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Helen Fontana Bechdel

May 15th, 2013 | Other Projects

Helen, young

My mom died yesterday. Here’s her obituary.

I got to spend a lot of time with her over the past couple months, which was a tremendous gift.

70 Responses to “Helen Fontana Bechdel”

  1. Swistle says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  2. Kate L says:

    So sorry to hear this, Alison.

  3. lh says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  4. Brian says:

    My condolences and thank you for your portrayal of complex relationship you had with your mother through your books.

  5. So beautiful, Alison. And so much presence, even in a photograph. Will be thinking of you and yours in this loss. So glad that you had the gift of a lot of time with her in the past couple of months.

  6. mkg says:

    What a wonderful obit—thanks for sharing it with us.

  7. LurkingLibrarian says:

    I’m so sorry to read this – my condolences.

  8. Hazel Landa says:

    I’m so sorry, Alison. What a talented person.

  9. LC says:

    So sorry for your loss. My heart goes out to you.

  10. Cathy says:

    I am so sad to think of you and your loss, Alison. You and your family have my deepest sympathy. Thanks for the link to the wonderful obituary.

  11. shadocat says:

    Your mom was amazing.I’m so sorry for your loss.

  12. Erika says:

    Sending sympathies, and wishes for peace and comfort and light. Thank you for sharing her with us through your work.

  13. Sharon says:

    So sorry for your loss.

  14. Andrew S says:

    So sorry for your loss and good thoughts/wishes to you and yours during this time.

  15. Eva says:

    Ach. I’m sorry for your loss Alison. The obituary is a lovely tribute, thanks for sharing it with us. May your mother’s memory be for a blessing (a traditional phrase shared with mourners in Ashkenazi Jewish culture). Take care.

  16. Oh Alison, I’m so, so sorry about your loss. My own mother died just three months ago, and it is a huge experience. Thinking of you and yours, and hang in there.

  17. Ali says:

    So so sorry. Lost one of my parents this Spring & feel a bit lost myself. So very glad you had these last months with her. The obituary and Are You My Mother? are loving tributes. Please know how much your readers support you!

  18. Nora says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  19. miss modular says:

    Hi Alison,

    I’m a longtime reader (and fan) of your work, but I’m also a former student of your mother’s–I graduated from Bellefonte High School in the early 1980s.

    Your mother was a wonderful teacher. She was also extremely kind and encouraging to me during the time I was a student at BHS and beyond that point, when I was in college. While I never officially came out to her, whenever I would visit with her post-high school, she always spoke very highly of you; it was obvious that she was very proud of you. (In fact, she once showed me a videotaped interview you did with, I believe, some PBS station in the midwest!)

    I am very sorry for your loss. It’s a gift that you got to spend a good amount of time with her over the past month, and that she was so integral to your development as an artist and a person. I will always remember her kindnesses, her intelligence, and her humor. I will always remember her well.

  20. Andrew B says:

    All my condolences, Alison.

  21. katie k says:

    peace to you. my mom died in 2006 and I still miss her. glad you got to spend time with her at the end (I was able to do that, too). it is a gift for both of you. know that wherever she is, she is well. peace again.

  22. Debra K. says:

    I am so very sorry for your loss, Alison. Beautiful obituary. Sending you healing thoughts and wishes.

  23. Jenny says:

    Best wishes to you and the rest of your family. I’m sorry for your loss.

  24. Johanna says:

    I am very sorry for your loss. Keeping you and your family in my thoughts.

  25. My deepest sympathy and condolences. It is hard to lose your mother. I’m glad you got to spend time with her at the end

  26. Toni says:

    This reaches me in the depth of my own sorrow over the loss of a beloved family member.
    It is peculiar the way our bodies react to emotional pain. How we can laugh and choke cry simultaneously while our hearts have frozen into a million diamonds rattling in our chests, needing to be vomited out, but they have no exit. How our legs want to carry us away on a long hike into a deep wood if only they could reliably raise us from our fetal position.
    And yet while my pain swallows me I cannot imagine how much worse it will be the day I lose my mother.
    You have my deepest sympathy. Cling to those who love you, laugh when you can, let the rage out when it comes, and don’t be too proud to accept whatever help you might need.

  27. cybercita says:

    What a beautiful tribute. My condolences to you and your family.

  28. Dina says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss Alison. Thanks for sharing this wish us.

  29. freyakat says:

    Alison, I am so sorry to hear of the death of your mother. As others
    here have said, it is special indeed that you had a chance to spend
    quite a bit of time with her over these past months, and I expect that you will treasure those memories and take comfort in them. But this is still quite a loss, and one that will be with you in some form for years to come. My very best wishes to you and your brothers and Holly and to your mother’s partner.

  30. Rebecca says:

    Alison, very sorry you have lost your mother. It is heartwrenching. May her memory be a blessing.

  31. makky says:

    I’ve been concerned for wks. I guess I sensed it. Beloved Helen! I lost my own beloved 97 yr. old Grandmother in January, she was my everything too.
    Thank you for telling us.

  32. colleen says:

    I am so happy you had the gift of this time with your mother toward the end of her life. My brother and someone else, after hearing of the passing of your mom, referred to her as a “class act”. My mother and I had a lot of trials and tribulations. I am so greatful to have been able to work through some of our issues before and during her Alzhiemer’s. I miss her very much. Allow yourself time to grieve

  33. Ellen Orleans says:

    Oh, Alison. My heart goes out to you. I too am glad you spent time with your mother in the past months and in a way, over the last several years, as you wrote about her. The obituary truly brings her to life — what a gifted, energetic, complex, and fascinating woman. My thoughts are with you, Holly, and the rest of your family.

  34. Amy says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  35. Lurkalot says:

    Dear Alison,

    So very sorry to hear your sad news. I am glad you had the gift of spending time with her over the past few months. I wish you and your family comfort and peace. And if it isn’t presumptuous of me, may I say: peace be upon your mother.

  36. Sue Gambill-Read says:

    feel the heaviness of your loss just from reading her obituary. Thank you for remembering her to everyone.

  37. Marian says:

    I loved reading this obituary, learning about your mother in other contexts than ‘Are You My Mother?’ Thank you for sharing it and sharing her. Sending you every good wish in the world as you grieve.

  38. Duncan says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your loss, Alison.

    It’s an interesting experience to read her obituary after having read Are You My Mother? (twice so far, and I’ll read it again in the next week or so): the book gives an extra dimension to her distinctiveness that the form and manner of an obituary can’t do. Best wishes, always.

  39. Diana Malvaez says:

    Alison, you are in our hearts, and we love you.

  40. DeLand DeLakes says:

    I’m so sorry. She was lucky to have a daughter who captured her so beautifully.

  41. Alex K says:

    You were lucky in her, and in her physicians.

    We must trust that she is where we all hope to end — awaiting you, and us, on the other side of Jordan, where there is no parting.

  42. girdtmom says:

    I am so sorry for your loss.

  43. John Boren says:

    I wish there was something better to say than ‘I am sorry for your loss’. It seems inadequate. Take comfort in your memories, and in the people close to you.

  44. Anna in Albuquerque says:

    Comfort and love to you, dear Alison.

  45. Danya says:

    Dear Alison,

    I am so sorry for your loss. I wish you comfort, peace, and tranquility at this time. The obituary is beautiful.

    Danya

  46. Robin says:

    Glad you had the time to spend with your mom. I know how important that is. Take care of yourself during this time.
    RObin

  47. Yoomi says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. ?

  48. Annie & Judy in Albuquerque says:

    Dear Alison,
    May we offer our sincere condolences on your mother’s passing. Glad you were able to spend valuable time with here beforehand.

  49. M says:

    Losing a mother is a profound experience, no matter the relationship. Thinking of you, your partner and your family.

  50. Bob Fenichel says:

    To all of Alison’s friends– I want to let you know how loving and energetic Alison was in caring for Helen in these past weeks. With Alison’s efforts, Helen’s final illness passed in comfort and tranquility.

  51. Suzanonymous says:

    I’m shocked — sorry about your loss. Goodness..

  52. Marj says:

    There are no words… I’m so, so sorry.

  53. Andrew O. says:

    My deepest sympathies.

  54. Thank you so much to all of you for these kind wishes. I’m especially touched to see my mom’s partner Bob Fenichel’s kind comment here. Bob was hugely instrumental in my mother’s care over the past years. He was a fierce and highly informed advocated for her, and my brothers and I are hugely indebted to him. Thank you, Bob, for your dogged and devoted love and care of Helen.

  55. Maya says:

    Thank you for sharing it and sharing her.
    Comfort and love to you from Pisa, Italy.

    Maya e Silvia

  56. Jen says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. Thanks for sharing your stories…I think about them often in relation to my own mother, and to my children. Sending you best wishes.

  57. Fi says:

    Being able to honour your mother by telling some of the stories that make her life and personhood vivid and captivating, is a wonderful gift that means Helen lives on. A lesson for all of us with our own parents, our significant elders and other special ones we will sometimes lose before their time. Thank you Alison for sharing your mother’s life with us.

  58. Jaibe says:

    Dear Bob, Alison and anyone else who knew Helen Fontana Bechdel,

    Very sorry for your loss, but it sounds like you were a wonderful supportive community for a fantastic life well-lived. I hope as you move through the months ahead you will find comfort in her many accomplishments and the knowledge of your own contribution to them and her.

  59. Helen says:

    I just read are you my mother in one sitting,the. Decided Check out your blog. I was enthralled with the honesty, forgiveness and reconciliation of the story . It echoes my own relationship with my mother and the story is both uncomfortable and hopeful to me. I know it was hard won.
    From how you decruve her, i believe your mam understood and appreciated te transformative powers of art, for provocation, discussion and healing. Therefore she must have been very proud and pleased about your accomplishments. To discover your mother had died recently moved me, please accept my condolences, best wishes and thanks for your candid book. Very best wishes , Hx

  60. indigo says:

    Very sorry to hear this. I wish you & your family the best.

  61. Angela Spencer says:

    So sorry to hear of your loss

  62. LondonBoy says:

    Very sorry to hear this unhappy news. My condolences to you and your family on this sad occasion.

  63. Shelley Eberhart says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss, Alison. My God, it really does appear that life is but a dream. Can it be that it was that many years ago that your Mom and I shared a dressing room at Millbrook Playhouse in “A Little Night Music”? Something I hear repeatedly about your Mom is that she was a class act. That she was, Allison, that she was, and you have memorialized her in such a way that her memory will be around for a very long time. I only wish I had the ability to keep my own Mom alive forever like that.

  64. Jill S. says:

    I am sorry to hear that. I send my condolences as well. And I’m glad you got to spend as much time with her as you did.

  65. Paige S. says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss.

  66. Joe Code says:

    So sorry that your mom passed away. I wish there were angelic words that I could write in this small space that could lift your spirits during this time of grief, but I am bereft of such magic words, so this faulty prose must suffice. My mom passed away a year ago last December and I still miss her. Mothers always stay in our hearts.

  67. Laura says:

    I am so sorry for your loss and feel strongly for you and your family. As your reader, I treasured and loved the graceful and brilliant picture of her you sketched in your work. It was sad and yet beatiful meeting her real self in the thoughtful and loving obituary you shared with us and seeing her, so beautiful and graceful, in the pictures.

  68. therry and St. Jerome says:

    Aw, Alison, I’m so sorry. It’s really hard to be placed on the front line when your parents die. I’m really glad that you got to care for her in her last days, and that she got to see AYMM and the critical response to your book. Be well, and get gong on the James book.

  69. Jing says:

    Three years ago I bought Fun Home after reading a fantastic review about it in our papers. Your detail, depth, and honesty was so mind-blowing. Every now and then I peek at your blog to see more of your work and words. Three days ago (May 23) I bought Are You My Mother and read it in one sitting. This time the honesty was so poignant. I quickly looked up your blog to see what you’re up to like an old friend. So imagine my sadness when I learned of your mother’s passing within this same month. Its like someone I intimately know has gone. And it is because you have served the story well.