La Mer

After two-and-a-half weeks away, I am adjusting to my daily routine back in Austin. Sadly I was out of town because, as some of you already know, my mother passed away on Saturday February 13th. I have been in Nashville since then with my father, helping him coordinate the services which were held this past Saturday.


My mother in Paris 2008

There were so many intense, beautiful, sad, spiritual and surreal experiences during the past few weeks. Right now I would like to focus on just one simple moment. The morning of the memorial service we awakened to a glorious, crisp sunny day, one of the first clear days since I had been in Nashville. The sunshine was invigorating. As my father and I had breakfast we listened to a Spotify playlist that we had created to enjoy throughout the weekend, filled with songs my mother liked as well as some that just reminded us of her.

When the song La Mer came on, my father tested me as he tends to do for fun, “So do you know the name of this song?”

“Yes, it’s called La Mer.”

“Do you know what it means?”

“It’s French for The Sea.”

“Very good.”

And then I had a realization. La Mer, which means The Sea in French is pronounced exactly like La Mère which means The Mother in French.


As some of you who have experienced grief may also know, you tend to cling to these extremely small, poignant moments to anchor you amidst rough waters.

So in the spirit of simple joys, take a listen to this beautiful song if you have a few minutes. More Paris pics and obituary below…

(If you are reading this post via email you may need to click through to the site to view/hear the video.)

My mother with Sophie in Paris 2008

My mother with Sophie in Paris 2008

Also known by her grandmother name Cece. (Best grandmother ever.) Paris 2008


Sophie and Cece in Montmartre, 2008


Rodin Museum, 2008




Nancy Hall Mason Johnston died Saturday, February 13, 2016 in Nashville, Tennessee.

A Memorial Eucharist will be held on Saturday, February 27th at 12:00 p.m. at St. George’s Episcopal Church in Nashville, Tennessee. A Visitation will be held immediately preceding the service at 10:30 am in Hampton Hall at St. George’s. The service will be conducted by The Reverend R. Leigh Spruill.

Nancy was born March 24, 1949 in Corpus Christi, Texas to Olivia Gouger and Paul Warren Mason; she was the second of their three daughters. Through the Hall and Alston branches of her family tree, Nancy’s lineage includes Jamestowne Society, DAR, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, and San Jacinto Descendants. She was also a member of the National Society of Colonial Dames of America.

Nancy spent her early childhood in Robstown, Texas. The family then moved to Fort Worth where her father became Chief Executive Officer and Chairman of  First National Bank of Fort Worth.  She was a member of the first graduating class of Fort Worth Country Day School and later made her debut at the 1969 Fort Worth Assembly Ball.

Nancy attended Vanderbilt University for college. During freshman orientation at Vanderbilt she met Donald McDonald (Duck) Johnston, who would become her husband of forty-six years.

Nancy and Duck lived in Dallas, Texas and London, England before settling in Nashville, Tennessee. Nancy was an extraordinarily active member in the community, lending her time, talent and boundless energy to multiple organizations. She was on the Executive Committee of The Junior League of Nashville; she was an active member of the Harpeth Hall School Mothers’ Auxiliary; she served on the Swan Ball Auction Committee; and she volunteered for many years as the Alumnae Adviser for the Vanderbilt chapter of her college sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta. Nancy attended St. George’s Episcopal Church for thirty-three years and was a devoted parishioner.

Despite her immeasurable impact on the community, Nancy’s most cherished role was as wife, mother, grandmother and daughter. She was the centerpiece of her family. She was also a loving and loyal friend to many. With both family and friends she enjoyed planning trips, trying out a new recipe, dining out, cooking in, attending concerts, organizing reunions and hosting parties. Nancy was the ultimate planner and had a unique ability to turn almost any situation into a cause for celebration.

Nancy traveled to many countries on multiple continents; however, her favorite destination was Italy, and she returned year after year to study and enjoy the art, churches, food and culture. While she loved the Renaissance masterpieces, she also enjoyed discovering and collecting contemporary pieces from artists in Santa Fe or Nashville. She was as passionate about the music of Willie Nelson as she was opera and the symphony. She appreciated a fine meal in an elegant restaurant as well as a good tamale from a Tex-Mex café.

Nancy was an avid and accomplished flyfisher. While she traveled various places around the globe to fish, she considered her “home water” to be the Missouri River in Montana. She and Duck spent a significant amount of time there with family and friends at their house in Wolf Creek. Their shared passion for fishing led them to develop many wonderful and lasting friendships in Montana.

Preceded in death by her father, she is survived by: husband, Donald McDonald Johnston; daughter, Christine Bruner Johnston Warren and husband, Thomas Underwood Warren of Austin, TX and Mobile, AL; granddaughter, Sophie Mason Johnson of Austin, TX; mother, Olivia Gouger Mason of Fort Worth, TX;  sisters, Carol Mason Norris of Lyons, CO and Olivia (Cita) Mason Riley of Santa Fe, NM; as well as her aunts, cousins, nieces and nephews, brothers-in-law and sisters-in-law.

In lieu of flowers the family suggests that memorials be made to The Rector’s Discretionary Fund at St. George’s Episcopal Church, 4715 Harding Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37205; or to The Annual Fund at The Nashville Symphony, One Symphony Place, Nashville, Tennessee 37201.

6 Comments on “La Mer

  1. I love listening to Le Mer and thinking of beautiful moments with my mom, and you with yours. I want to be your spotify follower! A votre sante!

    • aw, thanks Sara! I drew on the extent of my high school french for this post but you have reminded me of the beautiful phrase, “a votre sante!” love it. thank you, xo

  2. C’etais absolument parfait! Je pleurait dans ma coeur mais je sourais comme j’entendais. 🙏💟😊

  3. Oh,Christine. This is wonderful. You have made my day.
    Oui, a votre sante.

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