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Lost Love and a Second Chance

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

Sitting at my desk reviewing legal briefs for tomorrow's trial. I was startled by my judicial assistant. She knocked on my door and came inside. “Judge Twomey this package was dropped at the front desk for you.”

“Kathy, is everything alright?”

“Sure Judge Twomey, but you need to look at the package.”

She handed it over to me. The mystery package was wrapped in brown paper and tied with string. What caught my eye was it was addressed to me in blue crayon and in handwriting like a six-year-old, and there was no return address. Kathy asked me if she should call security and have them open it. I told her, no, but he might want to leave before I open it.

I had never seen Kathy move so fast.

I knew I had work to do, but curiosity made me open the mystery package. I untied the blue ribbon and carefully tore apart the brown paper. Inside was a small white box about the size of two packs of cigarettes stacked on top of the other. I pulled the top off and pulled and pulled a piece of tissue apart. Inside was a folded piece of writing paper and underneath it was a 3”x5” black and white photograph of a little girl and boy. The boy was me and the girl was my old neighbor. I looked on the back and written in ink was; “Brendan and Mary Beth – 1960” I unfolded the paper and read the note. It was from Mary Beth. She was in Boston for work and wanted to get together for lunch. I looked at her cell phone number and wondered if I should call her.

Mary Beth and I grew up together back in Michigan. We were inseparable during those early years. She was my best friend. When we reached high school, we both started to thinking of each other as more than friends and started dating. Life was going great for us. Then after graduation, my father took a job with a law firm in Boston. I ended up attending Boston University. Mary Beth and I kept in touch for a while, but slowly it became less and less. I thought of her occasionally, wondering how she was doing.

In 1976, I graduated from Boston University and ended up going to Harvard Law School. It was at Harvard, I met and fell in love with the woman I was truly meant to spend my life with, Kathleen Shannahan, a fellow law student. We married when we both finished law school. My father was able to get us both into his law firm. Kathleen’s career was cut short by the births of our three children; Hannah, Ciara, and Sean.

We had a nice home just outside of Boston. I became a very successful attorney. The years seemed to fly by. The last I heard of Mary Beth was from friends back in Detroit. She was married to an executive with Ford. They lived in West Bloomfield and like us had three children.

In the fall of 2015, I was selected to serve as a judge for the United States District in Boston. My joy quickly faded that January. Kathleen was diagnosed with breast cancer. She spent the next five months going through chemotherapy hell. The kids and I did everything we could to care for and make her happy. Kathleen was a strong woman and despite the unbearable pain, would tease us about our sad faces. Her favorite saying to all of us was; “Look you, sourpusses, I am not going anywhere. Somebody has to keep an eye on you.”

We watched as she slowly melted away from the strong woman she had been, into a tiny person lying in a hospital bed. I tried so hard not to cry as I sat next to her reading the hundreds of get-well cards she received from our families, friends, co-workers, and our church. Kathleen despite the pain, would smile at me and squeeze my hand.

It was June ninth, my father’s birthday. We planned to celebrate it with Kathleen in her hospital room. I was in my office when Kathy rushed in. “Judge, they need you at the hospital, it’s Kathleen.” I was out the door and on the way in seconds.

As I entered Kathleen’s room, I knelt next to her bed sobbing when I heard Kathleen’s voice. “For God’s sake Brendan, I am not dead.” That was Kathleen. I laughed and hugged her frail body. O

ur children arrived not long after me. We held her hands and told stories of our goofy family. Kathleen did her best to smile. Just before she left us, barely able to speak, she spoke into my ear and told me about a box she had left for me and our children. Moments later with me holding her hand, my Kathleen slipped away from us.

With the funeral, all thoughts of the box left me. It was not until October of that year that my daughter, Hannah was able to convince me to donate Kathleen’s clothes to charity. Letting go of her clothes was one of the hardest things for me to do. I used to walk in her closet just to smell the perfumes she wore that were on her dresses.

The day came and everyone was there to help. I was of no use to them. I just cried as the girls brought out her clothes. Every dress reminded me how beautiful she was. I often told Kathleen she was too beautiful to be married to a guy like me.

As I sat in the chair