Grief comes in waves. Moments of sadness and pain interwoven with moments of sweetness and even joy and laughter as precious memories surface. One person once said: “Grief is sorting – the things that are gone forever and the things that remain!”
In the last days since I heard of the sudden death of Debbie she and her family were in my mind constantly. I was not super close to her, but we saw one another about every other year, spent time with one another, in spite of the infrequency I felt close to all of them.
Many friends posted on Facebook what she meant to them and what was lost and what a person she was. I felt almost unable to write. How can you “summarize” a life like hers – that is like a huge tapestry of many, many colors.
So I spent time thinking about what remains of her – in her kids.
Sam, Elizabeth, Abigail, Hannah, Tamara:
I have seen you grow up from little children to the Teens and adults you now are. And while each one of you is unique I see some strands of how your mum lives on in you. And would like to share.
When I first met you, you were in your early teens and fairly withdrawn. I do not remember you speaking a word with me for the first three years or so of knowing you. And I almost never managed to get you on a picture!
But then – one time while visiting in Berlin – you gave me your own copy of the Lord of the Rings as a gift. I knew it was really, really special. I did feel like a queen.
Although I was quite different in lifestyle from you and your family I felt deeply accepted. And that is probably one of the biggest gift we can give to each other. And you carry that, too.
For me Debbie also was a very hands on person. She found practical solutions for problems when she saw them and she was just doing it, leading the way. And you carry that, too!
One of your mums gifts was to make people feel special – using little things to express that.
One time when I visited and the house in Prague was crammed full with artists, she made my own “room” on the balcony… with a czech salt candle.
And you did join the “German team” in the GoKart race… and of course we managed to push your dad into the tyres…
I feel that in your heart for baking and making really special food you inherited some of that gift from her – in a very tender and precious way that is just right for you. You are wonderful and will bless many people with this gift. Your mum cared about you a lot. I remember that once when you were in your late teenage years she once invited me for a walk to have a long time to talk – one hour of uninterrupted talking was a lot for her. She was concerned for you – longing for ways how she could best support and strengthen you. She loved you a lot.
On the window sill of my ship there are three pieces of pottery. One sturdy feminine figure with long curly hair that you once made for me. And two pieces of pottery from your mum.
It was one of her first pieces – a little mug with a painting of grapes. And one really fine mug. I think it is one of twelve pieces. The other ones she gave to other members of the tribe like Derek and Amy – building community with her art.
I believe you are more of an artist than you think right now. There is “stuff” in you that is waiting to come out and to be expressed. And I guess what you will create – may it be material pieces of art or spaces to meet – will bring people together and connect them. To me you also are a person that provides strength to others and is a safe haven – like your mum.
One of the things that I loved about your mum was here unique style. And I loved how she encouraged you to develop your own way of dressing and expressing who you are. I think you do that well – expressing to the outside who you are in the inside – with all the diverse parts of your personality.
I really like that about you.
The biggest gift you once gave to me was a painting. When I was full of pain in a hard time in my life you wanted to paint something for me. I then asked you to paint a picture of hope. You asked me “How do I paint hope?” I encouraged you to think of something yourself.
Then you painted a flower in all four seasons: budding, blooming with the sun shining on it in full force, then withering and gone.
In the winter part of your painting there was only white – with two musical notes. And You explained to me “In winter you have to sing!” And that is my hope for you right now.
I do not know you so well, but I remember that your mum told me that when she was pregnant with you and felt God told her that she should call you Tamara, she was surprised, as Tamar had gone through a lot of pain and she did not want you to be named after a woman who suffered so much.
But then she realized that in spite of all the pain – and to some extend even because – she was a woman who wrote history. And that was her hope for you. And it is my hope as well – as you experience loss so early…that in spite of it or maybe even because – you will shape your destiny.
And you are sturdy. One of the first memories of you is of your brother and sisters putting a hat on your face – while you were only two or three months old. You looked cool – and took it with a smile.
I guess you also carry your mums heart to let people feel they are loved. One of my sweetest memories was when you were staying with Maggie in Berlin.
We were playing run and catch and had a lot of fun. When I wanted to leave i could not find my shoes. You had hidden them – because you wanted me to stay. Your 4 year old way to say “I love you!”
No clue how to express how much Debbie shaped your life – every since you put your eyes on this red haired amazing woman who could beat you in the 1980s version of computer games… She seemed like the haven from which you could launch out in the world and at the same time being the closed travel companion.
It will be hard, more than hard to develop and find a way on your own. But there is so much of her in you, so much that shaped both of you together that this will provide some of the strength that you need to find your own way into the future – carrying the many precious seeds that she put in your life and sowing them into the world – together with your own unique tall skinny Kiwi seeds.
Well of course – meeting Debbie shaped me. Stretching my horizon. Introducing me to people i never met before. And helping me to expand acceptance. One time when you were all visiting me I told your parents to have a day off without kids and took you to the children Museum. What I had not expected was that TJ was in the mood of wearing her ladybug outfit and your mum said “ok!”
Well…it was me walking around with her all day through the city of Berlin – her wearing a ladybug costume. Now I laugh about it -but at that time it was quite a big stretch for me. Not caring about what people think.
Or at least not enough about others peoples opinion to forbid a child to express her heart. It taught me a lot. I guess that I would not have been able to create a space like the ship without having met and been shaped by Debbie and all of you. God using you to expand and open my heart and make it a bit more relaxed…
Later that day after a lot of big adventures TJ fell asleep in my arms. And slept for three solid hours in my arms as we took the underground, walked to Potsdamer Platz, had a huge ice-cream (sorry, TJ, you missed something) and sat and talked with Andrew and Debbie as they joined us.
It touched me that Debbies last Facebook entry was about sleeping. And your family ability to sleep just anywhere. I wish you that in this rough time of saying good bye and do all of the sorting of the things that remain and the things that you have to let you – there will be moments of rest, refreshment.
If you want you are always welcome on my boat – for a time of rest, joy and fellowship and to enjoy the pieces of art your mum made – both in clay and within my life.