Facing fears of living fully - that’s what I was doing in the 1990’s as a photographer looking for stories for my newspaper. I found a rehabilitation center -they let me tell their story and Mary was my guide.
I met Mary as she was exiting a six month rehab program. Mary knew that she needed to find a way to stay off drugs. Her goal was to put back the pieces of her life and make a home for her two children.
Mary, two years older than me, desired to be working and independent, a good mother, and have an equal partner in life. This was what I wanted too but I had chosen a different path - instead of having a baby at the age of 21, I chose to abort my pregnancy. Mary became pregnant at 18 and married the father and all was well - for a while. Mary had a good job at AT&T and she was in love with her little family. They eventually added a second child. Then it became too many bills and responsibilities. Cocaine was an energy boost.
I had imagined what my life would be like when I was faced with my turning point and identified with Mary who was trying her best and needed help.
Building up self-worth to deal with the federal assistance system - largely comprised of single mothers and their children - is difficult. Mary rebuilt her life with the help of her family, especially her grandmother, mother and sister. She made a home for her children; earned her associates degree and found a job.
I left the USA in 1997 after earning my degree to live and teach overseas for 25 years. Two years before I repatriated in 2020 due to COVID, Mary died of breast cancer. Now back in the US after so long – I return to Mary who was open about her challenges. Now she is gone and I miss her.