On second chances

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My Mom and Larry on a favorite hike in West Marin

I was 23 and in my first job out of college at the Marin Community Foundation in Larkspur, California. My Mom worked down the street.

We met for lunch at our usual spot, and my 55-year old Mom started gushing like a teenager. She told me how she had met a funny red haired man while on a Sierra Club hike. They were in a large group, but fell into step with each other, and spent the afternoon talking and laughing. The hike turned into dinner and a long conversation.

Clearly, she was very smitten.

My parents had divorced eighteen years before, and my Mom kept her focus on raising kids and working hard to support us. She attempted a few dates, but I am afraid that I scared them all off. I was terrible, I mean really terrible. When not throwing death stares their way when they came to pick up my Mom for a date, I found ways to demonstrate horrible manners as a teenager. My poor mother.

As we all moved away to college and our new lives, she started getting interested in health and exercise. She gave up smoking, and started hiking. Always self-determined and strong, she blossomed.

Which led her to that fateful day on a Sierra Club hike.

My Mom and Larry had a whirlwind romance that quickly led to marriage.

I got two new younger brothers, Steven and David.  We bonded immediately, which was very easy to do because they were so open and funny. Steven and I would meet for lunch when we were both working in San Francisco, and would howl with laughter about stories inside our respective cubicles.

Larry was Jewish and grew up in a working class neighborhood in The Bronx. He brought a clarity and honesty to my Mom’s life that she loved. “He is right out there,” she used to say with a grin, and I could tell that she derived strength and courage from him. He made her laugh hysterically.

Their love for the outdoors led them to kayak with whales in Baja, hike between chalets in Austria, and explore islands in the Galapagos. Nature was their joy, their temple, their shared passion.

Larry faced a number of health challenges throughout their 22 year marriage, including  heart surgery and cancer. Throughout it all, he was brave, hard working and optimistic. He would endure tough treatments, eager to feel well enough to go for a hike. That was the ultimate barometer of his recovery – how soon he was able to go outside.

My Mom was an amazing caregiver . She faced each challenge with a positive attitude, and especially in the last few years, learned more about medications and treatments than an RN. She cared for him gently and consistently, and he was always extremely grateful for her support.

Second chances

One of the deepest beliefs I have about the human condition is that we can transform, we can heal and we can rebound from the most difficult situations.

Both my Mom and Larry faced some big challenges in the first halves of their lives. But because of their strength, their courage, their willingness to be open and accept love, they built a strong and powerful second chapter. I will always be grateful for this example, which I lean on when I face my own challenges. If they can do it, I can do it. I know this to be true.

Larry, I love you so much and thank you for all the wonderful years you gave to our family. Thank you for your wonderful sons and grandkids. Thank you for accepting me and my family as your own. Thank you for believing in me and my work. Thank you for always saying what was on your mind, and helping us to speak the truth, even if it was uncomfortable.

Most importantly, thank you for loving my Mom the way she deserved: with honor, with respect, with admiration and with deep affection.

Larry passed away yesterday, two weeks after his eightieth birthday.

This morning as we stepped outside to go to school, Josh noticed the gentle rain. “Mom, I think that is Grandma Earth welcoming Grandpa Larry into the spirit world.”

I think so too.


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31 Responses to “On second chances”

  1. Pati says:

    Peace to you all. Pati

  2. Karen Putz says:

    Pam, thank you for sharing– wrapping you in a hug. What a blessing for your family and your mom to have had Larry in your life.

    I especially like this: “One of the deepest beliefs I have about the human condition is that we can transform, we can heal and we can rebound from the most difficult situations.”

    This is going in my quote journal. 🙂

  3. Gerri Mungin says:

    My heartfelt condolences to you, your Mom and the rest of your family. Larry sounds like such a wonderful man. The impact he made upon your life, and your mom’s life is evident in your writing. We are so blessed to have such positive people in our lives….Peace and love to you and your family

  4. Farnoosh says:

    You are a POWERFUL writer, Pam, and have a huge big heart. I am sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story.

  5. Apu says:

    Thank you for sharing, Pam. “One of the deepest beliefs I have about the human condition is that we can transform, we can heal and we can rebound from the most difficult situations.” – this was both inspiring and comforting.

  6. Karen Alvarez says:

    What a nice tribute to Larry and your Mom. Thanks for sharing.
    Lots of love to everyone.

  7. Kit Brown-Hoekstra says:

    Pam, thank you for sharing that great story about your bonus dad, Larry! It makes me realize the importance of my role/deeds/words as a bonus mom, even when the kids aren’t particularly thoughtful or appreciative. I’m so sorry for your loss; he sounds like a wonderful guy.

  8. Such a lovely sentiment – it touched me deeply. Sending peace and love to you and your family at this challenging time.

  9. Thank you, Just thank you for your honesty and authenticity!

  10. Beautiful Pam. At 45 I’m in my second chapter with my second husband – this is a touching and poignant tribute to who he was in your life, what he brought to your life and how he enriched your mom’s life. Thank you, as usual, for sharing so completely your experiences, your feelings, your depth. I am grateful to have you, ever virtual, as a guide and a touchstone in this life. You are a gift. Peace and love to you and your family during this time of transition.

  11. Steve says:

    Peace to you and your family, including Larry, of course. What a beautiful, loving tribute, Pam.

  12. Chris says:

    Thanks for that beautiful story. Love to you all.

    Chris Lusvardi

  13. Daryl says:

    Our sincere condolences to you and your family.
    Daryl & Mary Gerke

  14. Larry’s life is how I yearn to live: a second chance, love blossoming into beauty with a great woman, courage in the face of adversity, and finishing well.

    I can imagine how difficult this was to write, much less share with us, your tribe. Thank you for showing us how life/love can be and you and your family are in my prayers 🙂

  15. My condolences on Larry’s passing, Pam. Thanks so much for your inspiring, heart-filled tribute to him and your celebration of second chances. Love the photo of your Mom and Larry hiking the beautiful trails of West Marin.

  16. Lisa Alessi says:

    Beautiful post Pam. Your Mom and Larry are incredible teachers of resiliency. What a great legacy to share with the world. Josh is such a wise old soul. His insights amaze me. Thank you for sharing his brilliance with us. Sending lots of love to you and your family!

  17. A wonderfully written tribute, Pam. I am so sorry for your loss.

  18. Susan Rintoul says:

    Thank you for honouring your family this way.

  19. fas says:

    Very heart warming, nice to see you share such personal details with readers.

  20. Powerful! Thank you SO much for sharing that moving story with us. Sorry for your loss.

    I am not the emotional type, but my eyes were tearing up when I read the third to last paragraph…

  21. Pam – What a lovely and moving story. Thank you for sharing it so soon with all of us. I’m so glad you all had so many years as a family and for another great example of making the most of second chances. Sending you and your mom all my best wishes for healing and peace.

  22. Pam, by sharing this beautiful story, it will without a doubt inspire so many others!!! It is through our post difficult times and sufferings that we transform and give back to nature the wonderful gifts we are given.

    It is when we confront these times that we keep growing and develop our true value! It is not easy sometimes, we all need some inspiration every now and then. This story definitely is inspiring:)

    Sending you and your family prayers!

  23. Katie says:

    What a beautiful, beautiful tribute to both love and Larry. It brought me to tears as well.

  24. What a beautiful story, Pam, and what a wonderful way to honor your Mom and Larry. No coincidence at all that this post falls on the day of the heart. Much love to you and your family. xo

  25. Claire Bronson says:

    Get the hankies, that is beautiful. Here’s to Larry, your mom and second chances.

  26. Pam Dearest,

    Thank you for sharing your mother and Larry’s story of love. What amazing spirits they have! And Josh’s sweet gift of knowing touches my heart.


  27. Kate says:

    Thank you for this Pam. I needed to hear it. I am so glad you were blessed with Larry’s presence in your life and in your mom’s life.

  28. Pam,

    Thank you for sharing such a personal part of your life with us. This was beautiful and touching.

    I cried when I read this “One of the deepest beliefs I have about the human condition is that we can transform, we can heal and we can rebound from the most difficult situations.”

    I have passed on your post to a good friend of mine who is where you mother was at the start of her relationship with Larry.

    Sending my love to you and all of your family. (I just adore Josh!)

  29. I cried, too, Pam.
    Wishing your family love and healing in this grief. Wishing that all may give love and have their love be received and seen as your Bonus Dad did. And as you did for him. <3 Mahala

  30. Pam- This is beautiful. It made me cry. Thank you for sharing. Hugs and healing wishes sent to you and your family.

  31. Max says:

    Wow. What a beautiful story. As hard as it was to read the last few lines, it was uplifting to know that him and your mom were able to share love with each other. May Larry rest in peace and may your mother find peace in heart as well 🙂