Tag Archives: death

although she’s gone, it’s still my mother’s birthday

All day I’ve remembered:  April 9th is–or was–my mother’s birthday. She passed away in 2007. Lung cancer, a tough way to go. She had time to say goodbye and was surrounded by all her children (plus a few spouses) that early morning on March 18th when she gasped her last breath.

What new thing can I say? Just that I will never be a mother…..this lifetime. Only furry children in this household. I’m relieved, though:  I get anxious enough with the dogs and cats. I swear I was “Olde Mother Hubbard who lived in a shoe/had so many children/she didn’t know what to do” in a previous life, swearing I wouldn’t couldn’t please don’t make me do that again, God! So I haven’t.

Funny–I don’t remember celebrating Mom’s birthday when all five of us kids lived there in that house at 406 Millville Avenue. Doesn’t this seem strange? Part of this is my memory, I’m sure, yet–wouldn’t one stand out? Perhaps she grew tired of so many birthdays–five kids, after all, a dad (later step dad), and grandmothers, too, to keep track of. All in the busy–no, hectic–schedule of a mother.

I can send no card. I could sing a song. Instead I will write this piece on my blog, then post it on Facebook and Twitter to share. We’ve all had a mother and many of us have lots of mixed and complex feelings about it.

Like kitchen ones:   she rarely allowed me to wash the dishes after a meal. I offered. Believe me, I was the oldest and knew I had a role to play. Yet she said no. I believe she liked being alone for those rare moments when she washed, dish by dish, cup by cup, then placed each item carefully in the drainer to dry overnight. She would allow me to help her make cookies. But when she’d use the store bought ones, prefabricated, in slices in a tin, this would occur:   she’d catch me licking a piece of the chocolate chip dough and accuse, “You’ll get worms from eating that raw dough!” Year later, I asked about this of some friend who knew a lot about cooking and was told this information was erroneous. My mother lied?

But then I recall the night Grandpa died. She consciously took me aside, specially, and sat me down for a serious adult conversation. I think I was seven. Mom told me he had died and that I would never see him again. She felt it’d be better if I didn’t go to the funeral. It was very factual and I don’t think I cried (I was closer to Grandma, anyway; it was perhaps my first experience with this thing called dying).

Which brings me back to this evening’s reflection:  someone has a birthday but is dead. Passed into another dimension. Gone. How does one celebrate when that being isn’t “here” to participate?

Well, consider this a toast to Irene Shirley Hornsby. And who am I to say, with any certainty, whether or not other beings can sense when their name is sung?

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I see my mother

[This is a pantoum. If it seems like lines keep repeating themselves, they’re supposed to in a pantoum!]

Sometimes when I look in the mirror I see my mother.
She is gone now, passed into another dimension.
I heard her voice once when I was gardening.
Her wind chimes send messages when I least expect them.

She is gone now, passed into another dimension.
I inherited her cheekbones and stubborn disposition.
Her wind chimes send messages when I least expect them.
I hear, “relax – don’t worry – all will be well.”

I inherited her cheekbones and stubborn disposition.
She was fiery and often showed it.
I hear, “relax – don’t worry – all will be well.”
I am grateful for all she taught me.

She was fiery and often showed it.
I like those reminders when a breeze is blowing.
I am grateful for all she taught me.
Our lives so different; I learned from her.

I like those reminders when a breeze is blowing.
I heard her voice once when I was gardening.
Our lives so different; I learned from her.
Sometimes when I look in the mirror I see my mother.


written in December in the poetry class led by Mary Pierce Brosmer at Women Writing for (a) Change

a death at the library / in memoriam: Bob Hudzik with poem 75

A friend who works there sent me a quick email from The Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County today. It was a notice to the staff about a retiree who had passed away. She has sent me a few, from time to time, and occasionally I kind of remember the person. This time, I knew.

Robert Hudzik (most of us called him Bob) was the Manager of the Films & Recordings Department for many years. Now that department no longer exists and, frankly, neither does he. Harsh? Not really. While many of us use these euphemisms such as ‘passed away,’ the truth of the matter is:  Bob Hudzik is dead.

I remember, before I retired in 2006, that Bob had been very ill with some sort of cancer, I don’t recall details. But he rallied forth and came back to work. I was glad to read — in the terse quotation of facts and dates that the Library Administration releases at times like these — that he had retired. Doing the quick math, I note that he had 2 1/2 years away from his 33 years of working at the library. I wonder how his last years were? Was he ill or did he get to enjoy the freedom and peace that retirement with a pension brings?

Bob and I didn’t know each other well. Before I got my library degree, I worked as a lowly assistant in an administrative office. I dealt mainly with department managers on behalf of their boss. Bob was always nice to me. When I think of Bob I remember the easy laugh he was quick to share. Bob and I had some things in common:  he was a poet, in fact, was published several places. He coordinated Poetry in the Garden at the library each spring. I believe Bob would be supportive of my ‘poem a day for 108 days’ experience. I remember being informed once that he and his wife had gotten bamboo floors in some rooms of their house. It seemed so chic, so interesting, so, well, Eastern. I felt a kinship with Bob — library, poetry, bamboo. It wasn’t until I read that memorials could be sent to The Animal Welfare League of Cincinnati that I realized we also shared a love of animals. You’ll be missed, Bob.


this one’s for you
you love words, too
Are you writing where you are?

there’s nothing weirder: poem 60

there’s nothing weirder than seeing a picture of your mom
float onto your computer screen, that final photo
taken on her bed before she left the ravages of cancer

Mom's last picture

my little Ganges moment / & poem #37

Well, if you read my previous post you heard about the little bunny who almost lost its life.

It’s gone. This morning the cat brought it to my deck as a gift. Not quite dead, the shepherd finished it off. What to do with the bunny? Bury it — covering it with a big stone so it couldn’t be dug up? That seemed silly. Instead, I lit a stick of incense ceremonially in the circle of stones. Then I got the shovel.

I took bunny to the creek. I would do what the Hindus do in India. Most bodies are cremated but in certain instances the bodies are placed in the holy Ganges River to carry them along to the Source. So, with one careful heave of the shovel, I released the little rabbit to the elements. Since there had been a thunderstorm in the middle of the night, there was more water than usual — in fact, the creek seemed to be thriving. I watched as the bunny circumvented slick stones in the creek, the current carrying it away. It reminded me of the little container of marigolds I had released from the boat in Varanasi in memory of my mother’s passing. It may seem far-fetched but this, too, was a sacred moment for a life that was no more.


the creek will carry
you back to the Source
I watch from the shore

the therapist & I tap into my most neurotic fear + Poem #28

It was somewhere near the end of today’s session when I realized I’d never mentioned Betsy Lippitt, my therapist, in this blog. Now I don’t know about the ethics of client – therapist blogging tales but, since I told her I’d make sure to include her and I’m ok with it, here goes . . .

I had caught her up on the past three weeks (we’re in the phasing out phase). There’s probably a term for when the client suddenly blurts out a juicy topic or theme just before the session is officially over. That’s what happened today. I had originally gone to Betsy when my mother died and the girlfriend left the next month. It was a bit too much loss for me to deal with at the same time. And, every now and then, I get a little worried about being a lesbian getting older by the minute and living — and dying — alone.

I told Betsy I had three people listed under Emergency Contacts on my cell phone. Well, they give you that much room so why not be careful? Janice sometimes doesn’t answer her phone and my sister Linda almost always get interrupted by incoming beeps. So I added Eileen because she is home and might be responsible about answering if she got — the call. So I was in this space when I went into a ‘story’ — Betsy pointed this out; smart alec that she is, she had just heard Byron Katie’s talk on Friday night and was showing off — about What If.

The What If story goes like this: what if I suddenly toppled over of a heart attack or went unconscious for some ungodly reason? There I am, living on this rural road with a cow and a horse living less than a mile away. The fear that I unearthed is that I would, well, die — either suddenly or after lying there awhile, unable to crawl on my stomach to my cell phone which wouldn’t be far away but still inaccessible. I’d be lying there for a couple of days. So here’s the kicker: what would my dogs do? Actually, I’m more worried about Bodhi because Mia would take her cue from him. Bodhi is close to his wild canine roots and this German Shepherd – Norwegian Elkhound mix is a ravenous eater. Here’s what I’m worrying about: after a few days, he would be very hungry. Now, he knows where the dog biscuits are. If he got desperate enough, Bodhi would certainly have no compunction about jumping up to the counter and trying to open the upper cabinet door, knocking down the huge bag of biscuits. They would, of course, sprawl all over the kitchen floor and he and Mia would gorge on them.

So that might keep them at bay for a day. But then what? Here’s my real fear: at some point, Bodhi would toss loyalty aside and take a bite — in other words, he might eat me. Mia, looking up so to Mr. Bo, would follow and there you have it. A Woody Allen neurotic story if I ever heard one. Fortunately, my therapist heard a shorter version of this or I would have had to pay extra!

Are you happy, Betsy? You were mentioned in my blog.

Poem #28

fears can be easily explained / they are
not what you think they are / they
bubble up unexpectedly when you’re running out of time

Reminiscing with Rose, Poem #10

Sometimes I go to lunch with 83 year old Rose. I deliver meals to her and one time she said “I like your company!” How refreshing — to say something so direct.

We went to one of her favorite neighborhood places and, since it didn’t take very long and the sun was shining, I asked her if she’d like to ride to the library with me. I had two books on hold and one of them was a funny novel that I was ready for. The library visit was a simple transaction. I asked her, “anywhere you’d like to go?” Wistfully, Rose answered, “Northside.”

Well, there was no question about it. Northside is one of my favorite places. I lived there 15 years, after all, in that beautiful grandiose Victorian on Haight Avenue. I took the lovely woods shortcut through Mt. Airy and in no time we were in the neighborhood where we both once lived.

Poem #10

We both have memories here
but your sighs are deeper.
Your husband died and I only retired.