My youngest sister was born 59 years ago today but Mary only lived a day and a half out of the womb. Her lungs never fully inflated. She was rushed to Children’s Hospital in nearby Buffalo New York but there was nothing that could be done for her. We lacked the know-how in those days to save little girls like Mary Patricia. Now we have lots of technology that make it possible for little girls like my sister to survive and have long lives. My mom was exposed to rubella while she was carrying Mary. I had come down with rubella that previous winter because in those days there were no vaccinations which prevented that virus. There was a time I felt responsible for my sister’s short life. That’s not the case anymore but her untimely death always reminded me of the importance of vaccinations and how they’ve saved our children and grandchildren from viruses that were once quite common. I remember standing in line at our small elementary school to receive the polio vaccine. Just a generation earlier adults and children were crippled for life because of polio. Thank God our generation was spared. Now, there is a vaccine to prevent rubella and little people like Mary get to thrive where once upon a time they didn’t.
I think about Mary Patricia from time to time when I drive by the cemetery where she is buried. My folks said that she looked like me when she was born. I remember sitting next to my Mom on the couch and feeling Mary kick my mother from the inside. Her death traumatized our family. My sister remembers putting away the baby clothes that were meant for her. My father never really recovered from her death. He died ten years later. They rest side by side in the same plot at St. Peter and Paul cemetery in Arcade New York. Maybe someday we’ll meet in the afterlife if there is one. Happy Birthday Mary Patricia from your big brother!