A bond neither time, space nor death can break

On May 3rd, 2018 I learned that a close friend of mine passed away unexpectedly. I was asked by her twin brother if I would write and deliver her eulogy. As I thought about what she left me to work with, I couldn’t help but reflect on the synchronicity of events – I had just published a column about living life in sync with what we’d want said about us in passing. There was a huge gap of time between us, yet as I began to write I realized she walked her walk in life – and I was honored to share that and final words of testament of her.

Would your integrity stand the test of time?

Vivian Seaboyer’s Eulogy – the honor is mine

Why are we here?

Not so much in this church today celebrating the life of Vivian Seaboyer.

But here on earth.

What’s it all about?

Vivian and I met during what could be called our formative years. High school. And what a bond we formed. For years we were pretty inseparable and somehow solved all our teenage problems walking to and from Medford High.

Vivian-Seaboyer-collage

Vivian loved music. Weekends were spent listening to Elton John albums, gathering with friends and wearing the grooves off of Vivian’s Motown record collection, and sneaking an occasional drink from the Wolcott Street bar, which we were sure Mr. Seaboyer knew nothing of.

Vivian had a reserved side. But when she opened her heart and home to you, you became family, which was quite an honor because Vivian cherished her family. All of them. She adored her parents, shared a special bond with her twin brother Vinny that only a twin can understand. And having a sister as close in age to her as Carolyn was, the two became soulmates and Carolyn became part of our pack. And I do not mean to exclude Vivian’s older siblings from the equation, it’s just that I didn’t know you as well. But Vivian adored her entire family.

One of my fondest memories was of a road trip Vivian, Carol and I made to the Biddeford house after Vivian and I graduated from high school. We packed Vivian’s Pinto with adult beverages, enough clothes for a week and an agenda consisting of nothing but having a good time. So when we discovered a carload of guys on the highway to Maine, we had no choice but to flag them down, pull off and party. Vivian’s reserved side had become loosely spontaneous.

To this day I have a yellow Old Orchard Beach, Maine sweatshirt that Vivian and I each purchased to commemorate our friendship and adventure. Like our lives, it’s a bit tattered and worn. But every time I see it, I go back in time to a person who brought so much joy to my life. Vivian.

Life intercepted and slowly sent Vivian and I in different directions. Vivian loved the ocean and Maine so I’m not surprised that’s where she settled down. But cellphones and social media were non existent and keeping in touch somehow created a 35 year gap between us. It seems almost contradictory to say Vivian was such a close friend and huge part of my life as I look out into faces I know nothing about.

My recent attempts at finding Vivian on social media brought me to her sister-in-law, Alison, who passed my message on to Vivian.

Vivian and I never did reconnect – on social media. But as I stand here today, I realize we never really disconnected.

So, what are we here for?

Hopefully, it’s to do what Vivian has done, touch others and create a bond so deep that neither time, space nor death can break. And hopefully, we’re as successful at it as Vivian was.

Are you living your write of passage

The dead are living proof that what we do in life matters gravely. And I am grateful for their inspiration each and every time I read one of their stories.

I’m not an obituary reader by any means. I’ve missed plenty a final fanfare because somebody departed without letting me know, and those that did know informed me only with a post-service questioning of my absence.

But the dearly departeds’ stories, their obituaries, their eulogies, I’ll call them their write of passage, make for some seriously thought-provoking reading. Every time I read one of their stories it begs the question: are you living the obituary you’d want to read about yourself?

You are – living your obituary. But is it what you’d want said about you?

Many years ago I came upon a eulogy that filled an entire page of the local paper. I didn’t initially realize I was reading a posthumous passage. But when I was finished every hair stood erect on the back of my neck inviting me to wonder what would be said about me in passing.

I suppose in part that may also depend on whomever was chosen to pen my passage. For their perspective of me is what will emerge from their emotional pen. But I’ve got to provide some foundation for them to begin with. Right?

Something simple, I mused, like, integrity, she stood in it always; man of her word, without question. She loved to talk, but more so, she walked her walk. And last but not least, faith, the one true constant in her life.

Those are some of the things I would surely like to be remembered for, and that full-page eulogy sits there in the back of my mind always reminding me to live the words I would want spoken of me post-departure.

Recently, writers celebrated the anniversary of the death of columnist Ernie Pyle. Locally, there was media coverage of the sudden passing of Yarmouth Police Officer Sean Gannon, NPR radio voice Carl Kasell, former First Lady, Barbara Bush, and a beautifully moving tribute written by columnist Cynthia Stead about a Margery Scully. Each of these individuals surely lived lives that afforded great commentary, obituary and eulogy.

And once again, as if the Powers That Be were running a system check, those passing events had me revisiting whether I am living the eulogy I would like to read about myself.

I like to think that I am, but it doesn’t hurt every now and then to take a moment to take stock. Someday you, too, shall pass. There’s no do over. There’s no defense. There is simply someone else writing your final passage. What have you left them with to create from?

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that a person should deviate from who they are so that a eulogy or obituary can sing praises of them – as was the case in the comedy film “The Last Word”. I merely mean to attempt to provoke your thoughts about how you’re living your life and whether it’s in sync with what you’d want said about you.

Before You Go . . .

Perhaps we should all take a prompt from “The Last Word” and write our write of passage for fun, as an inspirational exercise. Say everything you would want the world to know you stood for in life. Then look back at it and your life and ask yourself: am I living those words? And if not, what can you do to begin to live in what you believe in so that you can leave that behind when you go?

Trash girl and muffin lady

It happens often, around the same time and usually on a Sunday night, reminding me that I didn’t get to say goodbye.

Placing one’s trash curbside is usually an uneventful experience. So why at times does this mundane task have my heart fluttering and memories flashing across my mind?

It’s because of Edna.

We’d been summer neighbors for seven years prior. But when I arrived lock, stock and barrel, we became bosom buddies.

Edna was sporting 90 when I arrived on Cape Cod with all my wears and woes. Limited family, friends far and wide, and a life, I would slowly discover, that would be changed to unrecognizable proportions.

When summer was on things were good. Streets were filled with life, laughter and seasonal traffic. But when summer was gone it was just Edna and me at the dead end of a street and the dead end of our lives. Hers literally, mine figuratively.

So we bonded. Over award shows’ red carpets, belly laughs, barrels and muffins. Edna loved her muffins. They were a staple in her diet and a constant on her counter. Sometimes we’d share one over afternoon tea and girl talk. Other times Edna would share one as a thank you for some simple task I’d performed.

I’m not sure when it happened but eventually I found myself dragging my weekly waste to the curbside, followed by retrieving Edna’s to do the same. Her barrel was light weight, dark blue and unknowingly about to have a lasting effect on my life.

I tried tending to the trash without disturbing Edna but she often appeared at the garage door beckoning me in for a muffin upon completion of my dirty deed. It wasn’t a tit for tat type thing. It was a private entree Edna and I savored.

I was trash girl and she was muffin lady, mutually agreed upon nicknames. It was the lighter side of a failing memory as “trash girl” was Edna’s way of finding me amidst the fog of dementia.

Edna lived alone yet fearless. She loved her independence but appreciated knowing I was around. So I checked her nightly making sure she was tucked in and locked down. And truth be told, she was doing more for me than I for her.

Four years into our foray found my life moving forward and Edna’s into assisted living. We locked eyes, swallowed hard and bravely held back the threat of tears.

Ninety miles apart but joined at the heart. I would visit her whenever I was in her part of the world and, of course, bring muffins. We would sit and reminisce over the good times, a period Edna captioned “that chapter in my life”, the kind you can never reread.

Sometimes I would arrive unannounced, surprisingly knocking Edna off her walker in the hallways of her new home. Sometimes I’d call with a heads up. This was one of those times. I was planning a Thanksgiving visit and dialed that familiar number to let Edna know I was en route with muffins and memories.

“The number you have dialed . . . is no longer in service.”

I collapsed at the harsh sound of reality. I knew Edna was gone. An online search sent a spear through my soul. Edna had been gone a month.

Flashing memories turned into flashing regrets for how busy I’d become and how sporadic were my visits. I locked eyes in the memory of my mind with “that chapter in my life” but I wasn’t bravely holding back tears. Not this time. My tear-soaked face was the only consolation I had for the empty echo in my heart.

So now when I get that curbside funny feeling I know it’s Edna saying hello. And I retreat into the house, enjoy a muffin and take comfort knowing Edna’s spirit is with me in this “chapter of my life”.

The Outcome Still Amazed Me

I’d been so busy preparing for my new writing class that it never dawned on me, I had no idea if anyone would come.

New ventures often bring uncertainty about how and when results will arrive. And I believe that by being prepared and putting out the thought “I’m ready” invites opportunity to use that readiness. But the spiritual revelation that resulted from my focused preparedness surprised even this guru.

Admittedly, I wasn’t consciously working from the spiritual mindset of “prepare and it will arrive.” I was thinking more on a tactile level of responsibility. My therapeutic journal writing course, Journal It! your Write to Release™ was being offered through the local community school’s program. However, I would not know until three days before the first class if anyone had signed up. I had not taught the course before so a lot of advance preparation was required: a manual, journals, class curriculum, class assignments, handouts and homework, because surely three days beforehand wouldn’t allot sufficient time to prepare.

I engaged my brain in planning, my butt in my chair and my pen to paper. With laser focus I outlined what the course would involve then created a student manual, complete with instructions, stories, quotes and anecdotes. I developed a class curriculum, assignments, handouts and homework. I purchased name tags, journals, pens, folders, created word games and writing prompts. I’d proofread the galley copy of the manual, made corrections and placed the order for printing.

Journal It! your Write to Release™ was ready for roll call. The closer it got to class time the more excited I became. My focus and energy were off the charts.

I hydroplaned to the printer’s to pick up my student manuals when the truth threw me back in the driver’s seat. I was fully prepared to teach this course not knowing, until moments before leaving for the printer’s, that six student’s had signed up, a wonderful start for a brand-new course. I sat for a moment and soaked up the reality of what had happened. The laws of spirituality, energy and reciprocity put students before me because I was completely prepared to receive them.

That success reminded me of another venture I’d set out on years ago. I was ready to receive yet results never knocked.

After extensive experience, I had decided to teach Reiki and hung out my teaching shingle. But all it did was bang in the wind up against my house of unfulfilled desires and I couldn’t figure out why. I had trained, done years of free clinics and demonstrations, had an office, a website, business cards, brochures, all sorts of handouts and collateral. But no one was signing up and scheduled sessions were scant.

One day I had a good reflective discussion with myself. Just what was going on, I wanted to know? I was completely prepared to teach Reiki. Why wasn’t it happening? As I ‘discussed’ things with myself I got an answer. My student manual wasn’t quite ready because I wasn’t quite ready. Every fiber of my being knew that that answer was the truth. And it was keeping me from receiving what I was striving for – students.

As I took necessary steps, I could ‘feel’ my physiology changing as if my inner knowing was confirming, you got this. I no sooner finished my manual when out of the blue students had come upon my website and enrolled in class. Yes,  as soon as I was prepared I received.

It’s often advised to envision the end, to prepare for something as if you already have it. But the first time you set out on that type thought process, it may seem a bit off kilter to those with a strategic mindset.

Remember, concentrate on preparedness without worrying about how things will happen and you are sure to witness the laws of spirituality put the object of your desires before you.

I’d been so busy preparing for my new writing class that it never dawned on me, of course students would show up.