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Saturday, May 8, 2010

Down the path

The last two years has been a remarkable progression of tragedy large and small for nearly all of us and it has been no different for me. I've been fortunate that I have been working and very busy until recently.

I'm not a religious person in the traditional sense, but I do believe in greater powers. These powers are generally there if you simply open yourself up to them. I don’t know that anything other than ourselves can actually do anything to help ourselves but by asking we might find insight. I'm not talking about the powers of a book but the willingness to be open to rational suggestion. This, as opposed to rationalizing which we all do much of the time. If you don’t know the distinction, do look up both words. At the very least if you are open to suggestion and willing to be rational within your own thoughts you have greatly increased the options available to you. And that is perhaps the greatest power of all.

Back in September of 2008 my first cousin Keith passed on rather suddenly. He was 60 and had a stroke that quickly progressed into irreparable damage. His brother had the unbearable options of letting his older brother live as a vegetable or letting him go. Keith lived in Oregon so his brother was able to do the right thing and let him go.

The funeral was a couple of days after Keith passed on. Keith was loved by all. Everyone in the family except his ill 92 year old mother and one of my sisters attended. His mother was too ill to be there.

I held my 84 year old mother’s hand at Keith’s funeral. Mom lost a daughter, my sister Janie, many years ago, and her loss is closer at times such as this. From time to time I still get visited in my dreams by my sister Janie. It always makes me happy to see her. My mom said she had similar dreams.

After the services completed, mom and me walked around the cemetery, joined by 2 other sisters. My mom was very unsteady on her feet. She had not been feeling well for some time. We visited the grave site of my dad - her husband of over 50 years. He’d passed on back in 2002. It doesn’t seem that long ago. We looked at his grave site in silence. It was a site for two, with my mom’s side unoccupied. Then we walked a short distance to visit the grave site of her dad, my Grandpa Leo. Grandpa Leo passed on back in the 1960s. At his grave site, while holding my hand, she said to him “I’ll be joining you soon.”

Three weeks later she did.

Loosing mom was very difficult. It was made more difficult due to the recent loss of my cousin Keith.

The next bad thing came to the surface within hours of my mom’s passing. I found out that one of my sisters, the one who didn’t attend cousin Keith’s funeral, had been doing questionable things with mom’s estate. To make a long story short, I ended up getting a court order to help protect mom’s estate from this sister. Following that was a year of painful work for me and what turned out to be a nearly foot tall stack of very expensive legal paperwork related to the probate process. There was not much in the estate, courtesy largely of this sister, and if it were left to her, there would have been nothing.

Our parents were very poor throughout most of their lives and never had much to give to their children. I was the youngest of 5. Where friends had childhood stories of family trips, we had stories largely untold, of our parents borrowing food from our uncles. It was mom’s desire that her estate be shared by more than one of her children and I honored her wishes as best as possible.

Back to my mom’s funeral – according to our religion, the dead are to be buried within a day or two of their passing. Due to this I had only part of a day to write my mom’s eulogy. It’s difficult to summarize a life in few words and it is more difficult to do it when under duress. And then there is the part about speaking in front of a bunch of people. I was wise enough to use a large font and double space the text, so that I wouldn’t get lost, even though, on a different level I was very much lost.

The stress of speaking in front many kept the tears from my eyes. Many at the gathering did cry. One of the most memorable moments of that day was that my mom’s 11 grand kids and 2 great grand kids attended. Six of mom’s grand kids (men and women) were pall bearers. They were selected for this honor by me.

I received only three of mom’s possessions, which are a photo of her, a small light fixture, and a piece of jewelry. I gave the jewelry to my partner. My sister kept the vast majority of our mom’s possessions for herself. No surprise, given the person she is. The photo and light fixture sit by my desk. The light fixture is ornate so it doesn’t get used a lot.

My mom was born in 1924 and was a child during the Great Depression. Recently it has started to look as if my biggest client is going to go out of business. They have been in business for 40 years. This has caused all that work there a lot of stress. As I write this I don’t know what we will have after the Great Recession. Mom and her family survived the event that started in 1929 and stretched until the late 1930s. It is said that were it not for World War 2, the Great Depression could have stumbled many years longer than it did. Mom's passing was at the beginning of the Great Recession. I talk to my mom’s photograph sometimes, remember some of her wisdom, and try to apply it to these challenging times.


Kim Thompson said...

To my old friend Tracy:

It was sure good to see your post (it's been awhile) but I wish the content of the post, well,were under different circumstances.

What a moving piece and fine tribute to your mom and cousin. It's clear that you love them very much, as they have loved you. I am deeply sorry for your loss.

And it sounds like you have had a lot on your plate beyond that. I wish you the best and much peace as you move "down the path."



Tracy Lebenzon said...

Thank you Kim so much for your kind comments!

The last couple of years have been remarkable in a number of ways. I plan to share more of my experiences in the coming weeks. For the first time in a very loooong time I find I have the opportunity to devote to my writing pursuits

Best regards


Kim Thompson said...

I look forward to seeing your posts.

Lorraine Hart said...

My sincere condolences Tracy. Wish I could send you a hug on the page!

Seems like your plate is more than full...and I'm glad to hear that you will be doing more writing in the next while. It's a wonderful way to process...and we have missed you here.

May your parents spirits walk with you along your hiking path, inside your precious memories.

Hang in there brother...and talk to us. Best regards, Lox

Stephanie Frieze said...

My hardest Father's Day was the first one after my father died. I wrote to him every day for two years so I know that writing can be theraputic. Glad to have you back, Tracy.

Tracy Lebenzon said...

Thanks very much Lorraine & Stephanie. Also Thanks to those who sent email!!!!