She Took the Magic and Happy Summer With Her


by Jim Murray, Los Angeles Times, April 3, 1984

This is the column I never wanted to write, the story I never wanted to live to tell.

I lost my lovely Gerry the other day. I lost the sunshine and roses, all right, the laughter in the other room. I lost the smile that lit up my life.

God loved Gerry. Everybody loved Gerry. She never went 40 seconds without smiling in her life. She smiled when she was dying. She smiled at life and all the people in it. When you thought of Gerry, you smiled.

She had these gorgeous brown eyes and they were merry all the time and they looked at you with such trust and happiness. She never looked down or away. She never did anything to be ashamed of. Nothing. Never. She never did anything she didn't think God wanted her to do. She was in charge of smiling for Him.

She never grew old and now, she never will. She wouldn't have anyway. She had four children, this rogue husband, a loving family and this great wisdom and great heart, but I always saw her as this little girl running across a field with a swimming suit on her arm, on a summer day on the way to the gravel pit for an afternoon of swimming and laughing. Life just bubbled out of Gerry. We cry for ourselves. Wherever she is today they can't believe their good luck.

I don't mean to inflict my grief on you, but she deserves to be known by anyone who knows me. She has a right to this space more than any athlete who ever lived. I would not be here if it weren't for her. I feel like half a person without Gerry. For once, I don't exaggerate. No hyperbole. If there was a Hall of Fame for people, she would be No. 1. She was a champion at living.

She never told a lie in her life. And she didn't think anyone else did. Deceit puzzled her. Dishonesty dismayed her. She thought people were good. Around her, surprisingly, they were. Her kindness was legendary.

She loved God. I mean, He made the trees, the flowers. He made children, didn't he. And color and song, and above all, babies. She knew He'd take care of her.

She loved babies. Anybody's. She played the piano like a dream. Ask any of the football coaches, the basketball players, baseball pitchers or just newspapermen who leaned across their drinks and implored her for one more chorus of Melancholy Baby. She played Galway Bay every St. Patrick's Day for a maudlin husband who wept over a moonrise he'd never seen or a sunset that existed only in a glass and an ice cube. She was fun.

She wasn't afraid to die. She didn't want to. But she knew she'd see the mother she lost, the son she lost. In a place where she could never lose them again.

You have funny ways of remembering things. The thing I remember clearest today, for some reason, is the habit she had of leaving notes for the kids when she was only going to be gone for the shortest times, the briefest moments. She would leave these notes on a table in this huge lettering, for her handwriting was like her heart, large and overflowing and joyous. "Gone to store," it would say, "Be right back. Love, Mom." She didn't want the kids to think they were without her love even for a few minutes.

She has left no notes this time. But she has, as usual, left her love.

There is a line at the end of "Alice in Wonderland" that always hurt me to read because it reminds me of Gerry. Alice's sister is dreaming of Alice. "Lastly, she pictures to herself how this same little sister of hers would, in the after-time, be herself a grown woman, and how she would keep, through all her riper years, the simple and loving heart of her childhood, and how she would gather about her other little children, and make their eyes bright and eager with many a strange tale, perhaps even a dream of Wonderland long ago, and how she would feel with all their simple sorrows, and find a pleasure in all their simple joys, remembering her own child life, and the happy summer days."

Gerry took the magic and the summer with her. It wasn't supposed to be this way. I was supposed to die first. We would have been married 39 years this year and we thought that was just the natural order of things. I had my speech all ready. I was going to look into her brown eyes and tell her something I should have long ago. I was going to tell her: "it was a privilege just to have known you."

I never got to say it. But it was too true.


Just a Few Words From the Big Golf Course in the Sky

By Mike Downey, Los Angeles Times, August 23, 1988

Well, I just went to a funeral. Guess whose? Mine! Me, Jim Murray! I certainly never expected to spend a perfectly good Friday at a place like this. And guess what else? They want me to write about it. Me! The folks who came to the church on Sunset Boulevard to see me off into the sunset, they said, "Jim, nobody but you can do you justice."

So, here goes. I sure do feel funny about this. It's kind of like Jack Nicklaus playing tennis at Wimbledon. Or like Jackie Robinson carrying the football in a Super Bowl. Like, what am I doing here, at my own memorial service? On the whole, I'd rather be in Cincinnati.

All right then, Miss Kelly B, take a letter. This one goes out to all my friends, the ones I've known and the ones I never met. Address it: "From somewhere on the 19th hole." That's probably where I am right now, missing a four-foot putt.

Anyway, it sure was nice to see everybody. I can't believe so many came out. Don't they have anything better to do, like mowing the lawn? Standing room only should be for Placido Domingo, or for Dempsey against Tunney. I'm just a tired old scribbler. Maybe they just wanted to make sure I showed up.

Well, it ain't over until the Irish tenor sings. "O Danny Boy" was announced, so "O Danny Boy" was sung. Hey, if I'd known so many were coming, I'd have baked a cake.

OK, friends, once more around the track. One more run for the roses. One last lap around Indy. One final dash inside the Coliseum. You, over there at ringside, strike the bell. Let's get ready to rumble. Welcome to my farewell.

First off, I would like to thank everyone for all the cards and calls and kind words. I am very grateful, and so is my lovely bride, Linda. She's the one who deserves all the credit, you know. Caesar's wife is beyond reproach. I can't say the same for her husband.

The readers of The Times were like my extended family. They weren't subscribers. They were pen pals. Every column I wrote felt like a conversation. For 37 years, we met for breakfast. I was the guy who made them spit out their orange juice. Sometimes, from laughter. Sometimes, from anger. Either way, we had a good time.

I wish all of you could have been there Friday morning. Sorry, but the church could only hold so many sinners and so many saints. The sinners sat on the left, the saints on the right. But I know you were there in spirit. I just hope you aren't sick of hearing about me. Tell those guys at The Times to go back to writing about the Dodgers and Angels now, something important.

The sun came out and in came my friends. I never saw so many sportswriters in suits in my life. A sportswriter usually looks like an unmade bed. I didn't know some of these guys owned a necktie. They looked like a bunch of used-car dealers on their way to a convention in Toledo.

Father Donie Keohane, the priest with the Barry Fitzgerald dialect, welcomed everyone to the Mass. I wish he'd passed a collection plate. There were a lot of high rollers in that room. He could have probably gotten a couple of million out of my friends Don Sterling, Al Davis and Peter O'Malley alone. And my old sportswriting pals Furman Bisher, Dan Foster, Bill Millsaps, Edwin Pope and Blackie Sherrod would have been good for at least another 10 bucks between them.

Thanks to Jack Whitaker, for an epitaph and a half. And to Tom Sullivan, for singing like an angel. (I know; I've heard both.) And to John Scheibe, who pinch-saw for me when my eyes went on the disabled list. And to Paul Conrad, for using 1,000 words when a cartoon would have sufficed. And to Bill Plaschke, for voluntarily dispensing Holy Communion to the congregation. First time a sportswriter ever got a round for the house.

Marcus Allen, Chris McCarron, Danny Sullivan, Mike Tyson, thanks for dropping by. Marcus slipped into the vestibule the way he did through a hole in the USC line. I hope Chris parked his horse and Danny his race car in a safe place, behind the church.

As for Iron Mike, people talk about my criticizing him, but he and I also talked old-time prizefighting for hours on end. Thanks for coming, kid. Behave yourself.

I could go on and on. But I won't. I've already taken up too much of your time. All I can say is, thanks for the use of this space. It feels great to be in the Sunday paper, one more time.