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  • Each morning this week, I have done what I did most mornings when I was down here with Mom in July and August. Shortly after the sun rises, I go out for a bike ride. The first morning, my ride took me past the old Martin House, which is no longer there. Now, it’s just an empty lot, but it still has the white-painted boardwalk leading from the property up to the beach.

    Ah, geez, so many memories of this place, good memories, fond memories. Here we gathered for Mom’s 80th Birthday, when everyone made it in. A glorious time. We’d rented other houses, which made it possible for more to come in. We’ve done that ever since. The Martin House no longer stands where it once did. But, in my memory and in my heart, it will always remain right there, basking in the sun in all its glory, along with all of those fond memories. Good times.

    I’ve been riding all over Debordieu. I’ve ridden down Alligator Alley, around the Golf Course, through the salt marshes, over to the beach by the Beach Club, where we sat with Mom just 2 weeks ago, on another glorious day, her last time on the beach. That’s one day you couldn’t get me to trade for all the money in the world. You take the dough. I'll take that day. That day was so golden, so special. I took my sandals off, walked down there, felt the waves on my feet, remembered the day, with all of my senses, then climbed back on the bike and rode on.

    I remember after Dad’s memorial service, asking him how it went, if it was all he would have wanted. Dad, you see, had a lot of ideas about what he wanted in his memorial service, his way of being intentional right to the end. I’d asked the question just as I was leaving the church basement where the after service wake had been held, and as I walked around the block to retrieve my car, to drive his sisters to the airport, I had the very distinct and very real sensation that he was walking right beside me, arm around my shoulder, in a way that reassured me that it was exactly as he’d wanted it.

    With Mom, it was different. We had a conversation about a month ago about it. I asked her if she’d thought about what kind of service she’d want, and she just said, “Oh, I don’t want any service. Just that nice, simple service they do at Arlington (National Cemetery), like they did for Jim.” This kind of baffled me. But, Mom was very much a “what have you done lately” kind of gal, and as far as she was concerned, she hadn’t done much, lately. Who would want to remember her? But,what about all of those people you touched through Ala-Call, and PFLag, and all the other things you’ve been involved in during your life? “Oh, that was ages ago. They wouldn’t even remember me, at this point.”

    Are you kidding me? This lady continued to live a life of intention and purpose right to the very end. Even as her body began to break down, which it had been doing for years, she kept pushing herself to keep moving, keep active, she played bridge 3 – 4 times a week, made good friends through that, continued to help people struggling with difficult issues, like coming out in a community that would not be overly supportive of such things. Mom had a dear bridge friend who was lesbian, who had only recently contemplated coming out to her friends and family, and who talked with mom a lot about it. When Kathy and I were coming down for a weekend at Mom’s, Mom invited her friend over to learn Mah Johngg, but she had ulterior motives. She knew it would help her friend in her desire to come out with others, to be able to talk to other people about it. Our son had just recently come out, and she thought it would help her friend to talk to us. I think it did. That was Mom.

    She seemed like an unstoppable force of nature, at times. Like the time, a few years ago, she fell in her bathroom, broke her neck in the fall, and just kept going like nothing had happened. The X-Rays had not detected the break - it was only weeks later that an MRI revealed it. It never did fully heal, but it also never stopped her doing what she did. Then there was the time, last year, Biker Week, when a biker group came by the Lakes, and offered to take folks on a ride. Mom strapped on a helmet, hopped on the bike, and promptly burned the heck out of her leg on the pipes. She called it her tattoo! The picture of this 87 year-old sitting there smiling through her pain on the back of that bike - that's my Mom!

    We’ve looked through a lot of old pictures this week, like you do, and put some up on the memorial website. I came across a few of Mom riding a bike as a teenager, and when she was a little older, down on the Atlantic City Boardwalk. Yesterday morning, as I was out riding around Debordieu on my bike, I got the distinct feeling that someone was riding with me. It soon became apparent that it was Mom. She was right there with me, riding her bike, free from the physical limitations that had held her back for so long, just riding along, enjoying the sea breeze, the wind blowing through her dark hair, filled with the joy and the beauty of the morning. It was unexpected – but, oh, so very welcome. The sensation only lasted for about a block of my ride, but that was enough. It really made my day. At this point, I don’t even question if these things are real or just my active imagination. I just accept and appreciate them.

    So, there will be the service today, mainly for her friends down here that she’s made over the past 11 years. We have no idea how many will come, but are ready for anything. We’ve kept it relatively simple, befitting her wishes, but still plan to convey what her life was like, and what it meant to us. Hopefully, others will get up and share what she meant to them.

    Since we’ll also be doing the service at Arlington at some later date, probably in November – there’s a long waiting list, you see, and Mom had to get in line. (Reminds me of Mom’s one joke, back when we were touring around New England. We’d drive past a cemetery, and Mom, very straight-faced, would say, “And, see that old cemetery there?” You’d look and say yeah, and expect that Mom would have some historical artifact about it that made it interesting. Then she’d say “People have been dying to get in there for years!” with a sly grin. She must have gotten me with that one 5 times. Brother Ken says he got her at least twice that many times. You just never expected it from her!) Anyway, 4 of my siblings were situated such that coming in now didn’t really work, so the Arlington service will be the family service. This one is mainly for her friends down here.

    So, the lady who really didn’t want anything will have 2 services, one for friends, and one for family and old friends. Somehow, it seems fitting for this lady. I hope it doesn’t piss her off too much!

    Photo: Looking at where the Martin House used to stand, from the end of the Boardwalk that led from the house to the beach.
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