Bye, Mom

It’s over. My mother died today at 12:10 p.m. Pacific time. My father and I were on our way to the hospital; her best friend, Shirley Sherman, was at her bedside.

She had not really been conscious since late Sunday night; since yesterday afternoon she had been in a deepening coma.

It is a great relief that this awful time is over, and that her long years of pain and struggle are at an end. I will write a proper farewell to this extraordinary woman as soon as I can find the right words.

Later this afternoon, something remarkable happened.

After my mother had died, and we had said our goodbyes in the hospital and made the necessary arrangements, my father and I went down to the beach in Carlsbad for a walk along the seawall (well, I was walking; he was rolling along in his wheelchair). There was a damp cool breeze coming off the ocean, and the sky was a leaden grey, but it did us a lot of good. At about two-thirty we decided to go have something to eat, but the first two places we tried didn’t work out – one only had outdoor seating (not so inviting on such a dreary day), and the other was closed for a private party. So we found ourselves at the Carlsbad avatar of the Claim Jumper, one of those enormous steak-and-rib-and-burger-and-beer franchises.

As we rolled up to our table, I noticed at the booth across from us a sturdy and pleasant-looking fellow of about thirty years, holding an infant. It was nice to see some confirmation of the robustness of our species at such a dark moment, and I commented on his attractive young child (it was, indeed, a cute little thing). We exchanged a few pleasantries, and shortly he was joined by the distaff branch of his growing tribe – his lovely young wife, all aglow with health and fecund blondeness, and two chattering, golden-haired daughters of elementary-school age.

We dined, we in near-silent contemplation of the Abyss, they in happy clamor.

After about half an hour, our neighbors began decamping, always a logistically intensive process with kids that age. As the young Dad passed by, he gave me a cheery smile, and said something that went straight to my solar plexus:

“Now you can be at peace.”

I was dumbfounded, and after a startled moment, blurted out:

“Yeah, you’ve got THAT right…”

I quickly realized how that must have sounded, and said in some vague way that it had come out the wrong way. He didn’t seem offended, and headed for the door. But I felt it necessary to clear the air, and as his wife went by I explained the whole context. She was, of course, as bowled over as I was, and promised to tell her husband when she caught up with him.

I’m still startled. Not “OK, now you guys can have some quiet”, or “Sorry about all the noise”, but “Now you can be at peace,” from a complete stranger, in the booth right next to us, in the restaurant we ended up at after trying two others, three hours after my mother had died.

How curious this world is.

Goodbye, Mom. I love you.

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11 Comments

  1. Kevin Kim says

    Be still, heart —
    make no expostulation.
    Hold peace and grief,
    and be still.

    (from one of my favorite books)

    Sincerest condolences, Malcolm. This was a tough read. I can only imagine how much tougher it’s been for your family.

    Kevin

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 8:03 am | Permalink
  2. Gus says

    My deepest sympathies and please let me know if can do anything at all.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 9:52 am | Permalink
  3. zee says

    My condolencies to you, si hing, to your father and brother.
    Hope you all can be at peace now.
    Let me know if there’s anything…
    zee

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 10:39 am | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Thanks so much to you all. Back to normal soon, I hope.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 12:37 pm | Permalink
  5. Bob Koepp says

    I hope you soon find peace of heart and mind, even as the sense of loss remains.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 12:50 pm | Permalink
  6. Bill says

    Peace, Malcolm. Eventually the good memories will outweigh the loss. The loss will always be there, and so will the memories.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  7. Malcolm:

    My sympathies and condolences, from my family to yours. May peace be with you always.

    Steven

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 2:55 pm | Permalink
  8. Jon says

    Malcolm,

    My coldolences and please know that you have many friends back home for ANYTHING you need.

    jon

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 5:20 pm | Permalink
  9. Malcolm, it brought a lump to my throat hearing this… can’t imagine the lumps you and your family have been dealing with…

    At least your mother is now at peace.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 8:47 pm | Permalink
  10. Malcolm says

    Wow – thank you all so very much. What a great blessing to have so many caring friends.

    Posted March 29, 2006 at 8:59 pm | Permalink
  11. the one eyed man says

    Very sorry to hear about your Mom — she was always great to me, even if I didn’t deserve it — and she was right, Dance of Maya is satanic music! — Terri’s and my wishes are with you and your family at this difficult time — as Moms everywhere say, things work out for the best, and hopefully it is at least some consolation that her suffering has ended —

    Posted March 30, 2006 at 6:06 pm | Permalink