Yesterday's Light

Images in Space and Time

Dying Young

Mom-I-(1362) In a previous post (“Defining Moments”), I mentioned that my mother had fallen and broken her hip.  While it was certainly serious – requiring surgery – none of us thought that it was anything but a brief setback.  There would be physical therapy, as she learned how to navigate with her “new” hip, and some changes in lifestyle, of course, but she would, as always, get on with things.

It wasn’t to be.  First came the urinary tract infection.  Then the pneumonia and the discovery of two blood clots in one of her lungs.  At 91, it was all just too much for her suddenly frail body to deal with.  On Tuesday, June 16th, 2009, she passed away quietly in her sleep.

Afterward, we all joked about how prophetic she’d been before any of this happened.  She never trusted doctors or hospitals (I think the last time she’d been in a hospital as a patient was when my sister was born).  She was rarely ill and claimed that her good health was the result of diet and avoiding doctors.  She always said that if they ever got hold of her, she probably “wouldn’t come out alive”.  The doctors and nurses at the hospital (and rehab center), of course, were wonderful.  They did everything they possibly could.  Still, she was right.

Anthropologist Ashley Montagu once said, “The idea is to die young as late as possible”.

I think my mother would have liked that.  In her own way, she managed to stay “young” for all those years.  Although she hated technology (I don’t think she ever touched a computer and she absolutely hated cell phones), she was always closest to the youngest members of the family.  One of her greatest joys was to literally sit and play with her great – grandchildren.  I think her most prized possession was a small stuffed bear that one of her great – granddaughters had given her so that she “wouldn’t be alone”.

I will miss her.


9 Responses to “Dying Young”

  1. Paul

    Paul, thanks for sharing this story. I was heartwarming. What a beautiful photo of a beautiful woman! I’m sure that she was a joy to be around and will be missed greatly. You were certainly blessed to have her a part of your life for all of those years. My mother died at a tender age of 61, when I was but a young 24. Many are the times that I wish that she could have met her grandchildren and they, her.

    Peace be with you, Paul.

  2. Markus

    Paul, please accept my sincerest condolences. It is an inestimable grace having been able to live an active life up to a great age, and even more so in the way you describe, self determined and in contact with a loving family. And even if our mind tells us that it is also a grace to die suddenly out of such a rich life, for the bereaved it is a loss that is hard to understand and hard to live with. I feel with you.

  3. Paul

    Thanks, Paul. It has been half a lifetime ago, I was 24 at the time, now almost 48. There’s nothing left but fond memories. So, it will be with you, one day. Please accept my sincerest condolences, as well. I understand how it feels. Again, what a beautiful person she seemed to be. It would have been a great pleasure to meet her.

  4. Paul Maxim

    To Paul Lester:

    Thanks for your kind thoughts. In a way, we’ve had somehat parallel experiences. My father died when he was 59 (some 29 years ago). He also never got to “meet” any of his grandchildren. On a happier note, I’d like to thank you for your “recommendations” on 2 books. I recently purchased David duChemin’s “Within the Frame” and George DeWolfe’s “B and W Printing”. I first became aware of both on your blog, thought they sounded interesting, and eventually bought them. So far, they’re both very good and well worth the price. I’m even trying DeWolfe’s PerCept tool (30 day trial). I’ll try anything that gets me a better black and white image! Thanks again.

    To Markus:

    My heartfelt thanks to you too, Markus. Actually, I’ve been a bit in awe of you for some time. I don’t know if I could travel to a place like Sri Lanka, let alone concentrate enough to take the kinds of images that you have. I’ve never been “big” on placing myself in harm’s way. Maybe the news media overplays it, but Sri Lanka seems a little dangerous. The work you’re doing there is inspiring.

  5. Don

    My condolences to you and your family, love the picture it looks like she really was a fun person.

  6. Andreas Manessinger

    Sincere condolences from me as well. And, of course, this is a wonderful image. Not that it would count that much at the moment, but it is. There’s a lot of soul in this portrait, and that always needs two people, the subject and the photographer. You know, to me that’s one of those portraits of an unknown person, that I see and that makes me believe I know her, makes me believe I could write a story about her.

  7. blovius

    A very lucky woman to have lived to such an age.

    While it may sound somewhat odd to state, I hope there is much joy in celebrating / remembering a good life during this time of sadness.

  8. Steve Weeks

    Paul, I am sorry I’m late in offering my condolences. I feel she did a grand job of “Dying Young”.

    The quote by A. Montagu is now my mantra.

    My mother passed when I was 9 and the experience etched the indelible thought on my brain, that “If doctors ever get ahold of me and get me in a hospital, I will never come out alive.” In that sense your mother and I are kindred spirits. I noticed you mentioned joking about that as a family, good stuff for starting the healing process. The record of getting out of this gig alive is nil, so we need to remember the good parts and let the rest of it go.



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