Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Remembering Samantha Szemeredi

"What lies before us is the opportunity and imperative for a thorough cultural transformation, what ecophilosopher Joanna Macy calls the Great Turning, the transition from an egocentric "Industrial Growth Society" to a soulcentric "Life-sustaining Society," or what economist David Korten in The Great Turning calls the transition 'from Empire to Earth Community.' The cultural historian Thomas Berry refers to this vital endeavor as the Great Work of our time. IT is every person's responsibility and privilege to contribute to this metamorphosis." — Bill Plotkin

As I was going to a memorial for someone who had died way too young, I took care to pad the time around the few sober hours I was about to spend at Santa Cruz Memorial Park. Tuesday, one of the hottest on record in the Bay Area, was great for an early morning drive down the coast to check in with the ocean, hawks and berry farms. When I got to town, I popped into the venerable Bookshop Santa Cruz. One of the last of the independents, after several decades, it still seems to have some of the best stocked shelves and well presented titles (call me biased and it's easy to trust staff picks in a University town with a sensibility like Santa Cruz). Newly on the must-read list, Bill Plotkin's "Nature and the Human Soul: Cultivating Wholeness and Community in a Fragmented World."

Fortified by some of his words, I made it to the cemetery to find a couple hundred of Sam's sad and stunned pals, family members and coworkers from all facets of her life packing the church. Another of Samantha's UC Santa Cruz friends, Rhonda, aptly opined during her speech that "Sam had the unique ability to see things exactly as they were and still remain optimistic." Yup, some of us had to go to all points of the globe to get clue about things Sam knew all along about living, loving well and being in the moment. She is going to be very, very missed by her friends, many of who were also angry and scared by Sam's cancer and medical experience. More than one of her diagnostic tests had been stalled in the course of her illness. Some of us were simply scared at the odds that were in our face.
"Five of my friends have had cancer in the last year," another of her friends told me as we stood amid the gravestones for the commitment part of the service, sweltering in the heat. Spurred by the bout of sobering reports, he was planning to move to Oregon, to 'simplify.'

One thing about spending time with the dead is it reminds you you're still alive. Later in the day, I spent some time picking lemons and lavender with Sally and two-year old, Leo, who like Sam, knows how to laugh amid the chaos.

1 comment:

Sally said...

Touching and well put. Thank you for sharing this.