Archive for the ‘Death’ Category

Farewell O’ Fairest and Finest Matriarch

February 24, 2012

‘Marie Theresa Caraher took over the kitchen in Heaven on February 14, 2012. God awoke on Valentine’s Day, smelled Mother’s cinnamon rolls, and said, “This is good.” She, God, got up, went to the kitchen and said, “Welcome. I hear they called you the Scrabble Queen on the celestial plane from whence you came. Feel up to a game?”

So began Marie’s obituary…

David’s mother (who lived in Arizona her last 17 years) passed away in her sleep early morning on Valentine’s Day. When I awoke at 7AM at home in Idaho David was already up. I found him sitting in quiet repose at the kitchen table. “Mother passed away last night.”

‘…Marie was 99 when she died. She was born in Council Bluffs, Iowa on September 27, 1912. Her father died when she was five and her mother gave her up a few years later. She grew up on a farm south of Council Bluffs, Iowa, cared for by her Uncle Chris and Aunt Annie. In spite of the fact that she was the fastest runner in her grade school and excelled at school work, she was not allowed to attend high school; her foster parents could not imagine how education could be useful for a woman….a bitter lesson that Mother never forgot.
So instead of going to high school, Marie milked cows, worked in the hay fields, cooked for thrashers, and spent her teenage years being groomed to be a farmer’s wife. But she never stopped reading…’

David and I decided immediately. We must travel to Arizona for her Memorial. Megan was up by now. We broke the news to her. She opened the Valentine’s gift we had left for her on the table.

The new stuffed puppy offered little comfort, albeit we chuckled at how much it looked like Rudy, or Rudy looked like it, for a moment, before he jumped down and dashed over to the cat bowl and licked it clean.

‘…She married a farmer, Thomas Fenton Caraher in 1932. And, Oh my, what a revelation it was for both of them. They became a couple. Child bride though she was (she was 19, he was 40), Mother was free. And with a man who loved her. Their early years together were spent on a farm south of Council Bluffs. Later, as their family grew, they tried city living in Council Bluffs itself. It didn’t take. In 1956 they moved to Jamaica, Iowa, and shortly thereafter to Bayard. A third of their brood of 11 children had flown the nest by then. But there were still seven young boys in the house…’

David was born in the middle of the brood. Child number … 8? The four oldest were daughters, followed by seven sons. David was the fourth son.

‘…Tom died in 1963. It broke Marie’s heart, though she, having known so many hard times, tried never to show it. Someone accused her of not crying at Tom’s funeral. Her tears were there; just not shown. Nearly fifty years later, one hopes they’re reunited in tears of joy…’

David was 16, the oldest child at home, when his father had a massive stroke and died. Marie was 50. David had to step into his father’s shoes. He planted the corn that year, albeit, when the rows grew tall, they weren’t as straight as David would have liked. 😉

‘…Marie remained in the Bayard area until 1994. During that time she did an admirable job of raising sons who were, uh, let’s say, a challenge. Subsequently to being known as the Mother of “those boys” she became known for her singing, her flowers, and her sewing, and (to some) for her Scrabble ruthlessness (“It took you that long to play THAT!”). Though widowed, she reveled in the freedom to try new things (albeit from economic necessity): She was a cook at the Bayard school and a cook at a fraternity (she understood boys) at Iowa State University. But the best job – she loved this job – was as a part time librarian in Scranton. It completed the circle of her lifelong love of reading…’

I collected photos from our walls at home to take to Phoenix to display at the Memorial.

‘…In 1994 Marie moved reluctantly to the Sunbird Golf Resort in Chandler, AZ to live with her daughter
Pauline. (Mother, you’re 82. We worry about you being alone in the Iowa winter). Their patio was adjacent to the tee box on the 4th hole of the golf course. Marie enjoyed looking down the fairway and pretending it was her back yard…’

David, Megan, and I hit the road for Chandler, AZ on Wed. morning, February 15. For the next six hours we drove mostly through rain, drizzle, sleet, but finally, heavy snow in southern Utah …

which, according to a sign we just passed here, off to our right is the town of “Snowfield.” Duh.

It’s a fifteen-hour drive to Marie and Pauline’s. We stopped in Vegas our first night. Stayed at the Rio:

view from our room

We arrived safely in Chandler, Arizona, (just south of Phoenix) on Thursday.

‘…But it wasn’t Iowa. And the soil! Bit of heartache there. She finally did manage to produce a wonderful set of flower gardens, again reveling in learning, study, and perseverance. She was shamelessly thankful for things she’d never had before: A dishwasher and an automatic garage door opener…’

Here’s a photo of their home in Chandler. Marie loved her flowers.

‘…In her last year, Marie’s health deteriorated, yet she remained unbending to conventional wisdom – she still got on the plane and traveled. She became more dependent on others, especially Pauline, and, while grateful, was uncomfortable with becoming a burden…’

Marie had flown up to Idaho for six days this past December to spend Christmas with us. At age 99!

Here she is December 26, 2011,

with our son, Ben. (Just seven weeks ago…)

…But she was never heavy. She’s our Mother…’

‘Marie was preceded in death by pretty much every one of her peers (99! You rule, Mother!), her parents, her husband, Thomas, her sister Ana Nansel, son James, and daughter, Rosemary King.
She leaves her sister Mae Green behind and nine children missing her: three daughters, Catherine Rahn, Pauline Caraher, and Margaret Larocca; and six sons, Tom, Ed, David, Jerome, Dennis, and Paul, 27 grandchildren, 37 great grandchildren and 18 great, great grandchildren.’

A Memorial in Chandler was held on Sunday, Feb. 19, for family, and friends in Phoenix who knew Marie her last 17 years. Another Memorial will be held in Bayard Iowa at the end of July.

We headed back to Idaho on Monday, Feb. 20. David did all the driving. And the gassing up.

We enjoyed the scenery in Northern Arizona and southern Utah.

We drove the fifteen-hour drive straight through, without stopping to browse at

Browse, which, why would we if there’s no services?

We arrived home close to midnight this past Monday night.

A large wind came up yesterday- the largest wind we have seen in a long time. I took a video of it
when I coaxed Rudy out in it to go potty (turn up your sound and watch it till the end):

That’s about a 70 mph wind gust you see at the end of it – a wind that toppled trees and limbs all over town. (Albeit with near-50 degree temps that melted all the snow – temps that are virtually unheard of this time of year.)

Looks like wind, but sounds a bit like … ocean?? (CLose your eyes and listen again?)

Which … Hey! Whatdoyasay we venture back to Hawaii? I’m sure Marie’s on board with us!

I haven’t yet told you, have I? About our last day on vacation in Kauai?

Wolf Moon Weekend

January 30, 2010

I saw it just after dark, yesterday evening. The wolf moon. It was one of the few clear nights we’ve had in January. I was driving in my car, headed east, just a few blocks from our house and there it was, hanging above the rooftops right in front of me, giant and luminous — the largest, brightest moon I have ever seen!! I didn’t think to try and capture a photo of it with my i-phone. But I bet I could have, it was so bright. I was headed to a funeral home for a “Celebration of Life” preceding the funeral today of a special friend.

I thought of that moon when I woke up this morning. I knew it was special. I looked on the internet and discovered that it is the Wolf moon, the name given to the first full moon of the year, by the American Indians, which have named all the full moons. Check out the Wolf moon on this link. This year the Wolf moon is 30% brighter and 14 per cent larger than any other full moon for the rest of this year. That is because the moon will be at its perigee—the nearest it gets to our planet during its egg-shaped orbit—for 2010 – at 4:04 a.m. ET, Saturday, at the same time that it is full. Check out this link from National Geographic News. What made this Wolf moon experience extra special is the appearance of Mars at opposition last night—directly opposite to the sun in the sky—so that as the sun set in the southwest, Mars rose in the northeast to the left of the moon.

I’m checking out the waning Wolf moon again tonight. And see if I can find Mars. And thinking about the serendipity of my dear friend’s death. Maybe she didn’t want me to miss experiencing the Wolf moon at its perigree enhanced by the glow of Mars in its opposition to the sun, viewed at its best last night, an hour after sunset. Because if she hadn’t died, then I likely wouldn’t have seen it. And if I am going to continue ‘living’ I should pay more attention to the waxing and waning of the moon. And just gaze more a the sky. Next month I plan to check out the Snow Moon, in its full glory, on February 28. I wonder if the skies will be as clear as they were last night on this Wolf Moon weekend.

“Phlug” – “Zap!”

November 6, 2009
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Megan and Rudy in October

It amazes me every year how fast fall comes and goes; some years I have missed it. This year I watched the green leaves of early October turn to colors of showy reds, shimmering yellows, and burnt oranges. I’ve watched the leaves cling to their branches against raging winds, as if to cheat death at the height of their brilliant glory — then let go and cascade to the ground. The leaves collect in brittle, colorless heaps that are trampled, scattered, gathered by the wind, raked by humans into piles, and hauled away.

photo(24)

Trees stand stark naked now. Their branches extend upward like giant broken spiderwebs against the November sky. I am glad Halloween is over. I looked forward to its coming – the season of fall and Halloween – that mysterious time when death whispers through the rustling of the changing leaves and summer blooms blacken with the killing frost. Halloween comes upon us as a time for dress up and innocent fun, but also marks the onset of winter’s gloom. It grew out of a Celtic celebration called Samhain, which originated more than 2000 years ago. The Celts saw it as a fearful time, a time when the boundaries between the living and spirit worlds disappeared, and spirits walked the earth.

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Halloween gets its name from All Hallows’ Eve, as Oct. 31 was called in England centuries ago. On this night people prayed for the dead to prepare for All Saints Day on Nov. 1, to honor Roman Catholic saints and martyrs. All Saints’ Day is followed by All Souls’ Day on November 2, a day to honor and pray for the rest of the departed souls.

We have passed this season now, a time rooted in myths and imaginings, that deepen our experience of the changing weather and our thoughts on the mysteries of life and death.

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On this early November morn I am alive! It is well with my soul. My friends and loved ones are fine. Life is good.

Oh! So why this title, ‘Phlug!” and ‘Zap!” you ask? They are the sounds on the Monday before Halloween, of two squirrels meeting their deaths. I was driving the 25-mph speed limit behind two other cars on a quiet street, when, just ahead on the left, a squirrel began jaunting carelessly across the road. Oh! I thought. Those cars in front of me will surely slow down and make way for that squirrel.

But the first car in our line of three didn’t slow a bit. I hoped the squirrel had remained unharmed. But, nooooo. By the time I got to it, that poor squirrel was writhing in the middle of the road in the throes of death.

Later that same day I was home with our daughter, Megan, when the power went out for about half a second – just long enough to throw off the clocks. “That’s annoying!” I exclaimed.

A few minutes later we took a walk into the park a few blocks away. There we saw a city truck hoisting a guy in a cup to fix the power lines. Walking toward us was another city worker holding a furry creature in his gloved hands. As he came close we realized he was holding a squirrel – upside down, stiff as a statue, with it’s eyes and mouth frozen wide open. “Electrocuted.” he said. “Squirrels are chewing on those power lines.” Yeah, I thought, they are busy scrounging up insulation to winterize their nests.

I told my husband, David, about how I had experienced the death of two squirrels in one day, which was creepy, so close to Halloween.

Last night we were sitting in our den, relaxing in front of the TV, when the power went out for about half a second – just long enough to shut everything off and back on again. I glanced at David and we both said, “Squirrel!”

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How many squirrels from that nest are still alive?


Squirrels are working hard this time of year, just like us, preparing their nesting places for the the onset of winter’s wrath. I just wish humans would slow down, and make way for the earth’s little creatures, in respect for their resourceful, industrious lives, even if they are just … squirrels.

No sense assisting the Grim Reaper.

Me? I’ll take another ’24’.