Food for thought

TED talks:

Read at my sister Penny Smith‘s cremation 20 April 2020, “Warning” by Jenny Joseph sums up Penny and how she lived her life to the very end!

When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
With a red hat which doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me.
And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves
And satin sandals, and say we’ve no money for butter.
I shall sit down on the pavement when I’m tired
And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells
And run my stick along the public railings
And make up for the sobriety of my youth.
I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
And pick flowers in other people’s gardens
And learn to spit.

You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat
And eat three pounds of sausages at a go
Or only bread and pickle for a week
And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats and things in boxes.

But now we must have clothes that keep us dry
And pay our rent and not swear in the street
And set a good example for the children.
We must have friends to dinner and read the papers.

But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
So people who know me are not too shocked and surprised
When suddenly I am old, and start to wear purple.

Penny’s son Adam read out a poem by Oliver Wright:

All Is Well

Death is nothing at all,
I have only slipped into the next room
I am I and you are you
Whatever we were to each other, that we are still.
Call me by my old familiar name,

Speak to me in the easy way which you always used
Put no difference in your tone,
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow
Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.

Let my name be ever the household word that it always was,
Let it be spoken without effect, without the trace of shadow on it.
Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same as it ever was, there is unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind because I am out of sight?

I am waiting for you, for an interval, somewhere very near,
Just around the corner.
All is well.

A text sent by Maureen Quinn, a few months before her cancer took her, aged 23, in January 1981.  Maureen was one of my students on a course at McGill, the only one whose family I am still in touch with over 40 years later.

Again I am sitting at the edge of the woods, now the color of my world has changed.   Autumn is here and the trees are ablaze with many colors – the burgundy of the dog wood, its branches now tipped with clusters of scarlet drapes; the rich old gold of tulip tree and hickory; the bright clean yellow of sugar maple and birch; the mauve and tarnished bronze of ash; the burning reds and oranges of red maple, sumach, and sassafras, the somber greens, browns and purples of oaks.  I try to understand the message of the trees by giving my thoughts free rein.  I feel great patience and tenacity, humility and acceptance of the inevitable – qualities that well befit proud man.  I think about the purpose of all life and ask myself: What is the purpose of a tree?  What is the purpose of an animal?  What is the purpose of man?  And it occurs to me that perhaps the purpose of all living things is simply living – to play our nature-assigned role in the great drama of life; to participate, be it on ever so modest a scale, in the orderly unfolding of the cosmos.  Unknowingly if a tree: instinctively, if an animal; with full awareness, if man.  To take what we need, but no more.  To know that we exist on borrowed substance.  And, when the time we are given has run out, to return this substance to the great treasury of the earth so that other living things may use it again and, in using it, pass on that mysterious force we call life.  To be of open mind and free of prejudice, feeling, though human, related to the animals and plants, a cog in the machinery of the universe, a humble yet vital part, privileged to wield immense power, yet honor-bound to respect the rights of other living things.  And, above all, to treasure the gift of life.

“Trees” by Andreas Feininger (1968)

Maureen hand-wrote this section of text in 1980. I rediscovered the page 37 years later, with no source and 4 letters illegible. In 2019, Turnitin resolved the mysteries.

Accepting Death – Eckhart  Tolle

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