This Sunday – September 25th – marks Mary and Bill’s 40th wedding anniversary. 40 years is no small feat and what a gift that we have all had the opportunity to watch their life together bear much fruit.
Once Mary received her terminal diagnosis in mid-July, her ONE goal became to make it to her and Bill’s 40th anniversary. Her body and her cancer had other ideas, but that doesn’t mean her love and legacy don’t live on…. they do. And we want to help HER celebrate her wedding anniversary with her beloved husband, Bill. Will you help us?
Please send love, anniversary cards, letters, notes, whatever you want to send by Sunday to:
1024 State Street
Brighton, Michigan 48116
We want Bill to feel showered in love by us and his beloved bride. So help us today, but sending a quick note, card, some love his way!
“If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” – St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Marriage and family has the power to change the world. And Mary and Bill’s commitment to one another accomplished that.
Mary Agnes Cullen Bryan, age 73, quietly slipped away in the early hours of September 6th, 2022, in her home filled with her family. Mary was born in Detroit, Michigan on October 22nd, 1948 to the late Frank Xavier and Irene Anne (Snyder) Cullen, the second oldest of eight children, and attended St. Gregory School in Detroit for twelve years. Mary never sought grand adventures, yet they often found her. She worked as a telephone operator and, ever a woman before her time, was promoted as one of the first female telephone installers at Michigan Bell, serving as a union steward as well. Mary went on to run a daycare out of her home (“Mary’s Little Lambs”), worked for Community of Mental Health, volunteered in the community, and “retired” after being a nanny and trained doula, still staying in touch with many of her former wards. She is the cultivator of a home garden that has slowly sprawled out into the front and side yards, a testament to her green thumb, and hosted the Right To Life flower sale for many years. Mary had a life full of wondrous experiences and she truly embodied her favorite saying, “you don’t have to die to have many lives.”
Mary thought of herself as a “taster of life.” In her young adulthood, she spent many of her nights dancing and singing along to traditional Irish tunes at The Gaelic League/Irish-American Club of Detroit and traveled to Hawaii, Ireland, Disney World, and took road trips out west – often bringing a sibling or cousin along for the ride. Mary lived through the Detroit Riots, the Blizzard of 1974, and numerous recessions and pandemics. She had a thousand stories, yet none are precisely about her, instead are about the people she knew in her life. She recalled details of distant cousins and long lost ancestors, wild antics of the 1970s phone company, and obscure old films and songs lost to the sands of time. Mary was a weaver of stories, tales which jumped through time, connected to other tangential anecdotes, yet always wound up back where they started.
Mary met her husband, Bill, of nearly 40 years of marriage (married on September 25th, 1982) while working at Michigan Bell. Mary and Bill had four children and faced many trials together, including Bill’s head injury and their children’s many health issues, yet those difficulties made their love and their family stronger. Mary’s example of how she lived her life showed others that they could also be “tasters of life,” that you need only be open and willing to live a beautiful and wonderful life. Mary’s husband Bill, and her children – Peter, Kate, Moira, Delia – are testaments to her life and how she lived – and her stories will live on through them. Mary is the example for her husband and children’s myriad adventures through life.
Mary is survived by her loving and devoted husband of nearly 40 years, William Bryan; her children, Peter Bryan (Brittany), Kate Milligan (Joe), Moira Singh (Pushpinder), and Delia Bryan (Jay); her siblings Chris Cullen (Lynda), Collette Cullen, Frank Cullen, Gabrielle Cullen (Billy), Rebecca Cullen (Harvey), and John Cullen (Moira); her godchildren Justin Cullen (Tammy) and Katherine Cullen; over a dozen nieces and nephews, an aunt and an uncle, and over one hundred first cousins; and her two special friends Benjamin Feinberg and LeeAnn Lasswell. She was preceded in death by her parents Frank and Irene, and her brother Joseph Cullen.
The visitation will be held at Keehn-Griffin Funeral Home, 706 W. Main St. (W. of Grand River), Brighton MI, on Monday September 12th from 1-8pm, and the funeral will be held at St. Patrick’s Church, 711 Rickett Rd. (W. of Grand River) in Brighton, on Tuesday September 13th 10:30am.
The queen mother, our dear, sweet Mama, Mary Cullen Bryan, went home to be with our Lord on Tuesday September 6th, 2022 at 2:53am Eastern. She departed to her next grand adventure, exactly how she would have wanted, slipping away quietly with twinkle lights in her room and her “life’s playlist” on the stereo. She spent her final days surrounded by family, the house bustling with laughter, storytelling, and performances of Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals – and joy, pure joy. Mary is a gift to us all and has been the best wife and mother anyone could have ever hoped and prayed for. We already miss her and feel her departure so deeply in our lives. We are so grateful for the outpouring of love and support over the past few weeks, and we hope to celebrate Mary’s life and legacy with you in person. As she would say, “The adventure continues…”
Details for the visitation and funeral are as follows:
Monday September 12th, 2022: 1-8pm
Visitation and viewing will take place at:
Keehn-Griffin Funeral Home – 706 W Main St, Brighton, MI 48116
*Rosary will be at 7pm
Tuesday September 13th, 2022: 9:30am-2:00pm
St. Patrick’s Church – 711 Rickett Road, Brighton, MI 48116
Visitation – 9:30am
Rosary – 10am
Funeral Mass – 10:30am
Burial directly after Mass at St. Patrick’s Calvary Cemetery – 201-231 Brighton Lake Road, Brighton, MI 48116
Luncheon will be directly after burial (approximately 12:30pm) in the basement of St. Patrick’s Church – 711 Rickett Road, Brighton, MI 48116
Our amazing friend Kim Lamb and our home parish of 40 years has kindly put together a call for a spiritual bouquet for Mary and our family. You can see the details below, but we would be so grateful if you would all pray for us and Mary – and participate in this great prayerful and powerful endeavor. You can see the letter from Kim and the details below.
The Bryan clan
Dear Friend of Mary Cullen Bryan and the Bryan Family,
As you may have heard, the Bryan family received devastating news in July when mama Mary Bryan was diagnosed with terminal cancer – Cholangiocarcinoma. Mary is currently at home with Bill and at least one of their children is always with them (Moira, Delia and Kate live in Michigan, while Peter is staying in Michigan for now but lives in Clemson, SC). Mary is currently in Hospice care and has received Anointing of the Sick from both Fr. Mathias and Fr. Miguel from St. Patrick Church, and a few days ago – Fr. Miguel returned to administer last rites and an Apostolic blessing. Mary is still hanging on and she and the family could use our prayers during this difficult time. The Bryan family have been long-time parishioners of the parish, for almost 40 years – since Mary and Bill got married on September 25th, 1982.
One of the outreach ministries of St. Pat’s thought it would be wonderful to organize a Spiritual Bouquet for Mary and her family. Mary is currently suffering with pain and other symptoms associated with her cancer. The family is also suffering as they watch their beloved wife/mom go through such a difficult trial as well as thinking ahead to life without their Mary. A Spiritual Bouquet can be such a blessing to people suffering, as it brings the breath of Heaven right down to earth. As a loved one, friend or acquaintance of Mary, we would like to invite you to participate in this Spiritual Bouquet. Typical offerings for a Spiritual Bouquet might include prayers, chaplets, novenas, masses, or any other spiritual blessing you might want to bestow on Mary and the family. If you would like to participate, please feel free to share your offering by either sending an email to: firstname.lastname@example.org or if you would prefer to send a personally written note/card, you can drop it off at the St. Patrick Parish office at 711 Rickett Rd. Brighton, MI 48116. If you know anyone else who would like to participate, please feel free to forward this note to them.
We hope this small token of love and support can provide some sort of healing balm to Mary and the Bryan family. God bless you and God bless Mary, Bill, Peter, Kate, Moira and Delia.
Thank you for all of your love and support – and thank you to everyone who has been keeping up on this blog. We’re trying to keep the blog updated, but depending on how Mary is doing – we’re often having to “backdate” updates. So thank you for your patience. But we try to post updates on social media whenever we post updates, so you can read through and keep up with everything going on. But we are really striving to post up-to-date updates, so you can all stay connected and up-to-date on what’s going on with Mary and our family.
Today was a really rough and painful day for Mary. We thought we had managed her pain (finally), but she was in a lot of pain all morning and after hours of pain and discomfort, she was really upset and frustrated. She is also becoming more confused, so confused about why she’s in pain and where things are and what’s happening. She is simultaneously “with it” and remembers all kinds of stories and facts and things about different family members/people – so she truly is an “enigma.” But we are embracing all of it with her and just trying to walk with her through this chapter, even if it’s a funny mix of specifics and confusion (smile).
Mary was really frustrated at her pain and suffering today and we weren’t sure how to help her. The nurse came and upped her pain meds and changed a few things around, which seemed to help. But Mary felt like this was “the end” and asked us to call the priest – through tears. So we called St. Patrick’s and Fr. Miguel (Mary’s favorite priest – sorry to everyone else!) answered the call and came immediately. Fr. Miguel administered last rites and an Apostolic blessing.
Some family members “freaked out” worried that they needed to come immediately, but the reality is – we never know when our day will come… and Mary felt more at peace that she had a visit from Fr. Miguel and was given last rites and an Apostolic blessing.
Mary is still hanging in there, but she is more at peace after receiving last rites. And we again, finally to have seemed to have managed her pain. Praise God!
If you’ve been to the Brighton farmhouse, you know that Mary and Bill have the two sweetest dogs. They have both been guard dogs of the house, although Eddie is the much more intimidating one, and both pups are keeping watch over Mary during this chapter. They sit at the foot of her bed or on the floor by the couch, if she’s out on the porch. They bark and alert us anytime anyone walks by the house or drives up. And they’re both constantly keeping watch and “doing rounds” around the house. In honor of National Dog Day, we thought we would celebrate our sweet pups on the blog!
As many of you know, Eddie was raised for Leader Dogs for the Blind, but failed because he loves to play too much – like the dog from the movie “Up.” And Maggie was rescued from a puppy farm and we adopted her at six months old. The two dogs are the two best friends and are keeping Mary and the family company during this difficult time.
A few weeks ago, we moved our family TV out to the screened in porch so we could all watch Stranger Things together. Mary has been spending most of her days out on the screened in porch, watching the birds and the clouds and soaking in some fresh air – and hasn’t had any interest in watching TV. But we convinced her to let us move the TV out to the porch, just so we could all watch the most recent episodes of Stranger Things together. After that night, we haven’t watched anything else on that TV. Until tonight…
Kate saw an ad for the 25th Anniversary Reunion Special of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella with Brandi, Whitney Houston, and a star-studded cast – which is one of our all-time favorite musicals and movies. So we set the porch all up and hit record, so we could record it while we were watching it – in case we wanted to watch it again. We watched the hour-long reunion with Mary and sang along to the different songs (“10 minutes ago” and “In my own little corner” are two of our family favorites) and then to our surprise (and joy!) they aired the full feature right after the special – so it was three hours of pure joy as we sang along to this whimsical and magical musical that we all love so dearly.
If you want to watch the hour-long Reunion special, you can watch it here.
We were gifted a free house cleaning from Cleaning for a Reason, an incredible organization that does free house cleanings for cancer patients, first responders, and veterans. A friend of ours suggested we submit Mary’s name for a free house cleaning and almost immediately Cleaning for a Reason accepted our request and sent an incredible team to clean the Bryan household. We’ve had so many people coming and going – with hospice and our immediate family – and of course, dog hair… that it was an incredible gift to have the house cleaned professionally.
If you know anyone who is currently going through cancer treatment or is another type of candidate for a free house cleaning from Cleaning for a Reason, please pass it on. They are amazing and we are so grateful.
“A Guinness a day, keeps the doctor away…” Isn’t that how the popular saying goes?
Mary enjoyed a Guinness with the family outside, as we tried to soak up the last days of summer that we have left. We grilled chicken and made a plethora of sides for the family to enjoy. And we all sat outside to watch the birds, breathe in the fresh air, and enjoy this beautiful summer night!
Mary has been hanging in there. She’s had some good days and some not so good days – but we continue to work to help manage her pain and symptoms. It feels like every week we say “we think we got her pain and symptoms under control” and then she crashes and has a few difficult days. But numerous things changed today, with the guidance of our hospice nurse, and we’re hoping that this will finally give Mary some reprieve.
Mary’s pain management has been hit or miss. Some days her usual regiment keeps things under control, but then there have been days where nothing seems to aid in her pain. She has been taking morphine every few hours, but there are times that doesn’t really seem to help – especially when her pain is already bad. So our nurse suggested we transition Mary to a pain pump, so she’s regularly getting a “boost” of pain meds and she has easy access to push a button for more – if she has any lingering pain.
Mary has been having more and more difficulty getting around, but we’ve still been able to help her get out to the porch. She’s still able to walk a few steps, but we usually help her get into the wheelchair and wheel her our and carry her down the few steps to the screened in porch. It’s a team effort, but usually one of the kids and Bill is around to help get her out to the porch. Mary loves watching the birds, people walking their dogs, and neighbors out doing yard work.
Since it’s gotten more difficult for Mary to move around, the nurse also recommended that we transition Mary to using a catheter. That way she doesn’t have to worry about having to use her energy to try to get to the bathroom or stress about not “making it in time.” The nurse also recommended that Mary be mainly bedridden from now on. Mary can still make it out to the porch, but we will need to wheel her out there and carry her out – just to keep her from falling or suffering from another injury.
So after today’s visit with the nurse, Mary will be on a pain pump 24/7 that will hopefully help us (finally!) manage her pain – fully. And she will be mainly bedridden and will be using a catheter instead of having to get up to go to the bathroom.