Mary Beth Rohan was with Judy, best friend, constant companion and pal since the earliest days of her youth, when the news arrived.
It was her Uncle Ned who called, actually. Mary Beth could tell immediately that it was something major. Uncle Ned could hardly keep his voice from breaking right over the phone.
He didn't say what it was. He only told her that he needed her to come over right away.
She was worried, as she told Judy about it and Judy told her to call, as soon as possible with whatever the news was.
As it turned out, it was about the death of her three cousins. They were coming home from a trip to the shore and, it seems, were run off the road by a road raged driver. All three were killed, as the car careened over the edge of a long steep drop. The other driver simply went on.
Mary Beth was devastated. Her parents had died about seven years previously and at the time, she was simply taken in by Uncle Ned. She lived, as another daughter, with her cousins, Mike, Mindy and Wayne, all now dead.
During the ensuing time, after the accident, Mary Beth stayed with Uncle Ned and saw to his care. She made sure that he was taking his meds and that he had everything that he needed.
For that time period, up to and including the funeral, Uncle Ned just leaned on Mary Beth. She took time off from her job as a tax accountant, trainee and stayed with him. There was a fairly huge amount of decisions to be made and arrangements to be settled. Mary Beth took care of those kinds of things.
She also acted as Uncle Ned's hostess for the gathering that was a post funeral gathering.
Mary Beth, at the time was 27. She had plotted out a kind of career path for herself. She'd majored in economics and accounting in college and had a quirky interest in tax accounting. She found a job as an intern first and then a trainee, with a promise that she'd be hired, after a time period.
All of that was now on hold.
At the same time, she moved out of Uncle Ned's house and moved in with her 'bestie' Judy Walsh. They had a small apartment that was furnished, as they reminded each other with smiles, in 'neo-attic' style. But to the two of them, both the same age, it was home.
Mary Beth called Judy that same day.
"Bethie?" Judy said with great affection. "You all right?"
"Got to be," Mary Beth said, "Uncle Ned is on the verge of falling apart."
"Anything I can do?" Judy asked.
"Maybe there is," Mary Beth said, "There are so many details to take care of. I might need a hand, especially if there's a big gathering after the funeral. I'm going to talk to Uncle Ned about that."
"Okay, sweetie, you just let me know," Judy said, "I can get some time or just take some night time shifts at the hospital."
(Judy was a nurse at the local Medical Center.)
Mary Beth was constantly by Uncle Ned's side for the funeral and also for the gathering at his home afterwards. Judy did come along and acted as a kind of assistant hostess to make sure that things were being done. Uncle Ned simply let it all in Mary Beth and Judy's hands.
Together the got through it. Afterwards, for a number of nights, they sat and talked. Uncle Ned talked about not being able to get used to suddenly losing his children, all three of them at one time.
In the meantime, the police had gotten a line on the driver of the other car, the one that ran Mary Beth's cousins off the road.
She was at Uncle Ned's a few days after the funeral, when the doorbell rang.
She answered it and a youngish man at the door identified himself as Detective Gray. Mary Beth greeted him and asked him in, once he told her that he was there about the road rage incident.
They talked for a bit, prior to Mary Beth getting Uncle Ned. The young detective seemed, to Mary Beth, to be very sensitive and apologetic about causing a stir for them with the investigation news.
Detective Gray, Mike Gray, spoke with Mary Beth and Uncle Ned for a bit and gave them an outline of where the police were at.
He told them that this person had a history of reckless driving and road rage incidents and was driving that day on a suspended license.
"I think that he'll go to jail with this incident," Mike Gray said. "I know that will in no way compensate you for your loss but I did at least want you to know where we're at and what we're doing about the incident.
"Thank you, sir," Uncle Ned said, as Mike got up to go.
"I'll see the detective to the door," Mary Beth said. "You stay where you are."
"Thank you, sweetheart!" Ned said, and said 'farewell' to the detective from where he was sitting.
The ensuing days, and weeks, were not easy ones. Uncle Ned was restless and was having a very difficult time dealing with the death of his children. It had been a very hard two year period. First, Aunt Ruthie died of cancer and then the accident had taken the children, all at once.
Uncle Ned was then in his late 60's but seemed a good bit older. The recent battles of life had seen to that.
It was a Tuesday evening and Judy and Mary Beth had their plans to meet for a quick dinner and some talk.
The first thing that Judy wanted to know was how Mary Beth was.
"Oh, I'm okay," Mary Beth answered, "It's just so hard. There seem to be ghosts behind every door and in every room and every corridor. It's just hard."
"Uncle Ned," Judy asked.
"Going through the motions," Mary Beth answered. "At least that's the way that it seems to me." She shook her head then and there were tears in her eyes.
Judy held her hand and just let Mary Beth have the silence and the sadness.
"It's taken everything out of him," Mary Beth said. "Just everything. I keep hoping that he'll come around and I do everything that I can for him. I know he loves me but he lost them all that crazy afternoon."
"Progress with the other driver?" Judy asked.
"Detective Gray was back again and the other driver has gone to jail. I guess he's gotten, from his record, fifteen years in jail."
"At least that's something!" Judy said.
"Yes, but kind of cold comfort in its way," Mary Beth answered.
"How are things at the dive?" Mary Beth asked then. (It's what they always called their apartment, 'the Dive'.)
"Oh, as jumbled as ever," Judy said with a smile. "You'd recognize all the old piles of things and ancient furniture right away."
"Need to make it a future priority to spruce it up," Mary Beth said. "This thing for Uncle Ned can't last for ever. I know how strong a man he actually is!"
"I hope you're right!" Judy said.
It was about ten days later. By then Mary Beth was back at work and got a call from a neighbor. Her Uncle Ned had collapsed out in the back yard of the house. He'd been taken by ambulance to the University hospital.
Mary Beth went there in a kind of a 'oh not more, not again, not him!' panic.
She was allowed to see him but the doctor said that it had been a heart incident and they simply had to see how he'd make it through the night.
Judy joined Mary Beth at the hospital that night, and the two of the kept a vigil.
During the night, Uncle Ned had a fatal heart attack. Efforts that were expended to revive him, were to no avail. Judy was there with her, when he died.
Mary Beth spent a good half hour with Uncle Ned holding his hand, with Judy sitting in a chair nearby. Mary Beth felt that she needed to tell him one last time how much she loved him, and how grateful she was for him taking her in, after the death of her parents. With tears streaming down her face, she talked to him, as calmly as she could, saying her thanks, pledging her love and taking her leave of him.
It was very hard for her. When he was finally taken away, Judy took her to their apartment, the 'Dive' and put her to bed. She watched over her and took care of her.
The next few days were tough ones. The memorial, after cremation, by Uncle Ned's wishes, was a difficult one to get through. There was a brief gathering of various friends and associates at the house afterward. Mary Beth had it, at Judy's insistence, catered, as well as the clean up. Uncle Ned had left 'funeral' money to take care of such things.
One of the guests that was there was Uncle Ned's lawyer, Matt Stewart. He had been Ned's lawyer for ages and ages.
As he was about to leave, Matt said to Mary Beth: "Honey, I'll be in touch with you within the next two or three days. We need to get together and look over Ned's things and his wishes."
"Yes, sir," Mary Beth said.
"You know better than the 'sir'!" he said with mock severity.
Mary Beth just clung to him and cried for a few moments. Then she said: "Just let me know; I'll be available."
The caterers cleaned up and Judy saw that the bill was paid, again from the 'funeral' money that Ned had assigned for such tasks.
The two of them sat that evening, once everyone was gone.
"I can hardly say 'thank you' enough for all you've done for me!" Mary Beth said.
"It' what you've already done for me," Judy said. "We're 'besties', it's what we do!"
There was a brief silence.
"I have no idea what's next," Mary Beth said.
"I'm sure that Matt Stewart will guide you," Judy offered.
"Yes," Mary Beth answered, "He told me that he and I would meet in a day or two to go over things. I just don't know the status of things is all."
"Best not to worry until you have the meeting and it's all clear," Judy said.
"Yes, I guess so," Mary Beth said. "I'm so tired."
"Yes, we're all taken care of here!" Judy said.
.... There is more of this story ...