Category Archives: Death

In Memory of Gwendie Camp: 1941-2016

Gwendie in the cloudsOops 50 lost a dear friend last week, when Gwendie Camp finally succumbed to the cancer that cast a shadow over her life for nine years.  When first diagnosed, she was told she had very little time left, maybe six months to a year.  Nine years later, she died.  If there was ever a model for how to keep living with grace in the face of certain death, it was our Gwendie.  During those nine years, she lived life to the fullest: damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.  She moved from Asheville to Florida, to be closer to her son, Jonathan, and his family, especially her darling granddaughter, Daisy.  She used her amazing brain to research all her treatment options, and she was willing to try anything to take a chance on getting better.  She worked with Jonathan on a small business out of her apartment in Florida, selling books online.  She even started her own ETSY site to sell the little knickknacks she had accumulated over the years.  She wrote insightful pieces for her own blog and for us. She had several of those pieces published. She celebrated birthdays with enjoyment and food.  She played her grand piano.  She enjoyed her cats. She visited with friends and family.  She laughed with her friends.  She kept her fabulous sense of humor right to the end. In June of 2010, she even took a ride with her friend, Barb, in a hot air balloon and shared the experience with our readers. This picture from that day sums up Gwendie’s approach to life, and it is how we imagine her now, floating somewhere up in the clouds, happy to be experiencing a new adventure, smiling and smiling.  As a last tribute to our dear friend, we are sharing her obituary with our readers, so that you get a full view of this amazing, wonderful woman.

To read some of Gwendie’s wonderful contributions to this blog, just type Gwendie into the Search button!  I especially like the piece from May 7, 2010 about her grandbaby! Jane

The body of Martha Gwendolyn Roberts Duncan Camp, known to all as “Gwendie,”  breathed its last on Thursday, April 7, 2016 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL, in the presence of several loved ones. The essence of Gwendie escaped to the unknown and unfathomable, available now to us through memories, photographs,  her writings, and various of her “precious things.”

Gwendie was born on July 3, 1941 in Ft. Pierce, Florida to Minnie Lou Hunter Roberts, a farmer’s daughter, and Joseph Lee Roberts, Jr., a fisherman’s son, and thus was raised with a love of and appreciation for Mother Nature. She was also raised to be honest and true, hard-working and generous, and with a love for reading and music.  Despite the modest amounts of money and opportunity available to her, Gwendie was encouraged and mentored by teachers and others who saw to it that she could go to Florida State University with assistance from the Southern Scholarship Foundation.  Due partly to the era in which Gwendie attended college, and mostly to her egalitarian instincts, she left FSU with a strong commitment to civil rights and to “women’s liberation.”  (She still regrets that the ERA amendment to the Constitution never passed.)  Both of these passions played into the choices she made later in life and into the people she chose as friends.

Serendipity often seemed present in Gwendie’s life, especially in relation to her education (BS, MS, PhD from Florida State University), her professional careers (science educator, medical school administrator, educational ambassador for problem-based learning, to mention several) and her geography (Fort Pierce, Tallahassee, Iowa City, Winston-Salem, Galveston, Asheville, Ft. Lauderdale, to cite the long stays).  In her retirement, the discovery of her ability to tell a story in writing stemmed from her chance reading in the newspaper of a special course on writing for “women of a certain age.”  (See examples at her blog:  www.gwendiesblog.blogspot.com).

Her earlier training and experiences were useful in her last years as she learned to live with metastatic breast cancer and the consequences of its treatment.  Her ability to adapt and adjust was admired by many, and she was willing to accommodate to the disease until she could no longer live comfortably and independently.  That is when she let go and let Mother Nature have her way.

Gwendie is survived by her beloved son, Jonathan Hunter Camp (Irena Kandel), and granddaughter Daisy Leona Camp, of Ft. Lauderdale, FL; her sister Mary Roberts Landgraf (John) of Orlando, FL, her niece Kimberly Landgraf of Boulder, CO, ex-husband Larry Camp of Tallahassee, FL, step-daughter D’Laine Camp of Rotterdam, The Netherlands, step-son David Camp of Barcelona, Spain, an aunt and numerous cousins, most of whom are Florida natives.  She also leaves behind a large number of far-flung friends, including international friends made during her professional career and a special crew of women friends in her favorite spot – Asheville, NC.

Gwendie suggested that, if desired, memorial donations be made to the Southern Scholarship Foundation, 322 Stadium Drive, Tallahassee, FL 32304.

 

I Talked to My Mother This Week

It has been a while since our readers have heard anything from us!  Sorry!  We hope to do better in 2016. First -time grandmotherhood for Jane and a job change for Annice made things a little crazy!I  But, here we go again!  Welcome back to Oops50, which should really be called Oops60 at this point, but we are fond of the original name!  Here’s Jane’s first post for the new year.  And, please, send us your posts!

Jane
Jane

I talked to my mother the other day.  The only reason that is worth mentioning is that my mother is dead. Here is how it happened.  I was driving by myself on a fairly long road trip—the perfect circumstance for me to think too much about things that are worrying me—and I realized that I was feeling overwhelmingly sad.  I just had one of those awful, down-to-your-toes sadnesses, and the first thought that came in my head was “I wish I could talk to Mama right now.”  That thought made me even sadder because one thing I miss more than anything since her death is the ability to pick up the phone and talk to her about things—bad and good—that happen in my life.  But then, I had this thought:  ‘why not just talk to her now?’  And then I entered this very strange place where I imagined myself dialing her number (since most of my conversations with her happened over our land line and not by cell phone!), and then I had a conversation with her.

First, I apologized for not calling in so long, and then I launched right in to telling her about everything that was on my mind. And, the next thing you know, I was crying—just like the old days.  I talked and talked and cried and cried, about every last little thing that was bothering me, and as I talked and cried, I felt the muscles around my heart start to loosen up, and I could feel myself start to breathe a little easier, and I realized how much tension and worry I had been holding in.  And then—and this is the really remarkable thing about it—I felt that tremendous sense of release and relief that I used to feel when Mama would say something as basic as “I hate for you to be feeling this way, darling” or, her standard, “Get some rest, and I know you will feel better.”  It was as if Mama, from across the miles and years and clouds or whatever is between us had said, “Everything is going to be all right,” and, wonder of wonders, I believed her.  And, for the rest of the day—and even now, a few days later, I’m still feeling the effect. 

My family of origin!  Mama's in the middle, with me to her left.
My family of origin! Mama’s in the middle, with me to the left, back row.

I have to say:  I’m glad I was on a road trip when this happened and not driving down a street of my town.  No one could see me or overhear me, so they couldn’t accuse me of losing my mind and hanging out with ghosts.  But I had this urge to share this experience on the blog because I highly recommend it to those of you have a mother who has moved on to her reward:  give her a call sometime!

Remains To Be Seen

Adrienne Crowther
Adrienne Crowther

Let’s face it – no one likes to talk about death. Whether it’s our own, our parents, a spouse, or a friend, it hasn’t been a conversation topic of choice…..until now. Not surprisingly, we baby boomers are re-inventing our end of life practices and attitudes around death.

Here are the facts:

  • Cremation rates have soared to more than 40% of all deaths (close to 90% in some states)
  • Burial costs have reached high, sometimes unaffordable levels
  • Families are transient, and family members no longer live in close proximity to each other, nor to a family burial site
  • Religious tenets are more flexible regarding cremation as an option for disposition

Many recent articles, books, and other media point toward the growing number of cremations, both in the US and worldwide. Baby boomers especially, are breaking tradition in their spiritual beliefs, environmental convictions, and affinity toward individuality in all aspects of life. The funeral industry concedes to this rapid conversion to cremation, yet products for containment of cremation remains are limited, and are often mass-produced and outsourced.

Shine on Brightly
Shine on Brightly

Shine On Brightly is an online company that was launched in 2008 – the result of a lifelong passion for art, love for people and their stories, and lots of research on the changing trends around life and death rituals (especially among baby boomers). Fifteen months later, Founder and Owner, Adrienne Crowther lost her husband of 30 years. Nine months after that, his sister, who had been one of her dearest childhood friends, also died.  Adrienne’s work and business is truly unique and I thought it appropriate to address this subject for our oops50.blog.

Annice and dad
Annice and dad

What are your plans? When my own father died in 2011, I was grateful that he had taken care of all his burial plans.  Everything carefully outlined and paid for- in advance.  What a gift that was to all of us.  And what an alternative Adrienne has to offer to both the living  who want to plan their end of life rituals, or for those who will be making arrangement for their  loved ones.

If Only For a Second

Sadhvi
Sadhvi

As a young woman I mostly remember feeling too fat, too rubinesque, too tall, too feminine… I was an independent and carefree spirit who didn’t need anyone to be happy on this planet and looking so striking made me nervous.

Looking back at the pictures of my youth, I see a stunning and beautiful smiling face looking at the camera, always laughing and having a good time.

Now that I’m older I feel more vain and aware of my looks, as if what is left of my “beauty” is fading fast.

It’s kind of ridiculous really.

Take a look at the clip below, please.  It’s from the Mimi Foundation.

I cried and cried because here I am, feeling vain about my youthful beauty that I never appreciated, while the women and men who have lost their hair and their carefree existence thanks to cancer, have nothing to look forward too.

Young Sadhvi
Young Sadhvi

And then I cried some more because I’ve recently lost my dear Aunt Ellie to cancer, and Frannie, and Melinda’s mom…and I just have to accept that I need to fall apart once in a while.  I like to cry, and have been finding it hard to let go lately.

So I’m drying my eyes and I’m feeling more fragile and more human and more thankful for this gift called life.

Because that is exactly what it is – a present every single day.

Thank You to those at the Mimi Foundation for doing this project.

 

Remembering Lou Reed

SADHVI
Sadhvi

I grew up in the 60’s and 70’s, where music ruled my life.  Singing along to Lou Reed’s, “Hey Babe, Take a Walk on the Wild Side” back in Novemeber of 1972 when I was 14 years old, I remember feeling like I was as cool as Lou Reed sounded.  Lou Reed died on October 27th, almost 41 years to the date of the release of the Transformer album that had that song on it His wife, Laurie Anderson, wrote a piece for the Rolling Stones that touched me.  Click here to read it.

Aile Shebar, a wonderful writer and friend, allowed me to share what she remembers about Lou Reed.  It touched me as well, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did. 

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Hershey’s Milk Chocolate, Screen Test by Andy Warhol (1966)

Lou Reed was a few years ahead of me in school when we were kids in Freeport, NY, and I was in 7th grade.

He gave me my first smoke, a Camel cigarette, one day when we both ditched classes, an innocent moment that was so memorable… smoking became an addiction of mine for 30 years!

He was always in trouble – walking on the wild side in junior high, given to mood swings… a rebel and an iconoclast – but he was very bright, and was accepted at Syracuse University in spite of ‘behavior problems’ that became the cause of being ‘treated’ by ECT as a teenager, and the subsequent song, “Kill Your Sons”.

At the time, Syracuse was a prestigious university for a Long Island Jewish boy to attend.  Although he considered himself Jewish, he said, “My God is rock’n’roll.  It’s an obscure power that can change your life.  The most important part of my religion is to play guitar.”

I went to all his party gigs with his first (local) band, the Jades, and even a couple of bar gigs, well before I was of legal age to get in – Lou got me false iD – and with enough make-up, and high heels I passed for 18.

In those days, my nickname was ‘Hershey Bar’.

In more recent years, according to my cousin, who was one of Lou’s friends in high school and who had kept in touch, Lou had been seriously ill after years of drug addiction and alcohol, and as a result required and underwent a liver transplant. The cause of death is presumed to be a result of complications connected to the transplant.

Lou was always unusual… of course that was more noticeable in school, because he dared to be himself, regardless of the times we grew up in and his conditioning. His bi-sexuality was something he explored and celebrated, even though he was ‘tortured’ for being himself in his teens.  He was always someone who defied all conventional labels and by being himself, which included horrific behavior at times, and soft, tender behavior at others, he gave permission to others to explore their shadow sides too.

I often felt his pain, as a young person, when kids mocked him or worse, but he had enormous creative power to express himself in spite of, or sometimes because of, the pain he was in… and to transform it into art.  In the end he had the last laugh on our schoolmates, most of whom found another form of oblivion in which to live.

May he RIP, in Rock and Roll heaven, bringing the dark side to light.. and may he continue to Walk on the Wild Side with us all.

Aile Shebar is the founder of “Writing from the Heart”; A gifted Facilitator of Creative Writing, Coaching Writers, and Compassionate Editing.  She is also the event producer at One Heart Productions, bringing wonderfully gifted and enlightened ones to the public.

Aile Shebar
Aile Shebar