support from fam and friends, plus a little chaotic self organizing to think about


Eileen and I have had a lot of support the past few days as we deal with my Mom’s death on last Monday. My brother and his wife sent flowers to us as did the choir. My doctor, Dr. Fuentes, even phoned to express her condolences (that was a surprise!).

I am finding myself mostly relieved by this stage of my relationship with my Mom. I haven’t done too much mourning, but it’s bound to come. I find that when I am alone I often am processing what has happened. But when I am with others my emotions are more likely to come to the surface.

I spent time this morning reading Siegel’s Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human. He introduces the mathematical idea of an emerging self organizing system. This kind of a system is one that emerges but is not directly caused by a program or a initiator. The example that helped me was thinking of clouds. Clouds are not the result of a process so much as an emerging organization of air molecules, water molecules, temperature, wind and so on. They are necessarily chaotic.

Since Siegel is working on expanding the concept of mind beyond brain and body to interpersonal relationships and even society at large, the idea of how clouds self organize illustrates aspects that he is introducing into understanding mind as an open system, chaos capable and  non-linear. I probably not explaining this clearly. He does.

I also liked how he challenges the reader to think about his own mind.  When your mind seems to be acting on its own, what’s happening can be understood as emerging self organization. I immediately thought of how musicians/artists/writers sometimes have inspirations that seem to come to them from somewhere else.

Then these two sentences struck me: “Self-organization does not need a conductor. Sometimes things unfold best when we get out of the way.”

This is a basic concept I work with on a daily basis as a musician and a coach of singers and others. Just the last week I have more than once talked to musicians about “letting the music happen.”

These are ideas I am going to be thinking about for a long time.

NYTimes: Stephen Hawking Dies at 76; His Mind Roamed the Cosmos

Great obit of a great man.

Smart Ass Cripple

I read an article by this guy in The Progressive mag (not online but my daughter, Elizabeth, has her copy sent to us and uses a digital subscription in China). I found him so astute that I read his blog a bit. That’s the link.

NYTimes: Gina Haspel’s Rise Is No Victory for Feminism

Haspel is Trump’s nominee to lead the CIA.

NYTimes: Kurt Weill’s Music for a Magical Dance, Lost and Now Found

I am a fan of this composer.

The New Gatekeepers – Columbia Journalism Review

I heard a report this morning that is line with this critique of Facebook on On The Media regarding how Google changes maps to be viewed by different countries.

a death


My Mom died on Monday evening around 11 PM. I was sound asleep by then. Eileen noticed that the nursing home had called my phone and hers. She woke me and gave me her phone to return the call, but no one picked up. Tuesday morning, I returned calls and found out that Mom was dead and on her way to the funeral home for eventual cremation.

All day yesterday, I grappled with a pretty complex reaction to her death. I felt relief and concern about next steps after her death concerning her affairs that I have been attending to for a while. Eileen was devastated. It was obvious to her what the nursing home had called to tell us on Monday evening and she slept badly.

I met the packer from Two Men and a Truck at Maplewood Resthaven where Mom lived for about nine years. Since the packer was a woman, I thought about the sexism of their name for the first time (i’m ashamed to admit). The packer said that she thought the name of her company was creepy as well. After setting her up to pack up Mom’s stuff to send to Bibles for Mexico, I met with the funeral director. I was further relieved to find out that Allegan county automatically notifies Social Security about a death. The funeral director recommended that I stop by the local Social Security office sometime and confirm that this was done.

When Dad died, the transition was easier since Mom was still alive. This time, I think I become executor of her will and have to see to dozens of details. I made an appointment with an estate type lawyer for next week to discuss these details to make sure I get them right and don’t leave anything out.

We are not planning a funeral per se for Mom. I can’t think of many people in her long life that would be able to make it anyway. Most of them are already dead. I called my brother not long after I learned about Mom’s death and then later called my daughters to tell them personally over the phone. Then I sent out an email to extended fam. There are members of my fam and my brother’s fam who would probably be interested in being present when her and Dad’s ashes are interred. So that’s the working plan. No date set yet. I need to talk with my brother more about this.

So after talking with the funeral director I went back to see how the packer was doing. She wasn’t quite finished. I came home for a bit then returned and met the movers. We had them move Mom’s fancy chair (in which I am now sitting) and a lamp and a table to our house. The rest went to Bibles for Mexico along with some junk on our porch including my old treadmill.

After all this and intermittently consoling my beautiful wife, I ended up on the organ bench at church. I have been taking a great deal of pleasure in practicing on this amazing instrument. Again I read through Bach organ trios which sound pretty splendid on this instrument. It was a good place to be on the day after your Mom’s death.

Eileen and I went out to eat last night and raised a margarita in Mom’s honor. I think the last week of her life, she was mostly comfortable. She ate and spoke little but it was clear she was not miserable the way she had been before entering Jacob’s Cottage (where she died). Eileen and I went to see her every day.

Eileen pointed out that Mom would not have approved of us having a drink in her honor. My Mom and Dad spent a lot of their lives thinking it was a sin to take a drink. They both eased up a bit on that as they matured, but they always refused to pay for drinks when we went out to eat.

At the same time, Eileen said that she was grateful to my Mom and Dad for accepting her into the family so well. I said, why wouldn’t they?