Tuesday, May 21, 2013

my memorial piece for Sally (plus Margie's write-up)

(slightly changed from the original version, particularly names)

I met Sally in 2001 at about the same time I met M.

But it wasn’t until her relationship with L was on the skids that we became fast friends. We would talk on the phone for hours and hours about our common experiences. Very early on I decided I loved her and told her so.

From then on, she became a major presence in my life and in the life of N and M. She put on birthday parties for our family members; she threw a graduation party for N;  she came to most of our local concerts and all of my art gallery shows; she compared height sizes with N as N was sprouting into a teenager (she’d say, “N, do you have to grow? I need more people down here at my level.”). During a particularly stressful court battle that I went through with Allstate, she was there for that too, cheerleading for me in the wings. We had more dinners and get-togethers than I can count.

When M had major surgeries and I wanted to tell family how he had fared, I called N first, Sally second and my mother third. That’s how important she was to us.

Indeed, I often told her she was my adopted sister.

This year, I spent a great deal of time taking care of my father who was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When I would come home for the rare weekend here and there or to take care of M for yet another surgery, I would cry with Sally on the phone. I would tell her how hard it was to lose such a good person with such a big heart. Indeed, my father was the apple of my eye and it was very hard to see him so sick and not be able to do anything about it. She was the ever-soothing presence and she would say “Oh, Lees, I’m so sorry”  over and over.

I was not prepared to get the phone call that Sally had died in the midst of all of this.  Indeed, I often found it too painful. When I went back to T  for the last 5 days of my father’s life, I would sit beside him in bed, rubbing his legs, trying to get him to eat ice cubes, telling him how much I loved him, choking up about Sally. The last day of my father’s life, I wanted to call Sally in the worst way. It was then that I could swear that Sally was with me. She said, “Lees, you don’t have to call me. I’m right here beside you and I’m not going anywhere.”

When my father took his last breath, I was with him. And it seemed Sally was very much there too, welcoming him to the club.

Two people with huge hearts, major figures in my life died ten days apart from each other.

I hope they are the ones I see first when I go through the pearly gates myself. We should all be so lucky.

Margie Rosenkranz's write-up:

Our beautiful and impish friend SALLY passed away unexpectedly last Thursday morning in her sleep... She was 63 years young and I can tell you, no one was expecting this. 
Sally and I would've been friends for 50 years come September, and I cannot count the holes in my life at this moment. She was president of the board for The Eighth Step, the grassroots music presenting organization which I help run, godmother to my son, and a fairy godmother to my girls. Sally raised friendship to an art form; there are so many people out there I have heard wonderful things about - for years! - and you know what? We have been so very, very lucky to have her! 

We are planning a less conventional musical memorial at 1 pm on Sunday, May 19 at The Eighth Step Underground (Proctors). We're calling it "Garden of Friends" after Sal's love of the outdoors, friends and music. (She was due to cook dinner backstage in a few weeks for Tom Rush, Scottish singer Dougie MacLean and probably Pete Seeger - and boy, was she happy about it.) That's the chance to celebrate the joy she brought us all: telling stories, spouting Sally-isms and singing along or even contributing a song. Forget? Never.

Some pictures of Sally and me:

at the Killington Renaissance Faire where we performed
She drove a long way with some of her family members just to see us.
That was Sally. She always went out of her way for her friends.

decorating Sally's tree at Christmas
She stuck bundles of baby's breath in the limbs and it looked fabulous!

I will have some artwork commemorating these two beautiful people (Sally and my father) in the months and years to come.

Friday, May 3, 2013

my memorial piece for my father

my father
photo © the Winne family

We called my father "Dood" because when I was a little girl I couldn't say "Dad." It stuck. And so my younger brother, Tom, also called him that.

Dood was a deep and profound thinker, always writing notes and keeping articles on spirituality, music, art, community and architecture. Our conversations on subjects could drag on for hours and even days. In speech he was always careful and thoughtful about what he said; in thought he tried to see all sides of an issue before formulating an opinion. Never one to be impulsive, his thought processes could get mired in many, many details and possibilities before they were formulated into speech, thus in order to really know Bob Winne you had to be patient enough to hear his words.

He told me many, many times throughout my life that I was like him in health, mind and spirit. Indeed we could talk with ease and intuitive understanding about all kinds of subjects. Our love of long walks and conversation dominated our relationship. We rarely parted ways in taste or opinion.

My father fought in World War II in the Battle of the Bulge. Shortly afterwards, he got to know some of the German soldiers he had fought against. He said he realized how impersonal war was from that experience, shooting and killing souls who could be saints -- only because their respective governments told them to do it.

Because of his experiences in war, he became a Quaker, heavily influenced by his conversations with Ken Webb who had started Farm and Wilderness Camps. From there he went on to study the writings and teachings of Gandhi and Martin Luther King.

My brother and I were also brought up Quaker, and in the Quaker way, taught by our parents to respect the speech, identities and life experiences of each person equally, to be humble, to be non-ostentatious, to be careful of our speech towards others in terms of how we effected others. He loved deeply and with sensitivity.

Dood also was constantly working on his own integrity, to be pure and full of heart in his deeds and actions towards other people. He always tried to see the best in everyone around him and take into consideration the challenges they faced; indeed he expressed anger very rarely. During our childhood, I had seen him break into anger only a handful of times and then by the time I was 11, he stopped.

I asked him when I was a teenager why he didn't show anger. His response was that anger was mostly unproductive; it is good only insofar that it serves justice, not hatred or intimidation or for motives which aren't moral.

When I was 18 and leaving home, I thought there were more people like Dood. I came to find out that Dood was rare. Throughout my long life, Dood and I had cross words only 4 times, and three of those times it was trivial: turning down loud music for instance. The more I got beat up in the outside world, the more I sought out the heart and advice of my father.

When he got dementia, it was my cue that I was on my own now and that I had to use what he had taught me to the best effect. Our conversations became about simpler things, but I will always be thankful that his dementia didn't progress to the point where he forgot my name or our common goals and interests.

I feel honored that I was the one who got to spend the last minutes of his life with him. He turned and looked at me as he took his last breath. In many shamanistic cultures, if a dying person looks into your eyes as they take their last breath, their soul merges with yours. I sure hope that is the case and I will let you know...

I don't relish my life without him, but I hope I will hear his voice in my head as I go through all of life's challenges. I hope that I will see certain scenes over and over in my head like the one time Jim and I parked in the driveway where Dood was waiting for us and he outstretched his arms to me and we danced in the driveway. Every moment with him was precious, a gem of enrichment in my life. I hope I can go forward with the joy of having known him rather than the grief of having lost him.

I hope all of you will too.

Recently I lost 2 people within one week of each other: my father and our closest family friend, Sally.

Some of the posts that follow will be about them.