When I was seventeen months old, my father died. The loss created a cult of death in my family, a pathological need to hang on to pain, to worship at the altar of sorrow. Luckily, for me, when my father died, I was blessed with the presence of my Aunt Frances, who we called Sissie. She took me under her wing, mentored me, loved me, encouraged and accepted me for many years. She saw me. She gave me permission and a place to BE.
When I was going into the fourth grade, St. Peter’s Elementary School was closed by the filthy rich Catholic church for lack of funds. I was forced to begin attending Liberty Elementary public school, torn from my very sheltered life and education, and thrust into a world for which I was almost entirely unprepared socially and yet, completely beyond as far as curriculum. I didn’t fit in and was disliked by both the children and the teachers who had nothing to offer me and were stuck with me. Luckily, for me, I was blessed with the presence of the librarian, Shirley Lyles, who took me under her wing, mentored me, loved me, encouraged and accepted me for many years. She saw me. She gave me permission and a place to BE.
When I was going into middle age, I suffered the loss of a number of good friends, Sissie, and – consequently – my faith in anything, in a very short period of six months. Luckily, for me, I was blessed with the arrival of a new friend, Sue, who shared her wings with me, reminded me again and again that I had my own wings, loved me, encouraged and accepted me. She saw me. She gave me permission and a place to BE.
Recently, life as I knew it became unsustainable and my world changed in extremely necessary and extraordinarily difficult ways and I suffered a great deal of many different kinds of loss and betrayal and abandonment, coming very close to the kind of death I was trying to avoid by having accepted the change that had to be. Luckily, for me, in addition to the continued and unshakeable devotion of three very close and dear friends, I was blessed with the arrival of an actual, honest to goodness, ANgel on earth, ANdrea (you will note the similarity in letters!) who wrapped me in her gossamer wings – which turned out to have spines of protective steel that a SuperHero would envy; she looked at me in the way that Sissie had and told me – in no uncertain terms and without words, simply with her eyes and heart – that I could and must continue to FLY. She loved me. She encouraged me. She accepted me. She saw me. She gave me permission and a place to BE.
Today is Andrea’s birthday. I wish that I could somehow find a way to explain to her and to you how much the Love and Light and Ways of Seeing she has brought into my life mean to me. But I – who am so good with words – can’t manage to find the ones to do that; and I – who believe in no god at all – must quote Mr. Tennessee Williams to say, that when it comes to Andrea, and how she saved and filled up my life, well, “Sometimes – there’s God – so quickly.”
Happy Birthday, dearest Andrea. I can never thank or repay you for helping me to see me again. The world is a better place for having you here, believing in it, believing in God, believing in the power of Love and Light and Self and Truth, and I am infinitely blessed and grateful for you being in my life. Much love.