Loss and grief and gifts are much on my mind. My mother died on Election Day. She was 102. She was a rabble-rouser, a force of nature; hers was a life well lived. But not in her last years. She lost her vision and much of her hearing and a whole lot of her understanding. Still, she went on and on until I began to think of her as the Energizer Bunny. I had lost sight of my mother as a lifter of a defiant fist. I had trivialized her.
My mother lived in Santa Cruz (I live in New York City) and her community insisted on having a memorial for her, insisted on celebrating her life. I spoke; my daughter, Jen, spoke; my 12-year-old grandson, Oscar, spoke (he reminded us that his GiGi brought “a bit more goodness into the world”). More than 110 people, including local politicians, came to sing, read poems they had written about her, and remind us of the times she had marched and protested and been arrested for social justice in many countries.
Her friends gave me back my fierce, funny, extraordinary mother, the real Ruth Hunter. They gave me the gift of healing. For that I will be forever grateful.
As Jean Zorn tells us in her introduction to our Short Takes section, Adieu, “our age cohort is … characterized by the steadily increasing number of final goodbyes we find ourselves having to say. Parents die, leaving us orphans at an age when one is too old to think of oneself as an orphan. Friends and lovers die. Those are the hardest, because it is true, so true, that each death diminishes me. Each death leaves a chasm where friendship and love and shared adventures used to be.”
As I said on my previous Editor’s Page, our dear friend Linda Boldt died this summer. Her friends and family organized a memorial for her, with a slide show of her whole not-long-enough life and with music and speeches, culminating in a video of Linda reading a short story she wrote for her writing group, “Waiting by the Phone.” The video was filmed under the clock in the very room in which we sat to remember and honor and love her. Thanks to YouTube, dear readers, you, too, can see it by clicking below.
Keep on keepin’ on! as we so often said back in the Sixties. I have just reread Marguerite
Duras’ C’Est Tout and thanks to her, finally said Au Revoir to Smittie, my beloved Schipperke who died exactly a year ago.
Keepin’ on works! You know how.
Thank you, Pat. I shall, I shall.
I understand your feeling about trivializing your mother as she aged into being less than her full self. We also referred to my mother as the Energizer Bunny. My mother died at 97 after having dementia for over ten years during which I felt I lost her (and parts of myself) piece by piece. My most memorable exchange along these lines was when my mother (whom I visited weekly) confided to me , “I just wish I had married and had children!.” I looked at her, feeling erased, leapt to restore myself, saying “But Mom, you did marry, and you had two children! I’m your daughter!” She looked past me and said, “I know. But I just wish I had married and had children.”
I am so glad your passionate mom was returned to you in the outpouring from friends and relatives at her memorial service which in the end celebrated her life, after all.
Warmest regards and best wishes for a better, much better New Year.
What a painful story, Patty. Thanks for telling it to us.
I just watched Linda Boldt’s reading. Lovely. As a widow who lost a beloved dog three years ago (my late husband’s dog, really) and waited a year before I was brave enough to get a cat, I identified with so much. Thanks very much for posting.
My mother is now 102. A life well lived. What more can you ask of life. Your mother touched many lives and will be long remembered. It makes one value the life each been given. May our lives be as fulfilled as Ruth Hunter’s was.
Thanks, Emerly. All support adds to the healing.