They Divorced…but We Did Not


I recently attended a Celebration of the life of a remarkable neighbor. Realizing that her cancer might keep her from attending her 88th birthday, she’d planned a party which was to be a celebration either with her, or for her and in lieu of a funeral or memorial service.  The Celebration was epic Beth- a hoedown at the farm!

Beth was always thinking, both inside and outside “life’s boxes.” She was able to work within structures- schools, farms, and neighborhoods, but also to work outside of them- on her bike, in a kayak, on a walk. She was a giver and a liver!

Her Celebration included memories and stories from people as young as three and as old as ninety-three. The Vice President of Codman Community Farms (Beth had been the Board President) told everyone that night that the gardens she’d tended and much loved during her lifetime would be named in her honor- “Beth’s Gardens”. Helping others grow was in every fiber of her being so it was of course fitting to name the gardens for her. Her giving nature was no more apparent than when her stepdaughters spoke that evening.

The first woman stood up and told of how when she was sixteen years old her father and Beth married. She talked about how structure had been in short supply for her at that time, and how Beth brought her that scaffolding, and did it with love and warmth and quiet instruction about how to attend to others.  Many years later when that young girl was a young woman her father and Beth divorced. But as this now middle-aged woman said: “They got divorced- we didn’t.” As she went on to talk about the love and power of their relationship, I was struck by how much of a blessing she still considered Beth’s presence in her life to have been. It was emblematic of Beth that for twenty-five years post-divorce her relationships with her step-children and grandchildren continued to be loving and supportive.

When the second daughter stood up to talk, she spoke about when coming to visit her father she always made it a point to spend time with Beth as well. She loved spending time with Beth and found great ways to do that. I’ll leave you with this image from a story she told from a time about five years ago when Beth was eighty-three years old. She called to tell Beth she had mosh pit tickets to a Bruce Springsteen concert and wanted to know if Beth would like to go with her. Hell yeah! And so along with all the other concertgoers Beth swayed to the music under the bright lights and great songs of The Boss. It was classic Beth- she had the all too often elusive ability of meeting others where they were, being present and finding joy. I learned many lessons from my neighbor Beth, and more still during her remembrance.


“They got divorced but we didn’t”- the expansive nature of love
and the gifts that keep on giving if you let them.


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