By Ernie McCray
Nancy left these shores on the 22nd of July, five years ago, and my son wrote some pretty words about her on Facebook that brought tears to my eyes, the soft tears that flow from memories held dear.
He says, of her passing, “It was not the last time I’ve heard her wisdom, felt her spirit, followed her counsel or shared a smile with her. I am motivated each day to bring change and happiness to this world and my mother is one of the motivations.”
Then he says, “Laurel (his wonderful partner in life) gave me a beautiful card this morning with a quote she chose that embodies how I’ve coped with the reality that I can never dance with my mother at my wedding, cry on her shoulder, or feel her hugs.” The card says, “The greatest gift we can give to those who have left us is to live fully in their place.”
I so agree and it’s pleasing to see how Carlos is truly living in his mother’s place. Like her, he is a doer – and that woman was about the doing-est person I’ve ever known. Paper on the ground, she’s picking it up. Recycling program needed at the school. Done. Animal down and struggling, well, I don’t know how many times I’ve suddenly heard “Stop the car, Ernie?” and I’m going “What? What? Did I run over somebody? Is somebody dangling on the hood?” and she says something like “No, no, there’s a bird over there with a broken wing” or “It looks like that squirrel is hobbling.” We’ve missed appointments taking a wounded creature to Project Wildlife.
Carlos suggests, on his timeline, that we all, in his mother’s memory, “pick up some trash that isn’t ours and feed an animal that isn’t ours… recycle everything and reuse anything we can…count to three in 80 languages and take photos of whatever you see…” He, then, gives in to “I find I cannot decide how to end this as she has no end to me…”
I know what he means as Nancy is very much a part of me. I see her every time I look our grandson, with his Dumbo ears, in the eye. Every time I pick an avocado from the tree she started in a little pot. Every time I see a mixed doubles team in tennis. Every time I hear a camera click. When ever I see a killer whale, jumping through hoops, way outside what’s natural for it to do.
“So live on I shall,” Carlos writes, “and continue to listen to my mother’s words I will,” never, ever forgetting “the woman who cancelled a trip to Jamaica to, instead, go visit me, a stranger, at the hospital and then bring me home,” giving “me my shot at the life I’m living and it will not be wasted.”
Oh, write away, my son. He is so his mother’s boy. And what a mother she was. I relish every minute we had as a mom and dad. Bringing Tawny and Nyla home one cold windy rainy February day and then, four years later, bringing Carlos home as our dearly adopted son, are days I will cherish forever. Helping them and then seeing them become the loving and caring human beings they happen to be, Nancy and I did agree, was the most satisfying experience we’ve enjoyed in life.
My thoughts of her on this, the anniversary of the saddest day of my life, have been sunny and bright. I looked for a picture that would best describe our lives together and found one of us laughing. It jumped out at me because I don’t think a day passed in our time together that we didn’t literally crack up about something. It could be over something Richard Pryor said like “People will get out your way if you’re running down the street on fire…”
It could come about, in a moment, when we happened to conjure up images of when we’d let Carlos sucker us into one of those big verbal battles we had with him and we’d look up at each other and realize we were practically cross-eyed, foaming at the mouth and cursing in tongues…
It could be the result of looking at a video of Tawny and Nyla, as little girls, when one of them says, to the other, in an Elmer Fudd-like voice: “Your hair is gleaming…”
It could be due to recalling a day when we were lost in El Cajon speeding along some street as though we knew where we were going, wondering why some people were looking at us funny, and all of a sudden the street just abruptly ended and we had to hit our brakes and then turn around and head back the other way, still trying to front like we knew where we were going…
Ahh, it’s so nice to be able to put some words about our dear Nancy together without buckling from sheer emotional pain. Our daughter, Nyla, in Vegas, wrote “She’s still very much with me. But I miss her physical presence terribly,” in response to her brother’s message.
Tawny, her twin, took a dip in the ocean, for both of them, in her mother’s name. And nothing could honor a woman who swam miles a week in the ocean, claiming she had been a halibut in a former life, more than playing in the waves in her memory.
We will forever live fully in her place. It’s our gift to her for all the love she gave us — unconditionally.
bob dorn says
Ernie thank you for sharing such a personal and beautiful story. Love tu amiga
Life’s ups and downs…I can still remember the day I saw her at the JCC with the baby twins and introduced myself. May her memory always be a blessing. So great to catch up with you and the fam last weekend…Be well and live life long and strong! Love and Light!
Debi Mason says
“So, from those days to now I get up every morning set on making the world a better place. On my good foot*, and I hope my writing reflects that. *an old black expression” Yep, me too, Ernie. Me, too.
Connie McCullen says
Dear Ernie . . . It is always a treat to read your writings. This is one of the most poignant. Through your intimate, heartfelt descriptions of your life, family and friends, I have come to feel part of this incredible circle. I’m delighted you accepted my “Friend Request” today – now I will have an opportunity to enjoy more of your stories, rather than wait for your articles in the San Diego Free Press, or a chance encounter at a local event! Although I attempt to regularly pick up a little trash, recycle and always help out strays and injured creatures, now when doing so, your dear Nancy will often come to mind! Love to you and all your family.
Jay Powell says
Nice to see her face again, smiling, while you are cracking up. She was a real dynamo. Blessings and Love. Thanks for sharing. – Jay
Linda Newsum says
Nancy was always so wonderful to be with, generous, funny, intensely interested in the lives of others, especially her family and friends. Her loss has been so deeply felt, but it is always so easy to conger up warm memories of her laughter, smile, passion and kindness. Love you Nancy. Your grandson has your smile!
Ellen Woodward-Taylor says
just beautiful, we carry our loves forever in our hearts,be it wife,mother child, they live on as we live on.
Hubba Jubba says
HI ERNIE: Your scribing style and the way you relate it to others is simply P – R – I -C – E – L – E – S – S! I can’t wait until you next post.
Deborah Smaller says
I met you after Nancy’s death, so never had the opportunity to actually meet her.
But your words gave me a strong visceral sense of her. I wish I had met her.
Thank your for sharing this with those of us who never actually knew this wonderful-sounding woman.
She was truly a lovely lady. Ty and I so enjoyed seeing the two of you in the neighborhood ‘in love’ . We were glad we weren’t the only OLD people still in love after all these years. Miss seeing you. Many wonderful blessings still to come.
Dave Beekman says
” He, then, gives in to “I find I cannot decide how to end this as she has no end to me…”
(Carlos is A ‘chip off the old block’ for sure…… : )
Dave Y Maria
a beautiful tribute.
Terry Connor says
What a beautiful piece. I miss her so much, but articles like yours almost bring her back to life. You are such a great writer and I appreciate you keeping Nancy’s memory alive.
Martha Upp says
Thank you for sending this. It is a beautiful tribute to your wife, and to love. As we lose dear ones, one of the lessons that I learned is that love never dies. She will live in your heart forever and that is a true measure of your love for her and the impact on all whom she left behind. How fortunate and blest you are to have had a mate like your Nancy.