Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Fifty Seven Lessons of Love From Dianna

What follows is the the remarks I prepared for Dianna's Memorial on August 29th at Fergusons Fragrant Nursery along with my list of 57. The weather, the setting the music, and the outpouring of love and support from those near and far was amazing.

( the formatting, like much else in my life, is still a work in progress..)

57 Lessons of Love from Dianna – A Way to Move Forward

Five years ago on the last Sunday of August many of us gathered at Three Square Grill to surprise Dianna on her 52nd birthday with what was called “Playing with a Full Deck...” I had identified 52 people or groups who had influenced Dianna and with Merry’s help, we put people’s pictures on a deck of cards and invited them all to join us to honor their influence on Dianna.
So we stand here today on the eve of Dianna’s 57th birthday asking ourselves, where do we go from here? I have few answers but I know the only way to truly honor Dianna is to figure out how to move forward on our life’s journey. The light of an individual strikes the prism in the heart of another and reacts, attracts, and diffracts into a unique rainbow of memories and experiences What follows is my view of those experiences and memories and a look at the guideposts and directions Dianna left us to help as we head down our unique life path.
I’m calling this 57 Lessons of Love from Dianna – A Way to Move Forward, but don’t worry, I’ll only pick a handful as examples or we’ll be here until Dianna’s birthday.

#2  Family & Friends
This category is blurred by the fact by once the fact you became a friend of Dianna, you became like family. She honored the memory of those that had come before her and loved to celebrate the joys and provide comfort and support during times of challenge for those who shared time with her here. Dianna believed in the “Epoxy of Friendship”. It was a two part bond - once you were a friend of Dianna’s, you were stuck with her and she would stick by you.

#11 Community
Dianna was always actively involved in any community in which she was a member but no better example exists in how she embraced Hillsdale. When we got married in 1997 she started exploring the landscape of Hillsdale through the schools, neighborhood friendships and the Hillsdale business community, but she really hit her stride when the Farmers Market started and she moved her office to Hillsdale. We often joked Dianna was the Andy Taylor of the Mayberry-like Hillsdale as it was rare not to run into Dianna somewhere in Hillsdale during the week. She was always looking for the common unity in the issues Hillsdale faced and thus had almost another full time job just attending meetings and engaging in action to make things happen. She was another one of those community activists you hear about.
#18 Spiritual Practice
Most of you know Dianna and I met in high school in Medford and one of our favorite memories was our time in an English class taught by Edna Stewart, a Transcendentalist, who taught about Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman, and many others. At 17 we didn’t quite get the lessons from a bunch of old dead guys but 20 years later when we re-met, the lessons were starting to sink in about “divinity within”. Much of what shaped Dianna’s approach to life was based on the spiritual beliefs and practice we got exposed to as members of Mary Morrissey’s church and the amazing lessons that came from the relationships developed during the last dozen years. Dianna viewed everyone as a “spiritual being having a human experience” so she knew the intrinsic good of each person was waiting to be recognized even if they didn’t yet see it. She believed we were all co-creators with the Divine and it literally was our “God-given” purpose to use our unique gifts to make a positive difference in the world. One of the best ways to do this was to associate with like-minded & like hearted people–sounds like another definition of community…

#22 &23 Peace making & Peace Plaza
One of our earliest activities at the Farmers Market was a Peace Walk roundtrip from Hillsdale to Multnomah Village at the end of each market in an effort to remind people of alternatives to war and fighting. Dianna always felt it was better to be for something than against anything so you’d often see her at the corner of Sunset & Capitol holding her Peace Flag during the Friday night Peace Vigil. It’s one of the reasons that we have a project to raise funds to build a bike plaza and sitting area in the alcove between Food Front & Baker & Spice, two businesses Dianna loved to support. She always felt that Peace should be at the center of a community so our catch phrase is “Pick up a piece of fruit from Food Front or the Farmers Market, a piece of Pie from Baker and Spice, sit a piece on Dianna’s bench and ponder peace in the heart of Hillsdale”. The slogan may not fit on a park bench, but it feels right… Peace begins within and spreads through family, friends, neighborhoods, cities states and countries. Promote peace in your own way starting today.

#33 Celebrations
Dianna was the Queen of celebrations or at least a high ranking member of revelry royalty. I’m sure everyone in this audience was pleasantly surprised at one time or another with a card, a phone call, an e-mail, or a kind word acknowledging a significant event in their life. Dianna’s calendar was filled with notes about birthdays, anniversaries, marriages, births or other events. She was on a first name basis at Babies R Us as she was always picking up gift cards for the next wave of babies arriving from her NACS ER Docs. Her bidding frenzies at the Neighborhood House Auction were legendary and always led to great fun. This year’s Paella dinner will occur in just 2 weeks but we’ll definitely miss Dianna’s spark.

#40 Food
Dianna was not a solitary eater. She loved good food but only when it was shared with others. She was a devotee of Julia Child and approached the enjoyment of a meal with similar passion. She appreciated local food and was proud of her association with the Hillsdale Farmers Market. She could potluck with the best of them and the pomp and circumstance of our annual Thanksgiving gatherings became legendary 3 or 4 day moveable feasts. Good food, fun and conversation were the 3 squares Dianna needed for a fulfilling day.

#42 Giving and Receiving
Dianna had many causes she passionately supported including Neighborhood House and the Hillsdale Farmers Market but she also supported a number of environmental and social justice causes including those that dealt with hunger, disaster relief, and wildlife protection. This is a cautionary tale as few people could be as giving with time, talent or treasure as Dianna, but she was resistant to receiving or asking for help. Dianna was always a hugger but she forgot that to be truly embraced, you need to let the other person hug back. Doing for others is a noble pursuit, but if you don’t allow yourself to be replenished, your well will run dry. I hope we all will be actively charitable, supportive and giving as much as possible, but those times when we could use help, let’s not be hesitant to ask. Asking for help is no more a sign of weakness than asking for water when you’re thirsty or a bit of food when you’re hungry. Don’t deflect compliments or sincere offers of assistance – ebb and flow needs to go both ways for circulation to work effectively. It’s the best prescription for all of us to remain happy and healthy in the midst of life’s up and downs.

#50 Art
Dianna never considered herself to be artistic but she loved to honor and promote the creative gifts in others. For those who have visited our house, you’ve seen the amazing artwork of Dianna’s dear friend Jim Weaver which she’s collected for over 30 years. She eagerly supported local theater, dance, and music and was a proud advocate for creative abilities in writing, music, photography and art from Merry, Evan, Sean, Brenda, Bryan, Merlin, Dave, Brad, and many others. She was a member of the Art Museum, the Oregon History Museum the Portland Ballet, Portland Center Stage, Classical KBPS and OPB. The message her is if you can’t do support others who can and then everyone can enjoy it.

# 56 Sunrises
The penultimate item on the list is Sunrises. (…Penultimate is a word that should be used more often – try to make it the next to the last thing you say each night…) One of the benefits of moving the NACS office to Hillsdale was Dianna would walk to work and many mornings she would start her day with a walk to the top of the West Hills for a chance to welcome the sunrise. Dianna was a morning person and she loved getting early start on realizing the potential of each day. The ritual during our annual trips to Hawaii was to be out at our viewing spot to greet the new day and maybe get a bonus of watching some cavorting whales. On our last trip we had a perfect eastward facing vantage point and from where we slept we could open one eye and check the view before we jumped up and out the door. Dianna knew metaphorically she was given a fresh palette each day and the rising sun cast light on that blank canvas.

#57 Sunsets.
Not long after Dianna and Merry moved over to Sunset Drive, we were sitting at the dining table on a late fall evening. At that time of day and year the sunset would be visible and Dianna was once again marveling at its beauty. Evan who was about 10 at the time said... “It’s called Sunset Drive for a reason, get used to it...” Dianna never really ever got used to it in terms of taking it for granted. She viewed each sunset as a reason to be grateful for the blessings of the day no matter what type of package they arrived in. Another tradition of our Hawaii trips was to get to a vantage point at sunset and watch the sun drop in to the ocean and then appreciate the ever changing colors in the aftermath of dusk.
As we gather here tonight we acknowledge and appreciate, but will never get used to the early sunset of Dianna’s life here with us. Even as the clouds obscure tonight’s sunset, we can’t let the emotional clouds that have developed over the last seven weeks hid what is real, true, and everlasting. We look forward to tomorrow’s sunrise as a chance to continue to use some of Dianna’s lessons to be more of who were intended to be.

In closing, stay connected with each other and if you want to honor Dianna’s memory, remain grateful, remain hopeful and remain helpful.
The world is a better place due to Dianna’s presence and each of us can play a part in continuing to make a difference. Thank you Dianna and thanks to all of you…


1 Love The chemist who can extract from his heart’s elements compassion, respect, longing, patience, regret, surprise, and forgiveness and compound them into one can create the atom which is called Love. The more you give away the more you have to give…

2 FAMILY Those people that are related to you

3 FRIENDS Those people that you relate to

4 Health “He who has health has hope… and he who has hope has everything”

5 Books & Reading “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it
down and commence living on its hint. What I begin by reading, I must finish by acting”

6 Empathy “Two parts of Empathy – Skill (tip of the iceberg) and Attitude (mass of the iceberg)”

7 Integrity Integrity is doing the right thing, even if no one is watching

8 Gratitude Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace today, & creates a vision for tomorrow

9 Kindness “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted”

10 Compassion “Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not find peace”

11 COMMUNITY “A community is like a ship-everyone ought to be prepared to take the helm”

12 Helpfulness “It’s not so much our friends’ help that helps us, as the confidence they will help us”

13 Sustainability Treat the Earth well it was not given to you by your parents but loaned by your children

14 Recycling Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without…

15 Travel “One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things”

16 Ocean “The ocean, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

17 Nature Appreciation Each season has its joys to treasure, to lift one’s spirits and bring us pleasure

18 SPIRITUAL PRACTICE “As a man thinketh so is he and as a man chooseth so is he and so is his nature.
I support you, you support me. I am in this world to offer you peace; you are in this world to bring me joy.

19 Meditation Prayer is when you talk to God; Meditation is when you listen to God

20 Perseverance “The difference between perseverance and obstinacy is that one often comes from a
Strong will and the other from a strong won’t”

21 Mystery of Life By confronting us with irreducible mysteries that stretch our daily vision to include
Infinity, nature opens an inviting and guiding path toward a spiritual life.

22 PEACE MAKING One little person, giving all of her time to peace, makes news. Many people, giving
Some of their time, can make history. A world at Peace is worth not fighting for

23 PEACE PLAZA Grab a piece of fruit, Get a piece of pie, sit a piece, and ponder peace awhile…

24 Lighthouses We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we don’t need to tell anybody it does.
Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining, they just shine.

25 Happiness The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right t pursue happiness.
You have to catch it yourself. If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.

26 Persistence The most essential factor is persistence-the determination never to allow your energy or
Enthusiasm be dampened by the discouragement that must inevitably come.

27 Education An investment in knowledge also pays the best interest.

28 Potlucks A potluck meal is the whole experience of getting together and sharing with friends. It
Is much more than food…

29 Humor A sense of humor is the pole that adds balance to our steps as we walk the tightrope of

30 Friendliness A good motto is…” Use friendliness but do not use your friends...”

31 Patience Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear
and obstacles vanish.

32 Forgiveness “To err is human to forgive is divine”

33 CELEBRATIONS “Celebrate the happiness that friends are always giving, make every day a holiday, and
celebrate just living!”

34 Good Listening Listening is a magnetic and strange thing, a creative force. When we really listen to
people there is an alternating current, and this recharges us so that we never get tired of each other. We are constantly being re-created.

35 Running The miracle isn’t that I finished. The miracle is that I had the courage to start,

36 Hiking Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into as
sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.

37 Walking If you are seeking creative ideas go out walking. Angels whisper to a man when he
goes. In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.
for a walk

38 Wine In water, one sees one’s own face; in wine, one beholds the heart of another.

39 Chocolate “A therapist told me the way to achieve inner peace is to finish what you start. So far
I’ve finished 2 bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already…”

40 FOOD On of the nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever where
doing, and devote our attention to eating. Food for thought is no substitute for the real thing.

41 Plants & Flowers Give me odorous at sunrise a garden of beautiful flowers where I can walk undisturbed.
To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat.

42 GIVING & RECEIVING You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself
that you truly give. “A hug is a great gift. One size fits all and it’s easy to exchange.”

43 Accountability What is not started today, is never finished tomorrow

44 Service “Service to others is the rent we pay for your room here on earth.”

45 Positive Thinking Keep your thoughts positive, because your thoughts become your words. Keep your
words positive because your words become your behaviors. Keep your behaviors positive because your behaviors become your habits. Keep your habits positive because your habits become your values. Keep your values positive because your values become your destiny.

46 Affirmations Practice rather than preach. Make of your life an affirmation, defined by your ideals, not
the negation of others. Dare to your level of capability, then go beyond to a higher level.

47 Dreams A dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he
sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

48 Pets (Cats) No time spent with a cat on your lap can ever be considered totally wasted…

49 Music “After silence, the thing that comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music”

50 ART We have recreation for our Body – Art is recreation for the Soul.

51 Beauty Life is full of beauty – notice it. Notice the bumble bee, the small child, and the smiling
Faces. Smell the rain, and feel the wind. Live your life to the fullest potential and fight for your dreams

52 Card Playing Life is like a game of cards. The hand you’re dealt is determinism, the way you play is
free will.

53 Joy “There is no beautifier of complexion, or form, or behavior, like the wish to scatter joy
And not pain around us.”

54 Laughter “Laughter is the closest distance between two people…”

55 The Heavens I am part of the sea and stars, and the winds of the North & South. Of mountains and
Moon and Mars, and the Ages sent me forth…

56 SUNRISES With each new sunrise, we start anew…

57 SUNSETS I didn’t ask for it to be over, but then again, I never asked for it to begin. For that’s the
way it is with life, as some of the most beautiful days come completely by chance. But even the most beautiful days eventually have their sunsets. Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Search Begins...

On July 12th, 2010, my wife Dianna became overwhelmed by the insatiable appetite of depression and took her life. At that moment, my perception of the "normal" world I had inhabited over 57 years ended and now lays in pieces at my feet. What will follow will be my reflections on my efforts to pick up those pieces and see where they fit in my "New Normal". I have absolutely no idea where this journey will lead, but I know I must keep moving. I'll contine to blog at my http://www.mtponderings.blogspot.com/ site with everyday ruminations, but I'd like to keep this space for seeing how the new metaphorical roadmap unfolds ( or folds...).

I just heard an interview with Norton Juster who wrote "The Phantom Tollboth" 50 years ago, a book I still enjoyed as an adult about a kid who embarks on an adventure through a fanatasy land in an effort to rescue ( the princesses) Rhyme & Reason, discovering the power of words and numbers in the process. For my own purposes, I stand ready at the entrance to my tollboth...

When faced with a sudden significant unexpected experience, the mind has a wonderful coping mechanism that allows us to survive the shock and begin the process of understanding and accepting the event. Grief, in particular, elicts a sence of numbness and disbelief that helps protect the mental health of the affected individual during this process. In the first few days after Dianna's passing, I virtually slept-walked through the obligations but I knew there was no way to be emotionally present to acknowledge Dianna's impact on family and friends in the matter of a few days. She never felt that she was just her body, and as the ultimate recycler, she had always expressed her wishes for a simple cremation. Because of those wishes, I knew I would delay a memorial until later and her birthay at the end of August, seven weeks away, seemed appropriate. In the posts to follow, I'll discuss the events of the last eight weeks and see where all this leads. Thanks for your interest and support...