I didn’t get to know Edith Grodin until she was dying.
Oh, I knew who she was, and spoke to her many times. She and her husband, Dick, were huge supporters of the prestigious League of NH Craftsmen. I often saw her during the Craftsmen’s Annual Fair in August. Once Edith bought a lovely necklace from me for her granddaughter, a Gulf War veteran. That was the beginning of many enjoyable Grodin family visits in my booth. Soon three generations of Grodins were wearing my jewelry. Husband Dick and son Richard gently refused my generous offers of earrings (but finally accepted a small horse sculpture.)
Edith moved confidently throughout the League and its activities, serving on the Board of Trustees. She was good friends with many craftspeople, and respected by us all.
I thought we’d have a lifetime to get to know one another better.
We had only a year.
There came a Fair where she did not appear. Instead, a little note appeared in the Fair newsletter handed out each day. “I’ve lost my battle against cancer,” she said. And she asked for visitors.
Still, I hesitated. Some families hunker down during tough times. They don’t welcome outsiders. But my hospice volunteer training had made me a bit braver. And so I called one day. Dick answered the phone and encouraged me to come by.
So began an amazing journey, rich in laughter, good cheer and life lessons.
Edith was able to remain in her beloved home until her death. She faced it with peace in her heart (though she was “busy” and engaged til the end.) I had the sense she had done–or tried–her best, and knew it. That gave her great comfort. She voiced no regrets.
There were many, many sweet moments: Learning how Edith and Dick met, and how they built their life together.
There were some sober moments: Speculating on an afterlife. Wondering how her family would cope with her loss.
There were many, many funny moments. Her sense of humor was delightfully sharp and quick. She hungered for tidbits of news and gossip, eager to hear about the outside world. I shared some of my favorite gossip, and she shared hers.
My favorite time was when I called her after having surgery myself. I complained that my family was very supportive and caring–the first few days. After that, everyone mysteriously disappeared early in the day, forcing me to struggle on my own for coffee and other necessities.
Edith confided that her family had done the same thing–so solicitous the first few weeks. Then, when the novelty of the situation had worn off, not so quick to wait on her hand and foot. “But Edith,” I exclaimed, “You’re DYING!”
“I know, right?” she replied cheerfully.
I won’t go into Edith’s (and Dick’s) many years of military service, their wide and varied contributions to their many communities and causes. There are others who can speak better about that than I. Suffice to say, the word of the day at the Grodin household is service.
There was their service to their country, of course, extending several generations. And their fierce love of family and friends. They supported many good causes, and gave generously not with just money, but in words and time and attention.
To them, being a good citizen was not just being involved. It wasn’t just contributing. What astonished me was Edith’s desire to build something for a community that simply wasn’t there before. They would see a need, and work to meet it.
She and her best friend started a craft show, and ran it for many years. No wonder she felt so at home at the League’s Fair! She campaigned fiercely for their new headquarters in Concord, and was overjoyed the transition was accomplished in her lifetime. I soon lost track of all her achievements and projects and contributions. The list is long, and all of it amazing.
Over those last months, my respect and awe for this woman grew and grew.
And so did my determination to learn from her courage and dedication.
It was like she left me with a challenge: Find a need, and fill it! Don’t just stand there–do something! If nobody else will do it, do it yourself!
In the past year, I’ve helped Keene start its very own Open Studio Tour. I also created an event that’s long been dear to me–a garage sale for artists and craftspeople. In fact, I may miss her memorial ceremony because it’s the same day as the Keene Art Garage Sale, and I’m the only one running the show. Somehow, I don’t think she’d mind.
Small projects, in the greater scheme of things, I know. And yet I never thought I was capable of doing something like this, or that I would enjoy it so much.
I have Edith Grodin to thank for that. Her quiet pride in her achievements, her natural tendency to create opportunities for other creative people, in addition to those she made for her country, her community, her friends and her family, all inspired me to think bigger and do better.
It was a short year, but a rich one, and one I will always remember.
Thank you, Edith, and goodbye.
“I live my life in widening circles
That reach out across the world.
I may not ever complete this last one,
But I give myself to it.
I circle around God, that primordial tower.
I have been circling for thousands of years,
And I still don’t know: am I a falcon,
A storm, or a great song?”
by Rainer Maria Rilke