Random memories of packing up my mom’s things

My mom was a pack rat and she lived in the same house for more than 30 years…so needless to say there was a fair amount of stuff in the tiny patch of her study which I packed up while I was back home.

In some ways, right now, in my grief I am jealous of people with strong religious convictions…and rituals that can guide them through this mourning period.

I am scared that I am not doing this right…that I am lying to myself and opening myself up to a huge amount of emotional backlash later. But I think that is also part of redefining my identity.

My identity now that my mother is dead. I mean, I may think that I was partially prepared for my mom’s death…but in all honesty I expected her to live for at least another 23 years…which means that I left a lot of room for unfinished business.

It feels incredibly unfair that old L, is still alive…when my mom is dead. How can she outlive my mom?! I think I had hoped that on L’s passing it would be possible for my mom and I to reclaim and improve our relationship without outside poison. I wonder if I had considered the possibility of my mom’s passing as being more immanent whether I would tried harder to improve our relationship…to understand her pain.

I am also afraid that as time goes on…I will lose these memories, so let me put them here, in a safe place.

My mother, unlike me, was a devout practicing Catholic. Amongst her MANY! (oh so many!) papers…was this poem which spoke to her about the meaning of the sacrament of communion:

Eucharist (a poem by R. Voght)

He was old,
tired,
and sweaty,
pushing his homemade cart
down the alley, stopping now and then
to poke around in somebody’s garbage
I wanted to tell him about EUCHARIST
But the look in his eyes
the despair on his face,
the hopelessness of somebody else’s life in his cart,
told me to forget it.
So I smiled, said “Hi” — and gave him EUCHARIST.

She lived alone,
her husband dead,
her family gone,
And she talked at you, not to you
words, endless words, spewed out,
So I listened — and gave her EUCHARIST.

She was cute,
nice build, a little too much paint,
wobbly on her feet as she slid from her barstool, and on the make
“No, thanks, not tonight,” — and I gave her EUCHARIST.

Lights change from red to green, and back again,
Flashing blues, pinks and oranges.
I gulped them in,
Said, “Thank you, Father,” — and made them EUCHARIST.

I laughed at myself
and told my self,
“You, with all your sin,
and all your selfishness
I forgive you,
I accept you,
I love you.”
It is so nice, so necessary to give yourself EUCHARIST.

My mom also had printed out a transcript of a speech made by Lewis Pugh, speaking out against fracking in the Karoo:

Ladies and gentlemen, thank for the opportunity to address you. My
name is Lewis Pugh.

This evening, I want to take you back to the early 1990’s in this
country. You may remember them well.

Nelson Mandela had been released. There was euphoria in the air.
However, there was also widespread violence and deep fear. This
country teetered on the brink of a civil war. But somehow, somehow, we
averted it. It was a
miracle!

And it happened because we had incredible leaders. Leaders who sought
calm.. Leaders who had vision. So in spite of all the violence, they
sat down and negotiated a New Constitution.

I will never forget holding the Constitution in my hands for the first time.

I was a young law student at the University of Cape Town. This was the
cement that brought peace to our land. This was the document, which
held our country together. The rights contained herein, made us one.

I remember thinking to myself – never again will the Rights of South
Africans be trampled upon.

Now every one of us – every man and every women – black, white,
coloured, Indian, believer and non believer – has the right to vote.
We all have the Right to Life. And our children have the right to a
basic education. These
rights are enshrined in our Constitution.

These rights were the dreams of Oliver Tambo. These rights were the
dreams of Nelson Mandela. These rights were the dreams of Mahatma
Gandhi, of Desmond Tutu and of Molly Blackburn. These rights were our
dreams.

People fought – and died – so that we could enjoy these rights today.

Also enshrined in our Constitution, is the Right to a Healthy
Environment and the Right to Water. Our Constitution states that we
have the Right to have our environment protected for the benefit of
our generation and for the benefit of future generations.

Fellow South Africans, let us not dishonour these rights. Let us not
dishonour those men and women who fought and died for these rights.
Let us not allow corporate greed to disrespect our Constitution and
desecrate our
environment.

Never, ever did I think that there would be a debate in this arid
country about which was more important – gas or water. We can survive
without gas…. We cannot live without water.

If we damage our limited water supply – and fracking will do just that
we will have conflict again here in South Africa. Look around the
world. Wherever you damage the environment you have conflict.

Fellow South Africans, we have had enough conflict in this land – now
is the time for peace.

A few months ago I gave a speech with former President of Costa Rica.
Afterwards I asked him “Mr President, how do you balance the demands
of development against the need to protect the environment?”

He looked at me and said : “It is not a balancing act. It is a simple
business decision. If we cut down our forests in Costa Rica to satisfy
a timber company, what will be left for our future?”

But he pointed out : “It is also a moral decision. It would be morally
wrong to chop down our forests and leave nothing for my children and
my grandchildren.”

Ladies and gentlemen, that is what is at stake here today: Our
children’s future. And that of our children s children.

There may be gas beneath our ground in the Karoo. But are we prepared
to destroy our environment for 5 to 10 years worth of fossil fuel and
further damage our climate?

Yes, people will be employed – but for a short while. And when the
drilling is over, and Shell have packed their bags and disappeared,
then what? Who will be there to clean up? And what jobs will our
children be able to eke
out?

Now Shell will tell you that their intentions are honourable. That
fracking in the Karoo will not damage our environment. That they will
not contaminate our precious water. That they will bring jobs to South
Africa.

That gas is clean and green. And that they will help secure our energy supplies.

When I hear this – I have one burning question. Why should we trust
them? Africa is to Shell what the Gulf of Mexico is to BP.

Shell, you have a shocking record here in Africa. Just look at your
operations in Nigeria. You have spilt more than 9 million barrels of
crude oil into the Niger Delta. That’s twice the amount of oil that BP
spilt into the Gulf of Mexico.

You were found guilty of bribing Nigerian officials – and to make the
case go away in America – you paid an admission of guilt fine of US$48
million.

And to top it all, you stand accused of being complicit in the
execution of Nigeria’s leading environmental campaigner – Ken
Saro-Wira and 8 other activists.

If you were innocent, why did you pay US$15.5 million to the widows
and children to settle the case out of Court?

Shell, the path you want us to take us down is not sustainable. I have
visited the Arctic for 7 summers in a row. I have seen the tundra
thawing.

I have seen the retreating glaciers. And I have seen the melting sea
ice. And I have seen the impact of global warming from the Himalayas
all the way down to the low-lying Maldive Islands. Wherever I go – I
see it.

Now is the time for change. We cannot drill our way out of the energy
crisis. The era of fossil fuels is over. We must invest in renewable
energy. And we must not delay!

Shell, we look to the north of our continent and we see how people got
tired of political tyranny. We have watched as despots, who have ruled
ruthlessly year after year, have been toppled in a matter of weeks.

We too are tired. Tired of corporate tyranny. Tired of your short
term, unsustainable practices.

We watched as Dr Ian Player, a game ranger from Natal, and his
friends, took on Rio Tinto (one of the biggest mining companies in the
world) and won.

And we watched as young activists from across Europe, brought you down
to your knees, when you tried to dump an enormous oil rig into the
North Sea.

Shell, we do not want our Karoo to become another Niger Delta.

Do not underestimate us. Goliath can be brought down. We are proud of
what we have achieved in this young democracy – and we are not about
to let your company come in and destroy it.

So let this be a Call to Arms to everyone across South Africa, who is
sitting in the shadow of Goliath: Stand up and demand these
fundamental human rights promised to you by our Constitution. Use your
voices – tweet, blog, petition, rally the weight of your neighbours
and of people in power.

Let us speak out from every hilltop. Let us not go quietly into this
bleak future.

Let me end off by saying this – You have lit a fire in our bellies,
which no man or woman can extinguish. And if we need to, we will take
this fight all the way from your petrol pumps to the very highest
Court in this land. We will take this fight from the farms and towns
of the Karoo to the streets of London and Amsterdam. And we will take
this fight to every one of your shareholders. And I have no doubt,
that in the end, good will triumph over evil.

I found a notebook of handwritten quotations, silly little quotes that inspired my mom… or made her laugh…or just think.

I discovered that my mother shared an affection for Cicero, one of my favourite Roman philosophers.

I found photographs that spanned many years…and bore evidence of her many affections.

I found that my mom did have some form of filing system…although, it could quite easily be mistaken for the first available flat surface method of filing if you did not examine it closely.

I found papers that were hearkened back to my primary school days.

I found plenty of evidence that my mother made lots of memories. I do believe my mom lived a full life…but honestly, right now I wish that she was still alive.

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