Carolyn Jordan Newkirk 1/18/20 – 1/8/2012, One Year Later


As Fiona in “Brigadoon”  1953

So, it’s been a year since my Mom died. A massive stroke felled her one year ago today.

Funny, how quickly things seem to accelerate. I had lunch today with a dear friend of mine who had lost her mother a mere ten weeks ago. She’s also a ‘tail end’ baby boomer, born in 1964. It seems like this generation is the one riding this train of mortality, and whoa baby, would someone please show me how to get off?

No, seriously, I wouldn’t wish her back. See, my mom and dad  both loved the Lord from their youth. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily make you nice, I’ve learned that one the hard way. But real Christians, and by that I mean the ones who have been brought to their knees by the power of love or cicumstance, those Christians often have a set of personality characteristics one can count on.

Mom was one of those.

Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that the power of story is a remarkable one. When Catherine Mallicoat of birdmartin.wordpress.com, came out to visit, I told her one of Mom’s defining stories, and Bird was moved. I thought perhaps you might be too.

Carolyn Jordan Newkirk lost her firstborn son, Jeffrey, to murder.

Jeff was a brilliant kid. My memories of him are a little vague, he was six years older than me. We have tapes of him playing by ear, with two hands, music on the piano when he was three. He was articulate, and an expert skier and Nordic jumper.

Strangely, he had many skirmishes with addictions during his twenty year life. This strikes me as odd because most of the addicts I know can trace their struggles to something. My own late husband, as you know, was molested in his family of origin, and self-medicated for several decades.

I dated a man who struggled with addictions, there is a definite addictive personality type. It often runs in families, and this is fascinating to me. But the Newkirks were a pretty boring lot, as far as those types of things are concerned. Mom had no use for alcohol, and my 92 year old dad is like me. Much more than a single drink, and the next day is wasted to a terrible headache. Lightweights, all of us.

Except for Jeff. Jeff would do just about anything to lay his hands on a mind-altering substance. During his late teen years, his addictions took over his life. One day, he didn’t come home to his apartment.

A frantic year of searching in 1979 led my parents to the discovery of his remains at the bottom of a highway ravine.  He had been thrown there like so much garbage.

If you like, you can see a picture of him at http://www.echelondata.com/clients/FOVAMP/victims/victimDetail.php?id=1177. This is a site developed specifically for families of unsolved homicide victims. I googled Jeff once out of curiosity and “Poof!”, up popped the brother I remember.

It’s funny, what tragedy will do to a woman. The death of a son, a husband, or someone so close in the family orbit can be defining. The addictive gentleman I dated once asked me if I wanted my husband’s death to be ‘defining’ to me. I thought about it, and realized that actually, tragedy can be an architect of something good in someone’s soul.

My mother was generous to a fault after Jeff died. She seemed to take in every homeless stray human that crossed her path. Beaten and abused women, mentally handicapped men, and, much to our dismay, she would often pick up hitchhiking teens. (Don’t tell, but I often do that myself. These kids get a free ride to their door, after listening to me scold them the entire time about the dangers of hitchhiking)

My mother was dramatic. This could get old after a while, and she did learn to reign it in. But she felt the pain of someone else’s problems intensely, and would do what she could to make the story turn out right.

I’m afraid I caught that one in spades. It’s hard for me to mind my own business, especially when children are in the picture, and being treated unjustly. Lucky for me I have a lot of people leaning on me to show diplomacy and tact.

When Chris was dying, and Mom so soon after, I refused to see any benefit at all their stories would have on me.

It’s still a little sensitive to talk about Chris, but with Mom, not so much. She died at 82, which by anyone’s reckoning is a good long run. She died quickly, which was a gift. Best of all, she left a remarkable legacy. The beautiful woman at the top of the page left us with a sense of resilience and generosity.

The worst happened to her, and she lived. Not only that, but she loved, reached out, and eventually thrived. She didn’t stay stuck in her grief, and I, for one, am grateful for that example. Jeffrey’s death defined her as much as Chris’s death defined me, but in many positive ways, after all.

If you like, you can enter this title in the search box at the top of the page, and see the entire essay I wrote the day after she died. The Lewis Carroll ripoff is there too, many of you seemed to like it. I am going to leave you with this link. For those of you in my generation and before, Mom could have been the next Jeannette McDonald or Shirley Jones, had she opted to take that path. Before you go to bed, read the words, and listen to this unusual, lovely voice.

One Kiss-CJN

In this year of Seventeen Ninety Two

Our conventions have been thrown all askew

And I know I’m out of date when I seek one mate

One faithful lover true

To be really in fashion today

You must have a dozen beaux in your sway

But somehow I don’t believe in the modern plan

I want to wait for just one man

(It’s more fun to love ’em all
Kiss’em all, short or tall)

I have only scheme

It’s my only dream

One Kiss, One man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow, and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world

(You’ve been reading stories of romantic glories)

(Are you growing sad for your Galahad?)

Soon my Knight may find me

Softly steal behind me

Put me on a horse

And carry me away

Laugh all you like at me

I’ll find my man, you’ll see

One kiss, one man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life, I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world.

Written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, popularized my Nelson Eddy and Janet Macdonald in 1942.

Much love to you all,

Victoria

PS, Say hello to Chris for me, Mom. Love to you both. 

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7 thoughts on “Carolyn Jordan Newkirk 1/18/20 – 1/8/2012, One Year Later

  1. “The worst happened to her, and she lived. Not only that, but she loved, reached out, and eventually thrived. She didn’t stay stuck in her grief, and I, for one, am grateful for that example.”
    A beautiful example indeed. May God grant me the grace to be defined like that because of Jesse’s death.

    Like

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