Tuesday, November 2, 2021

In Memoriam: Mary Beth Bishop

Mary Beth Bishop, January 30, 1942 - March 12, 2021

Mary Beth was one of my original customers when I ran Berenbaum's, and continued her devout patronage through the years I've owned NSB. It's hard for me to describe her smile even now, her laugh, her generosity. At the time in 2011 when I met her, she was married to Alan, who though a tall man, was quite stooped and walked with a cane. They made quite the pair. She was a foodie's foodie, enthusiastic and giving, a great lover of our gingersnaps and biscotti and mandelbrot and kombucha and sandwiches. She survived breast cancer and chemo, only to have it come back. She survived her son, Steve, who also passed away from cancer two years before. She went through the breakup with Alan post-cancer with the utmost strength and dignity. She was like a surrogate mom or grandmom to me here in Durham (my family lives in Boston). She had a beauty and spirit and a liveliness all her own. I don't think I can put into words what it felt like to give her a hug, or what it was like to carry her bakery packages to her Subaru (with her dog Lisi in the back) that last time I saw her, to say goodbye without knowing it's goodbye. I heard two or three weeks later she passed very suddenly in the hospital. She had been getting weaker, and had a stubborn cough and laryngitis that went unexplained for months. The cancer had returned, this time in her throat and her lungs. I bake for people like Mary Beth, and I hope to carry a piece of her wherever I go, and in whatever I do.

A short prose poem:

And if you should take a grain of sand from Shackleford Banks home with you in your shoe, you will remember the name of her on her birthday, and on the grave that is scattered through the ashes of time in the hills of her birthplace of Casper, Wyoming.