Well, Dear Readers,
This may not start out as the happiest blog you’ve ever read, but hopefully it will help you to start a new tradition, and thereby add something of substance and joy to your holiday season.
I just found out that a beloved friend, Sylvia Bauersfeld, died last weekend. I loved Sylvia. “Gee,” as she was known to those who love her, was a great woman, a lady who was surrounded by love and joy every minute of her life–precisely because she gave these things abundantly to everyone who ever knew her.
Gee came into my Life at a tragic moment: 14 years ago this past June, my own beloved Mother died. Gee’s Granddaughter, Kristy, was our Hospice Volunteer. Kristy was no ordinary 18-year-old: when Hospice told me that they were sending a teenager to volunteer in our Home, I was disappointed. Within one minute of meeting Kristy, I knew that she was wise, and kind and self-aware far beyond her tender years…
This Wisdom and self-awareness was a direct reflection of her rearing by her wonderful Parents, Zeke and Karen. Her loving, genuine relationship with her maternal Grandparents, Gee and Ming (Charles) reminded me of “the old days,” when extended Families assured that Children always had a loving heart, hand and shoulder to bless and protect themselves.
This family was no run-of-the-mill gang. The Collins family took me in at Thanksgiving and Christmas, 1995, and embraced me as one of their own. The first holidays following the death of a treasured Parent is painful–those of you who’ve lost someone dear know the horrible lost-ness of that experience.
Thanksgiving in the household with this remarkable Family was beyond my expectations. Thanksgiving, well, it rocked.
Christmas was an even bigger surprise: I met Gee and Ming for the first time, and felt that I actually had Parents who cared about me. Instantaneously, I loved the Patriarch and Matriarch of this crew. These two, who’d never met me before Christmas, 1995, gave me presents. Presents tailored to me, specifically. Between their own generosity and Karen’s stealth-shopping, via Kristy’s own undercover work, I received 30 Christmas gifts–from people whom I’d not known before Mom died. Thirty gifts, including black jeans and sweaters in my size: clearly, Kristy’s time in our Home while Mom was sick was a time of loving snooping, as she figured out my sizes, colors and needs.
Even my cat, Kirwan, benefited by a gift of 30 cans of good cat food in a beautiful basket with a big ribbon.
This Family–this thoughtful, creative community of Love–cared enough about a stranger to not only invite me into their beautiful Home for those first, painful holidays without my Mother. Gee and Ming became my substitute Parents, as they hugged, gifted and welcomed me into their little Kingdom of Love.
I will never forget them, nor thanking God for their presence–and presents–at a time when my soul was so tender, so wounded, so bereft. I ached, and the Bauersfeld-Collins applied the salve that cannot be faked. They genuinely loved me and accepted me in all my woundedness.
(Regretfully, I don’t have a digital photo of Sylvia to put on this blog. So I posted a photo of Kirwan, who died in 2006. He benefited from the lovingkindness of this remarkable Family unit–and now he can thank Sylvia in person, as I’m sure they’ve met by this time.)
But what could be more interesting than the fact that any human has the ability to give and love and accept, unconditionally, asking nothing in return? The words of Sylvia’s kindness, alone, should tell her story. She was married to her beloved for just-short of 65 years. They met in an elevator at GE when she was a secretary and he, an engineer. They met, they married, they reared a Family of noble, good people.
No one on Earth has ever done anything more worthy than that.
That, alone, is story enough. If every person reading this blog has one such person as Sylvia Bauersfeld in their lives–you are all blessed, enough. It need not be your actual Parent, but a dear Friend who’s touched your Life, if only for a single moment in Time.
So this is a tribute to Sylvia, to Charles and their daughter, Karen and her remarkable Family.
So this is a call to create a new Tradition for the holidays. To remember those we love–for Love never dies, there’s no past-tense. And to include them in the holidays. Famous or known only to you–they all matter.
Everyone in my Tribe has lost someone they love with all their souls. Karen’s dear Mother, Estelle, soared Heavenward four years ago, as did Pat’s best Friend and Mother, Ruth. Marybeth’s Father, Jim, was greeted by Saint Peter this year; Ellen’s Dad, Bob, scored a hole-in-one as a celestial duffer in 2008. Shelly’s best Friend, her Gram, is sorely missed. My dear horse racing comrade, Claire, claimed her seat in God’s Clubhouse just this summer, leaving Kathie, Mary, Beth and U.T. to embrace each other during these holidays. And Pam’s delightful Father, Big John who loved so well–was escorted Home entirely too early, this Spring.
Each of these dear friends are missing a piece of their hearts as Thanksgiving and the holiday season approacheth.
It hurts like mad to be in a time of the year when we’re expected to be joyful, upbeat and colorful. Morons on every corner demand that we “SMILE!”–and I don’t know about you, but I want to beat those who would force me to feel something, or at least to express something, that I do not possess.
So let’s not pretend that Thanksgiving is joyful for everyone. Let’s acknowledge that many people in our circles are hurting at the holidays–and that we, ourselves, may ache as Thursday draws near and brings with it 30+ days of expectations that cannot be met.
So I propose…let’s make an effort to turn that boat around. It’s difficult to steer a large ship, to make it do a 180 and head in another direction. It’s a slow process, for the sheer weight of the thing makes it a slow journey. We may not feel bliss at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Eid, Diwali, Hanukkah, Solstice, Kwanzaa. But we can turn around the ship and make the season even more significant than any amount of candy canes or turkey dinners can assure.
We can do this by creating new traditions, ones which will honour those who’ve moved from this very-confining earthly plane. Whether that loved one is a Horse who accepted us for who we are, or a Parent, Child or Grandparent whose influence will eternally be reflected in our own humanity–we can sculpt a new tradition that acknowledges that we’re hurting, while seeking permission from that loved one to move on, eternally knitted to the one we love. Your missing loved one may be a cat, a dog, a parakeet–if a breathing being has blessed you, I invite you to honor them thus.
The simplest way might be to set a place at this Thanksgiving table for the one we love. Most spiritual traditions have a ritual akin to the Passover idea of welcoming the Prophet Elijah to dinner. Elijah isn’t an add-on, he’s the special, invited guest: chair, glass of wine, complete place setting await his coming. At the beginning of the ceremony, the head of the house goes to the door and opens it, welcoming Elijah to the table and the ritual.
If the place-setting idea isn’t comfortable for you, all religious traditions offer ceremonies that can be incorporated into your Life Story, and used to heal and encourage.
It’s a simple thing to do, to set a place and open the door for a Horse or Human we miss. It recognizes that they’re not an add-on–they were never an “extra,” they’ve always held a place of high esteem in your Life. It might hurt like crazy the first time–and make others think that you are actually insane.
But it’s the ritual, itself, which is healing. It’s that moment of acknowledgement that this being–four-legged or two-legged–matters. That your Life is better, and richer, and more beautiful because that being passed through and loved you like heck while they were here.
I will hold open the door for Sylvia Bauersfeld, a woman who welcomed me into her intimate Christmas celebration with her Family and melted my heart which had hardened like layers of ice that first December of my loss. A woman who stood in for my own Mother on a day when my Mother was spiritually present, but physically gone.
Yes, I’ll raise a glass to Sylvia, the friend who saved my psyche 14 years ago. I will name Estelle, Bob, Jim, Ruth, Big John, Gram, Kirwan the MagnifiCat and my horse-racing Sister, my treasured Claire. I will name my own Mother, Mary, the soft spaceship via which I landed on this planet. My Grandma, Ethel, who died 30 years ago Monday the 16th. And Uncle Mi, my Father Figure. I will celebrate those who’ve loved me, or extended a kindness to me–whom I will always love with a grateful spirit.
This Life is a journey. A rough road, at many turns. But this Life isn’t all there is. Our horse friends confirm this every time they allow us to peer into their multilayered eyes, the Pathway to Eternity. We don’t need to act like we’re joyous during the holidays, but we can, indeed, begin to heal by recognizing the contributions and lives of those who’ve helped build us into the people we’ve become.
Start a new tradition, one that includes those who are flying amongst the stars on the back of Pegasus. And if you would be so kind–please drop me a line, to let me know what ritual of transition you’ve created. Your new way of celebrating–genuinely celebrating–Thanksgiving and your spiritual holidays may help someone who, in 2010, will need the Wisdom that you can share today.
As always, May the Horse be with you.