Dear Mary

My brother Robert Jordan and his wife Bebe had four children, one boy and three girls.  Their son Bob was born in 1935. The older girls were identical twins, Mary and Martha, born in 1937.  Younger sister Sarah came along in 1939.

Mary and Martha Jordan

Theirs was a beautiful family, and I enjoyed every moment I spent with them.  We had many great times when I visited them in Bassett, Virginia, or when they came to see us at Carolina Beach.

Robert, Bebe and Girls


Unfortunately, young Mary had a dark cloud hanging over her.  She had a serious heart defect.  Whether it was genetic or caused by a bout with rheumatic fever, I do not know.  My father, himself a physician, privately stated that it was the worst sounding heart he had ever heard.  Naturally, the parents were very concerned, and her involvement in physical sports and strenuous activity was limited.  Otherwise, she lived a normal life.

Mary, Queen of her

High School Court

Mary attended college and graduated with a degree in medical technology from the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond, her grandfather’s old school.  Naturally, her work brought her into contact with numerous physicians and other medical professionals, and some of them became acquainted with her medical history.   Many advised her to get open heart surgery.

It was a terribly difficult decision.  Mary was not experiencing any pain or disability and was living a rather normal, enjoyable life with no other health issues.  But the medicos advised her that this could change very quickly, and surgery would have a much greater chance of success if she was not experiencing secondary problems.  What should she do?  As she considered her options, she and her sister Sarah took a trip to Europe with a tour group organized by her mother’s sister, Aunt Madge, and then she flew to Alaska for a visit with her brother Bob and family.  After her return from Alaska, she informed her physicians that she was ready for surgery.

A few days ago, I found and reread the letter Mary sent me three weeks before the scheduled operation.  I quote in part “The decision was up to me, but you can be sure I’ve had many consultations, thoughts, and prayers before I said yes.  And I have faith to believe that everything will be all right.  I only regret that it must cause any anxiety and worry on the part of my family and loved ones. . . .

(and) I want you to know you’ll be the first ones I shall visit after my short recovery!”

The surgery was scheduled for February 15, 1961.  I drove down to Charlottesville the afternoon before and spent time with Mary, brother Bob, and family at the UVa hospital, returning to my home in Maryland later that evening.

Mary looked radiant!

Next day, the heart surgeon discovered to his sorrow that Mary’s heart was damaged beyond any hope of effective repair.  When he attempted to restart the heart, it would not respond.

It has been a long time since then in earthly years, but I will see you again soon, dear Mary

2 thoughts on “Dear Mary

  1. This story I had not heard before reading this writing. I can only wonder if with the advances at this point in time in treatment for heart disease and defects that a different outcome would have taken place. Sounds like, however, her’s was a life well lived.


    1. The decision to have heart surgery was a very difficult one for Mary and her family. Medical advances were being made every year, and chances of survival were improving. Also, Mary seemed to be in very good health with no apparent ill effects from her defective heart. Without surgery, she might have lived many more years without serious health issues. Who knows?.

      My brother Bob said that it was an incredibly difficult decision.


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