Thursday, November 26, 2015

my Anna

My beautiful friend Anna died a week ago.

She was in pain; she went to hospital; she was diagnosed with aggressive, advanced cancer; she weakened rapidly; and then she passed away.

All in the space of two weeks.


It is a lot to take in.

It is like a hole opening out from under you. It is like the stars being blanked out.

It feels a lot like the end of the world.


But her story is a lot bigger and more beautiful than this.

The story of Anna is about all the ways she lived and loved and inspired and created and healed and connected and transformed.

It is about her last days…and all the days before.

It is about how she is here now, living through us, and in spirit, everywhere.


This is the eulogy I wrote for my darling Anna. I spoke it at her funeral service yesterday.

I called it out, to all the wonderful people who loved her so very much, and to the world she loved back.


Eulogy for Anna

Hello everybody.

Hello [Anna's children, Anna's husband]. Hello dear friends. Hello to Anna's Lay Carmelite family and all those she worked with at [the Hospital]. Hello to those who cannot be here. Hello [Anna’s mum], and all of Anna’s loved ones in Czech and India. Hello rolling hills of Jamberoo, which [Anna's daughter] tells me look just like Anna’s village in Czech, where she grew up. Hello sky, hello trees that Anna walked among, hello beautiful sea. Hello artists and thinkers. Healers, makers, and companions. Hello family.

I have come to tell you a story about Anna. It is my story, but it is also yours, because we have loved Anna together, and we still do. Because we have been lucky enough to share someone extraordinary.

I want to start by saying, that the last week I spent with Anna, was a lot like the hundreds of moments I spent with her over the past ten years.

In those hospital rooms, we spoke as we always had, in words of wonder and love, and delight.

We spoke about how beautiful the world is. She had just told me she was leaving, but in the same breaths she spoke about the sea. And of art and her family, and how fulfilled she felt by the things she had done in her life. We talked about writing, colour, and amazing sunsets. We shared our thoughts, our new ideas and we laughed.

At some point, as we were smiling at each other, feeling so connected and so thankful, I said to her, “It’s beautiful,” and then I paused and said, “I know that’s a strange thing to say right now.” 

But she nodded, and said emphatically, “But it is. It is beautiful.”

That whole last week, all I could feel was Anna’s serenity. Her acceptance, her love, her peace. It radiated from her. Her serenity and her depth of spirit held me every second I was with her, and not just during that last week, but as it always had.

Anna has always been the person who saw further and understood the world more deeply than anyone I have ever met. Anna saw possibility, she made room for hope, she saw endings as beginnings. She was true and real, and she looked for beauty everywhere.

I hope you can feel that and see that with me now.

Anna meant the world to me, and to my children. She was their mentor and our dear, dear friend. We made and celebrated art with Anna almost every week for ten wonderful years. She was our ‘understander’, our supporter, our inspiration. 

She was my kindred spirit, my corner stone. Anna was light, to me.

She was all those changing forms of light, that you can’t always capture in a photograph. You can try; you can get close, but the best way to understand light like hers, is to stand quietly and breath it in.

Anna was that trembling, silvery light that comes off the sea in the morning. The rich, honey light that pours into windows in the afternoon. The floating light of twilight, the kind that feels like you’re suspended when you walk in it. She was the gentle light that wakes flowers. She was the brave torch light that travels into caves, despite the shadows. She was the dancing, electric light that comes with  storms, bright and filled with energy, and she was the searching light that stands tall on headlands, reaching and exploring, illuminating.

She was my laughing light, my true light. She was all the colours that light brings.

One of my favourite memories of Anna was the morning she came to our house with an art therapy idea she had. We were to be her test subjects, she said, to see if her idea would work. So we filled these little squirt bottles with watery paint, which we then squirted onto damp paper, turning the pages into these kaleidescopic patterns of swirls and cosmic colours. We did page after page, and what I most remember of that day was our laughter, and the running outside with our wet pages to lay them on the lawn.

The sun was so rich that day, and Anna kept opening and shutting the sliding door, keeping an eye out for our indoor cats, as we leaped out and in, out and in, laying the pages on the singing grass.  The day felt filled with dancing. I can still see it, in technicolour. Anna’s smile was so wide you could have fallen into it and been happy forever.

And Anna was peace.

She was my safe space. She was that pocket of time every week, for years, that I could rest in, where I knew I would be heard and loved and valued.

She was the same for my children.  And she was a safe space for all the people she taught and shared her creative energy with, all the lucky, lucky people who were guided by her. We all were safe in her hands.

This is what my son wrote about Anna, and shared with me last night: 

“Anna brought with her peace, safety and joy, and an infectious excitement for art and creativity. She taught me the technical skills to draw and paint, and gave me the courage and inspiration to use my imagination.”

Yes. YES.

I remember early on, when my children were very small, she told them, “There are no wrong lines.”  

And because there were no wrong lines, they could go anywhere.

With Anna, you could do anything.  You could be truthful, strange, and fearless. You could experiment, you could imagine beyond, and without borders. You could go way past your comfort zone because here, walking or flying beside you, was Anna. Your own personal guiding presence, your calm fellow traveller. Always offering encouragement, suggestions, ideas. Telling you that you mattered, that your ideas were bright, good things. And that your journey was your very own.

Can you imagine the feeling this brings? The gift this is. I know you can, because I know she gave that to you. In her friendships, in her work, in her parenting, and in her marriage. She gave us all space to breathe. She gave us moments of inspiration. She delighted and energised us. She held us, and gave us room to beShe gave us the tools to see and love ourselves, and to heal.

And, very importantly, she gave — to herself, and to us — her art.  She shared her truest stories. She told, through her art, of her exploration of the world. She documented, more and more deeply, her contemplations and discoveries, her loves, her memories, her emotions, her celebrations. She painted her special connection with the world, physical, intellectual, and spiritual.

Here, in Anna’s art, lived, and lives, spirit and shadow, light and earth travelling side by side. Everything sacred. In her life-long work, Anna poured out the deepest parts of who she was. She lay down, on page after page, her soul self.

Anna’s spirit, her soul self, was and is, immeasurable. It reaches out far beyond anything the eye, or even dreams, can see. Her spirit is a singing note, resonating through every one of us. How extraordinary. How beautiful.

One of the last things Anna wrote to me, is something I would love for you to carry out with you today.

I’d love for you to keep it in your pocket, sew it into the inside of your shirt, write it on your skin, weave it into your hair like ribbons. Wear it. Hold it close.

Anna wrote:  

"Take care, and let your heart be not troubled, but filled with colours."

So today, I say her words to all of us who are here, walking this new path together, we who love her so very much:

Remember to take care. Let your heart be not troubled. But let it be filled with colours.



'happy brain'

3 comments:

  1. Hi.
    Thank you for the wonderful Eulogy for my sister Anna.
    Brother Dan with family
    Dublin Ireland

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  2. I happen to arrive at your blog by clicking on the next blog on the blogger navigation bar, but stayed here enough to read half of your Eulogy to your friend Anna. It has been a privilege to go through it. I understand how you felt then, and also tells how you value these moments in life, the moments that we spend with people, and it hurts when these moments pass away so cruelly.

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  3. Tobe moral phase, phase fault gauge, Weiyou also; common priorities can, and death may care, but also a close friend; Gan words such as beginning the game by levy, Nick friends also; and then throw into confusion phase, the relative risk of tilting, the thief also friends.
    _________________________
    I hope you like it: DM Gold
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I love hearing from you! Thank you for your heartfelt, thoughtful responses—they lift me, and give me light.