Monday, January 14, 2008
Ann Zezima: 1936-2008
If the world seems emptier to you, well...that’s because it is. We lost a saint this week. And when I say “saint,” I am using Kurt Vonnegut’s definition: “Someone who behaves decently in an indecent world.”
My Mom and my best friend (Christmas 2006)
I will be forever grateful for the fact that my Mom and I had some time—before she went into a hospice—to say a genuine, tear-soaked goodbye. I was able to tell her, one more time for all time, how I feel about her. Those were, without a doubt, the most amazing and profound five minutes of my life. The saddest, the most meaningful, and the most important five minutes of my entire life.
As Helen Keller sez: “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
Mom and Dad (February 2007)
My Mom was a lifetime Yankee fan...going back to the days of Mantle, Berra, Ford, Rizzuto, etc. During the last few years of her life, she and I spent an awful lot of time rooting (in vain) for the Yanks...so I’ve come up with a suitably Pinstriped method of trying to deal with my loss:
Yankee legend Lou Gehrig—the greatest first baseman to ever play the game—saw his career cut short by ALS (a disease that would ultimately bear his name) at the age of 36. He was still a dominant player yet never showed any public bitterness or resentment about his (perceived?) misfortune. In fact, on July 4, 1939, he stood before his teammates and a packed stadium and famously declared: “Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.” He closed with these words: “I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for. Thank you.”
In an attempt to borrow some perspective from the Iron Horse, amidst the profound sadness I feel at this moment, I still consider myself the luckiest son on the face of the Earth. My mother showed me nothing but “kindness and encouragement” and helped me realize that I have “an awful lot to live for.”
I don’t know what in the world I ever did to deserve a Mom like Ann Zezima, but, wow...it must have been absolutely astounding. I’ll love her and miss her forever.
This difficult time brings to mind the words of two legendary poets...coming at this from discrete angles:
Rocky Balboa sez: “Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t how hard you hit; it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done. Now, if you know what you’re worth, then go out and get what you’re worth. But you gotta be willing to take the hit.”
Walt Whitman sez: “This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to everyone that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown, or to any man or number of men—go freely with powerful uneducated persons, and with the young, and with the mothers or families—re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book, and dismiss whatever insults your own soul; and your very flesh shall be a great poem, and have the richest fluency, not only in its words, but in the silent lines of its lips and face, and between the lashes of your eyes, and in every motion and joint of your body.”
If anyone would like to make a gesture in my Mom’s memory, I have a suggestion that would surely bring her joy: Make a donation to your local no-kill animal shelter (for example) in the name of Ann Zezima.