Remembrances: The Hochman Family

Daniel Hochman:

In her last paper, “On ‘Wide Sense Agnosticism’ and Process Theism,” Mary tells us,

Having contemplated the problem of God in an age of skepticism, an age of scientific advancement, of myth dissolving, of disenchantment, I have come to my own belief conclusion. I do not believe God exists. However, I also do not believe that God does not exist.

The many conversations that I had with Mary at various family events, in many ways, revolved around that very question: is it reasonable to believe in God, or spirit, or divinity? While “I” approached the question from an experiential and observational viewpoint, Mary always grounded the conversation back to the study of philosophy and theology. Her approach was academic and thoughtful.

We debated with passion and fervor, with full commitment. I think that was Mary’s general approach to life. Play with intensity and steadfastness. Always strive, and always seek the truth.

I enjoyed discussing the nature of existence and the constructs of Spirituality with Mary. She inspired me to hone my viewpoint, she encouraged perfection of argument and she motivated me to gain a deeper understanding of myself and my beliefs. I will miss those conversations, for in pondering the unanswerables, we strove together on the quest towards truth.

Karen Hochman Brown:

Spending time with ones own family can be challenging enough, but in-laws? It’s a bit like participatory theater. You enter the scene mid action and without a script. So how you interact with this lot speaks quite literally to character.

Daniel just spoke of his more recent exchanges with Mary. Charged conversations encompassing one of the biggest questions of all, the nature of God.

But it was Auntie Mary, with a few well placed words, that altered Heather’s self concept, helping her mature into the beautiful young woman she is today.

Auntie Mary was also responsible for putting a dog in our lives. She found it impossible think that children could grow up in a home without a dog. So with her expert guidance, we rescued Dexter, our first.

A role I have been comfortable with over the years is as menu planner and caterer. So of course, my Sister-in-law Mary was able to slip right in next to me as coconspirator – spicing things up with adventurous twists on traditional spreads. Quite often involving bacon. And more recently embracing our co-Sis-in-law Mandy’s culture adding dim sum alongside chicken soup.

My mother Ruelene, always wanted to travel with family but found the arrangements complicated with a large group as she didn’t like flying, preferring the leisurely pace of the train. So on the event of her 75th birthday, the entire clan traveled to San Francisco via Amtrak. Now Mary suffered from severe motion sickness and the northbound trip nearly did her in. That, combined with the home-bound train clocking in at 10 or more hours late, Mary did the near impossible, she got our mother on an airplane for the first time in over 50 years.

When my husband Neil came into this same meshugah family, he charmed them through helping out with menial tasks. Washing dishes, moving furniture. What Neil most loved and admired in Mary was her ability to come to these in-law family gatherings and actually engage each and every member in meaningful conversation. Not just at the dinner table, but one-on-one in such a way that when Mary was focused on you, it was if there were only the two of you in the room. And as our elder members grew older and more frail, Mary lavished tenderness and compassion, talking softly or just sitting quietly, holding hands.

Mary only recently sat down with Sean and his fiancee Caress for a quick session of marriage counselling. After being rejected on her suggestion to just run off, get married and have the big to-do some time later – something that worked for her and Steve, she recommended they take some time after the ceremony, before being tossed around by photographers, friends and family, to go off to a quite place alone and reflect on what they have just done. To experience the first moments of being married.

And isn’t this exactly what Mary would have hoped for us all. To be able to take time out from the overwhelming and the mundane – to experience now. All the flavors, the people, the dogs.