On-Ke Wilde 1937-2017

takes talent

there are two
kinds of human
beings in the world 
so my observation
has told me
namely and to wit
as follows
firstly
those who
even though they
were to reveal
the secret of the universe
to you would fail
to impress you
with any sense
of the importance
of the news
and secondly
those who could 
communicate to you
that they had
just purchased
ten cents worth
of paper napkins
and make you
thrill and vibrate
with the intelligence
                   archy

Don Marquis, “the Life and Times of Archy and Mehitabel”

Although I wasn’t there, they tell me that she was asleep and that she simply stopped breathing. It was the death that everyone says they want. She was in her apartment in NY; we had returned from Turkey only ten days earlier. It was an abrupt end to a life lived with boundless generosity, infectious enthusiasm and plenty of laughter.
Her diagnosis this past August of ALS was a challenge that she tackled with her customary aplomb. Nothing, neither gradually losing her ability to speak and swallow nor the obstacles this posed to both communicating and eating seemed to dampen her spirits for long. She simply kept finding things to be delighted by every day. She found humor in the most unlikely places and never hesitated to share it. 
One night about a month ago, at my home in Antalya, I heard her in the kitchen in the middle of the night, so I got out of bed to join her. Her lips were dry, she indicated, and I brought her some lip balm. She carefully applied it, as if drawing her mouth on and then paused, sensing the gesture. Then she mimicked scribbling over her whole face with it and I laughed. She waved a hand dismissively, to say “I’m fine, don’t worry,” sending me, smiling, back to bed.
So we thought, “We have plenty of time,” and we thought “This thing has nothing on her.” And then in February she got pneumonia and stayed in hospital in Antalya for three days. She got over it – two weeks later she had a clean bill of health; she was tough. But it knocked her sideways. She had trouble breathing, and her optimism waned. Where once she towered over the puny threat of ALS, now she seemed cowed by it.
We returned to NY on March 17 and she was referred to hospice on the 20th. On the 22nd she was admitted, they brought a hospital bed to her apartment, and we arranged 24 hour care to supplement the hospice nurse visits. I left her, reluctantly, on the 25th, and she was joined by my cousin Pamela. On the 27th I received the news that she had died, at home, in her sleep. 
So here we are. We will gather at her apartment on Saturday, the 1st of April (no joke) between 11 and 4. And next week I’ll take her cremated remains to Turkey and bury them next to my dad’s, under the Bodhi tree in our garden. The boys will help me dig the hole and we’ll plant something with fragrant flowers over top. A wintersweet, maybe, or a variegated daphne. And we will all slowly, slowly get used to the hollow spot at the center of our lives.

p.s. – another article (with a stellar photo) here.

11 thoughts on “On-Ke Wilde 1937-2017

  1. Kerry

    It was a life well lived. I am sorry for your loss. Not sure we ever get used to the hollow spot… ;'(

  2. Erin Kim

    Hi Siobhan, I was so sorry to hear about your mom. I have such fond memories of being in your kitchen in Nairobi with your mom cooking up something amazing in the kitchen with you, me, Kerttu, and Keren looking on. She was such a wonderful person with an awesome laugh- and let’s not forget her impeccable and thoroughly authentic style. She was so interesting to me especially because of her career in fashion. I am deeply saddened and wanted to let you know that you are in my thoughts.

    Love, Erin T/ +852.9193.7967 http://www.airessnyc.com

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  3. Roopal

    Pole sana Siobhan. May she live on in your hearts and memories forever. Sending you and your family much love from Kenya at this time.

  4. Hi I just saw your e mail And very sad I am sorry I did not get to see your mom I thought she lived in Istanbul Had no idea that she was in in NY city I am sorry about your loss She was a wonderful person A kind lady with lots of sprits I listened to her that USA was a better choice for me I am grateful to her I am happier here God always will be with her Yasmine

    Sent from my iPhone

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  5. Gail Sobels

    Oh no Siobhan . A huge hug to you & your family . I only knew On-ke for a short while in Istanbul but she impressed me so much . She showed so much interest in everything . Especially her grandchildren . Yes. Siobhan. A winter sweet or daphne sound beautiful . So sad I never met your dad as well . He sounded like a very interesting man . Thinking of you. Xxxxx

    Sent from my iPad

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