A gentle apparition

My mother, who died at 70 in 1967, made a brief reappearance here in San Francisco last week. It was during a visit I made to the bedside of Lik Kiu Ding, age 90-something (born in the jungles of Borneo he never knew exactly when.) I had not seen him in years, until learning he’s now at a nearby assisted living facility. Lik Kiu was like a son to my father, who helped him finish his education in the U.S. (at Randolph-Macon College in my hometown of Ashland, VA.) After his medical training Lik Kiu and his Chinese wife Lillian, also a physician, lived, worked and raised their family in Hong Kong, returning to the States before Lillian’s death of cancer in the ‘90s. (Her remarkable story is part of my book, Dying Unafraid.) Beaming from under his tightly-tucked blankets, Lik Kiu took my hand as I bent near, reached out one long finger to touch my cheek, pointing first to my eyes, then my mouth, then making small circles around my face. His daughter Mary, standing nearby, said, “You look like your mother, don’t you?” It’s true, I’m a double for my mother before her own health began to fail. For those few moments, trying not to cry over his still-handsome face, I evaporated. It was my mother who was holding his hand.

Comfort and Joy

I spoke recently to a group of incredibly informed and articulate women, members of the San Francisco OWL chapter. (It used to be an acronym for Older Women’s League, but is now simply OWL, and its members do tend to be very wise.) Plus, any time you can get several dozen busy women to come out on a cold, gray, drizzly, Saturday morning for a talk entitled Living for Now, Preparing for Later, it has to be an encouraging day. More encouraging were the questions and comments. They pretty much boiled down to this: the participants wanted to make sure their documents (and their lives) were in order in case they got hit by a truck this afternoon; many wanted to get involved in my Compassion & Choices of N.CA cause, all of them were very definitely living for now. A few days later, when I met another informed and articulate woman named Colette Lafia and her new book Comfort and Joy: Simple Ways to Care for Ourselves and Others, the two episodes made a nice fit. (More about that on my Redroom.com blog.) Colette’s lovely little book is designed as a personal guide for finding comfort; there are even ‘Cultivating Comfort’ advisories at the end of each segment. The good women of OWL, who focus consistently on local, national and international issues of all sorts, are taking care of their own basic now-and-later comfort issues. And guess where it leads? To joy. Good tidings.

Barack and Jane and Me

I had such a good time writing a brief blog about bonding with Barack, thanks to a sometime shared agent, on my Red Room blog, perhaps you’ll surf over to my author page on redroom.com and read it. Too lazy to re-write. But I AM going to get something new and profound up on this space soon, I am, I am!

Stories will always be around

Roger Mudd, whose new book The Place to Be will delight even those who don’t remember when the real news came on TV at 6, told about getting questioned by a journalism student on whether there were any future in the business. (Roger is less than optimistic about the future of news as in newspapers, radio or TV. His book is largely about glory days of the news business when indeed Washington — and to a similar extent New York — was the place to be.) The student was responding to Roger’s pretty grim, though accurate, tales of disappearing newspapers and declining TV news viewers. “I want to be a journalist,” the student said; “but if there’s no future in it, I should be looking at another field.” Hoping to encourage what seemed a bright young man and salvage a potential bright hope, Roger answered that the stories are out there, and if he really wants to tell them, there will always be a place.

I hope so. Horrified as I am at the prospect of facing the day without a cup of coffee and the front sections of the San Francisco Chronicle and the New York Times, I hang onto the hope that there’s light at the end of that newsprint-scented tunnel. The internet I guess? Roger also told of a very bright young woman whom he asked about where she got her news. She said she kept CNN on very low all the time, and if she noticed something that interested her she went to her computer and brought up New York Times online. But if newspapers disappear, their online sites aren’t likely to survive long.

Maybe it’s just that the world keeps right on changing, for better or for worse (you’re invited to read a few more comments on this on my RedRoom blog.) But I continue to hope for the survival of daily news in print and decent news on TV… and I continue to believe in storie.