Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Thoughs About Anne Ruth

A friend of mine was forwarded the follow "eulogy" concerning a colleague and friend who wrote about the colleague's recently deceased, developmentally-disabled sister-in-law. Her colleague (Gail) comes from a high-achieving family (she's a Ph.D. and MBA) that values intellect and education. When Gail told my friend about her sister-in-law's passing and about her sister-in-law, my friend asked her to send her this letter. I was fortunate to have it sent to me. I found it well worth reading as it shows how wisdom does NOT always come with intelligence and sometimes the graces of life are bestowed to the humblest of individuals..to Anne Ruth!

Thoughts about Anne Ruth
Gail Golden

We have come together today to mourn our loss of Anne Ruth Golden, and to remember and celebrate her life. Our task is a complicated one, because Anne was an unusual person.

The Goldens are a family of extraordinary intellectual and professional achievement. We are lawyers, doctors, professors, psychologists, musicians, entrepreneurs, scientists, writers, and teachers. We value intellect and learning.

I remember when my sons were babies and I would watch as they developed language and reasoning skills. They passed Anne Ruth by the time they were 2½. On any scale of conventional intelligence, Anne Ruth fell very short.

Some people would regard this as an unmitigated tragedy. They would look at Anne’s limitations, both intellectual and physical, and pity her. But I would suggest to you that Anne’s life was full of meaning and purpose, and that she has left behind a legacy that enriches all of us. So here is my list of Anne Ruth Golden’s Ten Rules for Living:

1. Live with gusto. Dan and I recently went through our boxes of family pictures and pulled out photos of Anne Ruth. I was struck by how, in picture after picture, she was animated, engaged, and laughing. Anne was fully present and involved in everything she did. She enjoyed life and was a gung-ho participant in the wild and crazy life of the Goldens.
2. Communicate directly. Anne’s verbal language was limited but effective. Her non-verbal language was even more straightforward. When Anne thought it was time for you to go home, she brought you a coat. It might not be yours, but she got the point across. There was no pretense with Anne – she said what she meant.
3. Be persistent. I remember sitting with Anne at a party and having a conversation for about a half hour. Anne had about three topics she wanted to talk about that day – probably they were going to a restaurant, being with her mother, and having a bath. I am a pretty skilled conversationalist, but I learned quickly that there was no distracting Anne from what she wanted to focus on. She stuck to what was important to her.
4. Be gentle. Anne was very sensitive to illness and to sadness. She would respond with gentle touch and soft cooing sounds. She loved babies and children and was always mild and kind in her approach to them. She did not know how to be harsh or judgmental.
5. Take life with equanimity. There may have been moments in Anne’s life when she got angry, but in the 41 years I knew her, I never once saw it. Her life was full of frustration, but somehow she took it all in stride. So many of us spend so much time and energy getting angry about things that don’t really matter. Anne knew better.
6. Enjoy music. Anne shared the Golden family love of – and talent for –music. She sang beautifully with accurate pitch and had an excellent sense of rhythm. She loved concerts and family musicales. Anne was more willing and able to accomplish physical tasks when people sang encouraging songs to her.
7. Pay attention to emotional nuances. Anne was remarkably aware of emotional subtleties. A striking example comes from early in my relationship with Dan. Anne was extremely fond of Dan, and did not have much use for me – I think she saw me as an interloper and a hussy. Sometimes Paula would ask her to give me a hug, but Anne was having none of that – until our wedding day. After Anne saw Dan and me under the chuppah, she embraced me, and she was affectionate with me from then on. As much as anyone else who came to our wedding, Anne understood the significance of what happened that day.
8. Practice rituals. Anne loved rituals, both religious and secular. Whether it was lighting the candles on Friday night or enjoying evening cocoa, Anne relished the ceremonies and patterns that provided structure and predictability to her life. She was insistent on maintaining those rituals and appreciative when others conformed to her ideas of what should be done.
9. Love profoundly. Anne’s devotion to family and close friends was indescribable. She personified the concept of unconditional love. Her delight in the company of those she loved was obvious and inspiring.
10. Laugh. Anne had a sly sense of humor. She laughed often, both in delight and because something was funny. Watching her dissolve into helpless giggles was infectious and wonderful.

These are Anne’s rules: live with gusto, communicate directly, be persistent, be gentle, take life with equanimity, enjoy music, pay attention to emotional nuances, practice rituals, love profoundly, and laugh. They are her legacy to us. Anne taught us all how to be human – what it means to be a person beyond how smart you are. Her life was hard and challenging, both for her and for the people around her. It was also glorious and inspiring, and we were blessed to have her among us.

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