The last moments of two people who made a difference

There are a couple of “stories” today about the last moments of public people that are well worth your time.

First, on MinnPost, Anne Brataas, the daughter of former senator Nancy Brataas pens a loving tribute to the first woman to run for the Senate on her own. Nancy Brataas died last week at age 86.

Her last word was a question, Anne Brataas writes, “unconventional?”

Yes, I assured her — and thanked her over and over. You were unconventional, and blessedly so, Mom. It prepared me for a life of exhilarating possibility. I wouldn’t wish it any other way. Nothing is too difficult, all things are possible, wonder abounds. Whatever ridiculous thing has just been proposed — with a spritzing of imagination, soupçon of resourcefulness, a few friends with tools, trucks, talents and good hearts — will work. We’ll get it done right and well, on time.

That’s my mother. My mother’s unconventionality is the reason I still so much value the advice given me years ago in graduate school by my sage advisor: “Say yes to everything as long as it doesn’t hurt you or other people.” That attitude opens a lot of options.

Many of those who knew Mom felt — and appreciated — her unconventionality.

They understood her sense that life requires strenuous engagement with the world — be it with friend, foe, idea, problem, colleague, deadline, institution, pantyhose or U.S. Post Office trying to close before mailing something way past deadline.

As a child, this was presented to me as axiomatic. It led me at times to understand my mother as a form of exercise. If I didn’t break a sweat in my exertions with my mother, I wasn’t trying. No pain no gain. Her tenacity always called for another round of discussion, another piece of data to consider.

Strenuous engagement was the default mode of interaction; it is the price of an original mind. Expect resistance to the thing never before thought or proposed; practice push back. Gracefully — or not. Deep, authentic, engagement is the thing.

Lacey Holsworth was not unconventional. She was just an 8-year-old girl who died earlier this month of cancer who came to her public fame because she befriended a college basketball star in Michigan, Adreian Payne.

It’s a touching tribute that college basketball writer Jayson King has penned.

Payne had been to the Holsworth home numerous times before. He’d seen the “A.P. Wall” in Lacey’s bedroom that was covered with his pictures, newspaper articles, photos and jerseys. He’d baked brownies with Lacey in the kitchen, colored with her in the living room at Christmas and watched the Disney movie Frozen with her on the couch.

“I’d wanted to see it for a long time,” he chuckled, “and she was the only one who would watch it with me.”

Each time Payne left, Lacey stood on the porch and waved until he couldn’t see her anymore in his rearview mirror. That’s how he wanted to remember Lacey. He didn’t want the image of her slipping away on the couch.

Payne was 13 when his mother died of an asthma attack as he cradled her in his arms.

“That’s the last thing I remember about my mom, the last picture I have in my head,” Payne said. “My last picture of Lacey is of her in Dallas at that dunk contest. She had fun that day and I had fun that day. We both smiled a lot. That’s the ultimate thing.”

  • Jeff

    Damnit Bob, you made me cry again. Thanks for posting the link to the story.