Things have been quiet here for months. It’s not because nothing has been happening on the archaeology front here at the Top of the World. Lab work has been progressing through the winter, I’ve gone to several conferences and given some papers, and heard a lot of interesting talks, and work has been pretty busy. Life as usual.
But not really. Around Thanksgiving 2012, my mother, Marjorie Williams Jensen, was diagnosed with lung cancer. By the time it was discovered, it had spread, and was essentially untreatable. We went back east to Ballston Spa for Christmas, and she seemed to be doing fairly well, all things considered, short of breath, but no pain and with some energy. We came back to Alaska in late December, planning another trip in January or February. She sounded a little worse after New Year’s and the night of January 4th I had decided that I’d get a ticket and go back to see her. The next morning my brother called to say she had died overnight. She will be missed.
Mom was a great mother and grandmother. She was very smart, well-read, her own person. She earned her Doctorate in Medicine from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950, where she was one of only 10 women in her class. She interned at Queen’s Hospital in Honolulu, Hawaii, before Hawaii became a state. Once her children were in school, she completed her residency and worked as a pathologist in the Ellis Hospital Laboratory until her retirement. Several of my high school girlfriends have told me that she really opened their eyes to the possibility of being a professional woman, since she was the only person like that they had ever met. (It was a small town in upstate New York in the late 60s & early 70s–things were different then.)
Mom came from good genetic stock. Both of her parents lived into their nineties, as did many of my grandmother’s siblings. But Mom was a smoker. She had smoked for 67 of her 87 years, and it got her in the end. Ironically, other than the lung cancer, her heart and circulatory system were in great shape, she was still sharp as a tack, and could still garden, read and do things around the house. She could have lived years more, but the cigarettes got her. Ironic, given that she was a pathologist and knew better that most what cigarettes can do.
So folks, if you smoke, and if you have people who love you, children, grandchildren, STOP. If not for your own good, for their sake. I know it is hard. But people do it every day. You can too.
And if you’re an archaeologist, as an added bonus, no more worries about contaminating C14 samples .