Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Guardian Angel

Lucas, 26, of Tampa, passed away suddenly on October 7, 2012. He is survived by his Mother and her husband; his father and his wife; two sisters; a maternal grandmother. Lucas was a 2005 graduate of Plant High School and attended Florida State University for two years. He had a creative spirit, a love for art and extreme sports. Prior to his untimely passing, he was a barista with Starbucks in Tampa. By all accounts, he had an amazing smile, a big heart and a zest for life. He was a loving son, brother, grandson, and friend who will be forever missed.

When we lose our parents we are orphaned. When we lose a spouse we are widowed. There is no name for what we are when we lose a child. On my own son's 26th Birthday I learned of Lucas’ death. He was a close friend of my nephew. My son and his cousin (my nephew) are the same age. There is no measure of the sadness and pain of losing a child. There are no words. He will be remembered with joy and smiles always.A friend of the family offered this in Lucas’ virtual guest book: “You all have a special guardian angel!” What a beautiful thought.

Sometimes something happens in our lives that just gives us pause. And so a moment of silence… 

Song for Lucas

You are gone.
It isn’t about you.
We are Young.
A popular song plays;
So let’s set the world on fire;
We can burn brighter than the sun.

But you are gone.
We feel sorrow and pain;
For you made an impression.
A creative spirit;
A barista with a big heart
and amazing smile.

You are gone.
We will remember you always.
Our denial doesn’t bring you;
Anger emerges and subsides.
No bargain can be made;
You have gone home.

You are gone.
Out of this deep sadness we recall you;
Dancing for a short while.
And yet, until we die we cannot know
That death is not the greatest joy.
You are gone.

We will go on.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Gardener and the Bernoudy House

After a visit with local artist Juan William Chavez on St. Louis Avenue in the neighborhood of Old North St. Louis, I found myself in line at Crown Candy Kitchen with my friend Ann Bauer, her husband and son Nick (visiting from Washington DC). The restaurant, founded in 1913, is a Saint Louis landmark. Ann is a patron of the arts and shared stories of recent events at Powell Hall, the Sheldon Concert Hall and travels around the world.

Over sandwiches and a handmade malted milkshake (shared) the four of us were seated at a booth where we could take in the atmosphere. The conversation moved from families, to art and on to architecture. Ann talked about touring a home built by William Adair Bernoudy (1910-1988) an American architect born in St. Louis who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright in the 1930s. He is noted for the many modernist homes and public buildings he designed (mostly in the St. Louis area). Funny how people are connected by art, architecture and commerce.

“My former boss lived in a Bernoudy house,” I shared, remembering this fact about HBE CEO Fred Kummer’s home on Squires Lane.

“I’ve seen that home,” said Ann. She went on to tell me that the day she visited that house she engaged in a conversation with a woman gardening outside the home. Ann learned that the gardener owned the house and was an architect. Ann regretted what she blurted out next. “How can you as an architect afford a house like this?”Ann admitted she was embarrassed by the question, especially when she learned that the woman she met was June Kummer.

I promised Ann I would have to share that story with others. A case of mistaken identity and/or faux pas…nevertheless a completely innocent case of making incorrect assumptions. The Kummers have enough for that home and then some. (And incidentally, June is an active leader in garden clubs and the Kummers are generous contributors to the Missouri Botanical Gardens.)   

Monday, October 8, 2012

None of your bee’s wax

If you visit Laumeier Sculpture Park this week you will see the gallery is hidden behind curtains and an installation will soon be under construction. On the south lawn there are telephone poles marking an area but you only get a hint of what’s up. Visit and you will find this description: Juan William Chávez: Living Proposal Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary, Kransberg Exibition Series 2012 October 27, 2012 – January 20, 2012.

Juan William Chávez (born in Lima, Peru ) is an artist and cultural activist whose studio practice focuses on the potential of space by developing creative initiatives that address community and culture issues. The Pruitt-Igoe Bee Sanctuary is a proposal for the City of St Louis to transform the urban forest where Pruitt-Igoe housing development once stood into a public space that cultivates community through urban agriculture.

Drawing parallels to the depleting population of bees and shrinking cities, this interdisciplinary project-in-progress has the unique opportunity to reignite the conversation about urban abandonment and creative strategies for addressing it. The Laumeier Sculpture Park plans to dedicate the museum gallery and significant area of outdoor space to the Chávez work. My guess is that people will be buzzing about it soon enough.

Monday, October 1, 2012

What does it all mean?

This is a collection of Reflections I compiled in May of 2009. Maybe it's something I do around the anniversary of my birth. I don't know. I know I am not along is wondering about life and death and what it all means.  

Did you ever think when a hearse goes by...
that you might be the next to die? 
They wrap you up in a dirty sheeet ...
and bury you down about six feet deep.

The end of life is the natural conclusion of things. If you are religious, you take it on faith it’s part of God’s plan. If you are more of an agnostic, you just wonder.

Grammy Morgan

My father reports that on her deathbed, his own mother asked the question:  “What’s it all about Jimmy?” She was a strong woman who lived into her 80s. She lost her husband too young – before he reached his 60th birthday. (My father lost his dad when he was only about 23 years old. I never even met my Grandfather – but I know he was a great man.)

I remember reading somewhere, “Until we die, we cannot know that death is not the greatest joy.” It’s a comforting thought for survivors. I think it might have been in the memoir Death Be Not Proud. It was a high school reading assignment. It was a loving story of a father dealing with the death of his son at age 17 of a brain tumor.

Death Be Not Proud was published in 1949 and written by John Gunther. It takes its name from the
Divine Sonnet X” by John Donne is one of his best-known religious poems. It famously begins “Death be not proud” and advances a stream of arguments to prove that man’s greatest fear has no power over him.

Grammy Lawton

When my maternal Grandmother died at age 86, I was in fifth grade. (I never really knew my maternal Grandfather, either.) I stayed home from school that day and worked on a report on the great state of Alaska. I remember the house on Edgewater Drive in Lakewood was full of people just after Grammy Lawton died. Those people were there for my parents – my mom in particular. Before she died, my maternal grandmother suffered a form a dementia that might today have been diagnosed as Alzheimer’s.    

Phil Lawton

I was with mom at Uncle Phil’s graveside in Hartford, Connecticut. He died of prostate cancer. She spontaneously burst into tears saying, “I miss him so.” That was more than 20 years ago. I was a young man at the early part of my quest for a career in advertising in New York. I was moved by her outpour of emotion. My Dad stayed in Miami. This was one of those rare times she traveled alone. She wanted to be there and I was proud to be by her side and offer a hug. 

G. Albert Lawton

My Uncle Albert Lawton is ninety five and it’s clear his children are bracing themselves for his passing. They’ve already written his obituary.   

George Albert Lawton, a man who had a gift for friendship, died peacefully on [date] at his home on Peachtree Road.  He donated his body to Emory University Medical School.  A memorial Mass will be celebrated at the Cathedral of Christ the King on [date] at [time].Born in Boston on Good Friday, April 10, 1914, Albert was the first of George and Mary Anne Newman Lawton’s three children.  His brother Philip predeceased him and his sister Mary Morgan survives.  The family moved to Cleveland in 1924 where Al attended Cathedral Latin before entering Notre Dame with the Class of ’35.  On New Year’s Day, 1937, he married Mary Patricia Walsh, a westerner from the State of Washington and a graduate of Saint Mary’s College, Notre Dame.  The couple had three children—Paula (Bevington), Elena (Torruella) and Jorge—all of whom survive.  Mary Pat died in 1990.  In June, 1991, Al married Nadine Herrmann Jones…

I opened this e-mail just after 5:00 p.m. on May 11, 2009
Al (Albie to his children, Lelo to his grandchildren, Albit to his parents) died this morning at 9:00.  I had been there a little after 5:00 and again about 7:40, when it was clear that not much time was left, but we thought it would be a few days.  He was comfortable.  Nadine is being very brave, but she is exhausted after this last month, a tough one.  He made it to his ninety-fifth birthday on April tenth.  He was responsive yesterday.  There will be a memorial Mass on Friday at 1:00.  Please be with us in spirit.  It’s times like these when I wish we all had private jets!  Please let your dad know and Lynn as well. 
 Love to each of you,

Center Stage Mary Lawton Morgan

Mom is 87 now and suffering from Alzheimer’s. She always said she’d do anything for her kids as long as they just remember. For a long time I sent her flowers on my birthday with a note saying “Thanks for having me.” She liked that. The sad irony here is that she would not know who I was if I sent flowers to her in the nursing home this year. When Rob told here that her older brother died all she said was “oh.”

She snores well into the mid morning. She was never fond of the early part of the day. If this was an improvisational skit designed to test acting chops while casting for a community theater project at Lakewood Little Theater or Clague playhouse she might be accused of being too over-the-top or maybe trying to steal the scene. It’s funny in its pure genuine reality. She’s still a star. As Aunt Eller in Oklahoma, as a num in the Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, as the wife in The Deadly Game, as Beck Center’s best actress in the lead role in Veronica’s Room or rehearsing her part in a reading of The Women for the Three Arts Club or as the keynote speaker at the Rose and Crown Inn before a production of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew at the Great Lakes Shakespeare Festival she always knew how to work a room. Dad visits her often looking for that sparkle to come back.     

60 Minute Morgan

At 91 my Dad is swimming two or three times a week. He doesn’t drive anymore and he needs help but he’s clinging to independent living with every ounce of his being. Good for him. He lives in Texas near my brother Rob (the best) and his family. My parents moved to the Dallas to be close to Rob. Rob and Joy have been handling elder care chores for more than 10 years now. But Rob’s career may very well result in their relocation. Enough already. Time marches on. You have go where you can make a living. (Ironic.)

My Dad is going to live forever. “Low man wins.” He’s a great man and he looks better than I feel. He doesn’t need a driver’s license. There will always be someone around to take him to church, the grocery story and Rotary Club meetings. And maybe he doesn’t need or want Rob monitoring his bank accounts anymore. He’s got Esther living in with him these days and if he can find a way to be nicer to her they can live together in a kind of truce. I’m the best football player in the family. That’s enough validation for me. That’s no small praise coming from 60-minute Morgan.


My full name if you can count my confirmation name is Wesley Alan John Morgan. I chose the name John because he was the apostle who was always pictured closest to Jesus - like in the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci. My dad’s dad was John Benjamin and my son’s name is John Benjamin. (Both are more commonly go by the name Ben.) The circle of life.    

You know what the priest says as he spears ashes on your head on Ash Wednesday? “Remember man that you are dust and unto dust you shall return.” Well I’ve got that to look forward to, anyway.