Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Things I share with Harry Houdini (& how he helped me find my voice)


This past weekend, my sister Shawn surprised me when she said that she'd been thinking about the anniversary of our mom's passing, and would I be writing something about it here. 

I suppose I was taken aback as I'd been pondering that very thing myself, but hadn't told anyone.  It will be five years since Mom's untimely death this month and I wanted to share some kind words about her, some sort of tribute. 

But the harder I tried to come up with something here, the more I couldn't.   I was in no mood to share funny stories or paint a sainted picture of her, or recount her sad, final days. 

I told my sister that I was sorry and meant no disrespect, but I just wasn't feeling it.  Shawn said she understood, but I wasn't sure I did.  

So earlier tonight I'm browsing the internet and reading about famous events this week in history:  Pearl Harbor, the death of John Lennon (to name a tragic few).  I wondered if anything 'newsworthy' had occurred on my birthday, and was shocked to discover that Harry Houdini, famed magician & escape artist had died on October 31, 1926. Thirty-five years to the day I was born.

He truly was a fascinating man, and certainly deserves more than a passing reference in some obscure blog; but what I found so compelling was his disdain for spiritualism.  In his day, seances and 'raising voices of the dead' was a fairly common (if not phony) practice; yet he spent his final years devoted not to magic, but to exposing these people as charlatans.   Why?

After the death of his mother, Houdini spent vast sums of his fortune attempting to find a ‘genuine’ spiritualist to contact her; he came to the conclusion it was all a hoax & made it his mission to expose the practice

Houdini was very close to his mother, and her death in 1913 was the greatest tragedy of his life. For weeks after her passing, he made daily visits to the cemetery, sometimes lying on her grave to speak to her. “My mother was everything to me”  he said in a speech to the Magician’s Club. “It seemed the end of the world when she was taken from me... all desire for fame and fortune had gone from me. I was alone with my bitter agony.” 

Eventually, Houdini was able to return to work, but he continued to mourn his mother for the rest of his life.

I felt a real kinship with the man after reading that.  As sorry as I was to read of his loss, I appreciated his openness with his grief.

Linda B. Morris

My beautiful mom, Linda B. Morris who passed on December 22, 2004; this is how I’ll always remember her

Yes, it's been five years, and my heart still hurts with selfish longing for my mom's love and attention.  But it aches with pride too, for the woman & mother she was.  She was terribly funny & sly, dramatic & generous and loved us all fiercely.  She was overprotective and unapologetic for it, unselfish and very private to everyone but us kids.  I shared everything with her, and my losses and triumphs were hers as well.

Drew today

Mom’s granddaughter Drew & how she looks today, she’s soft spoken and private like Mom was, and shares a strong resemblance

I remember that shortly after the fuss of the funeral & attention from relatives & friends had faded, I sat here feeling very angry, empty.  I began spending my evenings reading everything I could find about 'evidence' of life after death, various religious beliefs, the paranormal—and tried to hold onto the hope that somehow Mom was still out there. 


Her other granddaughter Sophia; she’s so protective of her loved ones & very clever, and shares Mom’s affection for dolls and all that glitters

I'm thankful that my niece Drew shared a dozen years with her (she and Mom were very close) and I resent that Sophie had no time at all; yet when I look at these girls, they both remind me of Mom because I see so much of her in them.

So they DO keep a part of her alive, and it makes me wonder sometimes if this is Mom's way of letting us know she hasn't forgotten us either, and knows our time without her is brief, and that we'll be with her again.  

Well, this wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I started writing this, but it sure felt good sharing my feelings here.  I love & miss you, Mom

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