Angel: Mary Caroline (Bulman) McNally October 21, 1935 – June 29, 2018
My hope is that loyal readers will forgive me for this diversion from the local political front, but my heart is occupied elsewhere today.
As you read this, Patti and I are traveling to Washington, D.C. where we will gather with dear friends to celebrate the life and legacy of Mary Caroline McNally.
By any metric, Mary lived a full and incredibly interesting life – definitely not your average octogenarian.
Mary was born in Philadelphia and grew up in the seaside town of Margate, New Jersey, where she graduated magna cum laude from Holy Spirit High School in 1953.
She was one of the first recruits in the Central Intelligence Agency’s early efforts to broaden their talent base outside the Ivy League realm – and early in her career was assigned overseas to Frankfort, Germany, where she met and married a career Army officer – Brigadier General Uri S. French, in 1959.
Their marriage produced three of the most beautiful, loving and accomplished people I know – incredible individuals and the living legacies of this extraordinary woman – Michael, Mary Catherine and Carlie.
With three precocious children in tow – this military family moved over twenty times in 20-years throughout the United States and Germany – as Mary continued her service to our great nation – all while perfecting her role as an Army officer’s wife.
As anyone who knew Mary can attest, she was at her best supporting, entertaining and guiding military spouses, organizing charitable events or hosting mid-morning coffees and elegant dinner parties – always with grace, style and poise.
After Mary and General French parted, in 1981, Mary met and fell in love with her devoted husband, Thomas McNally – and thus began an incredible 36-year love story.
Shortly after Mary and Tom were married, they moved to Bangkok, Thailand in what would be her final assignment at CIA. She enjoyed her work immensely – and loved the shopping, cultures and culinary delights of Thailand – a place she often referred to as her “Happy Place.”
In 1990, after 30 years with the Agency, Mary retired with Tom to Daytona Beach Shores, Florida.
Here, they were blessed by the local presence of Mary’s sister, Patsy Cavanaugh, and brother John Bulman (both of whom I count among the finest human beings I have ever known) along with their large and loving families.
Mary and Tom enjoyed traveling to many continents, including multiple around-the-world cruises, and trips to visit children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, as well as extended family and friends across the globe.
She loved Broadway shows and musicals, fine dining and dancing at the Halifax River Yacht Club.
In quieter moments, it was the panoramic view of the Intercoastal and Atlantic Ocean from her beachfront home that brought Mary the most peace.
Her angelic voice, infectious smile and cackling laugh will be deeply missed.
Of all the wonderful talents bestowed upon the Bulman family – genetically passed through the generations undiluted – is the gift of friendship. My wife and I have been blessed to count this wonderful tribe among our dearest friends for many, many years.
With her passing, I am sharply reminded that, as beautiful souls like Mary McNally pass from this world to the everlasting life their strong faith assured, they can never be replaced in the orbit of our lives.
I once read that what readies us for our own mortality is our steady exposure to loss as one ages.
First comes the passing of elders: grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles; and later the loss of contemporaries, friends, classmates, spouses – even our enemies and antagonists begin to leave us – always reminding us that death is an inevitable part of life.
But so long as happy memories remain – family gatherings, parties, quiet conversations, advise received, gifts bestowed and received, graduations and milestones, the birth of children, the funerals and mourning, good times and bad – I will always be reminded of my good fortune to have very special people in my life.
Following Mary’s passing, I was contemplating the depth and breadth of a life so well lived, and was reminded of a short poem by the author Linda Ellis entitled, “The Dash”:
I read of a man who stood to speak at a funeral of a friend. He referred to the dates on the tombstone from the beginning – to the end.
He noted that first came the date of birth and spoke of the following date with tears, but said what mattered most of all was the dash between those years.
For that dash represents all the time they spent alive on earth and now only those who loved them know what that little line is worth.
For it matters not, how much we own, the cars – the house – the cash. What matters is how we lived and loved and how we spend our dash.
So, think about this long and hard; are there things you’d like to change? For you never know how much time is left that still can be rearranged.
To be less quick to anger and show appreciation more – and love the people in our lives like we’ve never loved before.
If we treat each other with respect and more often wear a smile – remembering that this special dash might only last a little while.
So, when your eulogy is being read, with your life’s actions to rehash, would you be proud of the things they say about how you lived your dash?
Beloved daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, aunt, CIA officer, world traveler, adventurer – friend.
Quite a dash indeed.
Requiescat in pace.
May God bless and keep Mary McNally – and all of you.