Posted tagged ‘Rhona Saffer’

Memoriam Day Weekend – Thinking of Old Friends, Swimming, Summer

May 29, 2011


Memorial Day Weekend. These were days of great joy for me as a child–the swimming pools opened! Water, still shiver-producing, but already shimmering in bright sun, could finally be dived into, waded through, lingered in. My life, for at least the next couple of months, would no longer be just lived on earth.

Memorial Day still fills me with a kind of reflexive exhileration, and I still use it as pretty much as the marker for the beginning of the swimming season. (I have a childish heart.) Except that now, of course, I’ve lived long enough now for the weekend to be imbued with not just anticipation, but remembrance.

In my case, the memorial is not so much for victims of wars, as for two specific friends, now lost, whose birthdays happen to fall on this weekend, just a day or so ahead of my own.

I used to joke that I felt so akin to these two people–a French man much older than myself named Rene-Jean Teillard, and a friend my own age, Rhona Saffer–because we were all three Geminis. Although Rene and Rhona did not know each other, we all three shared certain classic (if you believe in that kind of thing) Gemini traits–a quickness to both delight and bemoan, a love of the verbal, an inability to ever do just one thing at a time.

Having gone through the deaths of each of these dear friends, having met the cluster of kith and kin around them, I increasingly suspect that my feelings of closeness with them had little to do with our supposedly shared Geminicities.

Each of them was simply an incredibly good friend. By this, I do not only mean that they were each a good friend to me–but that they were each very very talented at friendship itself. They were thoughtful, loyal, fun, caring; they had the even more unusual quality of being able to inspire thoughtfulness, loyalty, fun and caring in others.

I think of them now–of Rhona Saffer especially, whose birthday is today–this beautiful, lilacy, water-filled day, a day when swimming has always begun for me, in pools and ponds; when the flickering shimmer of light is not just seen, but moved through, floated upon, and, briefly, briefly (it’s cold below the surface) plunged into.

Other posts on Rene, Rhona, swimming in summer.

In Memoriam – Rhona Saffer

October 16, 2010

I went today to the memorial service for a dear friend who died this past summer of breast cancer.  All agreed that she was funny, bright, warm, brave, strong and beautiful.  But the theme that resonated most was her extraordinary kindness and care for others.  Because of this compassion, she sometimes “mothered” her many friends; but, of course, she was especially devoted to her own children.  (They, like her, are wonderful people.)

This is a poem (a pantoum) that I wrote for her, during her lifetime, after she told me how she feared and regretted the pain that her death would cause her children.  Although any mother could relate to such feelings, they seemed particularly emblematic of her courage and selflessness.

The Last Thing
For Rhona Saffer

Know that,
when I must go,
I will love you
just the same.

When I must go,
I know it will not feel
just the same.
There will be cool air—

I know it will not feel
like my lips—
but there will be cool air
caressing your face

like my lips,
while your smile only,
caressing your face
(oh reflection of mine),

will be your smile only.
I never wanted to cause you pain,
oh reflection of mine.
That was the last thing

I ever wanted to cause you. Pain.
No, I would love you—
that was the last thing.
Just the same,

know, I would love you,
I will love you,
just the same.
Know that.

She was a much loving, much loved, person;  she is sorely missed.