May 1, 2016

PUDDY: The Gift


And when we were children, staying at the archduke's,
My cousin's, he took me out on a sled,
And I was frightened. He said, Marie,
Marie, hold on tight. And down we went.
In the mountains, there you feel free.
I read, much of the night, and go south in the winter.

        -- Eliot

Last Sunday in Seattle I was still sitting with my morning coffee when the phone rang. It was my old friend, the constant urban explorer, who lives a few blocks away. "I want to give you a gift," he said, "but I can't bring it to you. Instead, you've got to go to it." This man's gifts are not lightly chosen (Except for the inflatable Sarah Palin love doll -- but he's getting that one back when he least expects it.), so I listened.

"Write this down. Walk to the Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in your neighborhood."


"No. No. You'll be glad you did. Then go in the main entrance and stroll along the road on the west side."


"Look to your left for a large white stone with two benches on either side of it. The name carved into the stone is 'PUDDY.' "

"Got it."

"Sit down on a bench and look around. That's your gift. Talk to you later. Oh, you'll want to take your camera."

I wondered for a moment if this could be some sort of geocaching joke. At the same time I knew it wasn't. He's a man with little use for the latest techno-ephemera. He values time, his and others. Sleeveless errands are not his style. It was a bright, somewhat cool, Indian Summer Sunday in Seattle and the cemetery was only a few blocks away. I suited up and out the door I went. In a few minutes I was walking into the cemetery and looking around.

Mt. Pleasant is fine cemetery as cemeteries go. Quiet and expansive without being overlarge. You can be buried with your own kind if you are Asian or Jewish, or you can just be planted helter-skelter in the great Seattle diversity plots that make up most of it's area. I've written about this place before in Small Flags, a meditation about loss and war, but the cemetery tells, as all cemeteries do, more than one kind of story if you settle your soul down and listen.

At first I was a bit disoriented inside the gates since the one-lane road winds hither and yon around the grounds and the office with the map to the grave sites is closed on Sundays. By and by, however, I spied off to my left and over near the wall of trees and bushes and chain link fencing that is the western border of the cemetery a large white stone with two white stone benches on either side. I went over and read:


Come sit with us awhile and share our sorrow. Though you weep share the joyful memories too. Look in your heart: In truth you mourn for that which has been your delight.

For Joy and sorrow are inseparable.

I sat and looked north to the outer edge of the large plot that, so far, had only one grave. And there they were.


I've taken this ride in winters past. I've taken it as a child with my mother and father and brothers. I've taken it one New Year's Eve in New England by myself. Right into a tree and the emergency room for thirty stitches. I've taken it as a young adult under the moonlight on the banks of the frozen Red River in Fargo racing my cousins to the bottom and out onto the ice. I've taken it as a father in other winters past. It's a great ride while it lasts; one that -- barring impact with a tree -- makes you want to get up, pull the sled back up to the top and go again. One that makes you want to race your sled against the others. One that makes you want to see how many can pile on and go down, embracing the others and whooping all the way to the bottom where you all tumble off into a laughing heap.

You can take lots of rides in this life, but a full sled careening down a hill of fresh snow is the closest to a ride of pure joy as you can get. You'll find it near the top of my list of "Best Moments in This Life." It's probably on yours too. If you've never done it, move it to the top of the Bucket List now.

The man buried here died in his 45th year: R. Scott Puddy

On the morning of June 18, 2002, Scott perished doing what he loved: practicing aerobatics in a Yak-52, in the mountains of Brentwood, Calif.
He was survived by his parents, his sisters, and his daughter.

The dark secret fear lurking inside you when you are a parent is that your children will die before you do. That fear came true for this family. All parents can imagine their grief, but all choose not to do so. But they did not choose, as so many do, to be utterly undone by grief. Instead they chose to balance grief with joy, "For Joy and sorrow are inseparable," and place upon this grave a bronze symbol of all that is best in this life and in this world.

It's a gift to their son, R. Scott Puddy, and a gift to any in the world who chance upon his grave. It's a gift outright.

If you ever happen to be near Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Queen Anne, Seattle, go see it. Take your camera. Send your friends. Sit a spell and leave a token, stone or blossom or leaf. When it comes to gifts like this, the gift must move. Pass it on.

Young boy in pilot's helmet and goggles

"And down we went. / In the mountains, there you feel free."

[This is back from last October because Puddy's daughter came by and left a comment on the anniversary of his passing.]

Posted by Vanderleun at May 1, 2016 12:40 AM
Bookmark and Share



"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

At one time or another I have resided on Queen Anne's south slope, west side, the east side in one of the dockside apartments of the old Berg Marina. I used to hang out with a guy who lived on the north side, a former Seattle Mayor's kid who had a habit of doing a very loud and public Andrew Dice Clay when he got really likkered up which was often. I sometimes wish I had taken a video of his impersonation. He like his father entered the political arena, serving as an aide to Barbara Boxer before returning home to join the local Politburo. I'm sure he still lives in fear of one of his old drinking buddies surfacing with one.

In my time on Queen Anne I never made it to Mt. Pleasant. Next time I find myself on the Hill I think I will visit Puddy's sledders.

Posted by: westsoundmodern at October 11, 2009 4:13 PM

Thank you sir,again, for allowing me to see the world through your eyes for a fleeting moment. Your perspective is a blessing and God has also given you a rare talent to express it so profoundly through the written word. May His benevolence allow you to continue for many years to come, for surely the enlightenment you spread brings joy to many.
Roger Drew Williams

Posted by: Roger Drew Williams at October 11, 2009 4:15 PM

As a Florida girl, I can only think it must be marvelous fun, almost as good as catching a wave!

God bless the parents of that young man, for dividing their grief in such a joyous way.

Posted by: Joan of Argghh! at October 11, 2009 6:15 PM

I lived 200 feet from the Red River, on the Moorhead side, for 15 years. I never rode a sled down to the river. I did, however, participate in a rugby tournament on the Red, in East Grand Forks, in February.

I separated my shoulder being tackled. I finished the match; the referee would have let me leave the pitch, but he wouldn't allow a substitute.

Playing rugby on a frozen river might be similar to the exhilaration you felt.

Posted by: Gordon at October 11, 2009 8:27 PM

For me it wasn't sledding (I nearly paralyzed myself on one of those cheap plastic sleds on the west hill of Kent), it was inner tubing up at Snoqualmie. Belly down and face first on the tube, gripping the stem, and hoping not to hit too big of a bump at the bottom, then a giggling shuffle over to the tow rope to be pulled back up the hill and do it all over again.

If we stayed long enough, into the dusk, the staff there would build a jump at the bottom of one of the slopes, and we kids would dare each other (and Dad) to try it, until finally one by one we went, flying down an ice-slicked hill with the breath of screams, terror and joy, freezing in our throats. Then for an instant truly flying as the ramp sent us airborne, to tumble over and land (hopefully) in a softer, roughed-up patch of snow.

We'd start the day in layers of snow gear and jackets, and end wearing just a sweater, faces ruddy, anticipating a steaming cup of hot cocoa.

I don't much miss the cold, but sometimes I do miss the snow.

Posted by: Julie at October 11, 2009 9:33 PM

Careening down a snowy hill is youth. It hasn't known sorrow. Death is still a Halloween mask and a leering pumpkin. Manageable.

Yes, the bronze of children is a perfect renouncement of grief. It refuses knowledge of the inevitable. A remarkable setting there - joy frozen in bronze amidst all the sober granite.

Posted by: Cathy at October 12, 2009 6:20 AM

One sledding incident stands out from my college days. Friend of mine staggered out onto the middle of the slope (yes, alcohol was involved), plopped onto his sled, and started down the hill. He didn't see the six guys above him who had started their journey from the top riding on one of those oversized beanbag loungers from the dorm TV room. The beanbaggers already had up a full head of steam and plowed into my buddy about halfway down the hill. Everyone flew ass-over-teakettle in all directions. It would have been ugly if they hadn't all been three sheets to the wind. But they stayed relaxed at impact, so despite the force of the collision, nobody got anything worse than a face-full of snow. I doubt any of them even remembered it the next day.

I don't miss the snow or cold at all these days, but it was a lot a fun when I was younger. The sledding statue is an ideal counterpoint to the tombstone. A memory of those carefree times when the grave was not even imagined, much less feared.

Posted by: waltj at October 12, 2009 8:21 AM

lot of fun...

Posted by: waltj at October 12, 2009 8:27 AM

For Joy and sorrow are inseparable. Indeed.

I grew up in flat, flatter, flattest west Texas. No hills for sledding. IF we got enough snow, and IF someone had the time, we got a ride in an upside-down car hood, pulled by a tractor, and we thought it great joy!

Posted by: Deborah at October 12, 2009 8:40 AM

"... but a full sled careening down a hill of fresh snow is the closest to a ride of pure joy as you can get."


We use to stack ourselves flat, laying on top of each other. The uncontrollable laughter, the thrill, the fun.

To focus on the joy in the sorrow is well played, Puddys, well played.

Posted by: mare at October 12, 2009 10:27 AM

I just noticed the gravestone IS a bench. They even provided the means to sit and enjoy the sledding.

Posted by: mare at October 12, 2009 10:28 AM

I cannot remember when we, as children, stopped sled riding. I had a Flexible Flyer and a good snow, a Saturday morning, and off we'd head to Sunshine Hill (also a favorite for bike riding in the Summer). No pre-arranged meet ups, we just knew where everyone would be when there was good snow.

I heard about 9 years ago from a friend who still lives in the area, that sled riding on Sunshine Hill is now against the law. Some nannystate parent decided it was too dangerous for their little darlin's, so this childhood passion, that generations of children had enjoyed, is no longer allowed.

Compared to the freedom I had in my own childhood, being a child today really sucks.

Posted by: Sara (Pal2Pal) at October 12, 2009 12:00 PM

"Some nannystate parent decided it was too dangerous for their little darlin's"

All the real fun stuff was inherently risky....that was the fun. Growing up, maturing, is all about making those risk/reward decisions.

Posted by: mare at October 12, 2009 1:40 PM

When I was so so young, our father took my older brothers and I sled riding one Saturday after one of those delightful Cleveland snows. While my bros were allowed to solo, Dad rode down with me a few times. Thrilling, to be in the snow with one's Father, laughing, giggling.

Then, I set up the sled, and while he was chatting with a neighbor, a quick run and a jump and it was just me racing along. It was a bunny hill, nothing like the ones we graduated to soon after. Pulling the sled up after, I wondered slightly if he was gonna be giving me a talking to for going down alone. Although, he hadn't exactly forbidden it.

He was fine with it, and it's only reading this post I wonder how he felt that he'd just taken his last sled ride with his sons. His last ever, even, and he knew it.

Posted by: Alear at October 12, 2009 5:08 PM

Your re- gifting evoked my first sled ride with my brother, the runners gathering speed over the fresh snow fall in Carl Schultz Park. Bundled in bulky snow suits, mittens and galoshes, we had never seen snow before, and I recall the giddy wonder of it all, especially since we were newly moved to NY from Hawaii and this miraculous blizzard seemed like God's gift to children who spent that week also sledding down East End Avenue as the whole city was shut down under its white muffled glory.

Posted by: Gecko at October 12, 2009 9:00 PM

I have nothing to offer but blood , toil tears and sweat .

Posted by: 超声波清洗 at October 13, 2009 2:00 AM

The inflatable Sarah Palin love doll would have been a good gift.

Posted by: Carl Penn at October 13, 2009 8:48 AM


Posted by: Gnaw Bone Jack at October 13, 2009 12:45 PM

Mt. Pleasant is where my brother lies. His section has markers only, no headstones. We didn't wander around much when we were there this summer. Our search was more focused. When I go back, I'll look for the Puddy's memorial. Thanks.

Posted by: BroKen at October 14, 2009 9:40 AM

Never ridden on an actual sled, but we went traying in college.

Posted by: B. Durbin at October 14, 2009 2:57 PM

Wow - we have been living in Israel for almost 20 snow-free years.

This post takes me way back. There was a huge lightly forested hill next to our New York grade school that ran down to the outfield of the school's baseball diamond. The more daring started further up among the trees, risking stumps or rocks beneath the snow. You could get pretty far into center field.

It was very democratic, too - everything from metal sleds to fancy plywood toboggans to plastic trash can lids.

Here in Israel we have a sprinkling of heavy frost on the ground a few days in February. One year we actually got a whole inch of snow mixed with fine hail. My kids were in heaven.

It was gone by sundown.

Posted by: Ben-David at October 15, 2009 2:11 PM

Great post. It's nice to see that the family of this adventurer memorialized that adventuresome spirit through this bronze of the children. Truly a gift that keeps on giving.

Posted by: Brad McCall at October 16, 2009 6:08 PM

For a right-wing nut-job, Vanderleun, you do certainly offer some touching and moving posts. Bravo!

Posted by: David Sucher at October 25, 2009 6:24 PM

I want to say thank you. What you wrote in this article is what my grandparents wanted to portray with this gravesite. Knowing that others are able to take it in and enjoy.

Posted by: Puddy at November 17, 2009 5:07 PM

It's been 8 years since my father passed away. Today as I look back and remember him, I remember something my grandmother said at his funeral that still resonates with me. He lived 90 full years in just 45. I truly believe that.

Posted by: Stephanie Campbell at June 18, 2010 9:01 AM

Thank you for that Stephanie. He's an inspiration.

Posted by: vanderleun at June 18, 2010 9:07 AM

Gerard, some of your posts take my breath away...such as this one. Thank you for reminding me to be aware of the blessings in unexpected places. And thank you, Stephanie, for sharing.

Posted by: Lois J at June 18, 2010 11:51 AM

Thank you for the kind words.

Death has not removed their presence from our

A sad post script to your article:
Paige Marie Puddy. 9/17/62--8/1/09

She rests next to her brother at Mt. Pleasant.

Her marker was not in place when you visited
the site in October. And yes, it snowed in August.

Posted by: LaVern/Fran Puddy at June 18, 2010 5:20 PM

Yes, I saw that when I visited yesterday.

May God grant you peace and hold you within His grace.

Posted by: vanderleun at June 19, 2010 7:42 AM

Thank You! I also wish to thank the Puddy family. I don't know if I can express the feelings that it invoked. So to prevent stuffing my foot in my mouth, I'm not gonna try.

Posted by: Samuel Efurd at June 19, 2010 1:02 PM

I lost my son when he was enjoying himself similar to a sled run. Puddy's parents are phenomenal, brave people, who understand we can't keep ourselves in bubble wrap. That trap we avoided after our son died, the older brother was allowed to continue unrestrained.

Posted by: Bill keezer at June 21, 2010 9:27 PM

This brings more tears to my eyes. I used to ride with my two sons on sleds.

My eldest, Forrest, died last night in Stockton, California at 39 young years.

Posted by: Terry at December 28, 2011 6:20 PM

Dear Terry,
My deepest condolences to you in your grief. May your son walk with God forever.

Posted by: vanderleun at December 28, 2011 6:27 PM


Thank you very much. My son is walking with God. I hope I am fit to join him in the future.

Posted by: Terry at December 28, 2011 6:41 PM

Smart lad to slip betimes away,
To fields where glory will not stray,
For early though the laurel grows,
It withers quicker than the rose.

Posted by: Casca at December 28, 2011 7:50 PM

Smart lad to slip betimes away,
To fields where glory will not stray,
For early though the laurel grows,
It withers quicker than the rose.

Posted by: Casca at December 28, 2011 7:51 PM

Thank you again Gerard-

Posted by: Terry at May 1, 2016 9:31 AM