How I became an Orphan

Real Estate Agent with Russell Real Estate Services

How I became an Orphan

They say that there can be no growth without pain. roses

Becoming an orphan, at least for me, was very painful, but, it also offered an opportunity for profound growth.

It’s a strange thing…to be an Orphan at my age….but that’s just what it felt like to me.  My anchor was gone, I had to be the grown up now….I didn’t want to go there, but…

“So, the CT showed something”, mom told me.  That something was a 4 cm. tumor in her right lung.  After further testing, the doctor called my sisters and me out of her room and into the hallway----not a good sign.   I went into that little protected place in my brain and only heard the words, terminal, nothing left to do, make her comfortable, 8-10 weeks.

My mother was born to my Lebanese, immigrant grandparents in 1928.  She knew hardship, she knew poverty, she knew sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather, she knew parents struggling to make a living, and she knew pain in the form of a congenital deformity of her feet.   Her name was Dolores, which means “sorrows”. 

My mother also knew the love of strong family ties, she learned how to sing and laugh, she learned how to rise above all the pain and hurt, and, she loved to tell jokes.  She knew the value of a dollar and she knew how to work hard.  And, she knew Partyhow to cook….my, did she ever know how to cook.  She used to look for a reason to throw a party.    If there was a party to be had, it was at our house.  Mom once threw a Surprise party… for herself, where the guests had to guess the occasion of the party.  During the party she uncovered a cake and a photo celebrating the anniversary of her First Communion.  Now that was a fun party.

 Despite financial hardships and opposition from her peers, teacherMom chose to continue her education.  She got a job as a secretary right out of high school.  She worked her way through college earning a degree in Business Education.  She became a teacher, married my father and continued to work and earn her Master’s Degree at a time when that wasn’t a popular thing for women to do.

She was passionate about her family, her work and her life.  She was successful by most standards, but she always felt it was a responsibility to give back…to do more.

It was a common thing at our house to share a meal with a stranger that came to the door looking for a handout.  She and dad would offer odd jobs to some and just offer a meal and acceptance to others. 

Mom had two heart attacks and two By-Pass surgeries before she became a widow in 1997.  She struggled with Diabetes and her deteriorating feet.  Somehow, she never lost her sense of humor.


Fast forward to 2002.  Mom developed pneumonia twice that summer.  We were just returning from a trip to Baltimore where we celebrated my youngest sister’s 40th Birthday.  Mom had created a poem for the occasion, as she did for me and my other sister when we turned 40.  Her doctor called me on my cell to tell me to take mom directly to the hospital---don’t even stop at home.  It was something serious.

We were devastated.  Her future was decided in that hospital corridor and we knew what we had to do.

My sisters and I left our homes, jobs, and families and moved back “home” to take care of her, ….for as long she would stay.  With the help of our local Hospice, we learned how to care for her….and of ourselves.  During the next several weeks we sisters laughed and cried, we argued and prayed, we cooked, we drank wine, we survived without sleep…. and we grew…..We grew  thin with worry, we grew strong in faith, we grew courage and….we grew up.

It was almost 10 weeks to the day that she died.   It was the Sunday before Thanksgiving in 2002.

She took a part of me with her that day she died, but she left heartme the gift of memories and time spent with her and with grown-up sisters.  It was the best of the worst of times, and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.  

Posted by


Mary M. Kandell                                             
ABR, CNE                                               
Russell Real Estate

It Starts With the Heart 


6203 Milan Rd. Sandusky, OH   44870

 419-239-4140  Cell



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Team Honeycutt
Allen Tate - Concord, NC

Mary, I loved your post. Your Mother sounds like a wonderful person. I am so glad that you have good memories to hold close in your heart as a tribute to the time you had with your Mother. It is so nice that even today through your words she still has an influence over people like me. Thank you for sharing.


Jan 08, 2013 05:28 AM #1
Kathleen Daniels
KD Realty - 408.972.1822 - San Jose, CA
San Jose Homes for Sale-Probate & Trust Specialist

Mary, Your Mom is amazing. I've never heard of anyone throwing a surprise party for their-self!  Thankfully you and your sisters were able to be there with her during her final 10 weeks on earth. She will always be with you even though she has left planet earth.  I choked back emotions reading this because I believe I may soon face a similar situation with my soon to be 94 year old mother.  Thank you for participating in the contest.

Jan 08, 2013 05:34 AM #2
Mary M. Kandell
Russell Real Estate Services - Sandusky, OH

Betty,  Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.  Mom would love to hear that.  She always wanted to know that she made a difference.  Blessings...

Jan 08, 2013 05:35 AM #3
Mary M. Kandell
Russell Real Estate Services - Sandusky, OH

Kathleen,  Thank you for taking the time to read and comment.  As long as we have our mother's, it never seems long enough.  I'll hold you close in thought and prayer.  Blessings to you both

Jan 08, 2013 05:39 AM #4
Julie Bethel
RE/MAX First Choice - Park Rapids, MN - Park Rapids, MN
Secretary - RE/MAX First Choice 218-732-1191

Mary, an amazing tribute to your mom, she lives on in each of you.  Thanks so much for sharing your mom with us.

Jan 08, 2013 06:19 AM #5
Becky Kasper

My sister Mary ...We grew so much during that time!  God truly blessed us witha wonderful mom and brought us sisters even closer together.  I agree, I wouldn't have changed a thing about this experience and have grown in enormous ways as a result.  Thank you for sharing!

Jan 08, 2013 06:38 AM #6
Eve Alexander
Buyers Broker of Florida - Orlando, FL
Exclusively Representing ONLY Orlando Home Buyers

Your mom sounds a lot like my age 76 she took classes to write in English and learn how to swim.

We are all blessed to have amazing mothers...


Jan 08, 2013 06:41 AM #7
Mary M. Kandell
Russell Real Estate Services - Sandusky, OH

Julie,  I think of her almost every day, still.  Thank you for your kind words.

Eve,  What an amazing mom you have.  We have much to learn from their zest for living life.

Jan 08, 2013 07:34 AM #8


What a wonderful tribute to your mom who sounds like a very special influence in your life.

Jan 08, 2013 11:23 PM #9
Ruthann Csrr

Mary, I loved your story. Incredibly well-written and heartfelt. Would you please call or e-mail me? I've just finished writing a book about yhr last 10 years of my parents' lives and described feeling like an orphan when my mom died just months after my dad. I'd love to talk to you more about your experience, send you a draft of my book and possibly include your family's story. I'm at the point where I'm looking for a publisher, so if you've got any suggestions or contacts, I'd love for you to share.

My phone # 434-906-2536


Jan 09, 2013 12:03 AM #10
Lottie Kendall
Compass - San Francisco, CA
Helping make your real estate dreams a reality

Hi Mary - you write so poignantly and well that I feel I knew your mother. What an amazingly strong and happy woman. I think there's more than just of bit of her in you.

Jan 09, 2013 01:40 PM #11
Mary M. Kandell
Russell Real Estate Services - Sandusky, OH

Lottie,  Thank you for your kind words.  My mom was my Hero.  Not sure I can ever live up to the woman I carry in my heart, but I think she would be proud of me.  

Hey, our last names are almost the same.  Transpose a couple vowels and 'voila' we're related :)  I can't tell you how much mail I receive addressed to Kendall instead of Kandell

Jan 09, 2013 08:26 PM #12
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