Welcome to the Chubby Chatterbox Newsletter, where I’ll be posting favorites from the Chubby Chatterbox archives. In addition, my complete thriller Return of the Mary Celeste will soon be serialized here for those who have asked for something beyond a regular post.

My novel is based on a true event, arguably the greatest maritime mystery of all time. In 1872 the crew and passengers of Boston brigantine Mary Celeste abandoned their seaworthy ship and its valuable cargo, vanishing in the middle of the Atlantic. Speculation over their fate has never abated. History records that after the Mary Celeste tragedy no one from that fateful voyage was ever seen again. History is about to be rewritten…

Return of the Mary Celeste

Prologue

Tragedy struck the brigantine Mary Celeste on the morning of November 25, 1872. The hourly log was later recovered from the deserted vessel; At 8 a.m. the last notation was made. By 9 a.m. no one remained aboard to chalk the next entry.

Something had terrified Captain Benjamin Briggs and his crew, prompting the seasoned skipper to make a decision certain to affect not only himself, his ship and crew, but his family as well—his wife and two year old daughter were aboard Mary Celeste. Much ink has been spilled in fanciful and scientific attempts to explain the calamity that engulfed this perfectly seaworthy ship, yet all that is known for certain is this: in a matter of minutes Captain Briggs became convinced that the only way to save their lives was by ordering everyone into a hastily launched lifeboat. By giving the order to abandon ship, he also launched the greatest of all maritime mysteries.

On December 5, 1872, a month after leaving New York Harbor, Mary Celeste was found drifting on a calm and empty sea. The ship was in fine condition, perfectly intact with valuable cargo safely stored in her hold, but the crew and passengers had vanished. None were ever seen again.

Until now….

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Passages

February 6, 2017

The older we get the more rites of passage we experience, momentous events like a first kiss, receiving a driver’s license or getting married and having children, but nothing strikes with as much sobering finality as seeing your parents’ names on a tombstone.

           

This weekend was notable in several ways. Yesterday was Super Bowl Sunday and I’m always reminded of 2008 and Super Bowl XLII. We’d invited my parents over to watch the game and enjoy a few munchies. Mom grew bored and insisted they leave at halftime. Dad called from home when the game concluded to thank us for having them over and to share his joy at the game’s outcome; we were both rooting for Eli Manning and the Giants and relished seeing the Patriots defeated. It had been the conclusion of a marvelous day.

           

Tragedy struck the next morning. I was awakened at six o’clock by a call from my mother. With a marrow-chilling tone I’ll remember as long as I live, she told me Dad was dead. Shock set in; I remember thinking she was mistaken; he couldn’t be dead, we’d been enjoying the game only hours earlier and he’d seemed fine. But it was true. After waking, Dad put on a pot of coffee before settling into his favorite chair with a book. His eyes closed, never again to open. Nine years ago my father died of a massive heart attack.

           

My mother wanted Dad interred in the family cemetery in Santa Clara, California. We flew dad’s ashes home for a memorial service and celebration of his life. So many people came to honor Dad that we were forced to switch to a larger chapel. Mom chose a stone niche in the cemetery adjacent to the funeral home where other family members were buried. Dad’s name and dates were added later. 

 

 

           

 

As most of you know, I lost my ninety-one-year-old mother on Christmas Eve. In accordance with her wishes, her ashes were sent to the family cemetery. I’ve been waiting to receive a picture of the stone with Mom’s name and dates added. Experiencing the loss of a parent, while inevitable, is nevertheless shocking. I take small consolation in the fact that this is where Mom wanted to rest, and I’ve done everything I could to honor her wishes.

           

Still, I can’t shake the feeling that I should have done more, like organizing an event such as the one we had for Dad, but Mom was adamant about NOT having a service or ceremony. On more than one occasion I tried to convince her that, when she passed, people deserved a chance to say goodbye, but her mind was set against it. Most of her family had already died and she didn’t think anyone would come. Hearing her say this broke my heart, even though she was probably right; she’d been the baby of a large ethnic family and nearly everyone had already passed. Of course my brother David and I remained, but David and Mom hadn’t spoken in twenty years. I haven’t spoken to my brother in fourteen years, his decision not mine, but that’s a post for another time.

           

On Saturday I received an e-mail from the cemetery with an attached photo of my parents’ final resting place. When I look at this picture, now balanced with the addition of my mother’s name and dates, my emotions are a jumble. I feel pleased to have completed the task of carrying out my parents’ wishes, although I regret not convincing my mother to permit a memorial service. But if you’ve followed my blog you know my mother was an exceptionally strong-willed individual; even dead I wasn’t willing to contradict her wishes. Still, I can’t help feeling sad.

           

I miss my parents. Dad was a private pilot and I think of him every time a plane flies overhead, and every evening at six I look at the clock when I would have reached for the phone for my evening conversation with Mother.

 

 

 

 

Goodbye, Mom and Dad, forever in my heart.    

 

 

 

 

 

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Comments

29 Comments
That's so sad but at least they're together again. My mom plans to have my dad's ashes buried with her, though I hope that's not for a long time yet.
By: PT Dilloway on February 6, 2017
It is o very difficult losing our parents, it is inevitable and of course also inevitably sad. Like your Mom I do not wish to have the 'accepted' funeral. If people wish to raise a glass wherever they are, and a laugh, then I have done well and I will be well pleased.
By: John Gibson on February 6, 2017
You're a good son, Stephen!!
By: fishducky on February 6, 2017
it must have been bittersweet this weekend with the football game on. you know, though, it sounds like your time with your dad those last few hours were great and he was happy. When you think how he passed away, we all wish we could pass away like that and not a long drawn out death which many have as you know. you are a very good son and have been there through thick and thin for both parents. I think you need closure with your mom's death so maybe have a gathering at your home with your friends and a few who did know your mom so you can talk about memories and anecdotes because you need the closure. By doing it this way you are still abiding by your mom's wishes but you have the ability to mourn that day as well as enjoy those memories with people you care about.
By: Birgit on February 6, 2017
You are such a good son. All the stories through the years that you related to us, your readers, let us see your family and your lives in good times and stressfilled ones as well. Throughout, there was always a theme of love and respect. I'm sure your Dad and Mom are looking in on you and smiling at what a living tribute you are to them. xoxo Oma Linda
By: Oma Linda on February 6, 2017
That's a sad but typically masterfully written story, Stephen. As time goes on, perhaps the bad memories will be eclipsed by the good memories. And maybe David will come around.
By: Catalyst on February 6, 2017
I had a friend in Illinois whose mother insisted on not having any kind of service when she died. So a couple of months after her mother's death, my friend had a Sunday afternoon gathering at her house for family and anyone left who knew her mom. They looked at family photos, shared stories, and had coffee and treats. Maybe that's something you can do for your mom even if it's only you and Mrs. C. and CJ. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on February 6, 2017
Good for you for honoring her wishes. Try to not feel any regret - it's a wasted emotion. My parents died when I was a child/teen, so the sobering milestone for me was the death of my sister almost a year ago. A whole different ballgame. My heart goes out to you for your losses. May you find peace.
By: Kelly on February 6, 2017
I'm sorry. You followed her wishes, even if it wasn't the closure you needed. Hopefully that photo give you some.
By: Alex J. Cavanaugh on February 6, 2017
I recognize your emotions that you so well describe. My sympathy for the loss of your mother. The memorial marker seems very final and is another challenge we face in th loss of parents.
By: red Kline on February 6, 2017
I remember your posts about your Mom. She certainly filled space and was always going toe-to-toe with you. I understand how she is going to leave a big space in your life. But just think about all the space she took up years before. You are a very good son.
By: Tabor on February 6, 2017
Like many of your readers I am touched by your loving tribute and remembrance. Your thoughts are warm, loving and the work of a fine son.
By: Tom Cochrun on February 6, 2017
No wise words here, just a virtual hug and i'm so sorry for your loss.
By: messymimi on February 6, 2017
I really like Birgit's idea and think it might help you and certainly wouldn't be against your Mom's wishes. I enjoyed learning about your family through your posts. You were a good son who enjoyed great parents.
By: Arkansas Patti on February 6, 2017
I believe the service is for those left behind and that it's not a bad idea if only for that purpose. I know I didn't feel like things were finalized with my dad's passing until we had the burial service and a meal with the small group who attended. It comforted me greatly. I like Janie's idea, above. You did good, Stephen. You can exhale now.
By: jenny_o on February 6, 2017
You followed through with your mom's wishes. That's the way she wanted it, so don't worry about not doing more. Every time you think of her, every time you write about her, she lives on.
By: Val on February 6, 2017
alway sad Stephen to lose someone we love
By: Fran on February 7, 2017
I am a firm believer that we should follow one's wishes upon their demise. It mattered to that person when they were alive. We don't have a right to change things to accommodate our own wishes. I believe this is a topic for my blog now. You did the right thing and you have nothing to feel bad about. Sounds like you were a great son to both parents. That's what counts.
By: Bee BB Bee on February 7, 2017
Somehow I think there are always regrets about something when a parent dies.Do you think your mother would have objected if you have a get together specially to talk about her and remember her?
By: Jenny on February 7, 2017
Drar Steve, laying our parents to rest is a really hard thing to do. I still cry for them even though it has been years. We did not have a ceremony for our mother either for the same reasons you described. We just went out to dinner at a place our mom frequented and let her pay the bill!
By: Linda on February 7, 2017
All I can say is, hugs. You take care. Cat
By: Cat on February 7, 2017
What a sad yet beautiful post. You are a wonderful son!
By: Pixel Peeper on February 7, 2017
In many ways your mom reminds me of mine...same era I think...made of tough stuff.
By: cranky on February 7, 2017
This post is moving. I can empathize with you here. My dad died in 86 and when my mom died in 2015 I felt as if I were adrift. Seeing the dates in stone is sobering.
By: Rick Watson on February 8, 2017
My heart is with you. My mother's stone hasn't yet been erected. It will stand next to my father's because she insisted it was a waste to remove his after all these years (since 1987) and pay for a double stone. We listened and I sometimes regret that, but they're next to each other at least. And, like your mother, she preferred to be obeyed.
By: Mitchell is Moving on February 8, 2017
awww our sympathies to you and your family. It's never easy. At least you know where your parents are and that they are together. My father chose to have our mom cremated and her ashes immediately flown over the Eastern Sierras with no family with her. I never understood such an act of neglect for everyone in the family.
By: Kathe W. on February 9, 2017
You have such a good heart - I know your mom would be happy to know that you honored her wishes.
By: The Bug on February 9, 2017
I am so sorry that you are going through this but I understand it is (usually) a part of life for us to lose our parents. I, too remember how unsettling it was at their passings. I really think it is wonderful on your part to honor her wishes rather than doing something that might of been your preference. I hope my children respect how I want my affairs handled. (of course, I want them to handle those details several decades into the future)
By: Cheryl P. on February 9, 2017
That feeling is a deeply held desire to please our parents. I don't think you could have done more. I share in your sadness as I and everyone else have come to know your mom and family over time.
By: Daniel LaFrance on February 15, 2017

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