Moving through my sadness

The last several months have been difficult, and the reason for few posts. Although I had been creating art (and working on future videos and posts), they were just a diversion to what was going on here. My sister, Mari Culver, died July 9 in her home in Cropwell, Alabama.

Mari was four years older than me, and was the only one left of my immediate family.

1960s – Evansville, Indiana

Although we hadn’t seen each other since my trip to Alabama in 2015, (I blogged about the trip here) we kept in constant contact with emails and phone calls. If I didn’t hear from her for a week, I’d email her and she’d do the same. So even though we weren’t physically close, we were close. We also disagreed on many things, but she was my sister and there was that bond. We pretty much agreed to disagree. But one thing I did that made her mad was I insisted she see a doctor. She started complaining about her health back in October of 2021, and I begged her to see a doctor. She refused and through the year and a half she told me about all the herbal stuff she was using to get rid of what she thought were kidney stones. I would from time to time bring up her making an appointment with the clinic. She would get mad, and tell me I just didn’t understand. When finally her church members took her to the doctor in mid May, we found that it was cancer. She had a large mass on her spine. But she also had other health problems. Had she gone to a doctor back in 2021 when I insisted, I really believe she would still be here. But that was her choice.

2015 –  Cropwell, Alabama

Mari married after completing two years of college, moving from Indiana with her Air Force husband. They lived in a variety of places, ending up in Alabama. She continued to work on her BA in the different places they lived, and received a Masters in Counseling from Jacksonville State University in Alabama. She taught at the University, and in 1977 opened her cake decorating business, Mari’s Magic Cake Trims. A couple notable cakes she created were a life-sized cake of Richard Petty’s racing car, and a 15 ft by 5 ft replica of Bibb Graves Hall for Jacksonville State University’s centennial celebration. In the 80s she added teaching candy making and cake decorating classes to her offerings.


1970s Anniston, Alabama

She married a couple more times, and ended up raising four stepchildren. In the 90s, her interests turned to service where she worked for the Diocese of Birmingham and other organizations. She was active in a variety of organizations including Alabama Volunteers in Corrections, Calhoun Chapter; Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster (VOAD); American Red Cross, and the Legion of Mary. She studied Spanish and received a certificate in Immigration Law, dedicating most of her later years to helping the Hispanic community. She spent countless hours securing clothing, food, and other assistance for this community and others in need.

A rosary was said before her funeral where the leaders of the prayers alternated between English and Spanish. The Mass including one of her Hispanic friends, Christy, who sang the Offertory Hymn, “Pescador de Hombres” (Fisher of Men) in Spanish. Then Christy and others sang Ave Maria at the grave site. I met many of her Hispanic friends who told me stories of how she had helped them. The Mexican restaurant in the area, where she often ate, would never let her pay for her meal because of all the help she had given their family and friends. One woman said she was their Mother Teresa. Another woman told me when she moved to town with her young child, she didn’t know anyone, but Mari connected with her and helped her get settled. She will be missed.

I knew that she did a lot of good work. I just didn’t know how much it had impacted the community. I’m proud to call her my sister.

Right now I struggle between being sad, and being mad at her for not seeking traditional medical advice early on. But as I said, that was her choice. She was in a lot of pain at the end, so at least now she is in a better place. When asked if she was looking forward to heaven, she said no. She said that in heaven she didn’t think she’d have enough to do.

We had talked about this previously, but when she was in the hospital she asked me if it was okay for Deacon Jim Barrett to be her Power of Attorney, where he would be responsible to assure her estate proceeds would go to the Hispanic community. I was so happy she had made the decision about him since I had told her several years ago that I couldn’t do it from long distance. So Jim and his wife Ching had been there organizing everything and taking care of her. We talked at least twice daily since she went in to the hospital, and then her release to home. I did fly down on Memorial Day and visited her for several days at which time she was failing, but still knew what was going on. As the days wore on, Jim kept me in the loop, and I decided I needed to get down there again flying on July 9. I had spoken to her several times since I have visited, but each time she was having a harder time speaking, and even holding the phone. She died at 10 am. I had arrived in Birmingham for my 35 minute drive to her home at 11:45 am. But we had a really good last visit where we talked about a lot of things. She would get tired so I’d help her to bed. I’d sit back down in the livingroom and she’d call for me. I’d go in the bedroom and sit down and we’d talk more. It was like she wanted me there, but she also needed to sleep. I even brushed and flossed her teeth. “You never thought you’d have to do this for your big sister, did you?” We laughed and it was a sweet time.

Here is a picture of Deacon Jim Barrett and his lovely wife Ching, Mari’s friend Wayne, and Alecia, another friend but also a caregiver in her last days to give Jim and Ching a much needed break. Wayne, once he found out Mari was ill, he brightened her day by spending an hour or so every morning with her. A couple of times I spoke with her she was so happy he was there. He brightened my day by dropping by the house while I was going through stuff, introduced himself (although I knew who he was but I had never met him), asked me to lunch, and then showed me his land and garden. At the restaurant where he ate at every day (Mari did also), he introduced me to everyone and they all sang high praises about my sis.

It’s so hard to believe she’s gone. This morning I thought of something I wanted to ask her, but then realized I’ll never know that answer. I am so proud of what she did with her life, I just wish her personal life could have been happy. She wanted so much to have a traditional family. I told her several times over the years and then when I visited her in June, that she had a family. It wasn’t the one she envisioned, but it was a wonderful community of people who loved her. It’s been years since I lost a family member so I feel like I have to learn all over about how to process and move through this sadness. But as they say, this too shall pass.

I will be posting soon what I was working on earlier in the month. So please come back for hopefully some inspiration. I do truly appreciate all of you.