My mother, Mary Kraft, passed away tonight at about 6:15 pm after a long battle with MSA
. I'm stunned and have a profound sense of loss. It feels like being an orphan at 37, but despite my lingering sense that I am still quite young, I'm getting too old for that. There's so much I would've loved to share with her in my future, so much I would have loved to ask her... but that has been systematically stolen from me over the past decade as the course of the disease spread.
Frankly, I don't think the grieving has entirely hit me yet. As much as I appreciate everyone's kind thoughts throughout all of this, right now I would just assume leave them as kind thoughts and not words, as they just remind me of my loss. It's easiest for me to get through all of this with the love and support of Kirsten and Natalie, who are always there for me and who, fortunately, always have a need in their lives for me. It's easier for me to give emotionally, intellectually, and empathically to others right now and to try to plow through ordinary life rather than dwelling upon such a huge personal loss.
My mother was a quiet source of strength, who had a successful career in the early years of the Silicon Valley's computer industry, working at CDC
alongside of people like Seymour Cray, overseeing major programming efforts for the company. She succeeded in no small part due to her intellect and her analytical nature, but she also cared about people in a calming, steady way. She went through a lot of the difficulties you'd expect a woman to go through in what was a very male-dominated industry, but she never complained about the inequities.
At home, she was a source of calm and protection against my father, a military man with a troubled past, who was prone to anger and abuse. She quietly stymied his violent tendencies, but when he really crossed the line, she was immovable and protected us like only a cornered mother protecting her young could. She instilled in me an appreciation for music -- she was studying to become a classical pianist when she met my father. She read to me so often when I was young that I can hardly remember a time when I couldn't read... at the age of four, I must've already been reading at a level of kids twice my age. She, of course, also instilled in me a love of technology and computers. The place where she worked was like a Disneyland to me, with supercomputers, teletypes spewing paper, and fantastical games like lunar lander.
She was a strong leader, but never once tried to boss anyone around, either at home or at work. Rather, she provided them with the tools and encouragement they needed to succeed. One of the very few times I ever saw her really break down and cry was when she was ordered to lay off practically everyone in her department in the declining days of supercomputers. She led by example and cared about the success and wellbeing of everyone around her, a person of who valued peace, understanding, and fairness in arguably the best, least pretentious of ways.
That's the kind of person my mother was, and that's the kind of person I would like to be.
I don't really want to talk about my loss right now. There's nothing that can be done, frankly, to help me and my family, but there is something you can do to help others. I encourage you to write a check for a few dollars and mail it off to:
Vanderbilt Shy-Drager Research Fund
Vanderbilt University Medical Center
AA-3228 Medical Center North
Nashville, TN 37232-2195
They are doing important research
to help people suffering from MSA, and can use your support.