A Second Mother becomes an Ancestor

On Tuesday, June 11th, Emilio’s mother, Doris China died at her and Carlos’ home in Puerto Rico following a brain aneurysm. She wasn’t feeling well and ended a morning time in the pool. When Carlos came over she was laying face down at it’s side suffering from a frighteningly painful headache. Her heart had stopped by the time the medics arrived and she was soon pronounced dead at 70 years old. She’d died in Carlos’ arms.

We found out because Tracey told her that Claudio had called out of work with Ben because his mother had died in Puerto Rico. Mom almost never cries but was nearly unintelligible delivering the news that, “Emilio’s mother died this morning.” We thought it was misinformation at first. The following is a small eulogy written for her facebook page:

Pretty sure I don't yet have a clue how much I'll miss you, dear dear Doris. Practical is the first word that comes to mind in describing her. Loving, creative, nurturing and forgiving. Lighthearted, fearlessly honest, engaging and curious. Intelligent and articulate. When we were kids she flushed marijuana and hosed down illegal fireworks. She encouraged exploration and productivity, and expressed disappointment when we were hurting ourselves or being mean to others, but she never lost her temper. Maybe once or twice a little. An animal lover who raised lovers. The part of me that has grown from a seed planted by her spirit is far more encompassing than our recent relationship had been and having had spoken with her the day before she died was a miracle. She was dealing with some painful and confusing arthritis, and laughingly complained about "being old", but expressed awe and wonder at how good she had it. Those of us who were blessed to encounter her are certainly the better for it and will miss her sincere smile and fully-present eyes. We'll miss out on that particular example of accepting aging and it's challenges with grace, dignity and humor. Those who called upon her for sensible feedback will have to look elsewhere or find it within ourselves. We need to cultivate our "Inner Doris", as Susan says. For Carlos her death represents something I can't begin to imagine; nor for Emilio and Claudio or Joan. Maybe people who've lost a partner, parent or sibling can empathize. If her death could have been prevented it's an unimaginable mistake. A momentous loss of vivaciousness and wisdom. A crime. Certainly a tragedy. Years of happiness and well-earned relaxation, not to mention priceless company, hospitality and culinary skills uselessly vaporized. On the positive side - the one Doris invariably focused on - she cleverly manifested a get out of old age free card. Nice. As for her spirit - the drop of water has rejoined the ocean.

Death is a crazy thing and any wish of the deceased that hasn’t been made publicly or at least legally clear beforehand will at best be the subject of argument between survivors. In this case, we thought a cremation in P.R. followed by a service in New Jersey following Emilio’s return from Europe on the 24th would be ideal, but Carlos, in his mourning, was unapproachable and they ended up having a 14 hour wake in P.R. with an open casket within which Doris, who almost never used cosmetics, was made-over as a Latin Queen complete with up-due, and which was attended by Claudio, Carlos and his son Edu - the banker who flew down from Colorado - and about a dozen Spanish-speaking people.

Then they flew the body up to a Central Jersey suburb (pretty urban actually) where Carlos’ sister lives, for a traditional closed-casket wake and burial - without Emilio. The psalms stumbled through by the funeral director at the burial had about as much to do with Doris - who turned us all onto I Ching and Carl Jung - as the gold colored casket-cover with the cross on it. Fuck. Come on, Carlos. He’s a brilliant psychologist with a huge heart, but the down side of that is he can be pretty arrogant at times, especially when playing the - admittedly necessary - role of drunken Puerto Rican shaman.

Rinah and Ashirah were incredibly cooperative on the two 10 hour drives up there and we stayed with Mom and Dad, Dad being an example of the alternative Doris had chosen to a long and difficult disintegration of health preceding our inevitable expiration. He’s in a wheelchair almost 100% of the time now and most of his energy is expended with merely existing. But he and Mom have gotten to a comfortable relationship with it and there are many points in which his brightness emerges and he enjoys and is enjoyed by friends in social engagement.

Communication with Zef (Emilio) was difficult before he returned from the Peter Murphy trip in Europe, and we almost didn’t - but then we finally did, partially as a result of Rivka’s urging - plan a Doris China Memorial Potluck Soiree at the Monroe Movement Space in the Monroe Arts Center at 720 Monroe St in Hoboken, where Doris had had an office for many many years. It was amazing.

Of course it ended up being a three week fucking trip - thank goodness for making money with the laptop - and the double ten hour trips home were grueling, especially with a lingering and opportunistically blossoming ear infection that had begun following the unwelcome news. Mostly unwelcome. At least that’s one more loved one who’s dying and death are out of the way.

The fleas back home have taken two relatively chill days of vacuuming to get back under control. There was a mosquito farm in one of the two toilets - which were almost sport to exterminate, locked in the bathroom with them and the swatter. And this fucking cat we recently inherited will not stop pissing everywhere. We thing Roxy should be living in a one pet household - without babies, or Rivka may banish her to the life of an outside cat.

Doris is the person who created a job out of my interest in graphic and website design, which is fucking huge. Huge. Fuck.