at Sportsprint, and all who participate in this endeavor.

We are very excited about the interest shown in helping to fulfill Mary Beth's dream of helping underprivileged children.  Thank you all so much.

God bless you,


We are happy to report that we have another Angel in our family.  Barbie chased after the mailman this morning and sifted through the mail to find her high school letter.  She opened it and screamed with excitement because it states that she is accepted to the class of 2005 of Saint Joseph's Academy so she joins her mother and sister Mary Beth as an SJA Angel.  While she is excited, she is concerned for her friends who did not get accepted to the schools of their choice.

When reading the St. Louis Review, the weekly newspaper of the Archdiocese of St. Louis, yesterday we noticed that our dear friend Archbishop Rigali shared his reflection on Mary Beth.  The article is entitled "The Word Became Flesh" and may be viewed via the following link: http://www.archstl.org/commoffice/abarticles/010209.htm.  We wish to thank him for his kind words regarding our precious angel.  Thank you all for your continued prayers and support.

God bless you,


In a conversation with our good friend Mark Gorris, EVP of the Royals, the topic of my eulogy for MB came up so it is appropriate to share it here:

"Dear Archbishop Rigali, Bishop Ricken, Father Tobin, Priests, Religious, Family and Friends,

You have probably exhausted your tear ducts at this point, but I want to share a few thoughts with you.  This is Mary Beth’s favorite dad Gerry speaking.  I have asked my dear friend Father Barney Barry to read this for me since I knew I could write but not vocalize these words.

We are gathered here today to celebrate the most glorious event we could ever attend with Mary Beth.  On behalf of Sheila, her favorite mom; Barbie, Heidi and William, her favorite siblings; and her extended family, we wish to thank you for celebrating with us.  Mary Beth is going to the place we all strive to be someday.

I am sure you know that MB was a fabulous student and attained a 4.0 GPA last semester while missing 12 weeks of classes because of her bone marrow transplant.  She consistently scored in the 99th percentile on standardized tests, won countless math contests, and was disappointed with her score of 1100 on the SAT college admissions test she took at the beginning of her 7th grade year.  She was a quick study and was wise and mature well beyond her years.

The journey to heaven for most occurs after a long life on earth, but Mary Beth’s happened after she attained the young age of 15 years, 1 month, and 16 days.  I like to think that she applied her wisdom, intelligence, and over-achieving style to prove to all of us that she could get there faster than the norm.

She had the most contagious smile of any person that I have ever met, however, it is closely rivaled by Barbie’s, Heidi’s, and William’s.  When she entered any venue, she would light up the room with her smile and her laughter.  Strangers did not exist for her.  After spending several minutes with her it was like you had known her for your entire life.  Several years ago, she found a small button with the inscription, “Life is Short, Laugh Hard”.  She thought it was the most appropriate saying she had ever seen and adopted it as her personal motto.  She loved to laugh and giggle and always loved a good comedy, funny story, or a great joke.  She had a keen sense of humor and used it often for entertainment.

She once spent a 14-hour round trip road trip with me driving to the plains of Kansas in the summer time to attend a funeral of a close family friend.  To get to my glorious hometown of Garden Plain, you must first drive through the quote, un-quote, “Scenic” Flint Hills.  While doing so in the summer, you think it is raining because so many insects are hitting the windshield.  The radio reception is poor and you can only listen to your CDs for so long, so Mary Beth sought another form of entertainment.  She challenged me to a duel.  The goal was to come up with the most creative story about what each poor bug was doing just prior to meeting our windshield.  We were both very creative, she was hilarious, I lost the contest, but we laughed together for hours.

Mary Beth loved to spend time with her family, even after she became a teenager.  When I dropped the three girls off at Pillar for school each morning, she would still kiss me in front of anybody, even as an 8th grader, and not be embarrassed about it.  She cherished our family vacations, which were built around ski trips, historical sites and major league baseball parks.  Since she loved the winter, it is only appropriate that she blessed us with such wonderful weather today.

She was an avid baseball fan and loved to keep score at games.  Her love for baseball started in 1986 before Barbie was born.  We lived in Overland Park and had season Royals tickets.  At one game, I had her over my shoulder and I received a tap from the man behind me.  Apparently, our teething Mary Beth was working her gums out on his beer cup and consuming what she could.  He said he was happy to share, but thought she might fall asleep before the 7th inning stretch if she continued.

Mary Beth dreamed to someday attend a game in every stadium.  She visited 10 major league parks and still thought Kaufman Stadium in KC was the best.  Her favorite player of all time (and mine) was George Brett and she was excited when we traveled to Cooperstown, NY in July of 1999 to see him inducted in the Hall of Fame.  I will never forget her giving me endless grief for crying like a baby when George gave his acceptance speech.

On November 9, 1999 Mary Beth was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and was prepped for surgery that night.  We spent time together and Sheila and I cried, but Mary Beth didn’t.  She asked me to stop crying but I could not.  I then reminded her that I even cried at George Brett’s induction ceremony.  We laughed and she was later rolled into the surgery room.  As Sheila and I told her how much we loved her we were crying continuously.  As she was entering surgery, she looked back at me, saw my many tears and smiled and simply said the words, “George Brett” then started laughing.  She knew she was going into life-threatening brain surgery, was very accepting of the outcome and had the courage to joke with me and laugh about it.

The next 15 months were the most special moments we spent as a family.  We received endless love and support from our family and friends, especially our Pillar parish family, our Saint Joseph’s Academy family and our Children’s Hospital family.  We want to express our heartfelt thanks to each of you.

She was so proud to be a part of Our Lady of the Pillar and was equally as proud to wear the St. Joe Angel uniform.  Today we continue to be lifted by all of you, Mary Beth’s angels.  She was such a determined, inspiring bundle of love and faith, it is hard to imagine life without her.  She has touched countless lives by guiding us on her journey home with immense grace and dignity.

Since the outset, she never complained about what was happening to her and she constantly showed concern for others.  She was with Sheila in the clinic one day and she saw a young girl about 6 years old, bald like she was, receiving a chemotherapy treatment.  She told Sheila that it was so unfair that a person so young was afflicted with such a horrible disease.

Her goal was to become a pediatric oncologist and help kids with cancer.  She also wanted to spend all of her volunteer time helping underprivileged children including the homeless, the unborn, orphans, and children with all sorts of illnesses. 

One of her fears was that she would be forgotten.  We all know that she will live forever in our hearts and her causes will live forever through two organizations.  St. Joseph’s Academy has dedicated a group to MB and her dear friend Rachel Baumgartner designed to help kids through volunteering at the hospital.  The organization is appropriately named, “Angels Helping Angels”.

Sheila and I have formed Mary Beth’s Angels Foundation designed specifically to provide assistance to underprivileged children.  Mary Beth told us that forming this organization was the kindest thing she had ever heard.  She personally selected the name because she wanted to honor each and every one of you for all you have done.

Sheila and I agree that it is truly an honor to be her parents.  Barbie, Heidi, and William are also honored to call her “Big Sister”. 

We are so at peace with her journey because she was so accepting of God’s will. 

We will always love her, never forget her, and strive to live the life she has shown us - One full of compassion, love, acceptance and an endless trust in God. 

For that gift, Mary Beth, we thank you. 

May God bless each one of you and forever hold you in the palm of his hand. 

And always remember Mary Beth’s personal motto, “Life is Short, Laugh Hard”.

God bless you,


In August of last year you may recall reading about Mary Beth's visit from Father Paul from the Vatican who was an understudy to Padre Pio.  If you haven't read about it, it is worth searching for because it was an amazing night.  Tony Sansone and several family members brought Father Paul to our home well after MB was asleep for several hours and Father Paul blessed her with one of Padre Pio's gloves which covered his stigmata.  Mary Beth woke up and conversed with Father Paul about the glory of God's kingdom.  He asked her not be afraid if Jesus called her home and she said she was not afraid.

Father Paul traveled back to Rome and Tony did not hear from him for several months.  Last month, Tony was contacted at work by Father Paul's secretary calling from Rome.  She said she was calling on Father Paul's behalf because he was on a retreat in Austria.  He could not sleep the entire night and all he could think about was Mary Beth Ricken in Saint Louis.  He stayed awake all evening and prayed for Mary Beth, then he contacted his office and asked them to call Tony to find out how Mary Beth was doing.  Tony received the call on the morning of January 23, 2001 at about 10:45 AM.  At the very moment Tony was on phone with Father Paul's office, Mary Beth was taking her last breath.  We knew Mary Beth had a very special connection with God through Padre Pio since that night last August, but we didn't realize how strong the connection really was.

God bless you,

2-13-01 - The Spirit is Alive

On Friday, St. Joe plays Visitation Academy in basketball at Maryville College.  The JV game starts at 6:30 PM with the varsity tipping off at 8:00 PM.  Since this is such a spirited game every year, the Student Councils of both schools work together to raise money for a local charity.  This year they have selected Mary Beth's Angels Foundation as the local charity.  Both school's will offer a dress-out day on Friday and ask the girls for donations for this privilege.  Both schools are excited about this fundraiser and about the games.  At halftime of the varsity game, they will announce how much money they raised on a combined basis.

We are honored to have Mary Beth remembered during such a spirit filled week in which these friendly rivals square off on the court and we extend our heartfelt gratitude to all who are affiliated with both schools.  Sheila, Barbie and Heidi are disappointed that they will not be attendance because of a previously planned weekend getaway in Chicago.  William and I will be there to represent Mary Beth and our collective family.  Look for the 4-year old blonde hanging out at the snack bar and you will probably find me.

God bless you,

2-14-01 - Happy Valentine's Day!

It was really a strange feeling this Valentine's Day when William and I sent three sets of a dozen roses to our sweethearts and not four sets this year.  In fact as I am typing this, I am having my one good cry for the day.  We always send a different color to each of them with Mom getting red roses.  This year however, Heidi received yellow, Barbie received pink, and Mom received lavender, the color previously reserved for Mary Beth.  I was sort of surprised that the florist could find any lavender roses, because the Stapleton family cornered the market on these the day of Mary Beth's funeral.

In an email today, I was reminded to show up at the first session of the newly formed men's prayer group of which I am a member at Pillar.  Seeing this, I thought of the evening we had our organizational meeting and what occurred after the session.  It was held on Monday, January 29, 2001 at the rectory.  My good friend Chris Mower and I were the only two people around after the meeting and were visiting in the parking lot.  We discussed Mary Beth's funeral which occurred the previous Friday.

Chris and his family could not be in attendance because his brother was getting married in Chicago.  He and I were standing in the parking lot in front of the rectory facing each other, talking in the dark.  He made the statement that he was very sorry he had to miss MB's funeral.  I told him it was okay.  He stated that it really wasn't okay.  I again assured him that it was okay.  As soon as I said that, the lights flashed on his new car.  We looked at each other in disbelief because his keys were in his pocket and his hands were behind his back holding a folder.  If he had touched the remote key pad to unlock the doors, the lights would have flashed and the doors would have unlocked.  We heard no noise when it happened and when he checked, the doors were still locked.

We both believe it was Mary Beth's way of telling "Uncle Arthur", as she always called him, that yes, it was okay.  She would have wanted it no other way than for the Mower family to be celebrating at the wedding and not worrying about her.  Speaking of this, please don't worry about us.  Instead, you may want to say a little prayer that we can all be more like our angel and make the world a better place.

God bless you,


We continue to receive an outpouring of love and support that we did not dream possible.  It has been said that life is a journey.  In the end, each of us will be judged by our standard of life, not by our standard of living, by our measure of giving, not by our measure of wealth; and by our simple goodness, not by our seeming greatness.  We have experienced the true essence of this statement living in each of you in your sharing with us.  You joined us on Mary Beth's life journey and continue to be with us after she reached her glorious destination.

For this, we wish to simply say, "Thank you!"  We think of you and pray for your presence in our lives daily.

God bless you,

2-16-01 - Awesome

This one word sums up the feeling I had tonight when William and I walked on the court at Maryville University and accepted the checks in Mary Beth's honor worth thousands from the Student Councils of St. Joe and Viz.  To experience so much love in one place is truly overwhelming.  It is just before midnight when I am typing these words and I just carried Will to bed.  We got home a little while ago from Kelly Roth's house.  Kelly was Mary Beth's senior big sister at St. Joe and played a huge part in my one good cry for today.

The tears started to flow when the Student Council from Viz presented a check to me for Cardinal Glennon Hospital in honor of Mary Beth to kick off half time.  Then Kelly made the presentation on behalf of St. Joe.  When I saw her smile and heard her beautiful words about our angel Mary Beth, the janitor had to get the mop out and dry my river of tears.  It was truly a special night and a memory that I will forever hold in my heart.  Sheila, Barbie and Heidi could not be in attendance because of a previously-planned Chicago getaway weekend, but they were present in spirit.

On behalf of all of us and especially Mary Beth, we send immeasurable thanks to all the St. Joe and Visitation students, faculty, administration, parents, friends and all who are associated with these fine schools.  You showed a true spirit that will not appear in the box score but will be remembered who all who had the fortune of attending.

God bless you,


"It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. 
It is not how much we give, but how much love we put in the giving."  These were the words of Mother Teresa and I am hanging onto them today when I reflect on last night and each day and night since November 9, 1999.  It is truly the love that sustains us each and every day.  The love for one another and especially the love for God.

God bless you,


Several people have told me either in person or via am e-mail that I am one of the strongest people they have ever met.  While I am flattered by these words, I am also skeptical because I do not consider myself strong.  I cry during a good movie and consider myself a real softy.  The strongest people I know are the people with whom I have the privilege to share the same roof.  Without question, Mary Beth is the strongest person I have ever met, but I want to share some thoughts about the other pillars of strength in our family.

Sheila is truly the rock, paper and the scissors of our family.  She is the glue that holds all of us together.  She has shown all of us that her love is endless and that she would do anything for any of us regardless of the toll it may take on her.  As Mary Beth's daily caregiver and nurse for 15 months she administered IVs, stayed with her on overnight hospital visits, maintained her central line, helped MB through the side effects of her chemotherapy and radiation treatments, and countless other tasks.  She also balanced her many roles in guiding all of us with ease.  Among them are Mom, spouse, teacher, nurturer, soccer-basketball-swimming mom, fashion consultant, chaperone, coach, cheerleader, family CEO, and friend.  She is doing remarkably well and keeps moving forward with a smile.  She looks forward to carrying out MB's dream of assisting underprivileged children in her new role of president of Mary Beth's foundation.

Barbie is and has always been the rock of Gibraltar of our household.  Since her early days, she has looked adversity square in the eye and carried on her normal course.  She has shown us on occasion that she is human when she had shed tears.  But even then, she is marching forward to accomplish the task at hand.  As previously stated, I knew I could write a eulogy for MB could never speak one.  Barbie not only penned her eulogy for her loving sister, but stood on the alter in front of some 2,000 people and expressed her love for her sister.  This was truly a show of strength.  She has done well in school throughout Mary Beth's illness and since her departure by attaining honor roll status and being Student Council president.

Heidi is always there when you turn around and need a hug.  She does this with her ever-present smile gleaming from ear to ear.  When you are fortunate to get one of her hugs, your heart fills with joy and you are stronger.  It was difficult for her to focus on her scholastics at times during Mary Beth's illness but she too maintained her honor roll status throughout.  Heidi and Barbie faced some of the toughest days any of us have endured by attending school and constantly being reminded of Mary Beth's illness.  They got dressed and ate quietly at home so they wouldn't awaken MB.  They started out the school day with an all-school prayer to Blessed Chaminade and were continuously asked about MB throughout the day by peers, teachers, and parents.  At night, they worked on their homework in a quiet fashion so they wouldn't bother MB and seldom sought help because they knew we were busy with MB.

William amazes us on a daily basis with his in-depth perspective on life and love.  He understood from the beginning that his Mary Bethy was sick and he wanted her to get better.  When she lost her hair, he prayed for its return.  When she was hospitalized, he prayed for her to come home soon.  He always started his day out by giving Mary Beth fifty kisses for her to get better and a big hug.  He grew up much faster that we ever intended by realizing what was happening with his sister.  After he realized that MB was going to die, he accepted it and prayed that she would be God's best angel.  The day of her death, we were all crying and he made angel signs and taped them to all of us so we would be happy that she was an angel.  He provided and continues to provide strength when we need it most.

We all draw a lot of our strength from Mary Beth and her trust, faith, spirit, admiration, love, inspiration, and perseverance.  The rest of our strength comes from God himself by way of all the prayers each of you say for us.  Thank you.

God bless you,


Sheila, Barbie and Heidi arrived this afternoon from their "Shop 'til you Drop" trip down Michigan Avenue in Chicago.  They were joined by friends Gerilyn Goeddel, Christine and Nancy Marino, and Liz, Caitlin and Bet Stapleton and had a great time.  Shopping and dining dominated the agenda.  They stayed at the Marriott downtown and ate breakfast prepared by the same omelet chef Sheila and Heidi met in March of last year.  He remembered them and immediately asked about Mary Beth.  When Sheila informed him of her passing, he was so overcome, he excused himself and went into the kitchen to regain composure.  She truly touched people she never met.

In preparation for their arrival, William and I spent all morning cleaning up the mess two guys can make over the course of three days.  Thank goodness it was trash pick up day!  We had a great time as well but were very happy to see our sweethearts get off the plane.

Earlier tonight, I heard Father Tobin state that he read a quote for priests with regard to saying mass.  It said you should say each mass as if it is your first mass, your only mass, and your last mass.  As I thought about this on the way home, Mary Beth lived her life in much the same fashion - as if it were her first day, her only day and her last day.  I promise to attempt this from now on and hope you will as well.

God bless you,


Yesterday we got a tease of Spring weather and you would have thought it was June in our neighborhood.  When we returned from the airport, the 'hood was filled with everyone outside taking walks, riding bikes and trikes and socializing in the backyards.  William jumped on the opportunity to play with Forrest Mullenix on his swings and I finally started the process of taking down the outdoor Christmas decor.

There was an angel sighting by William as he explained to Betsy, Forrest's mom.  Will asked her if she could hear angel's wings.  Out of curiosity, she asked him if it was a loud or soft noise and he said, "It's really loud because Mary Beth is a really good angel."  When she informed him that her mother was also an angel, he said that she was probably having a good time with Mary Beth and Aunt Joanie because heaven was a happy place.  Then he continued to say that he could see angel's wings flying around and wanted to know if Betsy knew that Mary Beth had become "God's Special Angel".

We are ready for Spring so we can all experience more angels sightings.

God bless you,


Please accept my apology for not being able to access this site periodically throughout the week.  Our internet service provider has been down off and on, so it has been very trying.

For those of you who have not had the opportunity to complete an order form for the t-shirts, there is still time.  Page up to the update from February 9th for the contact information for the coordinator, Shannon Johnson.  Shannon said that orders have come from all over and that Visitation Academy and Ursuline Academy have joined in the order process.  We all wish to again thank Shannon, her family, and Villa Duchesne High School for spearheading this effort.

As a follow up on the perspective of a four year old, another William story is in order.  When he was working on his night time ritual of pjs, teeth brushing and story-time, he told Barbie that he was going to have a dream so he could talk to his Mary Bethy, Aunt Joanie and Aunt Mary Beth to see how much fun they were having and to see who has the shiniest halo.  Then he asked Sheila why Jesus calls people home.  Before she could respond, he said, "I know, he died first and he was lonely in heaven, so he wanted to spend time with people."  We wish all of you good health and a lengthy stay on earth since Jesus has a lot of good company.

God bless you,


When you read this we ask that you pause and say a prayer for Randi Perkins and her family.  Randi left us today after a hard fought battle against cancer.  She was a junior at Marquette High School and played basketball.  We did not have the fortune of meeting Randi, but our dear friend Rachel Baumgartner was her friend.  Rachel is currently in the hospital and is in need of your continued prayers.  Rachel has now lost two special friends in less than one month.  We pray constantly that she will fully recover and know that Mary Beth is looking out for her best interests, because she told us she would do so.

Alex O'Brien, Kevin Lorenz and Ryan Madden are eighth graders at Saint Monica Catholic School in Creve Coeur.  They are friends of Barbie and Heidi and were on the same swim team as the girls.  They knew Mary Beth by seeing her at swim meets when cheering her sisters on.  Three weeks ago they sought permission to have a dress-down day for the students at their school with the proceeds benefiting Mary Beth's Angels Foundation.  Yesterday was the day and it was a tremendous success.  We wish to thank these three young men for taking the initiative to organize this event and we thank all the students, faculty, administration, and parents from Saint Monica's for their participation.

We are constantly reminded of how fragile our lives on earth really are when an event like today's happens.  We pray that Randi's family will receive the same outpouring of love and support in the coming days and weeks that we have received from all of you.

God bless you,


The school mass at Pillar today was said in memory of Connor Stapleton who entered God's kingdom 11 years ago today.  Connor is the son of Jack and Bet Stapleton and the brother of Liz, Caitlin, Liam and Caroline.  He was two weeks old when he died.  The gospel reading today was from John when he spoke of Jesus preaching about the grain of wheat as compared to human life.  To paraphrase, the grain of wheat is worth nothing unless it dies and brings new life to a plant which will bear fruit.  Thus, a person realizes their full potential after they die and enter the kingdom of heaven and enjoy eternal happiness.

Our human nature questions why someone so young is called home so soon.  The words of John in today's gospel shed light on the fact that Connor is experiencing eternal life and that we too will someday have to the opportunity to share this feeling with him.  In the interim, we know that he has a good babysitter watching over him.  Special prayers of comfort go to the entire Stapleton family and to the Perkins family today for the loss of their loved ones.

God bless you,


Today is the day for auction hopping.  "An Evening with the Angels" at St. Joe starts tonight at 5:00 pm, then "Starry, Starry Night" at Pillar starts at 6:00 pm.  Sheila and I have the challenge and opportunity of attending both.  We only wish that they were not on the same night so we could appropriately thank both communities for everything they have done for us.

In reading the two auction booklets we were touched by the dedications to Mary Beth.  Her spirit lives in all of us and brings a smile to our faces each day.

God bless you,


We had a wonderful time last night at the auctions at St. Joe and Pillar.  The generosity, spiritually and financially, was present everywhere you looked and the evening was a success for both communities.  Today's 10:00 AM mass at Pillar was celebrated in memory of Mary Beth and was very special for us.  We were honored to take part in mass by presenting the offerings to father.  After mass, we ventured to St. Joe to pick up some auction items from last night.  One of the oral auction items was having your name engraved permanently on the wall of honor.

Sister Nancy informed us that the parents of a St. Joe alumnus were the recipients of this honor with the highest bid.  They decided not to place their name on the wall but rather inscribe Mary Beth's name there.  This news brought tears of joy to our faces.  It is the love and support that we continue to experience in our everyday lives that helps us in our healing.  For this, we remain eternally grateful.

God bless you,


We are all trying to keep up with Will's social calendar but are finding it somewhat of a challenge.  He spent Friday evening hanging out with Gracie Mower, a much older woman since she is in kindergarten.  On Saturday he attended Andrew White's pirate birthday party.  Then yesterday, he spent a few hours with his friends at Chuck E Cheese celebrating Harper Larsen's birthday.  I guess it is no surprise that he fell asleep while running errands around 7:45 tonight.  When he goes to bed that early, our home becomes filled with an eerie silence.  If not for the latest downloaded tunes from Napster and the blips from AOL instant messenger coming from both Barbie and Heidi's rooms, one would think everyone were in bed.

Sheila, Barbie and Heidi spent the better part of the weekend shopping.  Their mission, should they choose to accept it . . . find the perfect graduation dress for Barbie.  Well, after a lot of tread wear on their shoes, they accomplished their goal yesterday.  Barbie looks great in it.  It is amazing to see how mature she is.  It seems like it was only last week when she was dressing her own Barbie dolls in similar gowns.  How time flies when you are having fun!

God bless you,


"I've seen a lot of things in my life, but that was awesome!"  This quote is from Chris Farley and is one of Mary Beth's favorites from her favorite movie Tommy Boy.  If you have not seen the movie, or if it has been a while, it is a must see.  It contains unrealistic slap-stick humor and you will truly laugh out loud.  MB must have seen it dozens of times and every time she watched it, she laughed as though it was her first viewing.  We are certain that Mary Beth is sharing a lot of laughs with Chris Farley now.  In fact, one of dear friends, Peter Sheahan, told us that was so.  Peter was a college roommate of Chris' and when Mary Beth died, Peter said a special prayer to Chris to welcome her with some good humor.  Mary Beth loved to baby-sit with the Sheahan kids and when Megan was in kindergarten, they developed a special bond as companions.  She thought it was so cool that Mr. Sheahan knew Chris.

Thinking about the quote, it is appropriate that Mary Beth liked it so much.  We continue to hear about how MB changed the lives of so many in an awesome way.  You can quote me as saying, "I've seen a lot of things in my life, but Mary Beth was awesome!"

God bless you,


Today was the toughest day for Sheila and me since Mary Beth left us five weeks ago yesterday.  We attended the all-school mass for Ash Wednesday this morning at Pillar.  During mass we both started to cry because we were reminded of Mary Beth everywhere we looked.  Her sister Barbie processes into church carrying the Lectionary and read the first reading, Mary Beth's name was the first mentioned during the petitions, we received ashes reminding us that we will all die someday, all of her former teachers were present, Father Tobin was dressed in purple vestments (her favorite color), the weather was cold and snowy and thoughts of an Easter without her popped into our minds.  We understand that Jesus had to endure human suffering and die in order to rise on the third day and we know Mary Beth is with him in heaven.  We also look forward to a glorious Easter Sunday celebration.

But our human side caught up with us today and our emotions peaked.  It is difficult to accept something so final on days like today but we know there is a reason.  We receive signs but will not truly understand the reason until we have the chance to again see Mary Beth.  Our faith and your prayers and support continue to carry us forward.  Archbishop Rigali reminded us of the words of our holy father when he stated that the only way to understand human suffering is to look at the crucifix.  There was a reason for his suffering and we celebrate it everyday, especially on Easter Sunday.

We know that we will have days like today and that this is all part of the healing process.  We are smiling this evening and are ready to face tomorrow.

God bless you,

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