You can see Susan Briski’s slide show of our memorial celebration of Grace’s life on youtube Remembering our Lady Grace.
So many old pleasures!
Have we lost the capacity or the whim
to be a little wild and sensuous
to wander out along unknown roads
without a map?
Are we really that old?
Too old to leave
the electronic tentacles of our
cable cellphone internet broadband walkman
If we broke out of our habitual lives
created a new life together
in this seventy-seventh year of our lives
what would we lose?
What would we risk?
Our fortune is certainly safe
invested in memories and mementos
in images and feelings
scattered across our fifty five years together
Today we are one day closer to death.
Isn’t that occasion
for joyful improvisation
opening our eyes
full of one another
surrendering the sad old projection of
Maybe I’m doing it wrong.
Come into the garden
let the morning air chill our skins
then warm ourselves
flesh upon flesh
in the cave of our bed.
January 5, 2010
Grace was a remarkable mother, a weaver, a story-teller, a social worker at a halfway house for schizophrenic youth for a few years, administrative secretary for a nurse practitioner program at UCSF, and even a school bus driver for developmentally disabled kids. Across our years she was a hardworking aide, editor, and sounding board for my work in diverse fields.
In stereo poem for My Lady I there’s a description of what could be Grace’s foremost gift to the world:
My Lady’s Hexagram
is K’un, The Receptive.
She would flourish
in a forest or a prison,
in a castle or a desert.
She receives life
wherever she is.
This is how others have described this unconditional love:
Sweet Gracie, I have many happy memories of every time I’ve been with you, and each one is accompanied with a sense of peacefulness, joy of life and pursuit of the real beauty in each moment. Though long ago, I vividly remember the time mom and I visited you in Berkeley. It had been stormy for days, and during our visit, the sun finally came out. You put on the Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun”, and gave us the gift of happiness in your sweet laugh and pure joy of the moment. You shared banana bread right from the oven and the aroma was as sweet as it gets in your sunbathed home. With you dear, it’s never just a moment, it’s always better than that. Thank you for these gifts you have given to me, I cherish them forever. My heart is with you. -Kerri Fry
For many years I’ve had this small “family” of personalities that live in my mind. From time to time I’d hit some obstacle in the path, and then figure out how to get around it, and then I’d see a face. You are one of this small club of folks. Your smile is epic, and on more than a few occasions it has appeared like a Cheshire cat. There’s a kind of “we’ll see” behind it all. And all those visions you’ve heard me rattle on about? It looks like it’s all going to happen, largely because I didn’t give up, because my friends didn’t give up. Much love to you.
Auntie Grace – Through the many years that we’ve been apart and the years that we’ve spent together, you’ve always left an impression on me. Your beautiful spirit, kindness and lovingness is thorough. You’re an incredible person and an admirable influence. Your spirit, personality and beauty is one of a kind. You’re an inspiration to me and an inspiration to many.
My Lady saw
that open space to the west
under the storm clouds
still hanging over us.
Come, she said,
it’ll be a special sunset.
She drove Martha and me
down to the bay shore
to see the grayblack clouds
an intense deep red
growing from within.
as though that magnificence
were somehow insufficient
a thunderstorm broke loose.
Bolts of lightning
ran across the horizon
from San Bruno Mountain
to Mount Tam
striking down to Earth
all along that arc
of deep textured sunset.
The awe of the twilight time
that was nearly forty years ago.
The thunder still sounds in my ears.
My eyes are still amazed
by the lightning cutting across
the dark red of the clouds.
My Lady’s name is Grace.
I originially performed this poem on stereotape
with two channels of words dancing back and forth.
|My Lady taught me life.
My Lady taught me love.
My Lady taught me to be
My Lady sings old juke box songs
In a forest
My Lady hangs
My Lady’s name is Grace.
My Lady taught me life.
my Lady’s laughter,
shapes the universe.Love laughter.
She talks with clams . . .
A bear runs
My Lady sings
Do not leave me,
My Lady’s Hexagram
My Lady’s name is Grace.
The last poem I wrote for Grace before she died.
I never managed to find a way
for you and me to live at the ocean
that and a thousand other dreams
I never managed to realize.
So now I drive up Highway One
through foggy landscapes–
you always loved them the best–
gathering the images of lupin in seas of grass
cedars and cypresses, sheep and cows,
barns and tacky vacation homes
all soft in their gray splendor.
I stop and walk along the Sonoma shore
pausing for you at the edge.
The sun breaks through the winter fog
shining the waves breaking up around black rocks
shimmering the water’s backwash
into flashing electric pulses
rushing to me through the milky air.
I know you’d know that vision
like you seeing your own true self in a mirror
like me looking into your clear bright eyes.
The benefits of conventional medicine were clearly limited by Grace having heart disease, lung cancer, and diverticulosis together. She’d had much experience of alternative medicine so it was natural to seek modes of treatment there. Fortunately Sandy Warren, her Kaiser cardiologist, believes that diet plays a crucial role in treatment for heart disease. He recommended the Esselstyn vegan diet, which we adopted, trusting it would also help with her cancer.
On the cancer side, we discovered an important book for health professionals: Integrative Oncology, edited by Doctors Donald Abrams and Andrew Weil. This covers a wide range of alternative modes of treatment used in balance with conventional treatment for cancer. It includes chapters on acupuncture and Chinese medicine, diet, medical marijuana, meditation, homeopathy, and much else. The book led us to the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine at UCSF, which Dr. Abrams, an oncologist, founded. Grace had a session with him and several with the acupuncturist, Beverly Burns. The Osher Center
We also learned from this site by Dr. Brian Lawenda: Integrative Oncology Essentials
Outside of institutions, Grace received distance healing from Greg Booi and Coleen Foye Bollen, enrolled in an exercise for cancer patients program, and watched lots of comedies and Bollywood dance films. Our participation in online retreats with the Tibetan Buddhist teacher, Pema Chodron, was another key support for both of us.
Through all of this Grace remained positive and committed to living fully right up to the end.
In her last weeks Grace breathed in lavender essential oil when she was short of breath. It always helped relax her lungs and remain calm.
I planted violets and lavender
Your birthday’s too early
for the violets
to be in bloom
but I’ll show you
the new plant
just under the Silk Tassle.
Our years together
have been rich with flowers
beautiful rocks and songs
poems and stories
and quiet conversations.
I bring only little gifts
for another Aladdin’s lamp
so you could wish
for income that doesn’t
But all I can give you
is my intention
and a rain check
for a bouquet of
sweet violets come Spring.
Happy birthday, my true heart!
In the sixties Grace and I shared psychedelic trips that opened our commitment to the spiritual journey. We soon found our first teacher, Claudio Naranjo. (Grace first met his wife, Marilyn Sherwin, another parent who’s daughter Clara was in Martha’s pre-school.)
Grace and I joined the intensive group Claudio called SAT in the Fall of 1971. He is a teacher who draws upon all major spiritual traditions, integrating their practices with work to gain clear understanding of the shape of our egos and means of overcoming negative traits.
With sixty others, we dove into an intensive three years of “working on ourselves”. Weekly meetings on Thursday nights; sessions with pairs and threesomes of members following indications; weekend retreats with spiritual masters, including the Tibetan Buddhist Tarthang Tulku, Rabbi Salman Schacter, the Tantric teacher Harish Johari, the Vipassana insight meditation monk Dhirivamsa, two Scientology teachers who’d left the “order”, the psychic Bob Hoffman, and others.
Claudio offered a banquet of learning designed to force each of us to find her/his own way onto a unique path of evolution. He taught the Enneagram as a pattern for perceiving both our egos and the way out of their limitations. (This nine-pointed figure derives from a Sufi order in Afghanistan and was adopted by Gurdjieff and his followers. Claudio gained new knowledge of it in the Arica program led by Oscar Ichazo.)
Claudio’s web site
Grace was a weaver in the 60s, studying with Kay Sekimachi, a noted fiber artist with studios in Berkeley and later in Sonoma County.
This gallery has a number of her pieces that have traveled with us. They include a vest that I wore from 1968 to 1975 and a scarf I continue to wear in 2014, with care!