Category Archives: Dying

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.

 

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.

 

Sadhvi Shares: In Memoriam from my friend Sarvananda

SARVANANDA & HIS FATHER

In Memoriam: Lieutenant-Colonel Nathan B. Bluestone, M.D.

On August 26, 1948, Nathan B. Bluestone, M.D. ended his suffering that began four years earlier on the fields of France. My father was a country doctor. His love was medicine and he tended to the ill and wounded. It was his calling. In the small upstate New York town where he practiced he delivered babies in the office house where we lived. He drove out to remote farms to give the five daughters of a farmer their vaccinations. He healed broken bones and cut foreheads. But nothing prepared him for the slaughter that he encountered after he landed with the fourth wave at Normandy in June 1944.

My experience of the war was my father’s absence. He would send my mother and me funny little letters that would have sections blacked out. This was V-mail. I always thought it was strange that other people would read my father’s letters to me. But the censors did read them and blocked out areas that they felt were sensitive to national security or something.

He wrote me a continuing story about a friendly amoeba. There even were illustrations. In later years, when I visited India, I found it strange that people feared amoebas as much as they did.

 

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To my mother and aunts and grandparents he sent letters and watercolors. He was an artist as well as a physician and would, in those rare moments when he had a minute or two, paint a watercolor of where he was. We cherished those postcard size pictures painted with love, for they were not only beautiful but they represented a part of the artist that could not be expressed in words.

Then, for what seemed to be an eternity, we heard nothing. No letters came. No pictures came. Nothing came. And with each day my mother became more and more distraught.

This was the time when the Germans made a desperate attempt to counterattack the American forces. The German forces under the command of Field Marshall Gerd von Runstedt had encircled the American forces centered at Ardennes, France. This was the Battle of the Bulge. And for over a month, during the bitter winter, American and German soldiers slaughtered each other. Nineteen thousand American soldiers died. Six armies locked in battle in the coldest winter on record. Over a million men fought in what was to be recorded as the worst battle of World War II.

Torn, ripped, cut and blown apart, young men passed through the field hospital that my father headed. It was X-ray after X-ray after X-ray. It was an assembly line of death and dying. There was no time for the physicians to protect themselves from the deadly radiation. And it was this radiation that caused the skin cancer that later was to take my father’s life.

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When he returned from that war I was six years old. My father rarely spoke to me about that war, only once, that I remember, to joke that he had a rifle in the back of his jeep and that’s where it stayed. He was a healer, not a killer. He even received a Bronze Star for bravery and never told me what he did. It was half a century later, when my brother and I were cleaning out my mother’s house that I found the citation from the Major General to my father and the reasons. My father received the Bronze Star for his service tending to the wounded from France through Belgium and Germany, often on the front lines under enemy fire. He was a lieutenant-colonel. He was chief of surgery. And he went to the front lines, not as a hero, but as a healer. He knew that, for a wounded soldier, the journey from the front lines to the field hospital could mean the difference between life and death. He was just doing his job.

My memories of Dr. Nathan Bluestone are fragmentary and impressionistic. Mostly I remember how we would sing together in the car, my father and I. “I’ve Got Sixpence”, “Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah” and rounds and rounds.

Much later a psychic told me that my father had been deeply wounded by his inability to heal in the face of such overwhelming carnage. His soul, as much as his body, had been gravely affected. That rings true.

MY FRIEND, SARVANANDA

We moved back into the office house and my father continued the practice that he had left four years earlier. But the cancer, first on his finger, spread and slowly, he began to die. Bit by bit the doctors cut away my father. First they took his finger. Then they took his right breast. And then he died.

It has been almost sixty-five years since my father died. I have grown far from that nine year old boy who couldn’t understand why such a thing was possible. And yet, after all this time, I still cry at the loss.
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On this day each year we are called upon to remember those who have died in the service of their country. Politicians give speeches, flags are unfurled and hot dogs are consumed.

What we tend to forget is what General William Tecumseh Sherman once reminded a group of young men. “War is hell.” And the hell is for the living, for those who survive the deaths of their beloveds as much as it is for those who die on the fields of battle or in the hospitals.

What we tend to forget is that war leaves lots of fatherless sons and daughters. Today, for example, thousands of American and Iraqi and Afghani sons and daughters will grow up without their fathers and mothers. And for what?

What we tend to forget are the children who are left behind. We forget that fifty years from now there will be adults who still grieve for the loss of a father or a mother–who still cry at the remembrance. Let us truly remember.