Kevin LynchDone. Steve, your comments ring as deeply true as long-suffering hunchback Quasimodo swinging on the ropes as the ponderously beautiful bells of Notre Dame peal over Paris. They ring for me regarding both my mother and my sister Betty, both who died of colon cancer.I believe this is the last photo I have of my mother. She’s in the hospital after her cancer had progressed to the point where she’d soon be in hospice. She is greatly comforted here by Birdie, the precious therapy dog of my good, old friend John Kurzawa.I watched mom die. She wasted away when she stopped eating, but she remained beautiful to the end, until the day I came to her bedside with an orchid plant, a gift from me and big-hearted sister Sheila. Sharon turned and opened her eyes when I spoke to her, but I’m not sure what registered. She said nothing. Coincidentally, I’d gotten new glasses that day which might’ve distracted her. I’m not sure she saw the orchid while I was there.I fear I failed to muster very many consoling words for her that day. I knew the end was near. She had told me a while earlier she was afraid to die. But not that day day. She was ready. I’m glad she’d gotten a chance, a short time earlier, to see my satirical cartoon of Scott Walker. She’d always enjoyed my detailed drawings.When I was leaving, her nurse came in and said, “She is beautiful.”“Yes, she is,” I replied. Her eyes were closed during the whole visit, except those few moments when I’d addressed her. It’s hard to know how much of her had wasted away, as Steve Naab, alludes to. With cancer, life diminishes inexorably if, sometimes, fitfully. By then, mom was a study of small, concave shadows I’d never seen in her before.Sharon J. Lynch died early the next morning. Sister Nancy called me. Years later, I didn’t see my comatose sister Betty die in Saint Petersburg, but I spoke “with” her twice before she died, with sister Sheila holding her phone up to Betty’s ear. Upon her death, the second of my six sisters to pass after Maureen, I wrote a blog remembrance of her.Another very dear friend, Tom McAndrews, is dying of pancreatic cancer. The days dwindle down, to a precious few.Brother Steve Naab, thanks for prompting this discussion. I hope more people read you and share their thoughts.This is a personal favorite photo of my mother, certainly since she has passed to another realm, evoking as much. I took it after an outing in Madison, where I lived at the time, while she waited, in the light rain, for her husband Norm to pick her up to return to Milwaukee.Here’s a link to my Betty peace (Rest in Peace): https://kevernacular.com/?p=15494Remembering Elizabeth “Betty” Lynch of Wisconsin and St. Petersburg, FloridaRemembering Elizabeth “Betty” Lynch of Wisconsin and St. Petersburg, Florida
Cousin Erk Aldrich, Dillon Lynch, Betty and Sheila Lynch. All photos courtesy Sheila Lynch, unless otherwise indicated.
Everybody knew of the most exalted Elizabeth, by mere virtue of birth, Queen Elizabeth II of England. Among her polar opposites was Elizabeth Lynch of Wisconsin, known humbly as Betty, of Irish-German extraction. One of my oft-obscured middle sisters among six, she was a princess in my book, though I doubt she acted like one a day in her life. That’s why she deserves this remembrance, at the least.
It’s tough writing several obit-remembrances in a few weeks, two for favorite and justly famous artists, author Russell Banks and saxophonist-composer Wayne Shorter. This one is far more painful, as Betty’s life was shorter, by two and nearly three decades-plus, than theirs.
Our beloved Betty Lynch departed yesterday afternoon to the next phase and adventure of life beyond. I have faith her suffering and pain will we be redeemed in some manner, which we might imagine but not really know in this temporal world. She inherited her mother’s predilection for colon cancer, though she died nearly 20 years younger than mom.
I will do my best to limit my remembrance right now to a few remarks about the quietly wonderful woman I knew and loved, and then some brief captions to describe and document the photos shared here.
The fourth of my six sisters, she was the second one to have passed. The loss of a younger sibling carries a true burden on the heart. Yet I am glad we can imagine her somehow joining her parents, Sharon and Norm Lynch, and her older sister Maureen and, if so, rejoicing in reunion.
My spiritual sense of things – and I believe I am probably among a majority of living humans in this regard – tells me something like this will happen, some life-force that shapes a nascent re-presence, maybe not reincarnation, but not mere “the worms-crawl-in” nothingness.
Is the “soul” just a sentimental notion? Where does soulfulness come from? What is music? Form and sounds, and a myriad of sorts of content, mustered by humans and…?
Or the power of soul? Existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzche spoke of “the will to power,” but where does the will come from? “Free will,” yes, perhaps, but that’s still not getting to the heart of the matter, for me. What drives Ukrainians to fight so magnificently against a much larger, criminally genocidal, invading foe? But I digress. 1
Thanks to sister Sheila, I was happy to be able to speak by phone “with” Betty two consecutive days before she passed, though she was in a coma. I hope she heard me. I’m told hearing is the last of the senses to go and her brain was not dead until later. In that sense, I was speaking with her, not simply to her.
It was also a way to return some of the good feelings she gave us in the many, many long-distance phone calls that she made from sun-blessed Florida to me and all members of our immediate family over the years. She had a natural disposition and skill at communicating with others, even over the phone in her loving, sometimes laconic, and slightly luminous ways. Sometimes it was just a pause, an invisible smile and a small sigh. She could call up without anything in particular to talk about and yet begin a perfectly enjoyable conversation merely because she wanted to connect, a manifestation of her love of family and of humanity.
Her temperament, tone, sensitivity, skill and love helped make her a valuable community resource specialist in her professional career, in health care, specializing in senior clients.
She was born 64 years ago June 27, one of three Lynch children born within a week of each other, on separate years (the folks were “rhythmic” Catholics). She was the most musical of my six sisters; she played the flute, and loved the best of popular music, most of all The Beatles, of course.
She could come off as shy and “aw-shucks” self-effacing. (OK she didn’t say “aw shucks” very often, but more elevated characterization wouldn’t feel right.) She was more like a slightly meek, “Hi Kevin,” when I answered the phone or called her, almost as if asking if it was OK to greet you by name, yet still imparting that small Betty moment of grace. The meek shall inherit the earth, Jesus of Nazareth once said.
A girl from the North Country who loved balmy climes, she moved to Florida (from California) when my parents relocated to St. Petersburg for a few years for my dad’s job transfer. That didn’t work out well – he was tasked with trying to save/manage a dying branch of his industrial metals company.
This looks like Betty’s “so-long frozen suckers!” farewell, before returning to her home in Florida where she stayed permanently after a short family relocation. Looks like the camera film got bit by the frozen tundra.
So, the folks moved back to Milwaukee, along with baby sister Anne, and second-youngest Sheila went to Cincinnati. But sun-bunny Betty stayed in St. Pete and finished her education there, and later bore and raised a son, Dillon, now 23.
Betty’s frequent phone calls to any of the six siblings, her parents or friends were her way of reaching out, slipping past anyone’s personal posture or attitude, of letting you come closer to her, and perhaps pulling you out of yourself, especially if you were in a lousy mood.
My sole slight pique arose when she called to gloat a tad when the across-the-bridge Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Green Bay Packers in a playoff game a few years ago. Now, her slight chortle over the outcome is a precious memory.
Of course, she would suffer through plenty of poor moods due to declining health towards the end, which is why to remember her in her hearty days is so important.
Many if not most people think they’re younger than they are, time-wise. I’m sure Betty couldn’t believe she was approaching death’s doorstep, even when the stage-four diagnosis came. “Time is the greatest mystery of all,” Norman Mailer once wrote. 2
With her psychology degree, and as a Certified Resource Specialist, she applied her special skills and temperament in a long career in health care, especially for senior clients, as a case manager for Suncoast Center, for 12 years, and later as a Community Resource Specialist/Case Management Support Professional at Humana at Home for nearly a decade, both in St. Petersburg. “Strong community and social services professional skilled in Computer Literacy, Crisis Intervention, Family Therapy, Case Management, and Conflict Resolution.” her LinkedIn page reads.
Here’s her LinkedIn professional referral profile photo:
Here’s her LinkedIn page: https://www.linkedin.com/in/lynchelizabeth/
Betts was a sweet person, almost to a fault, in that sometimes some people might’ve been inclined to take advantage of her. But she made life more tender, warm, and bearable for her presence.
I could go on, but for now I’d like to comment on a few of the pictures I’m sharing to illustrate who dear Elizabeth “Betty” Lynch was.
It goes back to earliest family days in Milwaukee, first, maybe, from life in our bungalow on South Quncy Avenue, just north of Gen. Mitchell Field Airport, back in the “SONIC BOOM!!!” days! Planes taking off would sear the sky, right over our quaking little house. Here, sequential sisters Betty (left, in the photo) and next-youngest Sheila — the only two blue-eyed sisters in the brood — began forming their natural bond. Their young hearts swell as sugarplum visions dance in their heads while visiting Santa.
I admit, when Sheila sent me this photo a few days ago, it really got me. Betty, you really got me. Tears begone.
One formal portrait from 1963, below, of the first six Lynch kids, maybe the earliest shot I have of Betty the blondie, from my scrapbook assembled by our mother, Sharon J. Lynch.
There is also this formal family below portrait photo from family archives, shot beside the fireplace on Beverly Road in Shorewood, where we all seven children grew a bit older together, the first house with sister Anne (far right) born to this home. In the detail photo below, you see Betty sitting on the floor, the sole blonde in the family, with her shy smile which helps convey her youthful beauty.
See also a feel-good snapshot (below) of mother Sharon, brother Kevin — and Susie the dog again – and, long-limbed in short-shorts, befitting my nickname for her, Betty Boop. This photo reveals, I think, how much Betty blended her father’s and her mother’s looks, even if Betty was much fairer than mom. Picture Betty in long dark hair pulled up in a stylish perm: Betty Boop!
Of course, her blonde hair remains a mystery, but we never had a blonde milkman, that I recall. Our big dimples came from the Lynch side, as in Uncle Jack and Grandma Frances Lynch.
“I see September ’80 in corner. Just before we left for Florida! Anne probably took picture! I sure was white then!” (Betty’s Facebook comment on this photo, taken by youngest sister Anne.)
Then, please behold below one of the happiest days of our family’s history, the 1987 marriage of the eldest daughter of six, my Irish twin, Nancy Lynch to Tony Aldrich. Betty is in the back row (second from the left), warmly radiant in a blue dress suit. Also pictured (L-R) Sheila Lynch, Maureen Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, Sharon Lynch, Tony Aldrich, bride Nancy Lynch Aldrich, Norm Lynch, Anne Lynch, Kevin Lynch, Kathleen Naab Lynch.
Scrapbook shots: A Tolstoian “Happy Family”? (by now, it’s complicated, you know, only one of us is still married, baby sister Anne). Below it’s me and six sisters (count ’em), including Maureen’s then-spouse Rob Traub, at far right. And below that, Betty’s graduation picture from the Lawton School of Medical Assistance.
Betty and Dillon visited Milwaukee very occasionally in the summer. Here’s a fun outing at the Milwaukee Museum, with Uncle Kev hamming it up (frozen Tyrannosaurus Rex face?) for Dillon’s amusement. Betty and Dillon in foreground, Grandpa Norm seated in background. Photo by Sharon Lynch
Another generation of Lynches. Dillon Lynch, 23, today. He was with his mom when she died. Thanks a million, dear nephew! Now, go Make Betty proud.
In honor of Betty Lynch, the flute player, here’s a piece I think she’d love, “Be Still My Soul,” adapted from music of Jean Sibelius, performed by Rhonda Larson, a blonde flutist.
- Because the notion of “the power of soul” is compelling to contemplate for this music writer, I’ve also posted Idris Muhammed’s hit soul-jazz tune “Power of Soul.” See, Betty hung on, on her own breath, in a coma for much longer than anyone anticipated, after they took her off resuscitation. The rhythm of the breath is a powerful force. This is not elegiac or even polite music, but I don’t like strict cultural conventions. And I know the African-American funeral tradition, at the very least, is about lifting spirits. Betty’s son Dillon is part African-American. Not too many seven-minute instrumentals become radio hits. This one did, I know. Take it or leave it:
- Mailer’s personal anthology of his writings doubles down on the mystery, with its title, The Time of our Time. Also, staff writer Jennifer Senior has a thoughtful, well-researched article “On the Weirdness of Aging,” regarding the self-perception of our place in time, in the April 2023 issue of Atlantic Monthly magazine.
Wayne Shorter is gone, finally departed this planet and though, as a Buddhist, his sense of the beyond seemed intellectual, who knows how that translates at this point of metaphysical morphing? As a science fiction buff who increasingly incorporated that far-minded sensibility into his own art, he even co-created a 74-page sci-fi graphic novel for his most ambitious work, the three-album Emanon, an extended concerto grosso of sorts, with his jazz quartet and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. He grew into a larger, more capacious self over his 89 years, as much as any jazz musician. Here’s where he stepped beyond even this open-minded writer to be honest, I’ve never fully taken in all of Emanon, yet.
Though much great music ensued, I’ll concur with the consensus that the Blue Note album Speak No Evil, recorded at age 31, remains his masterpiece, billowing with shades of mystery and humanity, inspected and illuminated with a forensic sensitivity. I mean, “Dance Cadaverous”? The title tune’s swaggering swing conveys both awareness, and characterization, of evil, haunted by its spread-winged whole notes. That album’s exquisite ballad “Infant Eyes” was a favorite of mine to play on piano before becoming manually disabled. Of course, Shorter’s tenor sax rendering is impossibly tender.
“Speak No Evil” album cover courtesy uDiscover
By then, he was commenting as a kind of “cosmic philosopher,” as he did with “Infant Eyes,” written for his daughter Miyako: “I saw all infancy in her eyes, everyone who’s ever been an infant. An infant being a new start. People reminisce about past stuff, let it take over the present, but with every moment, you’re born.” Such insight feels especially apt now, as perhaps he’s being reborn somewhere, as a star child.
Other albums from his mid-1960s frieze of noirish Blue Note masterworks include Night Dreamer, Juju, Adam’s Apple, The All-Seeing Eye, Schizophrenia, and The Soothsayer, all necessary listening to gain a sense of the compositional and conceptual talent that sculpted an unfolding progressive profile of modern jazz. Though a bit of an outlier among the Blue Notes, Super Nova is memorable for Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Dindi,” sung by Maria Booker who was, at the time, splitting up with her husband Walter Booker, who accompanied her on guitar. She dissolved into tears amid the recording, which was retained, and the interpretation quivers with poignancy. Part of the lyric:
Like the song of the wind in the trees
That’s how my heart is singing Dindi, happy Dindi
When you’re with me
Yes I do, yes I do
I’d let you go away
If you take me with you
It’s hard to encompass Shorter’s career, and recording-wise that may remain for a major retrospective project or two, surely to come. For now, Columbia’s two-album set Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter suffices as an admirable overview of his output, at least to 2004. It complements Michelle Wallace’s same-titled biography, capturing the life of a classification-defying original. And yet his music always had an innate way of redefining lyricism, often contrasting heavy-breathed whole notes with vivid yet eccentric eighth-note phrases. Critic-author Gary Giddins commented on the book, “It makes the case that Wayne Shorter was the representative jazz artist of the past forty-five years, from hard-bop to Miles to fusion to a planet that is too often but inevitably defined as Wayne’s World.”
Album cover to “Footprints: The Life and Music of Wayne Shorter” courtesy Aika Kawasumi
It’s difficult to argue too much with that artistic range and authority, even given the eminence of relative contemporaries as Miles Davis, Coltrane, Mingus, Monk and others.
Mainstream acceptance followed at a respectful distance as Shorter eventually won 12 Grammy awards.
Live performance is the essence of jazz, and I was too young to see the Miles Davis Quintet’s boundary-expanding multi-night 1965 stand at Chicago’s Plugged Nickel nightclub, thankfully preserved on record. Here’s where “free-bop” was sparked and nourished. Shorter’s trademark tune “Footprints” (if any single one can encompass him) thrives in live performance beyond intimation on the Davis quintet’s Live at Newport 1955-1975 recording on Columbia. Shorter’s tenor solo slows down the band’s rush and casts odd, glancing shadows across the implied footprints — presence and disappearance — even as it rises to an ominous life-force by the solo’s end.
Shorter found the larger pop-rock-funk audience by slipping into the lurking darkness of Miles’s pioneering electric period, notably on Shorter’s “Sanctuary,” on the genre-shattering album Bitches Brew in 1970. This keyed his transition to join Joe Zawinul and uber-bassist Jaco Pastorius in the original Weather Report, which I did see at the Plugged Nickel. Even live, with Zawinul’s electronics and Shorter’s imaginative reinvention of the soprano sax as a soaring, diving falcon-like creature, the band expanded the sonic parameters of jazz while elevating a standard for jazz-fusion which few bands ever equaled. It ranged from the avant-ish debut album to the cinematic “Mysterious Traveller” to Shorter’s “Palladium” a gleaming, exalted, high-flying celebration, the funk-romp jam “Sweetnighter,” and their cloud-hopping hit “Birdland.”
His soprano work with Weather Report was a harbinger, as he’d go on to advance that difficult-to-play-in-tune instrument as far as anyone has, usually to striking and powerful effect.
Joe Zawinul and Wayne Shorter, the two masterminds and master musicians behind Weather Report, the non-pareil fusion band. courtesy Pinterest
Yet Zawinul was the group’s dominant personality, so inevitably the taciturn, oracular Shorter found his own visionary ways, and soon, with 1974’s Native Dancer, the gloriously gorgeous collaboration with Brazilian singer-songwriter Milton Nascimento. This redefied the jazz-Brazilian connection — songs like “Ponta de Areia” and “Miracle of the Fishes” (an allusion to Jesus?) are uncannily heaven-on-earth in their lush yet humane expansiveness. Sung in Portuguese, both were written by Nascimento and suggest how, though celebrated justly and foremost as a composer, Shorter understood the value of others’ work, including various classical composers, interpreting over the years Villa-Lobos, Sibelius, Mendelssohn, Leroy Anderson, and others.
Another example that early fed his sense of jazz orchestration was playing on Gil Evans’ “Time of the Barracudas.” This restless piece flowed on the dazzling drumming of Elvin Jones in similar effect, if different style, of how Tony Williams fueled the great ‘60s Davis Quintet, and Jack DeJohnette in the first electric Miles band. Jones had played on most of Shorter’s masterful Blue Notes. Of course, Shorter first made his name in the early ‘60s as the precocious music director of Art Blakey’s Jazz Messengers.
Such great drummers informed Shorter’s brilliant rhythmic sense in the uniquely and beautifully elliptical way he thought and played. Another career highlight in another composer’s piece was Steely Dan’s deliciously hip “Aja,” perhaps the jazzy pop-rock group’s career musical peak, and there, atop its crest, unfurled a Shorter tenor solo that breathed and exhaled like a celestial god but with his feet on terra firma. The suite’s co-composer Walter Becker commented, “Wayne was very intent on forging a novel approach to the piece. He was influenced by the contour of sections other than the section that he actually played over,” which was basically a single modal-like chord vamp.
This solo and most all of his career reflect his composerly sense of form, even at fast tempos. His improvisational line is ever-shapely yet unpredictable. On a piece like “In Walked Wayne” with trombonist J.J. Johnson, you get a sense of ever replenishing melody and harmony as unfolding. That sculptor’s sense of shape reveal the depth and seeming boundlessness of his genius.
This album cover conveys some of Wayne Shorter’s oracular quality. Courtesy ebay
He played like a fire dragon on the Footprints Live! version of “Masquelero” with his intrepid late-career quartet, pianist Danilo Perez, bassist John Patitucci and dummer Brian Blade. How many musicians his age would still pushing the boundaries of music, flirting with a black hole and a quasar?
His sense of the beyond had come heart-breakingly face-to-face with tragedy when his wife Ana died in the in the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800. He responded by turning to perhaps his closest musical friend, pianist Herbie Hancock. They produced 1+1, the duo album which elicited “Aung San Suu Kyi,” something focused yet transcendent, with a limpid Shorter soprano solo, a shortcut to wonder and possibility. It was dedicated to and named for the exiled Burmese leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner. “Because we affect lives of those who are here,” Shorter said, “the best way to honor Ana’s life is to become the happiest man alive.” Mercer, writing in the liner notes to the Footprints anthology, comments, “Wayne’s courageous response to his grief was the product and culmination of his Buddhist practice.”
Cover of Shorter’s 3-album with graphic novel set “Emanon.” courtesy WFDD
Of course, later Emanon arose, breaking conceptual ceilings, Wayne Shorter at age 85. Wherever he is now travelling, ageless in mystery and in light, we can only hope to imagine and follow.