Houdini’s life in all of its fullness resonates deeply with us. His skills as a showman, magician, and escape artist surpass what we could dream of accomplishing in this lifetime.
His forbearance from alcohol, tobacco, and other vices impressed and guided us through the awkward teenage years when we were tempted to give up magic and good habits in exchange for entrance into the “cool group.”
As he aged, Houdini was always aware of the very temporary nature of it all. He fought to keep his name in the headlines, to master new aspects of our craft, to stay on top; all the while realizing it was ultimately a losing game.
His physical strength diminished but his experience and resourcefulness supplanted raw strength to accomplish miracles even more spectacular than before.
Despite his public persona of invulnerability, he proved to be as vulnerable as any man. The passing of his beloved mother brought unrelenting grief to this proto-superman. Death brought a permanent end to his doting, unrepentant acts of love for the woman he describes as an angel.
Reading biographies about this time in Houdini’s life evoked sympathy but in the last few weeks we again resonate with Houdini the vulnerable man. With the passing of our beloved mother, we gained empathy for Houdini. We felt his desperation and confusion and sadness.
In our youth, we perhaps judged Houdini too harshly. We wondered why time was unable to heal his wounded psyche. Why did the pain and grief seem so severe even years after her passing?
We no longer wonder. We now wonder where Houdini found the strength to carry on.
Our mother was trained as a nurse and embraced the vocation fully. She cared for her patients while on-duty and all she encountered during the remaining hours of the day. Her children were her heart and object of her devotion and love without fail. For us, she selected thousands of cards, sewed bolts full of fabric into capes, curtains, covers, change-bags, egg-bags, and even a close-up mat or two. She drove us to shows and when she was sure it wouldn’t inhibit or embarrass, she stayed and watched us perform what we had practiced before her hundreds of times.
She was a published author and innovator in medicine. She was a constant student of medicine, literature, women’s studies, and philosophy. Her salary was meager – always – but as a nurse she felt confident she would always have a job. She saved to support her four children through college, law school, medical school and seminary.
She died far too young. She had so much more to experience and offer. We are consoled by her memory and certain belief that she is now in the company of those who passed before her including her infant daughter, our sister.
We tearfully echo Houdini’s dedication of his book, A Magician Among the Spirits, and his grief resonates deeply within us.
In worshipful homage, I dedicate this book to the memory of my sainted mother if God in His infinite wisdom ever sent an angel upon earth in human form it was my Mother.
In Loving Memory
March 20, 1938 – December 30, 2010