From Homelessness to Sisterhood

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 A Tribute to Mary Liza Rodriguez

Chrissy Fransone was driving home when she passed a homeless woman and her dogs sitting beside the roadway. She heard inside herself a voice that said “Go back to her” and felt its insistence in her solar plexus. She turned her car around and went back to the woman. The woman was Mary Liza Rodriguez, who had prayed that exact afternoon, “Lord, send me a sister” because she felt like she wanted to “end it all” by walking into oncoming traffic. She had had enough of homelessness.

How did Mary become homeless? She grew up poor. Even though she had graduated from a medical assistant program, she had no job and no health insurance, and yet she had a medical condition: a heart murmur. But mostly it was her landlord’s greed that put her on the streets. When the apartment complex where she resided went into receivership, the landlord chose to continue to collect rent from tenants rather than notify them. When the bank finally foreclosed on the property, Mary had two hours to pack up her belongings before the sheriff evicted her. Mary took with her everything she could carry and her dogs. The one relative who offered her shelter told her she’d have to get rid of her dogs. Mary would not abandon her beloved pets, even if it meant living on the streets.

Mary’s heart condition worsened significantly after she lost her home, and it eventually caused her to gain over 100 pounds in water weight. But when Chrissy took Mary in, her long brown hair still had that healthy gleam and her 47-year-old face its beauty.

Chrissy says that Mary lived in her home, on and off, for a year. They became like sisters. “Mary changed my life,” Chrissy says. “She was incredibly funny. Only Mary could make me laugh like she did.” But less than a year into their friendship, Mary passed on. Because of her heart disease, she had been hospitalized

mary Rodriguez with Chrissy

several times. One weekend Chrissy insisted that Mary go to the hospital because she didn’t look well and Chrissy was going out of town. But Mary refused to go to the hospital. She died on her own terms, surrounded by her dogs and Chrissy’s dogs. Congestive heart failure was the stated cause although heart brokenness from the loss of her home could well be the real cause. Mary’s dogs became Chrissy’s “boys”.

tiff infomation

A year has passed since Mary’s death. Chrissy, who works as a nanny, says, “Whenever I’m walking the  baby, I feel Mary’s presence. I often see a white butterfly and feel that it’s her spirit, Mary’s spirit, because when she was very ill with her heart disease and all the IV tubes in her during her hospitalizations, she would say to me that she just wanted to be able to run again, with the wind in her face. And so when I see the white butterflies, I think of Mary with the wind in her face, flying free.”

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