Immortality

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It is so nice that more of my friends have discovered drawing in the past three months, many of them people I would never have imagined would have the time and interest to pick up a pen. It may be coincidental or it may be a newly discovered awareness that life is short and one ought to try all the things one dreamt of while one has the chance.

I also like to think that Patti’s example inspired my friends to explore their creativity. She was an endlessly creative person, always making something out of something else. She made creativity seem fun and a natural part of life, not scary or intimidating or prey to judgment. I think our friends are reminded of that when they think of her as intensely as we have this past season. They remembered how she was always a flurry of creative energy and were somehow moved to keep that spirit alive.

She would be happy that this is her legacy — inspiring people to come into their own creatively and to take risks in order to discover what they can do. It’s a wonderful gift to pass on and it is infectious, spreading to more and more people as they see what their friends can do.

We work hard to give our lives some meaning, to do well by others, to have values and standards that can endure. We teach our children things that can survive beyond our lifetimes, we set examples that make a mark. That’s true immortality.

I come from a fairly small family, generations with just a child or three in each family, many of them grown estranged. As we’ve lost touch, we’ve lost meaning too and the lessons and examples of our lives have dissipated in the fog. I know my great-grandmother became senile, stripped off her nightgown and danced on the dining table. I don’t know much more about her than that. But her daughter, my grandmother Ninny, inculcated my sister and me with a certain set of higher standards — that one sets the table with cloth napkins, that one makes one’s bed each morning, that one should strive to have a nice garden and to listen to Mozart and Bach. It’s funny that she lived for some eight decades and that her legacy is this small list of small things. I think that would surprise and maybe disappoint her. My grandfather taught me some things by his example but more things to avoid. He was fastidious and controlling and grew older without growing wiser. I think in the end one can learn as much from bad examples than good; the things to avoid have lots of resonance.

I have no idea what impression I shall make on the the world. Or how long it will last. It doesn’t really matter, I suppose, as I’ll be dust and gone. Encouraging others to make things seems like a nice testament to one’s life and I am proud to have been married to a woman who inspired it. Her love of beauty and self-expression will continue to ring out like ripples in the ocean for quite some time. And perhaps by reading these words about her, you too will be moved to make a drawing or a cake or a dress and share it with others who will be inspired to do something nice and creative of their own. Please think of Patti when you do.