"To think of Mary was to see her beautiful gardens that bloomed under the compassionate care she gave to all living things."

RED BANK, NJ: In Tibetan Buddhism, a bodhisattva is a person who decides not to ascend to the transcendent state of nirvana and be free from earthy woes, but elects, instead, to remain in the world relieving the suffering of others. These are beings of great compassion who live humbly among us.  Mary Yahara traveled to Tibet. She was drawn to Buddhism by her own spiritual nature and knew the depth of suffering, both her own and others. She would never have called herself a bodhisattva, but she was one.

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Mary took her own life on August 28 and died at home in Red Bank, where she had lived with her husband, photographer Danny Sanchez and Ava, their beloved deer ear Chihuahua. Mary and Danny had a love story that started from the day they met in 1982 when Danny was a student at Brookdale Community College taking a photography class and needed a model. Mary volunteered and so began the love of a lifetime for both of them.

Mary went on to get her nursing degree at Brookdale, receiving the highest academic honors. Her professional career advanced as a member of multidisciplinary treatment teams at New Jersey hospitals and health centers, most often as Head Nurse, compassionately caring for profoundly mentally delayed children, adolescents with alcohol and drug addition, and adults with severe developmental delays. 

Although she grew up on the Jersey Shore, it was only when she got her own backyard at the house she and Danny bought in Red Bank that she found the joy of gardening. She would tell people about planting her first bulbs and having no idea what would come up.  Mary added a Certificate of Ornamental Horticulture to her academic accomplishments and worked for a time as a perennial plant buyer for Sickles Market in Little Silver, but she never lost her first wonder of flowers and the thrill of being close to nature. To think of Mary was to see her beautiful gardens that bloomed under the compassionate care she gave to all living things.

Mary was fearlessly honest— a truth-speaker without judgment of others. She turned inward first, never afraid of using self-inventory as a tool for understanding. For Mary, there was no shame that had to be hidden, no hierarchy of human experience that made anyone different or better or worse than anyone else. There was only her open heart that she offered to heal the sorrows of the world. 

“Mary was a true friend,” wrote one of her own after Mary died. “ Throughout the years I knew her, our friendship blossomed. Mary was funny. We would laugh so hard, sometimes we couldn’t get the words out. She was the type of friend, whenever you needed her, she would be there. She held me up when I couldn’t stand emotionally. Her heart and soul were pure. I was always in awe of her. Her kindness held no bounds.”

Mary was born in 1958 at Monmouth Memorial Hospital and grew up in Belford, New Jersey where her sisters, Barbara and Regina, and brothers, Carl and Bern (Bo) still live in the area.  “A Remembrance of Mary” will be held Wednesday, September 9, 4-7pm at the Red Bank Elks Lodge, 40 West Front Street, Red Bank.  Masks required and Covid precautions apply. Mary gave of herself in many ways—to people, to animals, to plants. In lieu of flowers, please consider donations to things that matter to you.