Losing Your Mary

Christmas is softening New York City…literally. A dusting of snow has cheered even the crustiest among us who can’t help but whisper, ‘Isn’t it beautiful?’

But the sparkle of new fallen snow can cloak feelings that are sharper this time of year…the keen edge of missing those we’ve loved and lost.

I received this touching letter today from a God Box reader, a woman who lost her Mary too.

Dear Mary Lou,

   I just finished reading your book The God Box. It really touched my heart in a special way. I lost my own mother, also named Mary two years ago.  My nickname for her was Marmie too. She was a devoted Catholic who reminds me of your mom with her continual prayers. I always had her praying for me – I thought her prayers worked better then mine! We were also best friends like you and your mom. What’s uncanny is they had the same blood disorder. I watched my own mother go through the same lab draws, blood transfusions and chemotherapy as your mom. Your book really helped me to know I’m not alone in the pain of losing your best friend who in turn is your mother. It helped me continue to grieve. Thank you so much.

God bless you!


Dallas, Texas


Enjoy this lovely season but please remember to look out for those in your life who are feeling a little lost or left behind in the bustle. There are never enough hugs. No matter how many Christmases go by.

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You Don’t Have to “Get Over It”

Last week I read a beautiful piece in the Sunday New York Times, written by author and psychiatrist Mark Epstein. His article, “The Trauma of Being Alive” began with his words to his 88 year old mother who was still distraught over losses in her life.  She said, “’You’d think I would be over it by now’…speaking of the pain of losing my father, her husband of almost 60 years. ‘It’s been more than four years, and I’m still upset.’”

Epstein wrote “Grief needs to be talked about. When it is held too privately it tends to eat away at its own support.  ‘Trauma never goes away completely,’ he told his mother. ‘It changes perhaps, softens some with time, but never completely goes away. What makes you think you should be completely over it? I don’t think it works that way.’ There was a palpable sense of relief as my mother considered my opinion.”

I wanted to share this with all of you who write to me about the loss in your life or who come up to me after a performance to cry long-held tears for someone you miss. So often, an audience member will apologize for crying in my arms. There’s nothing to be sorry for.  While we get through loss, we don’t necessarily get over it. We grow stronger. We find ways to remember and to focus on the good. Our culture seems to expect to just move on, with a stiff upper lip that doesn’t tremble at the mention of a loved one’s name. And if you can do that, wonderful. But for those times when that ache comes over us, it’s helpful to accept that sadness as part of life. It just means that we are human, that we love deeply, and that we still honor those who loved us.

If you are interested in learning more, Epstein’s upcoming book is called  “The  Trauma of Everyday Life”.

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Thankful for Mary

This morning I walked over to St. Francis Xavier Church to the tiny room upstairs called “The Mary Chapel.” I wanted to attend morning Mass because today, May 29th is the 7th anniversary of my mother’s death. The Mary Chapel lives up to its name. As humble and warm, inviting and hopeful as she was. There are two stained glass windows, each capturing a moment of the Blessed Mother’s life, both donated long ago by the ‘Ladies Sodality.’ I love that.

And the people who come each morning are a mix of what makes our neighborhood beautiful—diverse in age and background, unified in their shared need for peace, even as the growl of NYC construction and traffic pierce in the silence. Inside, we are one, each asking aloud for help—for someone sick, for homeless people, for lost souls. My request was one of thanksgiving for the gift of my Mary.

The priest said that sometimes God speaks to us in subtle ways, little ways. My Mom’s handwritten notes, her helpful sayings, her soothing voice, her ready laughter—that’s what I hear in the subtle quiet of the chapel. And in my heart always. Mom once wrote to me, “You will always be in my God box.” You, too, Mare… you too.

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Now, what?

Do you ever feel that, just as you have accomplished something, people ask, “Now, what?” Happens to me all the time. “What’s your next book?” “Now what are you doing?” My first instinct is to want to fill in their blank with more goals. As I say in my one woman play, “pen, paper, check, check, check, that’s me!” And if I don’t have an ambitious answer, I feel that I am letting someone down.  I do have some terrific plans in the works for the fall God Box tour.

But sometimes, especially as this long-awaited summer finally arrives, it’s okay to be grateful for “now.” My friend, director and co-writer Martha Wollner always tells me to “pay yourself on the back.” Martha literally makes me stop and put my hand over my shoulder and give a good pat. I laugh but it’s true that too many of us don’t stop to acknowledge what’s good. Instead, we look in the mirror and wonder why we haven’t done more. It’s great to set high goals but it’s also important to take a breath.

I am so proud that The God Box Project has raised more than $150,000 for cancer, hospice, women and family causes and education. We have helped thousands of people find peace and hope even in loss. And we have made so many new and wonderful friends along the way. Let’s celebrate the ‘now’ and let the ‘next’ come in good time.

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Every show, Mom and Dad are closer to me

The question I am asked most often is: How do you do this, again and again? Aren’t you emotionally exhausted or just ready to cry?” No. Every show, Mom and Dad are closer to me. And nothing makes me happier. Hope you will check out the events tab on the home page to see when the show is coming to your area! Or write to me at hello@thegodboxproject.comand perhaps I can travel to your town!

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A New Year’s Eve Wish for You

Have you heard about the Wishing Wall in Times Square?  People are writing wishes for a new job (or just any job), a new mate or whatever onto a wall of paper which will be cut into confetti and shot into the sky at midnight.

It’s a sweet idea, like wishing on coins in a fountain or candles on a birthday cake or a dandelion puff in the breeze. But as lovely as these traditions are, there’s something a little lonely about it all. Once whispered, our wishes vanish into the air. Does anybody hear?

I believe this is why my mother kept her God Box as the place for her hopes and fears and worries. She handwrote her concerns—big and small—onto pieces of paper as letters to God and tucked them inside, into stronger Hands. Once she let go, she knew she was not alone. What her God Box practice gave Mom – more lasting than a birthday candle or confetti — was comfort and peace, hope and release.

What more could I wish you for 2013?

Maybe tonight, when the clock strikes twelve, you’ll share a kiss or a toast, and you’ll give the God Box a try. Truly Happy New Year, my friends.

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Letters to The God Box: Rediscovering the comfort of letting go

Here is another letter I received about how Mom’s story inspired someone to start her God Box again. Sometimes it’s hard to accept what life brings us and easier to abandon hope, but there is a comfort that comes from having help along the way to get us through. I find that the more I ask, the more often I feel that I can power through anything with courage.


“Dear Mary Lou Quinlan,

I’m not sure how I discovered your book but it seemed it was from another
email I had subscribed to and was curious as to what your book was about.

You see days earlier I had been so hurt by some life events that I refused
to believe there was such a thing as God and also got rid of my God Box
as a result and threw it in the trash. I didn’t see the purpose anymore and
also with dealing with ongoing health challenges.

When I clicked on your link and read the first chapter…it was as though
something was whispering me to believe again…I was very inspired by
your mother’s love for so many and her faith for simple requests to larger ones
and what a gift she left behind. I believe with you sharing her story you are
not only keeping her love alive but you are also helping to rebuild other’s lives,
faith, and love in their own lives.

I made one God Box, have another, am going work on one later in the week
and follow by your mom’s example. I hope to get the book soon.

I am also grateful that you have a blog where you are sharing how so many
people are being inspired by The God Box and the depth of richness it has
brought to them.

Thank you so much!



I would love to hear your story too, please write to hello@thegodboxproject.com or comment here! 

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Letters to the God Box: The gift of giving and letting go

This letter from Janice meant so much to me. I’m so grateful when Mom’s story touches others..



My mother died one week ago and my coping mechanism has always been reading.  Since  she was 85 years old with some young grandchildren whose parents were concerned about how much to allow them to be involved, I went to the bookstore. In addition to buying many children’s books, I found The God Box.  I read it overnight and finished it in church the next day.  What a treasure!   I have since purchased 6 copies as gifts to siblings and many friends.  Wish I had known of this book years ago.

There are only 2 entries in my God Box since this week, but I have to say, I do feel some relief.  There is incredible sadness over my mother’s very peaceful, quick death, but I just think that the lessons will help in all aspects of my life. Your book was a gift to me and I thank you for that.

Most sincerely,
Janice Malavarca”


If you have a story to share please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or please post comments here! 

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Letters to the God Box: Coping with a mother’s death

Sometimes I receive letters from other daughters who tell me stories of the “Mary” in their life, often strikingly similar to my Mom. This story is one of those. Grab a tissue.

I am hoping to meet up with Jennifer when I present the play in the Ft. Myers area next spring on behalf of the Shellpoint hospice where Mom died.

“Dear Mary Lou,

I just read The God Box.  Thank you.  I’m amazed at the similarities in our lives and would like to share them with you.

My mother’s name was Josephine Maye. She was a devout Catholic and was a Franciscan nun for 6 years before she met my Dad.  Some of her friends called her Mary Jo.  Shortly before she passed away in May, 2010, she told me that she named me Mary after Mother Mary, since she was named after Joseph.  My name is Mary Jennifer Kirchman but I always went by my middle name.

My Mom and I were best friends.   I’m an only child and have no children and my Mom and I were all we had.  I always strived to be a perfect daughter, and as my Mom lay dying, she told me I had been a perfect daughter.  My Mom and I loved watching movies together and eating out, especially Mexican food and margaritas.  I don’t think it’s a coincidence that she died on May 5, Cinco de Mayo (month of May, her middle name being Maye).  She also loved the song “Spanish Eyes”.

Your Mom’s first letter was dated August 7, my birthday.  My Mom’s God Box was that she kept all the letters and postcards I ever sent her.  Some are over 30 years old.  She also saved my most precious baby clothes.  I found these in a box after she passed, all starched and in perfect condition.  My Mom and I also had a “more”.  I would say “I love you much” and she’d say “I love you more”.  Her last words to me were “Me more” after I told her “I love you much”.

I attended Catholic grade school and high school.  My Mom and I always went to Mass together.  And I too wore the veil.  I also drifted away from the Church after my Dad died.  I was angry at God and had had enough of his promises.  However, God used my second husband to bring me back to my faith, and I know my Mom was very happy about this.  My marriage didn’t last, but my faith is stronger than ever.  I go to Mass at least once a week and went to Confession for the first time in 30 years.  I even make rosaries.

My Mom also didn’t care for cooking.  I grew up on grilled cheese sandwiches and microwaved dinners.  Your Mom’s autobiography had a picture of my favorite flower on it, a daisy.  But one thing in your book that made me gasp was that they lived at Shell Point in Fort Myers.  My Mom and I also live in Fort Myers.  My family moved here in 1978.  My Dad and Grandmother are buried here.  My Mom is at home with me, (cremated) in a house we used to share.  I have no living relatives, am single with no kids.  But my Mom’s love and spirit is always with me.  And I’m most proud in this life that I had her for my Mom and that I was her love and joy.

Thank you for taking the time to read this.  I’ve never written to anyone like this before but your book touched my soul.  I think my Mom would be happy I read it and wrote you.

Love and prayers,


I would love to hear your stories, please write to me at hello@theGodBoxproject.com or post comments here!

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One month. 6,000 books already sold. And almost as many undone to do’s.

First, the good news! “The God Box” launched exactly one month ago today and it is flying off the shelves, both in stores and online and off– an amazing start. Mom’s little box seems to be touching so many and we hope that those who received it as a gift for Mother’s Day yesterday might want to buy copies for friends, family and just anyone who needs the love tucked inside. I traveled to Philadelphia (multiple times), Charlotte, Portland, OR, Pittsburgh, Chicago, and of course, held a bunch of NY events, spoke to at least 25 different audiences, visited bookstores to sign, tweeted, FB’d, blogged, appeared on a dozen radio shows and a couple TV programs, logged thousands of miles and breathed a couple of times. We are so excited and raring to go!

Now, the bad news of what it means to go on a book ‘tour’ of my own design. (Aren’t we our own worst boss?) Here is the list of what I haven’t done for a solid month.

  1. Exercise
  2. Make the bed
  3. Eat salad and drink water
  4. Read the paper with Rocky my dog on my lap (a favorite morning ritual)
  5. Go to yoga class
  6. Fill the car with gas (see yesterday’s post)
  7. Sleep much
  8. Take my winter clothes out of my drawers and closets despite 80 degree temps
  9. Skip dessert
  10. Do you see a pattern here?

So, starting today, for the next phase of what I hope is a lifelong journey with “The God Box”, I went to the gym, made the bed, sat with Rocky, ate oatmeal with skim milk(ok, it’s a start), and had a great night’s sleep. Still stuff on the list but don’t we all have that? What’s on your to do list?

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  • "In the slips of paper that carry this sweet story forward, we can see the love in our own families and the great possibilities of simple faith."
  • "The courage and wisdom from the messages left in her mother’s God Box will inspire you to create a God Box of your own."
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan has told the story of her mother in a way that entertains, moves and inspires. The thoughts about life and values will stick with you forever."
  • "What a beautiful and profoundly human book....I will keep The God Box in my heart for a long, long time."
  • "Mary Lou Quinlan shares her mother’s handmade and heartfelt gift of how to persist, believe and move forward with joy."
  • "A beautiful story of love, faith and family. It reads like an intimate, familiar prayer."
  • "A wonderful legacy…Keeping a God Box is an incredibly moving and hopeful ritual that we should all consider adding into our daily lives."

The God Box App is shiny new and ready to welcome your cares

November 28, 2023
by Mary Lou Quinlan

Since The God Box book was published in the spring of 2012, so many readers have told me that they started their own God Boxes. I love hearing stories of children creating God Boxes and married couples joining their prayer and cares in a family box. (And my mother would be thrilled!)  A 'real' God box is a constant reminder that we are not in control and that letting go is the first step to finding comfort, hope and relief for life's worries. But did you know that many thousands have gone virtual with their God boxes? To help the many busy ...

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