Just a Thought – Dear Madeline, Thank You

17522623_10212049926420731_5731910639577001766_nI don’t know if you were surprised by the crowd; your son Steve said that he was. But really, your long term impact on so many parts of our community has left a legacy so deep and so wide, I’m surprised the crowd didn’t spill out to the sidewalk. Or Culver Boulevard.

It was quite the council meeting, and of course, I wish you could have been there, but of course, you sort of were. I’m glad you got to watch it from home – that’s pretty much my favorite way to catch a council meeting, too. It gives me a chance to clean my desk and fold laundry while I’m watching, because sitting still for that long just isn’t comfortable. Since you are someone famous for not sitting still, I know you’d understand.

The commendation, while a wonderful gesture, was not long enough. Any document that starts with the word “Whereas …” can seem a bit stuffy. But having the official word on the things you have done to give us all a foot forward to the future, like your invaluable assistance in creating the language immersion programs at the Culver City Unified School District, your enthusiastic support for local politics, your unstoppable enthusiasm – it was a lovely moment.

Your husband Paul didn’t say as much, but gave the feeling that this was not how he liked to see statistics working out. “This vegetarian, non-smoker, non-drinker, yoga practitioner … was diagnosed with lymphoma… and then with leukemia.” It’s never mentioned in the promotional material, but all the salad and sun salutes in the world do not confer immortality (dammit!)  And I agree with Paul. This is not how the stats should play out.

Your daughter Amy shared a story that everyone knew was true. Seeing you in the hospital, challenged with breathing, she asked you if there was any unfinished business you needed her to help with. ” I’ve got to get that Centennial Quilt finished,”  you whispered to her. We all laughed, knowing that was you, through and through.

Of the folks who stood at the meeting to sing your praises, your niece Jennifer Silk took it literally, asking the crowd to stand and join together in a chorus of “God Bless America.” I have not felt so simply patriotic in many years. I could write another ten pages thanking you for that one all by itself.

Your daughter Heidi was almost too tearful to speak. When she said “I’ll be brief,” she got a witty shot from Mayor Cooper “Your mom wouldn’t be brief.” We all laughed, knowing that was you, through and through.

The friends who described you used one phrase again and again – a force of nature. Mary Nabors let everyone know that immersion image1language education might well have died on the vine if not for your efforts.  Jamie Wallace mixed such a metaphor, she described being Shanghai’ed while in the Japanese Kindergarten Yard, to serve as an official on ALLEM, the Association of Language Learners at El Marino.

Many on the dais spoke of your precinct walking prowess,  your election night parties, and your awesome baking. Not everyone can change the world with a brownie recipe, but you did. This part of the world, anyway.

So, of the many who created your commendation and came to applaud on your behalf, please count me as one who is endlessly grateful for all you have done. There is scarcely a street to walk in this city that has not benefitted from your life here. The schools, the committees, the bond measures, the boards – so much good.

As you savor all the memories of a life so well lived, know that for every person in the council chambers last night, there are dozens if not hundreds in other people in other countries whose lives you have changed with your gifts.

We will be enjoying the Centennial Quilt for at least the next hundred years, and know that your mind conceived it, your hands created it, and you did this for us, because you love us. That’s you, through and through.

Breathe deeply, rest gently, and may the long time sun shine upon you …

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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