My mother had a tough life. She was bright, attractive, and smart enough to fall in love with and marry my father. She was an only child, a caring person, and a manic-depressive. She had much going for her, but her illness, her chemical makeup, rarely let her enjoy it. My father used to say, borrowing a famous line, that the more you know the more you realize how little you know. And a parallel is that the more you know the more you realize how much people suffer in our delightful and gorgeous world. To be non-ignorant is to feel the greatest of pleasures and the worst of pains according to Socrates. My mother embodied that idea of Socrates, and her ending really took it to the limit.

But I am being rather analytic. What happened in October of 1995 is that my mother, then a bit manic, walked over to El Torito and got to drinking. I don’t remember her blood alcohol as listed on the police report, but I know it was high. On her way back home she had to cross El Camino Real. That road is like a freeway, but runs past stores and near residential areas. It was dusk and less than 48 hours before daylight savings would end. Visibility was poor.

She picked a crosswalk, the only one short of going out of her way, that had no light to stop traffic. It crossed to the car wash near her apartment. Immigrants, mostly from Mexico, hand dry the cars as they come out of the noisy operation. I would guess 12-20 of them looked up in the moments that followed.

My mother made it halfway. She made it to the island in the middle. For the lane she still had to cross cars come around a bend from the San Antonio Shopping Center. There is some time for a person to see them and cross. There is come time for a driver to see a person crossing and slow or stop. But there is not much time, and there was not much light.

The police report said the driver reported that an SUV swerved and missed my mother, then the poor 68 year old woman driving a Volvo wagon behind it hit my mother at about 35 miles per hour. You have to know my mother to imagine all this—to feel the moment in the ancillary way that we who were not there might. She had some limitation in her walking even on her good days. She walked everywhere, despite it, with her heels down and the balls of her feet slightly up, looking like she might topple (though she rarely did). She was a little chubby for her size, but only in the belly, and what was once a graceful dancer’s body was now a bit the tiny person. She was 64 and a few months.

I imagine she flew in the air. Her tiny body caved in the hood of the car first. Her belongings—even her shoes—were tossed far. Many bones broke. Her heart stopped and her breathing stopped. There and then, despite the efforts of a passing doctor I will never know, then emergency medics, and finally an amazing emergency room crew and doctor at Stanford Hospital, her life of thinking probably passed. Medicine cannot measure life that way, and so the stellar efforts of the people at Stanford got her heart going and assisted her breathing.

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