A Death in the Family

For Jacque

Today, a burial. One of life’s grievous sorrows.

Death came for my mother in 1992. She left too soon, scarcely a year longer on Earth than I am now. We were, she and I, the youngest of the respective households in which we grew; so her early exit seemed abrupt and unfair. All the same, my father had to bury her as he had his own parents.

It was a year or so later that Dad met up with Jacque Budow. They were raised in the same South Dallas neighborhood, and her warm and sociable ways struck a familiar and comforting chord with him. She was in some respects my mom’s polar opposite. A businesswoman, a brave striver, and an adventurous seeker after fun and good times. She sparkled, and brought that sparkle into my father’s life and to all our family gatherings. She brought my dad a different kind of happiness which he took to and made into a home with her that they shared for more than 25 years.

On March 30th, Jacque succumbed to a fast moving, deadly pneumonia. She died peacefully in hospice. Despite a period of rapid decline over a short late year or so, it was nonetheless shockingly abrupt. She is sorely missed by her sons, daughter-in-law, my siblings, her grandchildren, and by my Dad.

Jacque and Rui, June 2006, New York

Death in the era of pandemic is so terribly portentous. It has haunted the exceptional quiet of New York’s streets over the last year with sirens deep into the night accompanied by fear, isolation, and lonely listening for the heartbeat of a living city. It has haunted my family and their dearest friends and yours, my oldest friends from school and beyond, and haunted my students who struggle mightily to maintain consistent engagement.

On top of this terrible and momentous loss of the warm presence of a loving family member, still and all I plead to assert that we that remain are still here. Dad, 93 years into life and as sharply clever, analytically astute and conversational as a man half his age, is here – even as he is now treating and recovering from the removal of a malignant tumor that threatened him at the very moment that our children have concurrently lost their second grandmother, and Dad, his second wife and partner. We want to celebrate that we have one another now, and to be mindful of living in the present.

Daddy Brian, Rui, and Grandfather Morton Prager. New York, June 2006

This song goes out tonight to the memory of the loved, and to Jacque Budow-Prager. A hymn to the beauty and preciousness of a vulnerability we can never evade.

Music here goes with the hope that those who removed Rui can finally reconsider the painful experiences that overlay his disappearance from his family of origin, and grant him and all of us here the generosity of a final shot at loving knowledge and recognition, before it is too late.

I found a stray at my back door
She was a hungry shivering soul
Her dress was rags, her shoes were holes
I found a stray at my back door

I washed the dirt from off her face
I tucked her clean into my bed
But I could never wash away
The voices calling in her head

Sometimes a smile played on her lips
That gave me joy where there was none
Until the shadow crossed her face
Like the moon across the sun

Whatever life she had to live
It was a life of moving on
I woke up one day to find
My little stray had come and gone

And she’ll be out there on the road
If she’s not picked up by the law
Or she’ll be lying, nearly dying
At another stranger’s door

I found a stray at my back door
She was a hungry shivering soul
Her dress was rags, her shoes were holes
I found a stray at my back door
I found a stray at my back door

5 thoughts on “A Death in the Family

  1. Such a beautiful tribute to Jacque and a reminder for all of us still here. May her memory be a blessing…


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