- 2013

My beautiful sister Mary, some of you knew her as Michal or Miki. What is in a name?

Mary and I were together at my beginning and I was there at the end. One of my fondest memories is of the 2 of us, as young girls, polishing the floor as part of our chores and swinging to the pop charts with the polishing cloths on our feet so we could slide with great panache. Mary was there for my first day at school, she was there at my first dance. As you may be aware she spent time in Brazil, many years in Israel, back to Brazil before finally returning to Australia in 1990.

She was a talented linguist, just like our mother Helen. She was fluent in all of the languages from the countries in which she lived. She had a great smile that lit up her face and her blues eyes sparkled. Her sense of humour shone through until the end. She was a wonderful mother raising her 4 children in a loving caring and respectful way.

We arrived in Australia as little children when our parents wanted to have a new life after the Holocaust and the ruin of Europe. They set about raising their 2 daughters. Our parents instilled in us a love of education and learning.

Mary followed her heart to marry the handsome boy from Brazil who swept her off her feet and thus disappeared from my life for a while. As a 19 year old she was very courageous to travel halfway around the world on her own to Brazil to be with the man she loved. That was an enduring love that lasted for both of them. They were idealists and went to have their family in Israel. In those days there were no emails, mobile phones or Skype. We had to rely on snail mail. She wrote the most interesting letters, she wrote about the kibbutz, Israeli dancing and her family. She had 4 beautiful children and now 16 fabulous grandchildren in total. She wrote her story for her grandchildren and she ensured that her grandchildren would know about her life on the kibbutz and her journeys.

During her time in Israel she studied to become a teacher of English. Her lifelong love of language, particularly English had her correcting grammar, pronunciation and spelling to the end. This was her talent. It started in Australia; her first job was as a proof reader doing the white pages. Like the old gag says the book had a cast of 1000s but no plot. In Israel she taught English and in Australia she taught Hebrew. Her teaching career was enduring and many of her students are here today.
She spent 30 years away from Australia. From Israel she travelled back to Brazil and finally back to Australia, but this time with a family of 4 children in various stages of development. So here we were back together again as sisters.

I have been blessed with having known her. Like in all families there was sibling rivalry and conflict but in the end none of that mattered. More recently we were together and spent many a beautiful night together reminiscing. We talked about our children, our parents, our hopes and dreams; we resolved all the world's ills and had midnight snacks like 2 naughty little schoolgirls. There were tears, there was laughter but most of all there was love for each other and our family.

To Mary’s children: you are all amazing, Ariella, Idit and Elad. My heart is with you in your sorrow. We walk together in the tragedy that we have endured. The loss of your beloved father Jairo, then the loss of your beloved sister Avital and now your beloved mother has brought immense pain. Through all of that there have been many blessings.

I have watched your tenderness, your selflessness, compassion and most of all your love in caring for your mother and being with her to ease her pain. You have taught your own children the value of care for family, concern, sensitivity, gentleness and warmth. I watched the family pull together even the older grandchildren were involved in her care. Even the little ones contributed through their laughter, fun and games bringing lots of smiles and kisses to their Safta. If there is such a thing as a beautiful death this was her blessing. She gave us many gifts and the biggest gift of all she gave us each other. I thank you all for your acceptance of me and the love that we have shared. The unconditional love and support that we have given each other during this time has been our strength.

To Shachar and Fred you have also added to the family in immeasurable ways. You have also added to the love pool and your sacrifices to give your partners the time and ability to allow them to be with their mother. Particularly you Fred who must have had many a lonely night alone, in Townsville, as your family were here for over the months.

To Mary’s friends, and there are many, your support friendship and love were also a strength to her and the family. The family would like to thank the Cabrini palliative care team and Dr Samuel Jaborowski who were pillars of support in the concern and care for Mary and the family.

Vale my sweet sister may she lie in the arms of those that were waiting for her and may we be content in the knowledge that she has left a great legacy that will endure. We will carry her in our hearts always as will anyone who has had the privileged to have known her.

In Mary’s own words from her life story she ends with “Life is difficult and sometimes much too painful, but humans are resilient. I have family, and through all the tragedies in my life, they have been there for me, and I have had them to live for. We pick ourselves up and press on – that is what we have been designed for. Family is who we live for."

- Ena Shaw

Mary Enk (Shaw)