My mom died on Saturday. Less than two weeks ago, she and I were plotting a visit of purchases at the Amish farms that surround her home so we could freeze fresh fruits and vegetables for the coming winter. A day later, she was rushed to the hospital. At 95, she had little reserve to fight a sudden infection that overwhelmed her system. Within a week, she passed. Hospice was present at the very end and her final hours were comfortable, but the agonizing decline—though mercifully quick—was excruciating to watch, especially for my siblings who shouldered most of the responsibilities for her bedside vigil. (you can read her obituary here.)

She was surrounded by family at the end—all her kids and several grandkids. At one point there were ten of us in her room at the same time. The nurses moved the unoccupied second bed to make room for the love that overflowed. It was the kind of final days she would have chosen, surrounded by the family to whom she devoted her life.

My mom was an amazing woman. She was always kind, always loving, always humble and yet, in her own way, fierce. She was a passionate advocate for progressive causes, acutely aware of global realities while always welcoming family and friends—whatever their perspectives—into her home, even until the very end.

We had a terrific relationship—always. We shared thoughts on everything from family matters to theology to politics. We’d reminisce about old times and swap stories about cooking. When I’d call to ask her advice about a certain recipe, she’d go into her “professorial” mode—telling me precisely what she had learned in decades of daily food preparation. These educational sessions are among my very best memories.

She had chronic health issues since she was a teenager that required arduous daily maintenance, though few people knew. She never complained, never blamed another, was always grateful for the many blessings she experienced. She was married to my dad for 72 years before he passed a couple years ago. In his obituary, he wrote “My marriage to Arlene was never marred by a serious misunderstanding or disagreement. Ours has been a loving, considerate and respectful relationship.” My wife Blythe said recently how grateful she is that my parents always loved her unconditionally. Yes, they were like that.

I will miss my mom’s strength and gentleness; I will miss her private cooking classes; I will miss talking politics; I will miss making her proud. When she was in her final hours, my good friend Sam Simon sent me a moving email that concluded, “There is an angel waiting to greet your Mom,” prompting my daughter Kris to respond with the single line, “And his name is Grandpa.” Rest well. 

12 thoughts on “Arlene Chase–In Memoriam

  1. My love to you and Blythe. How fortunate we are to be blessed with loving supportive parents. I sent my love as though I’m holding you in my arms.

  2. I’m sorry for your loss, Bob. Thank you for opening up for us and making this personal loss also a kind of inspiration. Barukh Dayan HaEmet

  3. She had more of an impact on the world than she could have known….through the peacemaking and justice work she inspired in you. Thanks be to God.

  4. With each passing our bedrock foundations are disturbed, loosened a bit such that we fear a collapse may be imminent. The structure shifts, groans some in the shifting, yet settles again. It bears the weight. We reorient and realign. We remain. Solid. Family.

    Upon our own passing the last utterance of our name eventually will leave the lips of a someone somewhere. Our foundation will know its final collapse. We resolve. Particles. Starlight.

    Condolences to you and yours, Bob.

  5. Your mom was a strong, beautiful and inspiring person. Although I never knew her, I can see her reflected in your loving words. Deepest sympathy, Michael

  6. Bob, thank you for sharing your “Mama” with us all. She was beautiful! Heaven is all the better for her presence. Blessings to you, Blythe and your family.

  7. Please know, dear friend, that Mike and I have held you in our prayers these past days as Cliff has kept us informed about all that was happening with your mom. It’s been hard to think of both of you losing your mothers in such close proximity to one another. Reading your beautiful tribute, tears are rolling down my cheeks . . . for the poignancy of your loss, for the gift of you having had such a special relationship with her for such a long time, for my own sadness at never having been blessed to meet her, and because I am not able to be present to give you a hug as you grieve. My fervent prayer is that we will find a way for the six of us to get together very soon . . . I miss both you and Blythe so very much! Sending love and prayers, Vicki

  8. My grandma was one of the most beautiful and genuine people that I have ever met. Thank you Dad for such beautiful words and for selecting such a beautiful picture of her for us to hold in our memories. I will never forget her love and kindness, her words of wisdom and most of all the wonderful feeling she always left in your heart after spending time with her. I love you Grandma and I love you Dad, forever.

  9. Oh Bob, so sorry to hear of your loss. After my own mom passed at 59, I used to wonder how people could grieve so deeply when a parent passed at an advanced age. Then, when my stepdad died this summer at 86, I finally understood.. The longer they’re here, the more you trust that they will always be here! 😞 Sending you much love..
    Lauren Powell

  10. Sorry to hear of your loss, made keener by its sudden onset. May memory prove evergreen and faith, family, and friends bring you consolation.

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