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Celebrating! My mother is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean where she wanted to be. She wrote her wishes down and we followed them.

My mother Bette Jo Hutchison Silver died 1 March 2011 in her bed, in her home at 623 Greenway Terrace, Brookside, Kansas City, Missouri. I was there. She had asked me the day before if she were dying. I said yes, and reassured her that all was well.

            Bette Jo Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

Just before she died she opened her eyes, looked at me. I smiled and told her I loved her, gave her a kiss and she was gone. My son, Nathan Collett, was with us. Her grandson, Lawrence Andre, and his son Henry had said good-bye earlier that day.

My mom left written instructions that she was to be cremated and her ashes spread at Pt. Reyes National Seashore, north of San Francisco, California.   When I lived in the San Francisco Bay area, my mom and I frequently visited Pt. Reyes. One time, we backpacked up a steep hillside to Sky Camp and camped out together in a small tent.

When my nephew Lawrence found out about her wishes, he asked me to wait to distribute her ashes until he could come to California. So I brought her ashes to Oakland, California and set up a small altar to her.

 

Me in Oakland California with altar to Bette Hutchison Silver

Lawrence lives in Mission, Kansas, just outside Kansas City, Missouri. When my mother died, I was living in Nairobi, Kenya. I moved to Canberra, Australia in 2014. My mother’s ashes waited patiently for us in Oakland, California.

Finally, eight years after her death, we did it. In March 2019, I came from Canberra, Australia. Lawrence with his son Henry came from Kansas City. We met in Oakland, California. On Saturday 13 March 2019, we drove to Pt. Reyes National Seashore.

 

Bette Hutchison Silver altar at Limantur Beach Pt. Reyes National Seashore

 

Lawrence Andre and me at Limantur Beach with Bette’s ashes

A blue sky day, warm and windy at Limantur Beach. I read poems and tributes to my mom from family and friends. Then we opened up the box, took out the bag with her ashes and waded into the sea. We took turns throwing handfuls of her ashes into the Pacific Ocean. I threw one handful for my friend Martha. The wind carried the ashes up in an arc, then they dropped down into the ocean.

Opening the box with Bette’s ashes, me, Henry and Lawrence Andre

 

Me, Henry, and Lawrence wading into the ocean at Limantur Beach

Lawrence suggested that we fill the box that had held her ashes with sand and objects on the beach, including a sand dollar, part of a crab shell, and some small rocks. Now the altar honoring Bette Jo Hutchison Silver is back on the shelf in Oakland, California. Inside the box are memories from our day at Limantur Beach.

 

We remember you Bette.

We miss you!

 

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Seeing the mug

Bette’s Ocean View Diner

I think of

my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver

 

I am the connection

of every member

of our family

to my mother

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

I am becoming

the connection

to my father

 

Constructing that connection

began seven years ago

after my mother’s death

 

Discovering documents

hidden in her attic

 

Researching online

to write

a book

that is and is not

the story of my father

 

So remember

through me

you are connected

and ever shall be

29 June 2018

 

Carpet shampooing

brings change of venue

Moving furniture

to shampoo carpets

Spring cleaning in winter

to welcome VIP visitors

Son and daughter in law

coming from Kenya

Sitting in the kitchen

with my computer

Different outlook

than at my desk

 

Sometimes I ride the bus

to the Canberra CBD*

or the Kingston public library**

to write

Not for inspiration

but for change

of venue

of thought

If I set out to write

some place other

than at home

I am a writer

 

What has brought

the most change is

support from two women

in our writers’ group

AND writing the blog

Life Expectancy:

searching for reconciliation***

Reliving the time and travel

to research about my father’s life

 

Writing the blog

makes the story

the book

I am writing

Life Expectancy

come alive

I recognize

my own commitment

appreciate it

accept it

and will continue

My father W. Lon Hutchison as a young man                  
photograph with artificial colour added

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*Central Business District

**Kingston is a neighbourhood in Canberra, Australia

***Life Expectancy is the title of the fictional book I am writing, based on some events in my father’s life

Today 22 June is the birthday of my brother Lon, aka “little Lon” because he was Lon Jr. and he was over 10 years younger than me.

In June 1955, I was about to go away for 8 weeks for summer camp in northern Michigan.  I kept waiting and waiting for my mom to have this baby.  He was a month late and weighed almost 10 pounds.  Lon was born just before I was about to get on a train to go to camp.  I got to see him just once before I left.

Lon died 5 May 2014, in Mazatlan, Mexico.  While he was on his bicycle at a corner waiting for a traffic light to turn green,  a bus clipped him and knocked him down.  He died almost instantly.

I am thinking of you, Lon.  Your photo is on my  computer.

We miss you Lon.

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

 

 

1 March 2018

Remembering 1 March 2011

In my mother’s house

by her bed side

A few days earlier when she asked, Am I dying?

I replied, Yes and everything is taken care of.

So grateful that I could be there

with her those final days.

I flew to Kansas City from Nairobi

to join the team caring for her at home.

Deedee was the carer closest to my mom.

I was the back up,

listening every night on the monitor

in my bedroom

connected to her sleeping porch.

Listening for any changes, any sounds.

In the final days

my older son joined us.

We were by her side

when she opened her eyes

and looked at us both.

We each said, I love you

and she was gone.

Miss you mom.

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

Bette Snidow Hutchison and Pamela, 1945

 

 

 

10 March 2017

Mom’s Australian Hat from her visit in 1992

the passing on                                                                                                                                  from one generation to another
an object
a beloved object
my mother gave me                                                                                                                      too many objects
I wear them
I remember her
but there are so many
Is any one special
was any her favourite
no way to know

Today’s your birthday, Mom. I wish we could celebrate together.

Love,                                                                                                                                           Pamela

1 March 2017

I remember.  The final day I had with you Mom.  1 March 2011.  I was there when you opened your eyes, looked at me and your grandson Nathan and then closed your eyes forever.  A few days earlier you had asked me if you were dying.  I said yes and that everything was taken care of, you could go in peace.  And you did.

Yesterday I got out your blue jean jacket with the patches from one of your trips to Africa.  You sewed all the patches and embroidered the outline of the African continent on the back of the jacket.

Mom's Africa Jacket

                     Mom’s Africa Jacket

I live surrounded by you.  Whenever I go out, I open up the drawers with your jewelry and choose something to wear.  Bracelets, necklaces, so many to choose from.

You are always with me and will be forever.

With love,

Pamela

 

no writing for this blog for months

not that I’m not thinking about

my mother

my family

my brother

my sister, who recently died of cancer

my nephews

my sons

What is taking up all of my writing thoughts, time?

my father

working on a novel

based on events in his life

events I never knew about

events that appear in documents

as if he were a stranger

I am still trying to get to know him

45 years after he died Lon Hutchison young man

Let me write about Jim’s cousin, Li Anping, who lived in Beijing. How long have I known him? Forever more or less. How many ways has he helped me? Many, but one stands out.

An Ping at a family luncheon September 2015

Anping at a family luncheon September 2015

Over ten years ago I suffered from dizziness – making my everyday life difficult. When I got out of bed some days, nothing obeyed gravity, including my own body. The dizziness occurred off and on for years. Stress related but something more. I went to many doctors and clinics in several countries. With no success.

While visiting Beijing in 2002, Anping took me to Dr. Gu’s clinic. A small somewhat dark place – full of large machines – and people hooked up to them. Some of them jerking from electrical charges. The scene was somewhat off putting, but I trusted Anping. Besides nothing else had worked.

Dr. Gu sent me to a nearby hospital for what? Everything was written in Chinese characters so I had to go with Anping and assume all would be well. Anping does speak English but doesn’t know all the technical terms.

I got a scan of my head. I brought back the picture of my neck and head to Dr. Gu. Anping translated. Dr. Gu pointed to certain regions of my neck and head. His diagnosis: blockage in my neck by calcium deposits, leading to not enough blood circulating in some areas of my brain, affecting my sense of balance.

Dr. Gu started treatment right away, hooking me up to one of those large machines that give small electric impulses. He told Anping I would need several months of treatment. I was about to leave Beijing in two days, but decided I would come back some time and give it a try.

Long story short, I returned the next year, 2003. I went five days a week for several months to Dr Gu’s clinic for electronic acupressure treatment while teaching nearby at Beijing Foreign Studies University. I even continued during the SARS epidemic when everything was shut down. When Dr. Gu had to shut his clinic due to the government policies enacted to stop SARS, one of his assistants brought a portable machine to a hotel near our apartment for my treatment to continue.

The dizziness ended and has never returned. Thank you Dr. Gu. Thank you Anping!

Family Luncheon Beijing, September 2015, An Ping on right, standing next to his wife Zhilan

Family Luncheon Beijing, September 2015, Anping on right, standing next to his wife Zhilan

And thank you Anping for so many wonderful luncheons with Jim’s relatives in China. Thank you for your interest in keeping Jim and myself in touch with China and Jim’s relatives. Thank you for your suggestions for excursions and places to visit in China. Thank you for your big smiles whenever we got together.

Li Anping died 20 November 2015 in Beijing, age 79.

We’ll miss you Anping!

7 October 2015

Dear Friends,

I am reposting the blog below about SIEV X that I posted in January 2014.

Recently I returned to the SIEV X memorial and walked and read each post. This Sunday 11 October 2015 there will be a protest against the incarceration of asylum seekers on Manus and Nauru Islands, instead of bringing them to Australia for processing and resettling.  The struggle for human rights goes on.  JOIN US!

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In my last blog, I asked when does a death become a tragedy?  Death is a normal event. When is it a tragedy?  What does it depend upon?  The relationship of the deceased person to you?  The age of the deceased?  The circumstances of their death?

The examples I gave were from my own life – my friends and family members.  Each death had a meaning – an impact on me and many others.  Only one death, because it was preventable, that of my friend Tausi who died of stigma attached to HIV/AIDs, did I describe as a tragedy.

Another criteria for tragedy is numerical.  If there are many preventable deaths, is that a tragedy?  What if we don’t know personally any of the people who died?  Do we experience their deaths as a tragedy?

On 20 October 2001, in international waters off of Australia, a small, very overcrowded fishing boat sank.  This boat was not being used for fishing.  This small boat was transporting 400 desperate people, mostly women and children, who were trying to get to Australia to seek asylum.  The boat was labelled SIEV X – Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel X.

353 people drowned – 146 children, 142 women, 65 men.

The drowning of 353 people jammed onto the small fishing boat called SIEV X is a tragedy.  Although it happened over 12 years ago, SIEV X is a continuing tragedy for Australians.

SIEV X is a tragedy that is burrowing away inside the heart and soul of this very large, mostly arid continent and country.  The response that ignored the tragedy of  the deaths of SIEV X is a tumor that is silently growing.  Some people in Australia are trying to excise it, but many are feeding it, helping it to grow bigger and bigger.

The mainstream media and political parties in Australia feed the growth of this ugly tumor.  They categorize  as “illegals”, the asylum seekers, most of whom are fleeing for their lives and have a genuine claim, according to international conventions signed by Australia.

As a huge continent with a population of about 23 million, enjoying one of the highest standards of living on the planet, politicians and media have again and again whipped up fear of  the “others”, who are supposedly planning to invade and take over Australia – much as the Europeans did to the original indigenuous Australians over 200 years ago.

Opposed to this fear mongering, thousands of Australians are bringing people together to expose and destroy this tumor burrowing deep into the social fabric.  One of the most splendid and inspiring examples of this positive response is the SIEV X Memorial, which acknowledges a profound tragedy that affects us all.

SIEV X Memorial sign Canberra Australia

SIEV X Memorial sign Canberra Australia

I first discovered the SIEV X Memorial by accident.  After a picnic in Canberra, Australia, I walked around Weston Park. I saw a number of white poles, similar to Aboriginal memorial poles, on a hillside overlooking Lake Burley Griffin.

SIEV X Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin in background

SIEV X Memorial, Lake Burley Griffin in background

Each pole has a unique painting, a plaque with the name and age of the person who drowned or “unknown” on it and a second plaque with the name of the group in Australia who painted the memorial pole.

I looked carefully at each pole – 353 for the people who died when the SIEV X boat sank  in October 2001.

I walked the entire 400 metres reading each plaque, overwhelmed by the pain of this tragedy. At the same time  I was encouraged that thousands of Australians throughout the country participated in creating the SIEV X Memorial.

SIEV X memorial, Canberra Australia

SIEV X Memorial, Canberra Australia

If you live or visit Canberra Australia, be sure to visit the SIEV X Memorial in Weston Park.  SIEV X is not listed in the free tourist booklets  or on the Canberra website. You can find out more information at http://www.sievxmemorial.com

SIEV X Pole commemorating death of a child, age 2

SIEV X Pole commemorating death of a child, age 2

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