The Washington Post, Friday, February 15, 2002, page B7Last Thanksgiving it was clear the Mylodysplasia was getting to my mother. She had lost a lot of weight, and it seemed that she needed almost daily transfusions to stay with us. Even so, I wasn't expecting it when my father called me to say that my mom had died in the middle of the night. I got my plane ticket the next evening. A week later I was attending her funeral.

A lot of what we did while we were together had to do with organizing the pictures my mom had left in her possessions to tell the story of her life. When I got there, my sister and brother had been going through her stuff for days. When we sat down with the shoebox of pictures they had selected, it was hard to pick one up without telling or listening to a story. For example, there was one large black and white of my parents and Bobby and I waving good by out the window of a train. My father explained that it had been taken in South Africa, before Tonia and Lal had joined the family. The funeral home facilitated the winnowing process by giving us three "memory boards" (magnetic boards about 2 ft. wide by 3 ft. tall on easels) to cover with pictures as a backdrop for her funeral service.

By the time everybody was there for her funeral service, we had my mom's life into three easy segments, before my dad (all black and white pictures except for things like her press credential from a Johannesburg Newspaper), while we were growing up (lots of faded color, some black and white), and the empty nester fun period (many bright colors and startling images, things like my mom riding a camel in Morocco). With the urn of ashes that remained of her and all the flowers that people had sent, they made for a very touching backdrop for the circle of chairs we shared the experience in.

All of the people that showed up were good friends of my mothers. From her generation there were Mary, Ester, and Susan and Richard from her ARE study group, Bruce's parents and my Father. The next batch was represented by Lal, Tonia, Bruce, and I from the more or less family world and the Funeral Director, his wife, and the Fausts (her next door neighbors from the too brief period when she was living in Virginia Beach). The only youngsters were Tonia's two daughters, who were model citizens. Everyone wore their Sunday best, and the air had a friendly but solemn feel.

The ceremony itself was simple. We sat in a circle, and kicked it off by singing a hymn about how God made all creatures great and small. Then we took turns talking about our feelings. Many people talked about how good my mom was at infecting them with good cheer, just by the way she was. Many times her love of traveling came up. Once or twice, people mentioned erie coincidences or premonitions that she had shared with them. We ended the service by singing another hymn, I'll Fly Away. It was good to go through it with them.

We finished the evening by sharing a meal at the Jewish Mother, a restaurant near the Beach that my mother had gone back to many times over the years. The food was wonderful, as was the company. What I remember most about the evening was talking to Susan and Mary about spiritual research, and talking to Bruce about the dinosaurs he is painting on the bedroom walls of the home of a client for his five and nine year old sons.

The next morning, Richard, Bruce, Lal, my father, and I took the ashes out on a red power boat named Therapy into the Chesapeake Bay. After going out beyond the bridges, far enough from shore that land seemed distant but still visible on the horizon, we dropped the urn over the side. First my brother dropped the urn. Then I pitched the two roses and Richard threw the small box with her four leaf clover collection in it. The urn seemed to float for a few moments, just long enough for us to catch a last picture of the thing, and then she settled into the murky depths. There is probably never going to be anyone quite like my mother again.

Tian Harter

I wish I had more pictures from the event to share with you.