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.  

No comments:

Post a Comment