Annual memoriam

My mother, Marcy, would have been 62 years old today.

I wrote that linked-to piece sixteen years ago; glancing over it again today, I think the first half may be largely incomprehensible to non-Swarthmore people. Sorry about that. I suppose I ought to write something new, but that probably won't happen this year.

Marcy HartmanMarcy died, of leukemia, on November 11, 1980; Peter's 41st birthday. I suspect Nov. 11 will be particularly difficult this year.

It just struck me that I'm now a couple of months older than Marcy was when she died. I'm trying to come up with something worthwhile to say about that, but I'm not getting anywhere. My gut feeling is that she was too young, that it wasn't fair; but then, people of all ages die all the time, and it's never fair.

We don't get any guarantees. Death can come after five years of struggling with illness, or unexpectedly and violently. Or, for that matter, after many decades of living; one way or another, ain't a one of us gonna get out of this alive. (Peter used to say something like that, but I don't remember his exact phrasing. Jay, do you?)

I'd like to be as accepting as whoever from Pogo said, "Don't take life so serious, son; it ain't nohow permanent." (Was it Porkypine? Or maybe a couple of characters said it at different times.) But I'm afraid I'm more of the "Rage, rage against the dying of the light" school. (If you have Flash, you can hear Dylan Thomas reading the poem on that page.)

I think the photo of Marcy here is the one I was referring to in "Distances and Directions"; Jay sent me an electronic copy of it back in March. Thanks again, Jay!

9 Responses to “Annual memoriam”

  1. Thida Cornes

    I’m so sorry, Jed. Life is unfair, and tumours seem particularly so, at least to me. C’s dad died of esophageal cancer when C was 8, and C has already outlived him. And FWIW I do think it’s very unfair that you’ve lost both parents at your age. I wrote more, but it didn’t read right, so I’ll just send you lots of hugs.

  2. Jay

    Hi Jed,

    Nicely put. Thank you.

    I don’t recall exactly what Peter said, but I did write in my “senior box” in my high school yearbook: “Don’t take life too seriously, you’ll never get out of it alive,” which I think I had heard a number of times from Peter…but am not sure of the original source, if any.

    Anyway, if any of your pals want to see another picture of Marcy, a link is in my blog entry from today.

  3. Michael

    I’d never read that piece from 1989. I wish I could do more then or now or ever. But that version of Silent Night makes me cry to this day, and talking did help me as well, and when distances and directions prove hard to navigate, as they so often do and will and must, please know that you are loved.

  4. Vardibidian

    This past year I was attending weekly services at a shul where most of the members were retirees. Most weeks, somebody would be there on the anniversary of their mother’s or father’s death. The person would often talk a little about their parent, and their loss. I would say the Mourner’s Kaddish with them, quietly.
    The thing is, my parents have not only lived into their seventies, but haven’t had any serious scares. I would sit and think about them, and know that somehow (if, please the Lord, I live long enough) I will say Kaddish for them. I can’t imagine it. I tried. I can’t. I don’t think the people saying Kaddish could imagine saying it, either, and some of them had been doing it for fifty years.
    Life ain’t nohow permanent, but it is the most permanent thing there is. You are there observing Yahrzeit (if I may speak metaphorically) for your parents, which is one way and another a kind of permanence, too. I’m not sure if I’m saying what I mean, but there’s this: my mother felt robbed, absolutely robbed, when her exasperating, senile and suffering mother died in her late nineties. She still feels robbed. She was robbed. So were you. But then she was loved, and so were you, and so are you. Giveth and taketh. What a thing.

  5. Jaipur

    I hadn’t realized how close her death was to your being at Swat. Somehow I thought it had happened a long time ago when you were a child, not merely 5 years before. I’m so sorry… ::hug hug::

  6. Haddayr

    Jed: birthdays are hard. I’m sorry; I didn’t know you lost your mother, too. Lost. Stupid word. Makes you sound careless, like Wilde’s Earnest.

    One of the things that bothers me most about my father’s death is that it was so sudden; I hope, in that split second, he did “rage, rage, against the dying of the light.” But I’ll never know.

    Your mom had a very nice smile.

  7. Jenn Reese

    Hugs from me, too.


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