I am honored to have a place in this program to express my respect, my grief and my love for Paul. This is not the ending that I had envisioned for you, Paul, but the outpouring of love and spiritual influence you’ve had on others certainly is. I was recently listening to an NPR podcast on grief (I’ve actually listened to a few recently). In that, a guest who had experienced cumulative grief asked the ultimate question of “why are we all here?” if we have to go through such pain in losing loved ones. His realization is that the reason we are all here is to help each other get to the other side… wherever that other side may be.
I met Paul in the early 70s. In fact, I cannot remember my life without Paul in it. Throughout the years, he referred of me to others as his goddaughter – such a place of honor in his life. I am a fortunate soul that was able to grow and come into my own under his influence– guiding and teaching me things I may not have had the chance to contemplate. Many such realizations would happen in late night conversations where he was as interested in MY memories and shared experiences, as I was in his. How amazing to be, what I felt, a disregarded teenager and to have this worldly adult validate and care about my opinions, my experiences and my own contributions to HIS life. I know he had this same effect on so many that he met.
Throughout the decades, I continued to turn to Paul as a touchstone, lately in extended Skype calls that would last for hours and always brought laughter, love and a brightness, even as the world around us pissed us off. What I continued to learn is that I’m not alone - so many of us walk through life unsure of our next steps and full of imposter syndrome. Even Paul was plagued, which always amazed me, as I heard about how much his wisdom was so valued in so many different communities. I hope we gave each other strength and support in all those hours of conversation.
Since becoming a mother, I’ve advised my sons to take time and analyze those around them as they form their own thoughts and opinions of our world. I want them to look at who they respect and ask why they admire that individual – what about them makes them worthy? What about them makes you want to emulate or accept their influence? I know the two decades Paul had with my boys influenced them greatly and I thank my parents for bringing Paul into our lives – which in turn brought many of you here into our lives - and allowing us an opportunity to learn from him. My husband consistently says Paul made him a better man, a better husband and a better human. At the same time, I was given the honor of receiving such unconditional love, support and my own admiration in the woman I have become from a man I so respected. It’s quite powerful and unique and each of us are so very fortunate.
In addition to celebrating quiet and meaningful holidays together, my family travelled with Paul to Costa Rica in 2016. To watch him in action, embracing the love of people and experiences, to find the inner (and outer) beauty of a society and culture that is different than our own was profound. We made friends with everyone – which is really how the world should be. In return, we gave him an opportunity to do some of the things he’d worried was “too old” for – horseback riding, walking that swinging rope bridge (terrified), rafting down the river and completely losing his trunks. It was a mutually beneficial experience!
From that trip, we developed a shared love of sloths – we’d even planned on returning to the sloth sanctuary in Costa Rica in the near future. Sloths became our collective Spirit Animal and I have many sloth tokens around my home sent to me by Paul. The more I read and study, the more I am convinced the sloth spirit is a prefect representation of Paul. No, it’s not because he was lazy – far from it and neither are sloths! Sure, he had a way about him that was deliberate in movement and contemplation. In fact, sloths possess keen instincts, patience, peace and wisdom that to me very much characterize the Paul I knew. In researching animal spirits, I found following…
Perhaps the most common reminder from Sloth is the need for peace and relaxation. If you have been uptight, stressed out, anxious, haggard or just plain worn out, Sloth instructs that it’s time to stop. You cannot worry 24/7, and you can’t fix anything if your inner well is dry as a bone. Taking time out is not a sign of laziness, but rather a pearl of wisdom in knowing your limits and using your energy wisely. Save your energy. Restock yourself with people and experiences that bring joy and comfort. As the Sloth lounges in the trees, he has much time for contemplation and meditation. It’s time for introspection: to consider to what do you give your constant thoughts? How do you act and react? Sloth Spirit Animal says to know thyself. It’s always good advice.
To know thyself… I have to give credit to Paul for reminding me, and helping me, to know myself and for walking with me for a time in my journey to the other side.