Showing posts with label death. Show all posts
Showing posts with label death. Show all posts

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Mike Yoon

Complex man.
Rest in peace.

I met Mike in 1985 when I married his father. I got to know Mike as the son of his parents. Later after the First and Last Husband's death, I got to know Mike as a friend and peer. It was Mike who introduced me to the Husband. For that I shall forever be thankful. In the last two years or so, except for a couple of phone calls, there hadn't been any contact with Mike. Just call it a difference of opinions.  Mike is one of those people who has a way of lingering in your mind and conversation. And, he has been on my mind lately. Mike passed away recently.

Michael Jeffrey Yoon, son of Frank Yoon and Jean Wong Yoon, and brother of James Yoon, was born in the year of the Tiger on the cusp of Gemini and Cancer. June 21, 1950, to be precise, in San Francisco, California. He passed away on December 22, 2017 in Livermore, California.

"My friends call me Mike," he said sometimes, after introducing himself to strangers. 

MIke (lower left hand corner) with his Yoon cousins in the 1960s.

As a child and young man, Mike and his family lived in San Francisco, Sacramento, El Cerrito, San Francisco, and Berkeley. On his own path, Mike made his bed in San Diego, Cleveland, Benicia, Thousand Oaks, Fremont, and Livermore. For about four decades, Mike shared his life with his wife Debbie Wingerd Yoon. Together they had two sons, Jonathan and Andrew.

Mike graduated from University of Pacific in 1974 with a BS in biology and biochemistry. He was on the ground floor of biotechnology research in San Diego and at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland. During the 1980s, he decided to change gears and got into human resources, graduating with an MBA in Human Resources and Labor Law from Case Western Reserve University in 1988. In 2000, Mike obtained an MS in Human Resources and Organization Development.

In the late 1980s, Mike moved back to California to begin an accomplished and successful career in human resources in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, and medical device industries, working both in the San Francisco Bay Area and Southern California. Mike held various management HR positions in such companies as Bio-Rad, Amgen, Bayer, Abbott/TheraSense, and BioIntegra.

Mike's colleagues' recommendations at Mike's Linked-in profile described a highly respected professional. Repeatedly, Mike was cited as being intelligent, insightful, caring, honest, fair-minded, positive, diligent, methodical, and diplomatic. He was approachable, quick-witted, accessible, a team player, and a strong communicator. Many of his colleagues were impressed with Mike's ability to relay complex technical concepts into easy to understand terms. Definitely not an easy thing to do.

Family and friends were important to Mike. As sometimes happens with persons of high intelligence, and ambition, along with being strongly focused on work, he could be clueless to the feelings of those close to him. Most often, you let it go. Mike was friendly to a fault, and innocently charming at times. He was a know-it-all because he wanted to know it all. Nothing wrong with that. And, he had a great sense of humor when he wasn't so serious.

There's no greater testament to a person than the unconditional love of his parents. Frank and his mother Jean would've jumped to the moon and back for Mike.

During his last several years, Mike battled Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS), leukemia, and other illnesses with resoluteness in the same fashion he tackled any problem. Mike may have moved into the business world of human resources, but he always had the mind and soul of a scientist. 

I like to think that when Mike's body hit the wall with his last breath, his spirit was welcomed into the universe of amazing love and light by Frank and Jean and his brother James.

Soar freely and joyfully, Mike.

I've created an album of Mike on Facebook. Here's the public link.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

The Rosary Snapping Mama

"Does Manang have a rosary?" asked Helen, a friend of the Mama's. (Manang is a term of endearment for a woman older than you. It means sister.) We were standing before the Mama's casket on her funeral day, waiting for it to be closed and taken to the church.

"I can give you one," said Helen.

"It's in her purse," I said, pointing to the blue cloth clutch embroidered with bright red and white flowers next to the Mama's body. It also held the Mama's favorite compact, which the Only and Older Brother gave her when he was 12 or 13, reddish-pink lipstick, two large scarves, and one or two other things that I no longer recall. I like to think the Mama's spirit might enjoy having them.

"Did you break the rosary?" asked Helen.

"Am I supposed to?" I asked, feeling a panic coming on. "Mama only told me not to put it in her hands."

When I had researched about what Ilocanos do with rosary beads for the dead, I found articles stating to place a broken strand of rosary beads in the coffin, but no instructions on how to break the necklace. I admit I was nervous about breaking the Mama's rosary, and I didn't really want to because the rose petal rosary that I bought in Florence for the Mama was so pretty. After two ties at trying to break the beads with pliers, I gave up. After all, the Mama only said that it was bad luck for a dead person to hold a rosary.

The Mama had no shame at rosary services when she saw that a dead person's rosary was wrapped around his or hand. Either before or after the prayer service, the Mama would get right alongside the casket and patiently tug and pull at the rosary until it was free from the dead person's hand, then she'd carefully fold it and place it next to the body. After which, she'd go up to the decease's relatives and tell them what she did, scolding them a bit for their faux pas. 

That's the Mama. Go ahead and chuckle. I get a good laugh thinking about it. The funeral guys who toke care of the Mama's remains definitely got a good laugh out of the story.

"Manang always took the rosary out of the dead person's hand and broke it," Helen said, looking at me with very sad eyes.

"I didn't know that."

"She said it was bad luck."

I took the rosary beads out of the Mama's purse. "How do I break it?"

"I don't know," said Helen.

Oh, gee.

At certain points of the rosary, the beads are separated by bits of chain. I looked for one of those parts. Holding the beads firmly in each hand, I pulled at each end of the chain.


Just like that.

It's as if the Mama made sure I didn't break the rosary until it was time to forever close the door on her coffin.

It's the letter R at the ABC Wednesday, a weekly meme started by Mrs. Denise Nesbitt and administered today by Roger Green and his ABCW team.  To join in and/or check out other R posts, please click here.


Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Forty Days Has Passed

Religious rituals throw me off guard. Do I adhere to them? Shall I disregard them? What would the Mama want?

Today marks 40 days since the Mama scampered out of her body. I like to think she gave a big sigh of relief and smiled grandly at the Daddy who took her hand and they danced into eternity.

The Mama did not have to sit around in some holding space just beyond reality for enough people to say the right amount of prayers to move her forward into heaven. It's not like how that guy who recited prayers at an auntie's rosary said, "Now we know that Sister's going to heaven, but we need to pray for her so that she can get a better seat next to Jesus."  Really! I made sure he did not recite the rosary for the Mama.

When I was planning the Mama's funeral, one of her friends reminded me to get in touch with the church to request a nine-day novina for the Mama, which is nine straight days of praying for the Mama's soul after she has been buried. Yes, right. The Mama told me to do that, and I did.

Then someone asked me about the 40-day novina. After I stopped freaking out about that, I researched what it was all about. I'm still not sure if it's a church thing or a Filipino thing. Maybe it's both. The gist of the 40-day novina is an informal mass (as in friends and relatives) prayer for the decease's soul to ensure that she has found her way into heaven. I guess it's like that last extra shove into a door of a crowded subway.

Do I measure 40 days from the day the Mama died or when she was buried? Actually I don't care to know what the rules, or guidelines, are, if they're any. Just like I do with recipes, I have adapted the 40-day novina to soothe my soul.

This morning, I lit a tea candle at the Mama's and Daddy's grave site, while I arranged the last of the Mama's roses from her garden and some sand dollars that I gave the Mama years ago.  And, I simply hung out for awhile.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Four Weeks Ago

"Mama's gone."

Four Fridays ago, in the early evening, I walked into the kitchen to let the Husband and Molly the Cat know that Mama's spirit had slipped into the ever after.

I had started making dinner. As I put the frying pan on the stove, I had a feeling and I didn't want to know. The Husband and I had been sitting at the kitchen table, talking about the house. How we needed to replace faucets in the kitchen and in the Mama's bathroom. That one day we would need to replace the linoleum and maybe it would be better to take out the carpet and put in a wooden floor. House stuff that neither of us had ever done or been interested in doing. But, at that moment, it all seemed natural for us to do.

With the frying pan on low, I went to check on the Mama. She was warm, but she no longer breathed. She looked quite content. I like to think that the Mama heard us talking in the kitchen and she felt assured that her house would be in good hands and that the Husband and I would be fine. She could now let go of her physical shell.

Four weeks later, the chirping birds, the neighbor's noisy grandchild, another neighbor's barking dog,  lawn mowers, the wind, the passing cars, and nearly everything sound different to my ears. Is it because the Mama's breaths are no long part of what I hear?



I was going to write that it's probably time for me to start writing about other stuff. Perhaps. I have not completely thrown the blanket over my head, although there are moments that I want to just close my eyes and not think about things that need to get done. There is so much. Today, I told myself everything doesn't have to be done right away. "It'll work out, right?" I asked the Husband. "It'll work out," the Husband said.

Yes, they do.

Four weeks later, the Mama's name is etched on the gravestone that she shares with the Daddy, and the picture of the two of them is already up. I did not expect all that to happen until later in May. For that matter, four weeks ago, I had no idea if the Mama's name would fit on the marker in letters almost the same size, if not the same, as the Daddy's; who would engrave her name; and if I could afford a photo of them to be put up. So, yes, things work out.

I love the photo of the Mama and the Daddy. That was how they looked in 1976 at the Daddy's 71st birthday party. As you approach their grave site, you can see the Mama's smile from far away. I love that, too.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Mama's Motley Crew of Pallbearers

Photo courtesy of Rosalie Phillips

Except for a few instructions from the Mama, I had carte blanche to plan her funeral services. Would I follow the traditional way, which I regard as much too somber, tight-lipped, not a crack of a smile, and full of smelly moth balls? Or, would I follow my heart and let loose with the joy that is life, living, and, most of all, the deep essence of the Mama who denied it so often while she lived?

Was there any doubt that I would do the latter?

At times. Especially after freaking out when I read the what should be's when it comes to funerals, in particular, Ilocano funerals. One superstition, or tradition, is that no family members shall be pallbearers. Bad luck would be theirs otherwise. Before I read that, I had decided to be one of the Mama's pallbearers. I wanted to go the whole nine yards with the Mama. But, maybe I ought to pay attention to the superstition. Then I recalled I was a pallbearer for Uncle Frank several decades back. Did bad things happen afterwards? Sure. Good and wonderful things happened, too. It's called living.

So, I was one of the Mama's six pallbearers. I asked the Husband if he'd like to be a pallbearer, but he declined for reasons neither of us can remember. While we were milling around the mortuary on the day of the funeral, waiting to head to church, the Husband asked," Do you have enough pallbearers?" I told him to check with the funeral guy in charge of our party, who made the Husband an honorary pallbearer, meaning he could walk with us and help with the casket when needed.

Being a pallbearer is very different today. I think the most carrying and lifting that we did was down the steps of the mortuary and then several feet to the hearse. It was possible that the coffin was placed on a gurney-type thing after the steps, and then we wheeled it to the car. I don't remember. We did wheel it from the hearse to the church and back again. I think we, pallbearers, may have taken it by hand from the hearse to the grave site, which was only a few feet.

I'm glad I was one of the Mama's pallbearers. Mostly because I was physically doing something rather than sitting and observing the casket going from one point to the next. I would've found it difficult to merely sit and not to suddenly leave my perch. As a pallbearer, I had a task to complete. I was not going anywhere to cry.

The Mama's spirit was happily surprised, I like to think, that her pallbearers were four guys and three gals. Spring chickens, we were. The Mama loved and respected each and every one of her motley crew of pallbearers—Ernie, Kathy, Jennifer, Dave, Thomas, the Husband, and me.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Treziak

It's the letter P at ABC Wednesday, a fun weekly meme begun by Mrs. Nesbitt and administered today by Roger Green and his ABCW team. Click here to check out the P fun.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Over, But Not Out

Hello Dear Readers and Blogging Friends,

Thank you for your notes full of concern and love during my absence. Molly the Cat, the Husband, and I appreciate each and every one of you. I believe the Mama's spirit does, too.

Yes, it's true. I'm sorry to say that the Mama is no longer with us. She left her aged, tired body behind on April 1, 2016 and is now soaring freely and, I verily hope, peacefully and happily through eternity.

So for today's post I give you the Mama's obituary, which I'm linking with the letter O at ABC Wednesday. Please be sure to check out this weekly meme begun by Mrs. Denise Nesbitt and administered today by Roger Green and his ABCW team. 

Frances Domingo Echaore lived to the grand old age of 94. Hollister was her first and only home in the United States, having immigrated from the Philippines nearly 67 years ago with her one-year-old son to reunite with her husband, the late Santiago Echaore.

Born Francisca DeGuzman Domingo, this nonagenarian was born in Urdaneta, Pangasinan on the island of Luzon in 1921 to Ciriaco and Emeteria Domingo. As a child, she loved to climb coconut trees, ride the water buffalo, swim in the canals, and run and skip among the banana trees. She learned at 9 years-old to be responsible when, upon the death of her father, her mother pulled her out of school to care for her two younger brothers. Although her book learning stopped, Frances never stopped learning. She became skilled in dressmaking, cooking, hairdressing, and farming, among many other things. In her early 20s, Frances endured the horror of World War II.

In 1947, Frances married the neighbor's son, a U.S. Army veteran, who had been away for almost 20 years working in Hawaii and California. After their son was born, the young couple decided that opportunities for him and future children would be better in the United States, so Santiago returned to the U.S. and within several months earned money for Frances' and Junior's fare. The mother and child sailed for about 30 days on the U.S.S. Wilson with other U.S. war brides from the Philippines.

In the 1960s, Frances became a naturalized U.S. citizen, of which she was very proud, and she got her first and only job in the seed research industry. She was hired by the SRS Seed Company, which subsequently was purchased several times and became known by other names. Frances turned out to be a plant whisperer. She did not simply have a green thumb. She sported green thumbs and fingers on both hands. Nearly everything she touched grew abundantly. Through her work, Frances took part in getting the stink out of broccoli and inventing the oblong tomato, among other accomplishments.

In 1986, after more than 26 years at the job she loved, Frances retired and enjoyed landscaping her new home, growing fruit trees from seeds of the fruit she ate, and caring for an abundant vegetable garden. Until the last few months of her life, Frances worked diligently, happily, and peacefully nearly every day, regardless of the weather, in her garden. Besides gardening, Frances enjoyed reading, watching game shows, hanging out with Molly the Cat, and, until she could no longer manage the crochet needle, creating elaborate doilies, bedspreads, and table cloths.

Frances always doted on her children and grandchildren. She was proud of them and their successes. Her son, Santiago Echaore, Jr. (Annabelle), retired from a career as a teacher and administrator while her daughter, Susan Echaore-McDavid (Richard McDavid), continues to be an independent writer and editor. Frances had five grandchildren and two great-granchildren.

Along with her deceased husband, Frances lost two daughters, Valentina and Shirley.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day

Memorial Day
by Helen Leah Reed

        No warrior he, a village lad,
                needing nor words nor other prod
        To point his duty; he was glad
                to tread the path his fathers trod.
        Week days he worked in wood and field;
                with homely joys he decked his life;
        The sword of hate he would not wield,
                nor take a part in cankering strife.
        On Sunday in the little choir
                he sang of Peace and brotherly love,
        And as his thoughts soared higher and higher,
                they reached unmeasured heights above.

        A cry for Freedom rent the Land -
                "Our Country calls, come, come, 'tis War;
        Together let us firmly stand;"
                he answered, though his heart beat sore
        At leaving home, and kin, and one
                in whose fond eyes too late he read
        That life for her had but begun
                with the farewells he sadly said.

        A half a century has passed -
                and more - since all those myriads fell;
        For he was one of those who cast
                sweet life into a Battle's hell.
        The village has become a town,
                brick buildings the old graveyard gird;
        Of him who fought not for renown,
                no one now hears a spoken word,
        But on the Monument his name
                in gold is lettered with the rest.
        Without a sordid thought of fame
                he to his Country gave his best.

        Strew flowers, then, Memorial Day
                for him, for all who for us fought.
        With speech and music honors pay;
                teach what our brave defenders taught.
        And now our sons are setting out;
                the call for Right rings to the sky,
        "Our Country! Freedom!" hear them shout,
                re-echoing their Grandsires' cry.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Remembering Dawn

Yesterday, I found an unfinished draft that I wrote about four years ago. It was about Dawn who I had not seen since the mid-1980s. About four years ago, I learned that Dawn had died, and she had been dead for 12 years. Only in her 40s, she died from pneumonia in London.

Gorgeous Dawn was one of the most sophisticated, yet down to earth, individuals I have ever met. She had a style that I could only describe as the beauty of Italian art, music, film, and food.  And, she had a light that caused both men and women to turn around and smile in appreciation.

Dawn was the sister of my brother's friend who fell in love with my best friend at the time, back in the early 1980s. So, I ended up hanging out with Dawn now and then. If we hadn't had this connection, I doubt that Dawn and I would have ever met, as we did not move around in any other of the same circles. She was the artist living in the North Beach of San Francisco, while I lived in the Richmond District, working three part-time jobs as I completed my training for a teaching credential.

I am grateful for having known Dawn. She had a wonderful wit and sense of humor, and her creativity and sense of adventure were inspiring. I recall the afternoon we were decorating my best friend's and my flat for a Halloween party.  Dawn was helping me put together some detailed decor on the wall. At one point, she turned to me and said, "Sue, you are so anal-retentive." We laughed. Being anal-retentive was a good thing, and she would have known. She was a budding fashion designer. 

A few years later, my best friend and I had a falling out. She didn't want to patch up our friendship, so I never did see Dawn after that. Over the years, I would wonder where Dawn was and how she was doing. One day, about four years ago, I decided to find her online. At first, I tried Facebook. Nothing. Then Google, and voila, up popped a link to her Web site of her photography work. Her work was -- and is -- outstanding. They reminded me of her, Dawn, the person I knew a lifetime ago.

Then, I came to the part in her biography about her death in 1999.  It did not matter that I hadn't seen Dawn in 26 years, nor that she had been dead for 12 years. It was as if it just happened.

Here's to the light of Dawn!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Charlie Quaid


"Charlie, tell me the story, again, about that day we put away the benches at Sunnyslope School."

"Remember how we used to move the benches back to the side of the building after we ate lunch in fourth grade. Maybe it was fifth grade. There were only a few guys who could carry a bench all the way by themselves. I felt so good that first day I carried one by myself. Then I turned around and I saw you carrying two benches, one under each arm. I was impressed."

I don't remember any of it. If there was an exaggeration on Charlie's part, it would be that I was carrying the benches rather than dragging them.

Charlie Quaid and I had known each other since fourth grade. He was very cute in his blue cub scout uniform. He had the sweetest smile and, when I look back, the kindest regard for people, which perhaps he didn't know he had.  That, I think, contributed to why he was well-liked by both sexes throughout his life.

Charlie was one of the smartest kids in our class, and, I think, one of the most liked. He was the kid that got some teachers frustrated because he couldn't be appeased with the rote answers. He had to know "how come?" I recall sitting behind Charlie in sixth grade and Charlie asking the teacher one too many "How come?" The teacher, eyes wild and furious, strode down our aisle, grabbed a fistful of Charlie's shirt, literally pulling him out of his seat, and growled at him to shut up.  I was impressed how Charlie kept his cool. Charlie didn't remember this incident at all.

I lost track of Charlie after high school. I saw him at our 10th reunion, which was the first time he told me the bench story.  Fifteen years later, I ran into Charlie at our 25th class reunion.

Charlie was the kind of person who most people liked instantly. Elderly women, such as the Mama, "adopted" him into their family. Charlie was intelligent and street-smart, charming and respectful, curious and resourceful, fun and dependable. He ingrained the cub scout message. He worked hard and played hard, knowing when it was time to do both.

Charlie and my friendship began as adults, soon after our 25th high school reunion. It was around the same time that the Husband and I were young in our relationship, so the Husband  had the fortune to become friends with Charlie, too.

The ultimate adventure that Charlie and I shared was dropping out of a plane at 18,000 feet in our hometown. We waited for more than four hours for our turn  to board a plane, hook ourselves up to instructors, then jump (or be pushed) out of the plane and free fall for about 90 seconds, after which we slowly descended to the ground. When it was all over, Charlie, sporting a big grin, said, "Thank you, Susie. This was one of the best experiences I have ever had."

There are so many things I liked about Charlie, for instance, how he brought his mitt to baseball games, ready to catch that fly ball. And, every time I saw him, I learned something new about him. At one our first hikes, I learned about the tiny notebook in his pocket that he whipped out every time he wanted to remember something to look up.

I loved how he loved his Lisa. Both the Husband and I noticed at the same time how Lisa's and Charlie's eyes met when they passed each other at the first party they hosted. It was a kind of wonderful. Later, Charlie said to me, "If I were ever to marry, I would marry Lisa." He did, several months later.

A few years ago, Charlie was telling the Husband and me that he doubt he'd see his 60th birthday. He'd done the actuarial numbers on himself, he said, basing them on his many years of substance abuse and poor lifestyle choices, as well as a recent heart attack. Charlie was matter-of-fact about it all. "You're healthier than you've ever been," we said. He shook his head. "Too late," he said.

I don't know if Charlie truly believed the numerical prediction. As far as I know, Charlie continued being Charlie. Nothing extreme, just living life with gusto. . .going to a job he enjoyed. . . riding his mountain bike. . .being curious about the world. . .getting ticked off at inhumanity. . . .hanging out with his friends and family. . .and adventuring through life with his Lisa and their dog Clive Alive.

On January 1, 2013, Charlie and his Lisa and their Clive Alive were walking on their favorite beach when Lisa and Clive Alive got caught in an ocean wave. Charlie ran in and saved them. Then, just like that, Charlie was hit by a wave and swept away. Witnesses said they saw him bobbing for 15 minutes before they lost sight of him. Charlie's body was eventually recovered. He was a few months shy of turning 60.

I miss Charlie.

I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.   

Friday, April 4, 2014


The morning the First Husband died, I had thought about doughnuts.

Frank was 21 days into hospice care, which we elected to do at home. On that 21st day, I woke up feeling strangely relaxed. Unlike the other 20 days, I wanted to sleep a bit longer.

Thump. Frank lightly tapped me on my head. Two times. I felt heartened. He had not been able to move any part of himself for days.  I opened my eyes. He looked at me intensely and clearly. I smiled. He hadn't been this alert since the first few days of Hospice.

"Okay, Frank, since you insist, I'm getting up," I said. I opened the blinds to the living room where we had been sleeping on the sofa bed for the last four months. "It's a beautiful day, Frank."

Our morning ritual began by turning Frank onto his side, then holding a glass of water mixed with a bit of morphine for him to sip from a straw. On day one of hospice, Frank decided to stop eating to bring death on quicker. He, as well as the hospice nurses, were surprised how long it was taking. Next came Frank's sponge bath and the changing of his colostomy bag, followed with a reading from A Course in Miracles. (Today, I think he may had me read from the book more for me than for him.)

As I shifted him onto his back I said, "Going to take a shower, Frank." He looked at me as if to say, "Don't go."

"I won't be long," I said, smoothing the blanket over him.

Before entering the bathroom, I glanced back into the living room. Frank looked peaceful lying in bed, with enough sun streaming into the room to bathe him with warmth and light.

While washing my hair, I suddenly had an urge for doughnuts. I imagined driving the few blocks to the shop on the scooter. Easy to find parking that way. I'd be back in no time. Fifteen minutes tops if there happened to be traffic or a long line at the shop. Frank wouldn't know I was gone, I thought. For the past two weeks, he didn't like being separated from me. At first, I thought it was just him being alone, but when I asked a friend to stay with him while I went to the laundromat, I learned differently. I also found out it was difficult for me to leave him. But, that morning, the 21st day of Hospice care, I felt okay about leaving Frank briefly.

"Frank," I said, combing my wet hair, as I walked into the living room. "I'm going to get doughnuts."

His eyes were closed.

"Frank!" I touched his hands. . .his shoulder. . .his face. They were cold.

He had finally given up life.

I'm participating in the Blogging from A to Z Challenge this month. To check out other participants, click here. See you tomorrow.

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Lively Spirit—The Daddy Was

The Daddy and I were both born in the Year of the Snake, according to the Chinese zodiac. Sssssssssss. 2013 is the year of the Snake. May it be a great run around the sun for us all!

Today, I'm sharing an edited post that I published on February 25, 2011 on my former blog This and That. Here and There. Now, Sometimes Then. The post is about the day the Daddy died.  (That blog is still up if you're interested in reading other posts later.  Here's the link.)

The Daddy died from a heart attack. He was 76 years old.

Maybe he didn't pick how or where he died, but I think he was happy it wasn't at home where the Mama would've come home to find him after a long, tiring day at work. He was always protective of her.

That day the Daddy decided to go to lunch at the senior center with his good friend Danny, one of the godfathers of mine. The Daddy hadn't been there for quite a long while. He hadn't been feeling well, but those last three days, I was told, he'd been going strong, visiting, babysitting, doing so many of the things he liked to do.

So, there he was sitting at the lunch table. He was bending down for a spoon on the floor, I was told. He was there longer than he should have been.  "Hey, 'Pare (short for compadre), what you doing down there?" called a friend. Then, a scramble to get help for the Daddy. That was it.

While the Daddy was dying, I was sitting in a restaurant over 100 miles away with my new colleagues. It was a lunch to greet the new editors, another woman and myself. All of a sudden, I felt a shiver and a flush go through my body. A feeling of sadness, then relief, then joy. I figured at the time it was just the emotion of having finally been hired to my dream job. Nothing more. 

Back at the office, I was told by the company president that the Daddy had died. Later, when I thought back at that moment, I knew it was the Daddy floating by to say good-bye one last time.

Today, the husband and I bought a pot of gardenias for the Mama. She has been a widow for too many years. Flowers are nice for graves. They are so much nicer for the living. 

The spirit of Daddy, I am sure, is having himself a ball right now.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Name is Death

This is my rough sketch for the cartoon
that I want the Husband
to draw
for my future obituary. Death is sporting
a Hawaiian shirt. Me, a flouncy skirt.

"Hello. What's your name?" asked the young man.

"Death," said 18-year-old me. It was a late afternoon nearly 50 years ago. My answer, of course, gave him a start.

To this day, I have no idea why he even walked over to the swings where I was sitting, the only person in the park until he and his friends drove in and parked near the bathroom.  Our paths crossed once before when I was in first grade and he in second. In high school, I perceived him as being one of the "wild and tumble" guys. And, wouldn't you know it, he eventually would become a pastor.

Instead of making a quick getaway, the future pastor sat on the other swing next to me. Not really what I wanted. He seemed sincerely concerned that I had called myself Death. He probably thought I was suicidal or maybe psychotic. Far from either.  I was just going through a period of finding a name that suited me. I just didn't feel like a Susie. I truly thought the word Death sounded calm, peaceful, and pretty. I recall telling the future pastor that, but I doubt he believed me. Who would?

Death was certainly not a stranger to me. I was the Mama's third baby. Her second one died at birth. My younger sister was born almost three years later. Baby girl lived about 29 months.  She died in the Mama's lap as the Mama was feeding her lunch. I can still hear the Mama shouting, "Shirley! Shirley! What's wrong!" The Daddy ran from the kitchen, gathered the baby in his arms, and ran out the door to the car. The Mama was right behind him. She got into the car, the Daddy handed Shirley to her, then he raced around the car to the driver's side. As he turned to back out the car, he finally saw me standing beside it. "Go next door," the Daddy commanded. I stepped away from the car and watched as they sped off to town.

It was not until I was 17 that the Mama was finally able to let go of Shirley's death.

The name Death didn't last long, probably a few more weeks after the encounter with the future pastor. My next new new name was Susane, pronounced Su-sane.

Ah, 18-year-olders.

© 2012 Su-sieee! Mac. All rights reserved.