The holidays have come, life goes on, but none of it heals the death of Mary McClinton. She died Nov. 23, two weeks after she was injected with antiseptic solution — mistaken...

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The holidays have come, life goes on, but none of it heals the death of Mary McClinton.

She died Nov. 23, two weeks after she was injected with antiseptic solution — mistaken for marker dye used for X-rays — at Virginia Mason Medical Center in Seattle.
During those two weeks, McClinton, 69, begged the nurses to relieve her pain. Her leg was amputated in an attempt to save her.

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When she finally died, Virginia Mason made national news for its candor in handling the accident: Its hospital quality chief, Dr. Robert Caplan, publicly apologized to the family, detailed what went wrong and called for increased safety measures.

“… Perhaps the only way we can make our apology real is to do everything we can to prevent medical errors in our system,” reads a statement on the hospital Web site.

Extraordinary words about an extraordinary death.

Neither should eclipse the loss of an extraordinary life.

“Let’s not lose this in the apology: This was a great woman,” said Lawrence Kahn, the Bellevue attorney representing McClinton’s family. “This lady could dance between congressmen and beggars without missing a beat.”

The family has not begun settlement talks with the hospital. They first want to establish McClinton’s legacy.

“All I want to do is make sure that while my mother might have died, the memory of her will not,” said Doug McClinton, 32, one of four sons.

So The Mother Mary McClinton Foundation will carry on her work — a litany of generosity and patience too long to list. She raised her siblings, her own children, and countless others as a foster parent. She was a tireless volunteer in schools and churches. She advocated for the poor and women, and against racism. She rode the bus. A lot.

“My mother did a lot for people, and I think they should be more like her,” Doug McClinton said.

He told me of Christmases at his mother’s house. “There was always somebody I didn’t know at our table.”

And if someone couldn’t make it, McClinton had her sons deliver plates of food.

“I had about 300 people I called ‘brother’ because I was told to,” Doug said. “I had no idea who they were, but they became part of the family.”

That family grew big enough to warrant three different memorial services over the past several weeks: one in Everett, one in Juneau, Alaska, and another in Little Rock, Ark., where Mary McClinton was buried beside her father.

The Everett service was attended by Snohomish County Executive Aaron Reardon, Everett Port Commission President Don Hopkins and Sonics Coach Nate McMillan.

“If you knew my mother, you would not have been amazed at the crowd,” Doug McClinton told me. “People gravitated toward her because she was strong.”

It will take that for the family to get through this season, and to reach another of peace and renewal.

Nicole Brodeur’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Reach her at 206-464-2334 or nbrodeur@seattletimes.com.

She’ll pick out a star for Mary.