Everything Changes

“Everything changes.” ~Shunryo Suzuki

My Mom died three weeks ago, on the night of the 19th.  She was 82.

I miss her. She was my closest friend. We talked daily. Many times the highlight of my day was sharing with her the things I’d seen and done, and hearing about her day.

Everything she did, she did with passion.

She liked to buy cheap, ugly garden gnomes at Dollar Stores and repaint them into something extraordinary and lovely.

She loved to garden, where her greatest joy was coaxing a nearly-dead plant obtained from the clearance rack of the local hardware store into to a full, vibrant life. She loved the plants that took years to bloom, and she loved the little rain lilies that were only pretty for a day, and you had to pay attention or you’d miss it.

She was one of the first to be on the Internet, back in the days when you had to buy the CompuServe software first, and were then assigned a string of numbers for your email address. We emailed each other every single day since the late 80s.

She walked a mile every sunny morning, did yoga twice a day, and balancing exercises every afternoon.

She was learning Spanish, a skill she used to talk with the grounds crew at her apartment complex. They always had the biggest smiles on their faces when she asked them about their days.

She had been a math teacher, and enjoyed working calculus problems for fun. She told me once her favorite part of teaching was the “Ah-ha!” moment, when a student–in a flash– suddenly understood.

She bought herself an iPad several years ago, and enjoyed playing logic games and reading books on the Kindle app. The only reason I bought one was so I could be her Tech Support.  Now I don’t use mine for anything.

Every day she wore an angel pin and a peace pin.  Her apartment is filled with tiny angels she collected over the years. She wore a medallion depicting the Virgin Mary, and had a small Mary statuette near her and a rosary around her neck when she died.

She protested Bush’s Gulf Wars for years, holding an anti-war sign on street corners.  (We live in East Texas; this was not normal here.)

Her favorite charity was one benefiting Native Americans, but she gave to them all.  Her compassion made her a soft touch.

She was my father’s primary caretaker, a task that is now on my shoulders.

My father doesn’t accept change easily. Last week I got a lecture on how the shot clock has ruined the game of basketball, and please don’t get him started on Douglas MacArthur– he’s still angry.

I don’t want to be like that.

They always give the example of a caterpillar turning into a butterfly, but I’m sure there are quite a few caterpillars that aren’t at all happy about it. “Damn it! I used to really enjoy munching on leaves and growing fat. I don’t want to suck nectar through a flexible proboscis, I want my chewing mouth-parts back!”  It wasn’t a transformation they chose, it was just something that happened.

So, here I am, and things are different, and I have to find a new way.

Mom did leave with something more valuable than jewels: she set a good example.

And I’m lucky to have known her so well for so long.


Breakup, Loss, End…

“Any real change implies the breakup of the world as one has always known it, the loss of all that gave one an identity, the end of safety.”  ~James Baldwin

It Mattered

“So often we try to make other people feel better by minimizing their pain, by telling them that it will get better (which it will) or that there are worse things in the world (which there are). But that’s not what I actually needed.

“What I actually needed was for someone to tell me that it hurt because it mattered. I have found this very useful to think about over the years, and I find that it is a lot easier and more bearable to be sad when you aren’t constantly berating yourself for being sad.” ~John Green


Advice Mary Astor received from her therapist:

Living is change. Your past will always be part of you– it is in your mind, in your memory– but with understanding and education it need not affect what you are today, or what you will be in the future.

Excerpted from her autobiography My Story, ©1959

Growing Up

The first two paragraphs of actress Mary Astor’s autobiography My Story, ©1959:

People have often said to me, “You haven’t changed a bit!” They meant it as a compliment, but I could hear it only as an accusation, a statement of brutal fact.

And I have thought bitterly, “You are so right!” For I knew that if I had not changed I had not grown. To be a perennial child, an ethereal Peter Pan playing with pirates and Indians through all eternity, can be a lovely thing in the never-never land of fantasy, but it is an unhappy thing in life. The child is born so that he may become a man. It is his destiny to grow– to learn, to understand, to assume responsibilities. Growth can be painful, I know; but I have found that a stunted and retarded growth can be a pain beyond belief.


Excerpt from Goodbye Mr. Chips by James Hilton, ©1934:

She made him, to all appearances, a new man; though most of the newness was really a warming to life of things that were old, imprisoned, and unguessed. His eyes gained sparkle; his mind, which was adequately if not brilliantly equipped, began to move more adventurously. The one thing he had always had, a sense of humor, blossomed into a sudden richness to which his years lent maturity. He began to feel a greater sureness…

I like it that she didn’t really change him, just awakened aspects that had lain dormant.

Goodbye Mr. Chips is in the public domain in most of the world, but not the United States.  If you live outside of the United States, you can download a free copy HERE.