Posted by: MC | July 9, 2011

Missing Murry

I just got e-mail.  I’ve been writing e-mail back.  And crying.  My friend, Murry Owen, died last night.  His body just couldn’t manage to breathe anymore.

Yesterday I started this week’s blog.  I called it “Big Changes.”  I wrote about how I got to spend time yesterday morning with my friend Jim.  Jim is the friend who found out 7 months ago that he has Rheumatoid Arthritis (EX:C blog, “Chronic Pain,” 6-4-2011).  That’s been a big change.  Jim and I got to spend a good hour at Grand Central Bakery.  With our mugs between us on the table, we talked about changes and making sense of them; in particular the personal ones.

I had been late to meet with Jim, and my attempts to cover my rushed distraction weren’t so graceful.  “You ok?” he asked.  I said something about how I had jumped right into being busy that morning.  I rambled a bit about editing deadlines and trying to get endorsements and managing courses.  Then I told him the thing I hadn’t wanted to think about, something that might, at least in part, have been a trigger for getting busy.

The night before, just before bed, I had checked my work e-mail.  I can’t really say why.  It’s a practice I’ve stayed away from for years since feeding work-mind just before trying to sleep has proven a very flawed strategy.  There on my work e-mail was a message, “Sad news about Tom.”

I looked at every other message before I opened that one.  Tom died.  Friday morning at 5:00 a.m. while I was making green tea my friend and colleague Tom left his body.  A valve replacement procedure to correct the mess left by the last one had worked the day before.  Things were looking good.  Then his brain began bleeding.  Nothing could stop it and Tom died.

Only four days earlier another e-mail had come, “Sad news.”  I had been afraid it was about Tom, but it wasn’t.  It was about Paul, another colleague, another exceptionally fine, wise and kind man.  With no warning, Paul had died suddenly over the weekend.

How can these things possibly be so?  How can they make sense?

I spoke of these men to Jim.  I spoke of their shared goodness.  Both Tom and Paul were truly gentlemen.  Both were scholars and teachers, husbands and fathers and dear friends.  Theirs were lives that touched so many.

Then this morning the word came about my hard living, deeply loving, brilliant biologist, incomparable guitarist buddy, Murry (EX:C blogs, “I’m Not Done Yet,” 5-20-2011; “Interdependence,” 7-3-2011).

Murry’s the Presbyterian-preacher’s-kid (we have that in common) who’s been struggling w/ esophageal cancer.  He’s has been a friend since we sat together in the shallow pools of a section of the Guadalupe River we called the rapids. I was 14, he was 16.  He was only a few inches taller than I was.  He wore big black glasses the color of his shoulder-length, straight hair.  He was cute.  He was edgy, too.  In the cool of the river on that hot Texas afternoon Murry was running out a theory that drinking milk leads to heroin addiction.  This reasoning followed satirically on the pronouncement some Presbyterian adult had made within his earshot that smoking marijuana guarantees heroin addiction.  Murry was simply figuring one substance leads to the next.

That would have been about 40 years to the day….

The news came in from our mutual friend David who had been on his way to see Murry this morning, “to say goodbye to him.”  David has been keeping all of us informed this past year – his, a kind of loving witness beyond all value.  At the end of his message, David wrote of the sadness of not being able to say goodbye.  Then he quoted our friend Joe, “He can hear you.”  We all needed that.

This is what I wrote back.

Thank you David, Thank you Joe, Thanks to all of you — and, of course to Murry.   

wow.  This is some real sadness.

and…for sure he can hear us — better than ever — it doesn’t matter how I know this — but just maybe it comes from love; the feeling that burns sometimes but always always returns to the quiet comfort of knowing deeply and being known back.  Every one of the intersecting moments we’ve each had with Murry — you know the ones — the perfect musical phrase when he’d look up and cut his eyes in your direction, his face all smoothed out around an easy smile — or a crystal hillcountry day standing side by side watching the river run — or the way he’d push his hair back from his eyes, cigarette hanging from his mouth, and without making eye contact lean a little bit toward you when he really wanted to concentrate on what you were saying — all those moments, we have them forever.  Murry’s listening.  He still loves every one of us with all of us so sad because we’re still and always loving him back.

I think I’m going to leave it at that – take some time in this living, walking, aching, loving life to feel these losses.  By good turn of fortune, I’m visiting my friend Marcia on the Oregon coast for a few days.

Out here the waves roll and roll.  The horizon holds constant between the realms of sea and sky.  Breath comes and goes, my heart beats and my thoughts, at times insistent at times barely murmuring, turn to Paul and Tom and to Murry, to their families, to everyone who loved them and who they loved.

May we all know that love.  May we all know peace.


  1. Mary, love your voice. –Georvid

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