Another update

The continued outpouring of support in comments and email is just about making me cry as I sit here in Starbucks this evening. Thank you all again.

We had a memorial gathering this morning. I had been thinking it was going to be a small family thing, but there ended up being something like fifty or sixty people there, including a dozen of Peter's colleagues from Pierce College and a few old friends of his who my uncles managed to contact. In retrospect, I wish I had invited more of my own friends as well. My decisionmaking capabilities have been severely impaired this week.

It didn't occur to me until last night that perhaps it might've been good to wait and have the memorial in a couple of weeks, to give more time to invite people and let them make travel plans. But almost the whole immediate family lives within a couple hours' drive from here, so there wasn't any need for them to make expensive travel arrangements, and I think there's some value in doing this kind of thing sooner rather than later. And we're hoping to have another gathering later, in California, for Jay's friends and my friends and any of Peter's old friends we can track down.

My uncle Dobe noted this afternoon that Peter had met and talked with a fair number of relatively high-profile people back in the '60s; among other things, he apparently used to go to big-name jazz concerts and sit in the front row and go talk to the musicians afterward. I seem to recall that he lived down the street from the Grateful Dead at one point; we have a bunch of great photos of Peter (probably in the late '60s) taken by Tom Weir, who did the photography for some Dead albums. I think he once told me about being in a march and seeing Allen Ginsberg marching along nearby (arm-in-arm with a lover, maybe?) singing "We shall come all o-over." I gather that he knew Nick Sand. Anyway, I don't know if any such folks (those who are still alive) would remember him, or how to track most of them down; it's probably been over 30 years since he had any contact with most of them. But maybe we'll send out some feelers and see what we can do. Or maybe not; we haven't really decided what the focus of that gathering will be.

There were a bunch of great old photos at today's gathering, including a lot of family snapshots of when Jay and I were kids. We're hoping to make copies of the photos and maybe scan a bunch of them into digital form. We'll see.

Jay gave a really great eulogy. I spoke a little about Peter as a teacher. All of the uncles spoke, and Grandma, and a couple of the Pierce people, and Peter's neighbor (the wife of the guy who saw and reported the fire), and a few others. It was clear that Peter touched an awful lot of lives, and inspired a lot of people. I think my cousin Jordan videotaped the whole thing; I'm hoping he'll send a copy at some point.

Lots of tears, lots of pain, a fair bit of laughter. Some good stories and funny jokes (including some quoted from Peter). A little catharsis, a little closure. A couple of really good talks with individual family members after things had wound down.

One of the Pierce people is collecting jokes and puzzles and such that Peter told them, and suggested that family and friends could do the same. I like the idea. I'm not sure I'm up to doing it, but I may give it a try.

Kam flew home this afternoon. I still have some house stuff to do, but I couldn't deal with it today, so I'm staying over at least one more night. I haven't decided yet whether to go home Sunday night or wait 'til Monday. I need to decide soon, 'cause I have to change plane tickets.

Various people were worried about me staying in the motel alone tonight, but I think I'll be fine; in fact, I think it'll be good for me to have a little alone-time, for nearly the first time in several weeks. (And to sleep in the same room two nights in a row.) Unfortunately, the motel is hosting a wedding party tonight; it's way too loud in my room at the moment. In theory, the party's supposed to end by midnight; I'm hoping that actually happens. In the meantime, I may go watch a movie or something. Or just sit here in Starbucks for a few more hours. I've still got some phone calls to make tonight, too.

I wanted to add a couple of items to the "things I've been thankful for this week" list:

  • The firefighters, who showed up extremely quickly and dealt with the fire and pulled Nancy out of the house. (Jay and I went to thank them the other day, but the ones who'd been there that night were off duty.) I don't know the truth of the allegations about Nancy trying to attack one of them, but I'm extremely thankful that in the end none of the firefighters were physically harmed. The police, too, have handled this whole thing very professionally and very well.
  • Latex gloves, and my uncle Paul's decision to buy those rather than the gardening gloves I suggested, which would've been useless for sorting papers. I wouldn't want to have to wear latex gloves all day every day, but they sure made going through the house a lot easier.
  • It seems a little weird to mention this, but: money. A family that was just barely getting by would've had a much worse time of all this than we did—and I'm sure such families have to deal with difficult and expensive family emergencies as often as other families do. We were extraordinarily lucky that Jay and I have enough disposable income that money was just not an issue here, which made a lot of things a lot easier.

Speaking of money, I meant to say in my posting about donations the other day that flowers and donations feel like different things to me, so I wanted to explicitly say that donations are definitely not required. I doubt I'll even know who donated. I would be delighted if lots of people did, but if you don't feel comfortable with it or don't have any extra money lying around or don't want to for any other reason, don't worry about it. We're just making the option available for people who want to do something but aren't sure what to do.

Okay. Off to make some phone calls, I think. Thank you again.

10 Responses to “Another update”

  1. Catherine O


    I normally hate doing this sort of thing by email, which is why I haven’t commented before, but I realized you might not be home (and therefore get a card) for a while, and I wanted to at least let you know that you and your father and everyone involved in the situation are in my thoughts and prayers. I wish a lot of things, every day, but one of them is that I could be physically present on the west coast for you.

    with love and affection,


  2. Ananda

    Living far from the center of news and having flaky internet to boot, I just learned about this today. I have no eloquence to offer, but lots of love and compassionate thoughts. Sam and I are still coping with Dorothy’s death, and we feel very deeply for what you must be going through. Be as kind and patient with yourself as you can be, give yourself time to breathe and grieve and rage and live through this.

    If there is anything you need, even just someone to make hot tea, please call and I will be there. You are exceptionally kind and generous, a warm healing spot on this earth, and there is a giant circle of love out here for you — don’t hesitate to ask for what you need, there are so many who will be happy to answer the call.

    Love you,


  3. Mya

    just a small thought re flowers vs donations:
    For me, flowers are an affirmation of support for the living, and donations are done as a memorial to the deceased.

  4. Jay Lake

    Thank you for the updates, Jed. We’re with you in this, inasmuch as that’s possible.

    :: hugs ::

  5. Jeremy Frank

    Hi Jed,

    If you need a place to host a gathering of your friends when you return and feel like you can deal with such things, let us know.

    Jeremy, Amy & Alyssa

  6. josie

    I’m so very very sorry to hear about your father. Thank you for sharing this sad news–I only wish there were something I could do. But, I’ll be thinking of you and sending you warm thoughts and hope that your friends and family and your own great inner strength will pull you through this time. Words fail me at this point, but I wanted to let you know you’re in my thoughts.


  7. gwenda

    Jed — You are very much in our thoughts right now, just wanted to say.

  8. Ardis Jackson

    Dearest Jed,

    What I know of you, other than a couple of brief meetings, I know from Ananda. I know that she holds you in the highest respect and love.

    I send you my love and the desire that you will come through this very difficult experience knowing that you are loved. Thank you for being a wonderful friend to my daughter. Gather up all the good memories you can of Peter.

  9. Michael

    My parents asked me to pass along their deepest condolences, as did Lisa, and Tami.

  10. Marguerite

    There are no words, and never words enough; no time, and all the time in the world, eternity.

    It’s so curious: one can resist tears and ‘behave’ very well in the hardest hours of grief. But then someone makes you a friendly sign behind a window, or one notices that a flower that was in bud only yesterday has suddenly blossomed, or a letter slips from a drawer… and everything collapses. ~Colette

    Just remember, as Connie Willis said, try to get through the day without slapping anyone.


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