On Friday, May 22nd, 2009, after our Groove is in the Heart Yoga class
, members of the class of '94 gathered in a clearing by the pond on the other side of the crew house. We were joined by the parents of Laura Swymer-Clancy '94, who brought four daughters to Smith and have lost two of them far too early.
This is what I read:
Four years ago, I attended the wedding of a dear Smith friend in Mystic, CT. Despite some of us not having seen each other in several years, and despite the many different paths our lives have taken, the Smithies at the wedding embraced one another with jubilation, appreciation, and great affection. We were as familiar to one another then as we were on the last day we sat down together for Sunday Brunch in Cushing House more than a decade earlier.
During the outdoor reception at the Mystic Seaport, I stepped away from the dance floor for a moment and I watched my friends dancing as the sun set into the water behind them. The sky was filled with brilliant swaths of color, the last vestiges of day embraced by the first dark arms of night. In that moment between the bright shining day and the deep velvet night, there was a pause for celebration, a great joining together of colors, a hello and a goodbye all in one. The sky, like the bride and the groom, and my glorious friends dancing beneath it, was gaining something and losing something both.
I wanted to be in that moment forever, but since that was impossible, I reached for a pen so I could write down what I saw.
A few days later, I found the note I’d written on a napkin crumpled at the bottom of my purse. And all it said was this: “Describing my love for these women is like trying to draw the sun with nothing but a crayon.”
Even eleven years after moving away from our shared Smith home, words failed to capture the light that dances between us when we come together in any room. Our happiness in one another’s company is almost impossible to describe (particularly if there is music and a meal involved). This, I believe, is the Smith Experience.
We are here today, exactly 15 years after we graduated, to honor that unique connection, the inimitable togetherness that a Smith education affords, and to mark the loss of seven of our classmates:
- Kimberly Tyler, who passed away 2/11/1991.
- Linda Miller, who passed away 10/15/1995.
- Judith Grubbs, who passed away 11/20/2000.
- Carol Boyer, who passed away 4/17/2001.
- Laura Swymer-Clancy, who passed away 10/21/2001.
- Deirdre Flaherty, who passed away 8/12/2004.
- Jennifer DelVecchio Gustafson, who passed away 8/1/2007.
[At this point, I was overcome with emotion. I gestured for the Reverend Alyssa May ('94) to join me, and she was kind enough--and composed enough--to help me invite the group to offer a moment of silence to these women we have lost. During this time, I also offered loving thoughts in memory of Robert Nylen, my beloved teacher, who was a guest lecturer at Smith during the 1990s and who passed away in December 2008 after a long, gutsy battle with cancer, and in memory of the spouses and loved ones of classmates and other Smithies who we have lost.]
After our moment of silence, Lesley Reidy, who was very close with both Laura and Jen, read a poem (Snow Geese
by Mary Oliver) and shared some of her memories. She also described some of the ways in which she still actively feels the sweet presence of her good friends in her days, and the ways in which she shares that love and warmth with her children.
Laura's mother, who brought along photos of her daughters, also read a moving poem. And both of Laura's parents shared their appreciation at being able to experience our remembrance of their wonderful daughter.
Other friends and classmates shared their grief at losing friends and their gratitude for having known them.
We then performed our offering:
Earlier today, I came to this clearing, I said a blessing, and planted seven lilies-of-the-valley, one for each member of our class who has passed away. Lily-of-the-valley is also known as Ladder to Heaven and Our Lady’s Tears. It is said to have magical properties and is used to improve the memory and the mind. When placed in a room, these flowers are supposed to cheer the heart and lift the spirits of anyone present.
It is my hope that these lilies-of-the-valley will grow and thrive in this clearing. So that we can return year after year to this quiet spot and witness their bloom and remember how we were when we were young here and what a special thing we have become a part of.I have filled this watering can with water from Paradise Pond. I invite you now to join me in offering a drink to these lilies we have planted, in recognition of the life that this water gives, and as a symbol of our connection to Smith and t o Smithies, whether they can be here today in body or only in spirit.
As those gathered came up one by one, to offer water to our lilies, I read our benediction:
In this moment between the bright shining day and the deep velvet night, let us pause for celebration, a hello and a goodbye all in one. Even fifteen years after moving away from our shared Smith home, words fail to capture the light that dances between us when we come together. Our happiness in one another’s company is almost impossible to describe (particularly if there is music and a meal involved). This, I suppose, is the Smith Experience.
After the benediction, I thanked everyone for coming. There were hugs and tears and, I think a great deal of joy at our connection--followed up, most appropriately, by music and a meal at our class dinner.
Labels: classmates, impressive Smithies, letters from Naomi, photos, reunion, Smith news