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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

 

 

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A certain numbness

trying to recreate

a family

both living and dead

Thinking of

my brother Lon

my only brother

Four years ago today

Riding his bike

in Mazatlan, Mexico

Waiting on a street corner

for the light to change

A bus clipped him

Down and dead

within minutes

Charming, intelligent

talented, difficult

My brother Lon

 

Lon with wife Olivia, stepdaughter Josefina, 2000

Lon with wife Olivia, stepdaughter Josefina, 2000

Lon with wife Olivia, stepdaughter Josefina,            Mazatlan, 2009

I can remember

learning through facebook

in Nairobi Kenya

The death of my brother

in Mazatlan Mexico

two years ago

 

In Mazatlan

on the corner

standing with his bike

Waiting for

the traffic light

to change

Just waiting

while a bus

cut the corner

 

He had gone out

on his bicycle

to run errands

His step daughter

and her grandmother

waiting for his return

 

Someone came yelling

Lon’s been hurt

His stepdaughter ran

to the clinic

Too late

He was gone

 

We miss you Lon!

 

Dinner In Mazatlan, my mom Bette, Olivia, Lon, Jim, me, 2004

Dinner In Mazatlan, my mom Bette, Olivia, Lon, Jim, me, 2004

Lon Hutchison at the Celebration of our mother Bette Hutchison Silver's life, March 2011

Lon Hutchison at the Celebration of our mother Bette Hutchison Silver’s life, March 2011

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

 

 

 

 

 

Bette Hutchison Silver, photo taken November 2010

Bette Hutchison Silver, November, 2010

 

I wasn’t there

for her birth day

March 10 1922

How could I be?

I am her daughter

I was there

for her death day

March 1 2011

 

I was there

when she asked

am I dying?

I was there

to tell her

yes, she was dying

I was there

to tell her

not to worry

everything was

taken care of

She could go

leaving us behind

 

 

Bette Snidow Hutchison and Pamela, 1945

Bette Snidow Hutchison and Pamela, 1945

Bette Hutchison Silver (date 1996?)

           Bette Hutchison Silver (date? 1996)
Photos of Bette Hutchison Silver at various stages of her life. Upper left is with her two daughters, Lonna on left, Pamela on right.

Photos of Bette Hutchison Silver at various stages of her life. Upper left is with her two daughters, Lonna on left, Pamela on right.

The death of my mother

Inspired me

Death inspired me?

To start a blog

Supposedly in her memory

Supposedly to somehow

keep her alive forever

What is it really about?

About me

My mortality

 

What have I created?

My son asks me

He sees the terror

of the world every day

He feels the anxiety

the people he knows

and doesn’t know

who have died

He thinks about the people

I taught in Afghanistan

who are now dead

What did literacy do for them

What did learning do for them

In the face of violence

Mass murder

Genocide

They are dead

I came in with words

And I am alive

But they are dead

Did my intervention somehow

Bring death?

Was I part of the invading army

although I thought

I was just bringing words?

Morning sun burning away fog, Tucacas, Venezuela

Morning sun burning away fog, Tucacas, Venezuela

22 June 2014

 

He is not here

to celebrate

He would have been 59

Over 10 years

younger than me

He did not even live

as long as our father

Dead at 64

I last saw

My brother

at another death

Our mother

Age 89

He called from Mazatlan

on a Saturday

Talking with Mom

that he would be there

in Kansas City

to celebrate her

birthday

March 10th

But she died

March 1st

He missed her dying.

He missed another death

Two years earlier

of his wife Olivia

He was in Kansas City

with our mother

Olivia died in Mazatlan

He lost the two people

Closest to him

But was not there

when they died.

I am not there

I am not in Mazatlan

I did not see him dead

I read the notice in

the Mexican paper

Hit by a bus

his name misspelled

So I can say

He is dead

But I cannot yet

believe it.

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

My brother Lon Hutchison and me 2011

7 October 2015

Dear Friends,

I am reposting the blog below about SIEV X.  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!

———————————————————-

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 fearmongering, 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

 

Losing someone from your life, be it parent, child, sibling, friend, colleague, or mentor affects each one of us.

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?  What they achieved during their life time? The circumstances of their death?

Losing my mom two years ago was one of the greatest losses of my life.

The other deaths were  of close friends – Tausi in Kenya, Angel in California, Claudio in Venezuela –  and my mother-in-law Hsiao Li Lindsay in China.

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Nasra (left) Tausi (right)

Of the four, Tausi was the youngest.  She died of HIV/AIDs at a time when most people in Kenya were in denial.  As Mandela once said, people with AIDs often died of stigma, even when treatment was available.  When Tausi died, her own family was in denial and treatment was generally unavailable in Kenya.  Her death reverberates with me as a tragedy.  She was young , talented, a mother of two – a very special warm person. If she had been diagnosed and received treatment in time she could have lived. We miss you Tausi.

Claudio

Claudio

 

Then there was Claudio –  a very exceptional person – a musician in the Venezuelan National Orchestra in Caracas — a humanist and role model for everyone who knew him.  Claudio lived a wonderful full life, although it was cut somewhat short by cancer.  We miss you Claudio.

 

 

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Pamela, Angel, Margaret (his wife) in their kitchen in the Mission District, San Francisco, California , probably sometime in 2000

Angel was another exceptional person.  He was an activist for working people and human rights all his life.  Angel was a community organizer in the Mission District of San Francisco, a leader in early childhood education for all and an all round exceptional, warm human being.  Angel lived a very full life and left it peacefully.  We miss you Angel.

 

 

 

Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay, my mother-in-law

Hsiao Li Lindsay died four years ago at the age of 93.  She was a heroine in the modern history of China.  She and her husband Michael Lindsay were in the underground opposing the Japanese occupation of China, which began before World War II. She wrote a wonderful book about her life in those years Bold Plum.  She lived to see Bold Plum published 60 years after she first wrote it.  She died surrounded by her family in Beijing.  We miss you Hsiao Li.

 

Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010

Portrait of Bette Hutchison Silver 2010

 

My mom was within nine days of her 89th birthday when she died in March 2011.  Her death was a tragedy to me as her daughter.  Her childhood was a struggle in a family with challenges of alcoholism, poverty and divorce.  Her adult life was one of sharing and participating in activities such as building support for the Kansas City Art Institute.  She loved to travel – to Mexico, to Africa and to Europe.  Her front porch in the Brookside area of Kansas City was open to all – for talk, games, and pot luck dinners.  I miss you Mom.

Of the five deaths, the one that seems to me to be a tragedy was that of Tausi.  Her death was probably preventable.  She died very young.

More thoughts on Death as Tragedy in my next blog.

 

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