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Like most people, I use a variety of e-mail accounts. Ideally, one is reserved just for friends. Another is strictly for financial accounts. A couple are general purpose accounts whose address I'll use when I have to provide an e-mail address, and I don't care if it gets trashed by spammers and hackers. That's the theory. In practice, however, overlaps happen, especially as an account ages. Periodically, I'll go into it and, by cleaning out every file I can, bring my usage back down to 1% of my allowed file space. But there are always some e-mails I've sent or received that I want to keep, so I archive them in a “Saved Messages” file. Most of those saved messages are business transactions: e.g., user ID's and password for software I've bought or accounts I've set up. But some of the saved messages are notes to family or friends that were more than just daily chitchat. They are a record of what I was thinking or feeling on that day and are just as much a diary as more traditional forms. One such e-mail is from two summers ago when my Mom died.

If you know Pat Conroy's book, “Beach Music”, then you know my Mom. So when my sister called that June saying my Mom had gone into the hospital, I did what he did: I laughed. “What is it this time?” I asked. “Complaints of chest pains”, she said. “I'll keep you posted.” Test results were available in a couple of days and were inconclusive. For her being both a former registered nurse from WWII days and a hypochondriac with very superior medical insurance from the way my Dad had set up the estate before his death, my Mom was on top of whatever medical problems she might have, real or imagined. So I wasn't much worried. She was aging, but she was still driving and cantankerous as ever. She was 600 miles away and zooming down there on a false alarm would only encourage her periodic theatrics. She was tough enough to outlive all of us, especially since the doctors were puzzled.

But this time her complaints had enough basis in fact that she was still being held in the hospital, but no one could say why. Colon cancer was suspected, but that seemed unlikely. She'd had a complete exam the prior year. A few more day pass and exploratory surgery discovers advanced pancreatic cancer. So I packed and headed down, and she died the evening I arrived with her children and grandchildren at her bedside. The funeral was an event she would have really enjoyed, and we buried her next to my Dad. Then came the task of meeting with the lawyer about the will and cleaning out her condo while we were still gathered together. In turn, we each selected things that had sentimental value to us, and the rest went to Goodwill. Then we each returned to our homes. A death of a parent isn't something one stops thinking about, and when I'm thinking about something, I write. So I sent my sister the following e-mail:

Winning the Publishers Clearing House Sweepstakes, But Losing Life


You said Susie had stacks and stacks of Mom's stuff still in her living room. I'll have to admit to the same, for simply unloading the car when I got home onto my front room floor, and then deciding it was easier to walk around it than deal with it. But this afternoon, with temps still lingering near 100 from the heat wave, I began to deal with it, and the items triggered memories, of course, plus this realization. When Mom's subscription to me of "This Old House" magazine finally expires, there won't be coming in the mail a notice from Publisher's Clearing House that it has been renewed.

It's a good magazine, just not my style, nor hers even, and I tried to tell her that gently, saying she should spend the money on herself. But it was something she would buy every year in order to give me a gift and something whose buying she hoped would enhance her chances of winning the sweepstakes. But what would she have done with all those millions she was so unlikely to win that she couldn't have done with the money she already had? How many more trips to the South or Europe would she have taken? How much more of anything would she have bought? That's sad.

She died leaving an estate whose size surprised all of us, but failed to gain much benefit from it. As you say, a mere $10,000 would have turned her condo into a place with charm where she could have entertained a few friends graciously or simply surrounded herself with tasteful comfort. With only a few dollars she could have bought herself paints and brushes and created watercolors, as Donna is doing, or gone back to doing oils as she once did, or bought a condo-sized musical instrument and expressed herself that way. Or used a taxi to get herself to evening classes at the college instead of not taking them any more because she didn't like driving at night.

She had enough money to do most of what any person of education and culture would want for themselves. Instead she chased the illusion becoming wealthy though winning a sweepstakes. She was already wealthy and failed realize it. That's sad.


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TY for sharing.

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Dying and death have been on heavy on my mind the past couple of days, as I engage in yet another round of financial planning, which, of course, includes estimating one's life span. Reviewing actuarial tables isn't the most cheerful thing one could be doing mid-summer. OTOH, the numbers offer a lot of hope, too, for a longer life than most people allot themselves when asked to guess their own a number. In fact, people buy lottery tickets on odds thousands of times worse than those of living a long, long life. So odds were on my mind when I was thinking about my Mom who was always so sure that, if she just entered the sweepstakes often enough, surely she'd win. But in the game that really mattered, I think, somehow, she was a winner, or at least she exited life as if she were one.

I mentioned her death, but as always, there is a story behind that story. She grew up in the Deep South and though marriage to my Dad took her to the East (where he had been raised) and then eventually to California, which was new to both of them, but where a lot service persons ended up after WWII because it was such a land of promise and new beginnings, she was always a Southerner, and always maintained her connections to its lands, peoples, and cultures. So in her final days, as the phone calls and e-mails flew across country, I became a message center as my sister would relay information to me, and I write an update on her condition and then send to on to her sisters and cousins to whom she was Aunt Mimi, and a part of their lives for her visits to them. My sister is the best when it comes to making phone calls. But I prefer to write, so that's what I did.


The following was sent to all this morning. The funeral mass is today with a burial in Redding. From there, my sister and I are going to spend a couple days in Burney, an area dear to my parents, and then I'll head home, swinging through K Falls perhaps Fri or Sat. I'll call when I get to town.

My Mom died quietly yesterday evening, surrounded by her children and grandchildren.

She had a good morning, visiting with them and sharing stories prompted by her photo album. But as the day progressed and her bodily systems continued shutting down, she became weaker, slipping away and then regaining consciousness again, wanting to respond to friends and relatives calling her, but less able to do so.

Around 9 PM, the hospital chaplain visited to see how she was doing and offered to lead a prayer. As it was concluded and the "Amen" was said, Mom decided her time in this world was done, and she stopped breathing.

All grieve her departing.


There is no one who will ever be able to convince me that she didn't choose the time of her death, exiting on cue like the hammy actress that she was. I hope I will die as bravely.

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Death has visited us recently so I too have been considering the transition. Its on odd thing, something that effects a few deeply while the rest of the world takes no notice.

My Grandfather, mother's side, passed on Good Friday. We held his service on Ascension Day, seemed fitting. A good man, vetran of WWII and fiercely proud of it. A typical salesmen, work like heck until the bank account looked fat and then coast until it looked too thin, rinse and repeat. A generous and honorable man. If children and grand children are any measure of a parent then he was a success beyond measurement; 2 children coming up on their 50th anniversaries, 6 grandchildren with one divorce - she has since found a wonderful man and raised two beautiful, well adjusted children.

Sometimes I swear I can smell his cigars

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”Sometimes I swear I can smell his cigars.”


A “felt sense of lingering presence” might be another way to describe that phenomenon. Some of the tools in my woodshop were my father's (and some his father's), and on some of the shelves are his jars of screws, all sorted by size and labeled in his characteristic block printing. In fact, the whole shop is an ancestor shrine, and often when I'm working there, a sense of his presence is undeniable. In one corner of my kitchen, I placed my Mom's Windsor chair. It's an elegant thing to look at, an uncomfortable thing to sit in. But it's a metaphor in its shape and positioning for who my Mom was in ways that a poet would understand. So I'm a “modern” who very much believes in ghosts and who creates ancestor shines and who believes that our forebearers die to us only if we cease to tell their stories.

”Death has visited us recently, so I, too, have been considering the transition. It's on odd thing, something that effects a few deeply while the rest of the world takes no notice.”

Death will visit all of us, as John Donne noted long ago in his oft quoted Meditation XVII: No Man Is an Island, as Hopkins notes in the poem below, which should give one pause. For what is our constant striving? Will a few more basis points of yield here or there really matter if death comes “too early”? It's so easy to get caught up the struggle for economic survival that other survivals become neglected, just as it is all too easy to become so overwhelmed by ongoing wars that the moment in front of us isn't appreciated. How to live in the world, but not be only of the world, is how I would describe the struggle and conclude that investing isn't just about the money.


Spring and Fall

MÁRGARÉT, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves, líke the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Áh! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow's spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

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A friend and mentor of mine was doing research in Africa when she fell "under the weather". She wasn't really sick but nor did she feel well, no energy, tolerable aches and pains, that kind of thing. The nearest M.D. was a good days trip there and back so she sought out the local healer. After visiting with her for awhile he gave her this diagnosis "You are in conflict with your ancestors, resolve your conflict and you will feel better". It took her a while to realize the truth in what he said as an African American on a temporary stay she was struggling with what it meant to be in the land of her ancestors and what it meant to be a visitor to the motherland, was she being loyal to her heritage? She choose to work through this conflict not with a western psychological method but through spiritual guidance from the local healer. He helped her talk with(and I don't me to or at) her ancestors. This spiritual approach not only restored her physical and mental health but changed her perception of reality forever. She is now a Methodist minister who firmly believes in the reality of her ancestors being with her and guiding her; she see no conflict with this approach and her decades of theological study.

on a different note:
A man noticed that the famed story teller Aesop was playing with a group of children. He ridiculed and laughed at Aesop for wasting his time on such frivolous activity.

Aesop, with a gleem in his eye, plucked the bow of the man's shoulder, unstrung it and laid it at the mans feet. Aesop then asked "If you can, tell me what the unstrung bow emplies?" The man looked at the bow laying on the ground for some time and finally gave up, he didn't know what the unstrung bow implied. Aesop with a smile told him "If you leave a bow strung it eventually becomes weak and breaks but if you unstring it from time to time it will ready for use when you need it"

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There's "hope" for us both.......;o)

My Mom was an "Club Singer" from the 30's..... She "passed the same way"....with "grace".....and "choice" 84.

There is no one who will ever be able to convince me that she didn't choose the time of her death, exiting on cue like the hammy actress that she was. I hope I will die as bravely.

Something about old "performers" that gives me "hope"....... And that was a compliment.

KBM (late to the thread)

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