Saturday, July 02, 2011


My friend's mother died today. She was a brave woman, spending many years in wheelchair. In spite of her malady she raised three children, taught decades of students, wrote poems and inspired all who met her with her wit, charm and intelligence. She was a "life force."

She is gone. How do I now console a son, or her husband? There is always a hug, but distance prevents. There is a note, the formal language of condolence, but that is somehow unfulfilling. It must be sent nonetheless, because, while both issuer and receiver recognize the gesture as less than adequate, it's absence is a sin.

Death leaves such a vast individual emptiness. "Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee." Memories with the dead one rush into the vacuum, pleasant and sad, silly and profound. "Remember when...?" the rally cry of self-solace, the ligua franca of a memorial or a wake.

She was Irish, sprightly and spunky, with a down to earth humor and insight. She defined the word "folk," as in "folk wisdom." Nothing escaped her gaze, or her honesty. She was one of those people you couldn't fool at all...unless she felt it would hurt you too much to tell her the truth. In that case, she would, as you lied, nod and smile, to assure you she agreed with your mendacity...and be happy that you were happy that you thought you had fooled her. She suffered fools wisely and well. She called it love.

She is gone. The earth is a lesser place because of it. Others will come; none will replace.