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A Letter to Family and Friends

Image of Jeannette For some unknown reason, Jeannette, while in excellent health 26 years before her death Thanksgiving Day 1994, at 87, she composed this letter. It brought deep comfort to her family and friends at the time of her death. We invite you to share this moving letter; a gift to those she loved.
You may wish to use this example for developing a similar letter to leave for those you love.

April 15, 1971

Dear Loved Ones, my family, and friends,

    I hope by now that some of the initial shock of my departure has begun to wear away and that the kind carpet of pleasant memories has started to unroll. My only sadness at contemplating this moment for you is that I know I shall go and leave much I hoped to do with you undone. I only ask one thing.
No sad tears for me, please.

    Every wonderful, delightful thrill, experience, and emotion life has to offer has been mine.
So, no sad tears, please.

    Rather, recall me with a fond smile as the wife, mother, grandmother, and friend who shared your laughter, tears, and dreams through the years ...

    Save your sadness and sorrow for those who leave before they find, see, feel, taste, touch and discover the precious pleasures of this world.
No sad tears for me, please.

    I've lived a goodly span of years — and enjoyed them all. Laughed a lot, cried a little . . . seen a thousand sunsets — played many a game of tennis as the dawn broke over the hills, courts, and rose gardens of Portland's Heights those years I spent giving anesthetics as a nurse and teaching anesthesia in Portland and Cleveland, then on into the big adventure of my life as wife and mother. There have been walks in April rain — through fields of daisies in summer — shuffling through the fallen leaves of autumn — and Oh! the snows of winter!
So, no sad tears, please.

    I've loved a man, whose love I returned . . . I've cradled a daughter in my arms . . . and walked with the hands of young sons in my own . . . and then one day welcomed into my heart other sons, daughters, and grandchildren. What blessings each of you have been to me.
No sad tears for me, please.

    The memories of the years I turn over slowly — like the pages of a book. There were victories, and they gave life zest. There were defeats and sadness — they made me stronger. Many of them were vicarious — through family endeavors and we all grew. Perhaps the greatest adventure of all has been the spiritual search, which really began when you children were small. How blessed we have both been that Daddy and I could search together.
I cherish the peace and joy I have found in my faith and in the intuitive understandings of my Native American heritage.

    In growing up, I raced with many contemporaries and knew the thrill of achieving . . . the roar of the crowd was sweet. A second time we knew this thrill in the achievements of you children. And when age came, I was allowed to stand at the edge of the crowd and watch the young people dance the dance of living.
So, no sad tears for me, please.

    Life was good . . . I saw robins in the spring and once a flock of wax wings — gardens resting in winter and bursting into life in the spring — the palo verde trees a river of gold as they wandered the outline of the desert washes, a fraction of a year later the miracle of the smoke trees blooming a lavender flame — the amazing blues and rose and purples that flood the desert mountains in early mornings and evenings . . . long walks under harvest moons . . . and from the tops of high peaks looking down upon the flickering lights of cities and towns.
No sad tears for me, please.

    Think of those happy times: Christmases . . . the nights we slept out under the stars . . . gathering daisies, wild strawberries and cranberries . . . vacations when we traveled to far places . . . camping beside mountain streams . . . the books we read together . . . watching an ocean roll and gathering seashells . . .Thanksgiving dinners . . . the pets we loved . . . searching for and fascinated we found indications of our earlier civilizations. . . campfires . . . the ol' swimming holes . . .
and most of all, remember the thousands of times we were all together as a family.
No sad tears, please.

    No one dies as long as there is one person left in the living world who remembers with
fond recall . . . and shares a thought, though that person has gone ahead.

    Some day one of you may be looking thoughtfully at the vast Pacific Ocean, assessing its beauty and changing moods — you may feel a sudden, warm, soft breeze across your cheek — you will know that I am there . . .

    Or you might be standing on a mountain top, looking across a sweep of wooded foothills and valleys . . . and if there is a sudden, gentle stirring among the trees . . . feel I am sharing the moment with you.

    God walks upon the hills; I saw him in the flight
       Of wild geese winging south at morn and when the night
    Came running down the stairway of the trees,
        God called my heart to rest with whispering of leaves.

    On Christmas Eve, if there is a small star in the sky, look at it with love and let it come into your heart.
So, no sad tears for me, please, just remember me.

    A person really never dies while there are those on earth who loved that person . . . One is never gone as long as there are those who remember with fondness . . . and as long as memory evokes a wistful smile. All those who have loved, and who have been loved, have earned a piece of immortality . . .
No sad tears for me, please . . .

Lovingly,

Jeannette's signatre

  Jean (Jeannette),
              your wife,
                          your mother,
                                      your grandmother,
                                                  your friend

 


This photo is one of the last photos of Jeannette, a remarkable woman and mother.. She is standing with Phyllis. It was taken shortly before Jeannette's death, and to the family's surprise this photo appeared in the book, Jane Gentry: A Singer Among Singers, to which Jeannette had been a major contributor. The book was published shortly after Jeannette's death. Information on the book can be found on:
http://www.bettysmithballads.com

Following are my two sample letters to loved ones. While still very much alive, Phyllis wrote this as an example for others to see how they might write their own letter to their family. You will note it was inspired by her Motherís letter.

Image of Jeannette


You are invited to use this letter as an example in developing
a similar letter to your family. While in good health,
my Mother shared her thoughts in a very helpful letter
to us. I am want to share my thoughts with you.

August 29, 2011

Dear Loved Ones — my family and friends,

Life began for me in an attic apartment above a one room school house in a tiny Eskimo village, north of the Arctic Circle.As a child I ran through meadows of daisies in the crispness of an Alaskan summer, and have been startled by bears while picking berries, (we saw 43 bears one summer). Before I knew where babies came from, I was the only person available to help a woman deliver her son. I've shuffled through the leaves of an East Coast autumn. And Oh! the snows of winter, so so beautiful, yet I still don't like to be cold.

I hope by now that the initial shock of my departure has begun to wear away... and that the kind carpet of pleasant memories has started to unroll. My only sadness at contemplating this moment is I know I will have left much I hoped to do for you and towards "lighter footprints" for all of us upon this earth. Yet, I will walk with you as you go on with the challenge and I only ask one thing.

No sad tears for me, please.


Every delightful thrill and emotion life has to offer that I chose to experience has been mine.

So, no sad tears for me, please.


Rather, recall me with a fond smile as the wife, mother, grandmother and friend who shared your laughter, tears and dreams through the years. Save your sorrow for those who leave before they find, see, feel and taste the precious pleasures and places of this world.

No sad tears for me, please.


I’ve enjoyed a full and rewarding life! I’ve laughed a lot, cried a bit... . I’ve seen a thousand sunsets yet my favorite is still sunrise beside my saddled horse at a fire with the smell of fresh coffee brewing. I've enjoyed friendships across the world as I've worked, taught and played in remote corners and cities of over 60 countries. I have gotten to know and love people in many cultures. I’ve found freedom and joy in years of starting colts, days in the saddle on a well-loved horse, cutting or penning cattle, and in the earth connection of checking on cows across the hills with a beloved dog at my side. I spent rewarding years teaching modeling and poise to awkward teens and watched them bloom into remarkable adults and leaders. Coming from the small towns of Bishop and Blythe, I overcame fear as the lone Anglo-appearing teacher in a Watts school, while the riots were still smoldering. The challenge awakend me. Joy and caring friendship let me be the “only white woman who ever came for a visit
or a cup of tea” in the homes of my students. Then, still keeping in touch with my students, I went on into the wonder-filled adventure of my life as farm wife and mother.

So, no sad tears for me, please.

I've been blessed to love and be loved by a thoughtful, kind and gentle man, Bill. I've cradled Dawna, our daughter, and later her son Trevyn, in my arms. I've cherished Dylan, our son who died as an infant. He came to know our love, and then quickly moved on to another life experience. I've walked with the hand of our son Derek, in my own. One clear cloudless day I waved goodbye to him as the commercial airliner lifted into the sky, and we never saw him again. Looking back, it seems he had learned his life lessons early.

What blessings and joy each of you have given me!
No sad tears for me, please.


Memories of the years I turn over slowly, like the pages of a book. Somehow at each turn, life has led me to the outside edge of adventure. I've lived and walked safely in places the world calls wild or dangerous. There were victories, and they gave life zest. There were losses, deaths, and pain. They made me stronger as I deepened my love, compassion and persistence. Some of the joys were vicarious, or through family endeavors, and we all grew as we worked together. Perhaps my greatest adventure besides being a mother has been the spiritual journey that began with my Mother's clear example. I cherished the contentment and joy we found in the focus of simplicity and peace in our Quaker faith and in the intuitive understandings of our Native American heritage. I feel so blessed that Bill and I have shared beliefs and interests. We have worked as an extended family on the farm, as well in our concern for others here and across the world. Together and alone we have had the joy of touching and being touched by so many lives, such as seeing an orphanage of children who'd watched or held their parents as they died of AIDS be inspired to garden, learning the thrill of the life skill of growing their own food.

Having the challenge of learning disabilities has hindered me. Yet, Mother always helped me find success somewhere in each experience. The simple notebook that helped me survive and grow through Derek's death was published as Grief: Climb Toward Understanding and has opened doors for me to help so many others, in its five editions. I've known the thrills in the achievements of Dawna, Derek and then Trevyn. And when age came,
I've stood at the edge or in the audience and watchedthe young people accomplish, sing, dance, perform, help
others and lead on... .

So, no sad tears for me, please.


Life has been savory. I've watched colts and calves frolicking at dusk, our garden resting in winter and bursting into life in the spring, our children and baby goats romping in the rocks, deer grazing, then springing across the fields, the breathtaking green of our Irish Hills and this quiet valley each spring. I walked in our orchard along the creek that becomes a torrent in winter storms then gentles in spring and trickles into swimming ponds in summer. I savored the symphony of wild flowers on hills that become waving fields of golden oats and barley. I loved being a "Trail Mom," to hundreds of hikers, feeding and helping them as I “accompanied” Bill on his long walks on the nearly 7,000 miles of trails across our country and the world, as I cooked and camped at trail heads or on passes, looking out on the flickering lights of a campfire, a home, a quaint French village, or even a city.

So, no sad tears for me, please.

Think of those happy times: Christmases, the nights we slept under the stars, family trips to far places and the privilege of visits into other cultures, camping beside mountain streams, gathering sweet peas, poppies, wild strawberries and blueberries, the books Mother, Dawna, Derek and Trevyn read to me, watching an ocean roll, hunting seashells, holding hands in grace or song at meals, Thanksgiving dinners, cookouts in the pine berm, feeding the homeless together, the pets we loved, finding indications of past civilizations, campfire stories, Trevyn's swing. Most of all, remember the thousands of times we were together as a family.

No sad tears for me, please.

No one dies as long as there is one person left in the world who remembers with fond recall... and shares a dream, a hope. Some day you may be looking thoughtfully at the vast Pacific Ocean, its beauty and changing moods. You may feel a soft warm breeze across your cheek. You will know I am there. Or you may be standing on a mountaintop, looking across a sweep of wooded foothills and valleys, and if there is a gentle stirring among the trees, know
I am sharing the moment with you.

Over the Holidays, if there is a star on the windmill or even a small star in the sky, see it with love and let it come into your heart.

Remember, God has called my heart to rest with whispering of leaves, and the owl has called my name.
So, no sad tears for me, please. Just remember me.


One is never gone as long as memory evokes a wistful smile. All those who have loved, and who have been loved, have earned
a piece of immortality.

No sad tears for me, please.

Lovingly,



Phyllis Jean,
                 your wife,
                          your mother,
                                      your grandmother,
                                                  your friend
.

 


 

Image of Jeannette


You are invited to use this letter as an example in developing a letter to your family and friends. My Mother shared her hand written memories
in a helpful letter to us. I would like to share her idea with you.

March 25, 2019

Dear Loved Ones — my family and friends,
With my recent stroke I realize my need to update this letter to you. I hope by now the initial fact of my death has begun to fade and a carpet of pleasant memories has begun to unroll. Thank you for supporting me in my time of transition into thisnew adventure. My wish is for you to remember me with a smile as the wife, mother, grandmother and friend who shared your laughter and tears, and who encouraged your dreams through the years. Save your sorrow for those who leave before they find, see, feel and taste the precious pleasures and places of this world. The ones they would like to have experienced.

In leaving, my only sadness is I will have still left much work undone. I’d hoped to leave a clearer vision for a “lighter footprint” for everyone on this earth. I will walk with you as you go on with these challenges, asking but one thing.

No sad tears for me, please.

Looking back over the years, my life began in 1941 in an attic apartment above a one-room school house in a tiny Eskimo village north of the Arctic Circle. Alaska holds many memories for me. I ran through meadows of daisies and forget-me-nots in the crispness of as southeastern Alaskan summer. As a skinny 2nd grader, Cordova’s 4th of July Parade Committee invited me to lead their parade. It was learning to twirl a baton that opened that door for me. The hat was far too large in fact looked a bit funny. It was in the summer of 1950, before I knew how babies arrived, that I was the only person available to help a village woman, whom I didn’t know, give birth to her son. We were startled by bears while picking berries — one summer we saw forty-three bears. Although the snows of winter were beautiful, I still don’t like the cold.

Life has been full and rewarding!
I’ve laughed a lot, held sadness in my heart and shed my share of tears... . A thousand breathtaking sunsets and sunrises across the world have been mine.I’ve enjoyed friendships in many cultures as I’ve worked, taught, and played in remote valleys, slums, villages, and cities of some 60 countries.

No sad tears for me, please.

Yet my favorite memory is one of watching the sun come up as I held the reins, beside my saddled horse at a corral fireside,
cup in hand and the smell of fresh coffee brewing. There was freedom and joy in years of starting colts, gathering, moving, sorting, or penning cattle. There’s a unique serenity in the earth-connection of days in the saddle on a well-loved horse, checking cows across the hills with a beloved dog at my side.

I grew up in the small towns of Cordova, then Bishop and Blythe, with little fear. Fresh from Cal Poly, I answered President Kennedy’s call to service. Inner-city L.A. needed substitute teachers. The community was still smoldering from the riots. A class of 42 fifth and sixth graders were a challenge. I found that true caring, courage and friendly interest let me be the “You’re the only white teacher who ever came for a visit,” in the homes of my disruptive students. Often it was my chat with the child and their loving grandma that stopped the classroom problem. That experience awakened, and changed me. Still keeping in touch with those students, I went on into the wonder-filled adventure of my life as farm wife, mother and activist.

With Dylan’s death as a baby in 1970, and even more with Derek’s death in 1984, the children of the world seemingly became mine.

Every delightful thrill and emotion life has to offer, that I chose to experience, have been mine. Yet, my exasperation and anger rise when we make slow or little progress on our nation’s long-standing problems of structural racism, white privilege, inequality, militarism and poverty. It is so frustrating to watch our and other nations make poor choices of violence instead of diplomacy and a peace-building foreign policy.

It was a privilege to serve on the Envisioning Team for EARTH University in Costa Rica as it was modeled after Cal Poly’s “learn by doing” philosophy. I held strongly that women must be half the student body as they are “the farmers of the world,”
and that half the student body must be from poor farm families, most on scholarship. In 2018 unlike other universities, at EARTH half the students come from poor farm families, and 57% of the students are women.

Memories can quickly fill my heart to overflowing as I remember staying in orphanages in Central, South America, Southeast Asia, and Africa. Much of this time, I was going anywhere I was needed, alone, with my backpack. I might be combing a child’s matted hair, planting seeds with another child in the orphanage garden, yet the most important thing I could do was to listen. Listen again to a familiar story. The child may have held her or his poor and terminally ill Mother as she died of AIDS in the child’s arms. Fortunately tests showed that somehow the child had not contracted the disease. The lack of employment, no opportunity for education and the need to care for her children had given their mother no alternative other than prostitution in a truck stop-community. Education is SO IMPORTANT for girls. A $200 treadle sewing machine would likely save her daughter from the same fate. Inspired children — gardening, learning the thrills of the life skill of growing and cooking their own food, often with a solar oven. Having done what it seemed I could at that orphanage, I’d to go on to another community where I also promised to do what I could. It was always heartbreaking to leave, even to come home to San Luis Obispo and my own family who also appreciate me.

So, no sad tears for me, please.

I’ve been blessed to love and be loved by an adventurous, kind and contemplative man. Bill, more than once said, “The world needs you, Phyllis. I am happy being home. Go when you feel you need to go.” He at times traveled with me.
I’ve cradled Dawna, our daughter, and later her son, Trevyn in my arms. Dawna once introduced me, “My mother, has her ear tuned to the heartbeat of the world.” Dawna’s business and musical accomplishments dwarf mine. I am so proud of her. Dylan, our first son, died as an infant. I believe he came to know our love, and then quickly move on to his next life experience. Besides being Derek’s Mom, over thirteen years, I shared a deeply spiritual connection with him. One clear cloudless day I waved goodbye, saying. “we love you ,” as he boarded a commercial airliner to visit my brothers on their ranch. I waved as the plane lifted into the sky, four minutes later it collided with a small plane and we never saw Derek alive again. Looking back now, it seems he had learned his life lessons early and well.

What blessings and joy each of you have given me !
No sad tears for me, please.

For me, memories of the years turn over slowly, like the pages of a book. Somehow at each turn, life has led me to the outside-edge of adventure. I’ve lived and walked alone, yet safely “possibly with an angel on my shoulder,” in places the world calls wild or dangerous. There were victories, and they gave life zest. There were losses, deaths, and pain. They made me stronger, as I deepened my love, my faith, my compassion and my persistence. Some of the joys were vicarious, or through family endeavors and we all grew as we worked together.

Perhaps my greatest adventure, besides being a mother, has been the spiritual journey which began with Mother’s clear example. I cherished the contentment and joy we found in the focus of simplicity and peace of our Quaker faith, in the intuitive understandings and the vista of our Native American heritage and natural wisdom. I feel so blessed that Bill and I have shared beliefs and interests. Together and alone we have had the joy of touching and being touched by so many lives.

It was a privilege to serve on envisioning team for EARTH University in Costa Rica which, like Zamarano Agriculture University
in Honduras, was modeled after Cal Poly and its’ “learn by doing” philosophy. I held strongly to the fact that women, “the farmers of the world” must be trained, and half the student body should be from poor rural farm families. By 2018, unlike most other Latin American agriculture universities, half the student body now come from poor farm families and 57% of the students are women.

We’ve worked as an extended family on properties and to improve the soil on our farm, as well in our concern for others here and across the world. For the last many-years we’ve shared dinner gatherings with Muslims, Jews and Christians. We’ve all grown in awareness of Middle Eastern problems. Bill and I started this dinner group when we wanted to understand what was happening in the Middle East. Why can’t our Abramic family get along?

Having the challenge of reading disabilities has hindered me. Yet, Mother always helped me find success somewhere in each experience. A simple notebook helped me survive and grow through my grief around Derek’s death was published as Grief: Climb Toward Understanding, and it opened doors for me across the world, to help so many others, in its five editions. I’ve known the thrills in the achievements of Bill, Dawna, Derek and then Trevyn. Then age has come, I have had the privilege of standing at the edge or in the audience, watching the young people accomplish, sing, dance, perform, succeed, help others and lead on.

So, no sad tears for me.

Bill and I’ve shared with other “thru hikers” recounting adventures of the world’s trails. I loved being “Trail Mom” to hundreds of hikers, feeding and helping them as my van and I “accompanied” Bill on his long walks on the over 7,000 miles of trails across our country and the world. Frequently cooking with just the sun as fuel, I camped at trailheads or on passes, looking out on the flickering lights of a campfire, even candle-lit windows of mountain log cabins, a hut, a home, a quaint French village, or even a city in the distance.

So, no sad tears for me.

Think of those happy times: Christmases, the nights we slept under the stars, family trips to far places and the privilege of visits into other cultures, camping beside mountain streams, gathering sweet peas, poppies, wild strawberries and blueberries, books that Mother, Dawna, Derek and Trevyn read to me. Watching an ocean roll, hunting seashells, holding hands in grace or song at meals, Thanksgiving dinners, cookouts in the pine berm, feeding the homeless together, the pets we loved, finding indications of past civilizations, campfire stories, Trevyn swinging his tree swing, are all beautiful memories. Chocolate Chip, my constant companion for years, coming with me each morning for our hot tub quiet time.

Most of all, remember the thousands of times we were together as a family. As a couple, the years and thousands of motorcycling miles together, hiking, drawing a heart on the trail with Bill’s name in it, so he knew I was at the trailhead just around the corner. Having dinner ready as he came in from several days of hiking alone on the Appalachian Trial, the Pacific Crest, the Compostela Trail in Spain, the G.R. Diez Trail across southern France and northern Spain between the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea. Meeting Bill and Wes (both in their 70s) after they had climbed Africa’s highest Peak — Kilimanjaro’s 19,340 feet.

Yet, just being home together with Bill and Chaca beside us, enjoying the quiet of our cottage in this little valley is such a lovely experience.

So, no sad tears for me, please.

I am “Already Free” and have long known that joy.
No one dies as long as there is one person left in the world who remembers the ripples of their work, them or their dream with fond recall. You will know I am there. Or you may be standing on a mountaintop, looking across a sweep of wooded foothills and valleys, and if there is a gentle stirring among the trees, the breeze brushes your cheek, know I am sharing the moment with you.

Over the Holidays, if there is a star on the windmill or even a small star in the sky, see it with love and let the love come into your heart. Remember, God has called my heart to rest with whispering of leaves, and as Native Americans say,
“I have heard the owl has called my name.”

So, no sad tears for me, please.

One is never gone as long as memory evokes a wistful smile. Those who have loved, and who have been loved, have earned
a piece of immortality. Memories hold life and lessons, its been fun looking back. Thank you for being part of my life.

Lovingly and becomingly,



Phyllis Jean,
                 your wife,
                          your mother,
                                      your grandmother,
                                                   your friend
.

 


Though she loves flowers,
Phyllis
has asked that any memorial efforts on her behalf be sent to,
"so they will keep on growing and helping others,"
Ecumenical Project for International Cooperation (E.P.I.C.)
P.O. Box 433
Allenspark, CO 80510-0433
or to the Quaker Organizations:
Quaker United Nations Office or Friends National Committee on Legislation
245 Second Street, NE, Washington, DC 20002-5795 


books Chaca