Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Saying Goodbye

Yesterday we commemorated the life of our friend, Phyllis Craig. The day was happy and sad, joyous and bittersweet, a celebration and a farewell.

Her passing came as quite a shock, not just to us but also to her family. Her husband, Dwain, had been very ill for several years, but Phyllis always seemed stalwart. Fortunately for her, she did not suffer long.

I met Phyllis shortly after we moved into our first house in Arcadia, California in 1970. Our neighbor across the street had a little boy a year older than our daughter, Kim. It didn’t take long before the kids—and their mothers—became fast friends. Kay and I remain closest friends to this day. Her house backed up onto an alley. The house on the other side of the alley belonged to Phyllis and her family. She had a daughter, Cheryl, who became Kim’s best friend and remained so throughout grammar school and high school. Kay’s yard became a thoroughfare between our houses.

In the girls’ preschool years, the three mothers were always together. Once the kids were in school, we spent even more time doing projects for the PTA. And when the girls started Brownies and then Girl Scouts, Phyllis and I became all but inseparable.

I dug out the old photo albums from our Girl Scout and Brownie days to take with me yesterday, hoping some of the others of ‘our’ girls might be there. I was delighted to see several of them, and shared their delight in seeing the record of their activities once again. The snapshots, now over 30 years old, are faded and blurry, but the joy in the memories was sharp and clear.

One of the girls said it wasn’t until years later she realized how much we had done as a troop.

The girls earned their cooking badge by preparing a Mother’s Day luncheon. Of course for us as leaders, the preparation required a great deal of effort before we finally sat down to enjoy it. This photo was taken in the family room of our old house. Phyllis sits in the center facing the camera.

During those years, we had two memorable overnights at my in-laws’ place at Dana Point. One year, we went whale watching. Another, we took a hike around the point, ate lunch in the big cave, and cleaned up the beach.

Our last hurrah was an overnight trip to Cambria with a visit to Hearst Castle. As my assistant leader, Phyllis always shared these adventures.

In high school, the girls auditioned for and were accepted to take part in the a cappella choir. In their junior year, the girls also made the Chamber Choir, the elite choral group in the school. And, once again, both sets of parents attended their events and supported them.

In December of 1984, Phyllis and Dwain and Larry and I joined the choir when they were invited to sing in Israel on Christmas Eve in Bethlehem as part of the elite choir festival preceding midnight mass at St. Catherine’s church. They were the youngest and smallest choir to perform, and they did so in eight languages. No parents could have been prouder. (see the video of this trip and hear the choir: http://youtu.be/wlBcCUQXREw. )

A couple of years later, we moved to Dana Point ourselves, but we kept in touch, mostly at Christmas but with occasional phone calls as well. When I joined Facebook, Cheryl and I became friends there. Through her, we saw photos of the family and Phyllis’s granddaughter who had become the center of her universe.

The sadness at her sudden loss was tempered by the joy of seeing ‘my’ Girl Scout and choir ‘kids’ again. We told stories and laughed together. And somehow, I felt Phyllis’s presence there with us. And, as always, she was smiling.