copyright © 2008 Betsy L. Angert. BeThink.org
I stroked the chair, caressed the spirit. I cried. She was gone; yet here. Not forgotten; forever her presence would be with me. Then within a wink of an eye, seven days passed. Luke Russert appeared before me. He stood; head bowed, and touched another chair. This overstuffed piece of furniture once held the frame of his dearly departed father. While some thought the moment sweet, many expressed exasperation. They tired of the coverage. Timothy James Russert was dead. We need not canonize him. A few were critical. They wondered did cable television have nothing better to cover. A "fellow" Journalist commented, "Will somebody please e-mail me when the eulogies for Tim Russert are over?" Perhaps, tributes only end when we, the mourners pass. Possibly, memorials are personal, as are the parameters on grief.
Three weeks ago today, I looked longingly at the place she occupied forever. My Mom could always be found seated at the kitchen table, that is unless she was cooking, baking, or gardening. When Mom boiled, broiled, fried, or roasted victuals she did so with a lack of restraint. Recipes were not to be followed. They were guides, as was her nose, and the tip of her tongue. Mommy was an eager explorer. If not in motion, she read voraciously while erect in a straight back wooden chair that I stood and admired twenty-one days ago.
Mommy reveled in being productive and creative. Her hobby was critical thought. She lived, breathed, and was a being who constantly researched, reviewed all she encountered, and reflected. Mommy was, and is authentic. Berenice never pretended to be perfect. She did not believe in the possibility. My Mom learned as she lived. All aspects of live were her lessons.
In our home, an error was an opportunity. Mommy evolved eternally, and had faith all beings do. I have no reason to believe that she has stopped or was stilled by a physical trauma that took her visible presence away from me. My father does not fear that she passed on to nothingness; nor does he conclude that her progression ended when her eyes closed here on Earth for the final time.
Indeed, that very morning, less than a month ago, while in my parents' home, my father did as he diligently did each week. He placed flowers in a beautiful crystal vase and put them in front of the chair where Mommy often sat. She was not there that morning; at least most people would not have been able to see her. Berenice passed more than eight years ago. Nonetheless, for my father and I she is always present.
On this date as on every other, my mother, his wife, would smell picturesque peonies. She would admire the crimson color. Red was her favorite hue. Fresh flora, picked from her garden, and presented with great care was never a vacant gesture. Mommy loved life in every form. Plants were no less important than people. The kitties some would call "pets" were also considered equal to humans in my Mom's eyes, although., I wonder if others ever understood that.
I think, at times, some felt as though Mommy was closer to the "cats" than she was to them. Perchance, she was. From the "babies" she received unconditional love. They, as my father and I, knew all her flaws and thought them fun. Those unique qualities were the source of endearment for father, the furry felines, and I. Food and feedings did not bind a mammal mother to her daughter, her husband, or to the purrfect little ones who sat with her every chance they could.
Mom and the four-footed cuddly children expressed empathy for each other in ways that could only be felt. She and some humans, not me, had never connected with such compassion. I suspect those who know us only from afar cannot fully grasp the wholeness, the whoness, that makes an individual great.
For me, Berenice was and is beyond belief. Perhaps that is why, all these years later, I gaze upon her station and shed a flood of tears. For me, it is as though she has yet to pass. Yet, in my heart I know of the looming doom.
Some would say my moans and the notion that I might mourn my loss silly. Near a decade has passed. Certainly, I must be over the occurrence. We are here; then, we are gone. People live and then they die. That is it. Enough already. I have reason to believe some who knew Mommy do not grieve as I do. Still the ache I feel at the mere mention of Mom is sincere. The pain of her passing will likely never leave me. Nor will her words or ways be lost on me. She is as alive within me and for me as she was the last time we spoke, face to face.
On the Sunday I last spent in her home, before I left for the flight back to my own abode, I turned and kissed a photograph of her. It stood in memorial in the dining area, on the sideboard. There, Mommy could see the flowers my father picked for her. From where she was, my Mom could also study the pile of books Dad left for her to read. He, as I, trusted she would wish to remain current. Just as they had when Mommy filled a more Earthly presence, volumes on various subjects, were stacked on the table. Mommy and Dad would read and discuss onto infinity.
Yes, my father is as foolish as I.
We recall the wondrous women who taught us to believe in love. Dad and I cannot forget the fondness of a being who had faith; there are no limits. While we understand that several persons think my father and I need to "get over" her "death," we must "move one," each of us experiences that we have evolved. Mommy has been integrated into our soul in a manner that shifts us farther forward. Neither of us ever imagined we might grow as we have. Our horizons have become more expansive. Might we be the flowers Mommy now nurtures from an ethereal garden? I can only wonder just as, I ponder the posture of those who easily leave loved ones behind.
Frequently, I marvel as I observe those who dwell on the hate, hurt, or the resentment they felt and possibly still feel. As Timothy Russert was laid to rest, several of those who survive were not at peace. Headlines blazed across page after page. Columnist crooned. In The Nation Alexander Cockburn penned all but a acclamation. He wrote in an article titled The Canonization of St. Tim, Beat The Devil . . .
The delirium in the press at Tim Russert's passing has been strange. As a broadcaster, he was not much better than average, which is saying very little. He could be a sharp questioner, but not when it really counted and when courage was required.
This short stanza is the kindest portion of the prose. A reader might ask, was Tim Russert expected to be perfect. Are we to believe that one is beloved only if they are flawless. Could it be that homage is reserved for revered Saints; humans need not apply. While I am able to relate to the frustration the author expresses, I also acknowledge the importance of what Tim Russert saw as his mission. The broadcaster wished to create a historical record, "My views are not important,” Russert explained. The man mused; the audience is intelligent. Viewers will think for themselves. Timothy J. Russert honored each of us when he offered a forum, a foundation on which we, the people could build.
For me, the vision Tim Russert spoke of defines love, unconditional, unconventional, unique, and exceptional.
Perchance, that is why I admire and appreciate what those who were close to him continue to venerate. Mommy forever offered, "No one has the right to tell another what they should think, say, do, feel, or be." Timothy James Russert, just as my Mom trusted that each individual would decide for him or herself what was right, correct, and best.
An anguished viewer may have wanted the host of Meet the Press to attack a guest, to confront a purported corrupt Congressperson, or curtly cajole a public official. Many an MSNBC spectator may have wished for an on screen war. As a reader of numerous periodicals might surmise, several persons hoped to hear Russert rant and rage. Yet, the gentle man could not, would not. Perchance, the Journalist and Jurist was a peacenik to the core as my Mom was, or conceivably, he was just polite.
Russert said his mission is to learn as much as he can about the guests' position on issues beforehand and take the opposing side, while maintaining a civil atmosphere on the show.
"I'm in a position to call them out and try to bring them back to the point where they're giving an honest answer to an honest question," he said.
Ah, the best policy. As my Mom taught me, one must seek truth and trust that veracity for one may not be reality for another. Wisdom grows; it is a progression. The sources for information are infinite. We must investigate, not castigate, or so I believe. I recognize this principle is contrary to the opinions of many a media specialist. Nonetheless, as one who intends to weep for the Mom I miss forever, I cannot spew words such as "How the Russert Test Failed America."
I inquire, might it be that America failed the Russert test; the key to a meaningful life is understanding.
Granted, judgments may differ; and I, for one hope they will. For I cannot learn from those who agree with me, forever and always. I embrace a philosophy that serves me well. Mommy helped me to realize, perfection is not precision. Facts are fluid. A stagnant specific is as flawed as the falsehood, we must grief a loss for only as long as it entertains a particular person or audience.
Tim Russert may have provided us with an unexpected opportunity, a chance to learn what most erudite elitists missed in educational institutions and esteemed ivory towers. If we wish to be excellent, we must embrace empathy. Only when we walk in a world that differs from our own, as Timothy James Russert hoped to help us do, can we garner a genuine depth. While conventional wisdom may teach us accepted rights or wrongs, I trust only exceptional insight allows for an awareness that the man or the Mom who sat in a chair teaches through his or her all too human being, more than they might through a supposed intellectual expertise.
Sources of sorrow, and serenity . . .