A few weeks ago, a woman was killed in front of our Brooklyn apartment building.
She walked out of the bagel shop directly below our apartment and an out-of-control driver careened up onto the sidewalk, crushing her.
We’d walked past that spot not long before she died – we walk past it many times on an average a day – and when we came home, there were small signs of the tragedy, including a smashed planter in front of the bagel shop. No skid marks, though. It didn’t look like the driver tried to brake.
The next morning, the reminders of Martha Atwater’s untimely death grew, as people left cut flowers and potted plants in front of a little coffee, tea and spice shop we frequent.
Martha was just 48 and apparently both successful and beloved. The Brooklyn Eagle wrote:
Ms. Atwater, who produced such familiar children’s television shows as “Clifford The Big Red Dog,” and “Goosebumps” was married to Tom Wallack and had two young daughters. She had just bought cookies for the family at the café.
Her death is a “tremendous loss for Brooklyn,” said fellow Brooklyn mom Karen Auster.
“Martha was an integral part of the sisterhood of mothers in Downtown Brooklyn. The entire neighborhood has been affected, it’s a nightmare realized — she went to pick up cookies for her kids and she never returned.
Seeing the impromptu memorial gave me chills every time. It was a tangible reminder that a life can end at any moment.
Martha wasn’t doing something risky. She didn’t dart out into a busy street. She died doing something pretty mundane, picking up cookies then walking down a sidewalk in an affluent neighborhood.
There’s a cliché that we should live each day as if it’s our last. Those flowers reminded me it really might be.
Shortly thereafter, I followed a link a friend posted on Facebook for perhaps the best obituary I’ve ever read. Harry Stamps sounds like he lived each day to the fullest.
This is the example I aspire to follow as I ponder our mortality:
Harry Weathersby Stamps
December 19, 1932 — March 9, 2013
Harry Weathersby Stamps, ladies’ man, foodie, natty dresser, and accomplished traveler, died on Saturday, March 9, 2013.
Harry was locally sourcing his food years before chefs in California starting using cilantro and arugula (both of which he hated). For his signature bacon and tomato sandwich, he procured 100% all white Bunny Bread from Georgia, Blue Plate mayonnaise from New Orleans, Sauer’s black pepper from Virginia, home grown tomatoes from outside Oxford, and Tennessee’s Benton bacon from his bacon-of-the-month subscription. As a point of pride, he purported to remember every meal he had eaten in his 80 years of life.
The women in his life were numerous. He particularly fancied smart women. He loved his mom Wilma Hartzog (deceased), who with the help of her sisters and cousins in New Hebron reared Harry after his father Walter’s death when Harry was 12. He worshipped his older sister Lynn Stamps Garner (deceased), a character in her own right, and her daughter Lynda Lightsey of Hattiesburg. He married his main squeeze Ann Moore, a home economics teacher, almost 50 years ago, with whom they had two girls Amanda Lewis of Dallas, and Alison of Starkville. He taught them to fish, to select a quality hammer, to love nature, and to just be thankful. He took great pride in stocking their tool boxes. One of his regrets was not seeing his girl, Hillary Clinton, elected President.
He had a life-long love affair with deviled eggs, Lane cakes, boiled peanuts, Vienna [Vi-e-na] sausages on saltines, his homemade canned fig preserves, pork chops, turnip greens, and buttermilk served in martini glasses garnished with cornbread.
Finally, the family asks that in honor of Harry that you write your Congressman and ask for the repeal of Day Light Saving Time. Harry wanted everyone to get back on the Lord’s Time.