Monday, December 5, 2011

Remembering Dora Stein.....

A year ago I went caroling with members of Santa Monica Meeting to shut-ins, and we ended up at the apartment of Dora Stein, a beloved member of our meeting who passed away last month at age 84. I  was also asked to give a "eulogy" at Dora's memorial, so I am including it along with pictures we took last year when we went caroling... I realize how precious such moments are, and how caring for Dora brought us together as Friends....and brought us together to the One whose birth we celebrate this season.

It is a great honor to be asked to give a eulogy about Dora Stein, a beloved member of our Meeting. During her final years she suffered from constant health problems, and needed lots of care. Many of us visited her, took her to the hospital and to doctor’s appointments, took her to the bank and shopping, and performed other needed services. It was not always easy to be her caregiver, but I am grateful I had the opportunity to know and love this amazing woman. During one of her emotional outbursts in the hospital this past year, Dora referred to me as her son. When I heard this, I felt it was a great honor. Dora was born the same year as my mother, and she was like my mother in many ways: a gifted storyteller, a lover of people, and a colorful character you couldn’t help loving even if at times she drove you crazy.

And I am reminded of the words of Elizabeth Watson, a Friend who wrote a beautiful book about grieving called “Guests in my House.” Elizabeth wrote:

“This we owe to our beloved dead, whether young or old: to wipe from our memories all that was less than their best, and to carry them in our hearts at their wisest, most compassionate, most creative moments.”

Today we are here to remember Dora at her best, and to be thankful for what she gave of herself to us.

Dora loved this Meeting and she never ceased to express her gratitude to all of you. She never married, and she was not close to her siblings, so this Meeting was her family. I know that if she were here, she would want to thank each one of you for the care and love you have showed her. Especially deserving of thanks are those who served on Dora’s care committee: Donna and Fred Buell, Sue Richter, Nancy Fuller, Diane Manning, and Celia Carroll. Many others in this Meeting also deserve thanks for visiting her in the hospital, for helping with this memorial meeting, and for other acts of kindess.

This week Dora would have celebrated her 84th birthday. She was in Boston on Dec. 2, 1927. Her parents Samuel and Rachel Fisher Stein were Jewish and were born in Poland. She had three sisters: Rose, Annette and Ida. She attended Simmons College, and took occupational therapy training at LA City College. She worked as an editor for Sunset magazine and had many other free-lance jobs

She was the adopted grandmother of Dahlins: Bob, Suzy, and Lucas.

She loved parties, gardening, and her neighborhood.

And she loved being a Quaker.

I’m sure all of us have stories to share about Dora, so I will limit myself to only one. This story meant so much to me I posted it on my blog, and I will remember it for the rest of my life. I hope you will remember it whenever you are tempted to feel sorry for yourself.

In January of 2010, Dora had to go to ICU for an extended stay. Her lungs were ailing, and she had to be placed on a breathing tube. This was a huge stresser for Dora since she loved to talk, and for several weeks she couldn’t communicate except through writing. She wrote constantly, filling up page after page with her careful scrawl, trying to share her thoughts and feelings.

One afternoon, she shared words I will never forget. First, she wrote: “Jesus Christ is my teacher. I am trying to follow his example.”

Then she wrote: “I am the luckiest woman in the world.”

Then she wrote these words: “I am luckiest woman in the world because I have friends.”

I was staggered. What could Dora possibly mean? Here she was, a tiny woman, lying in a bed of pain, on the verge of dying, unable to speak, yet she said she was the luckiest woman in the world. What could she possibly mean?

At that moment, I felt I had a glimpse of Dora’s heart, and it was beautiful. Money and success didn’t matter to Dora. What mattered above all else was friendship. Dora was a true Friend.

I’d like to close with the words of William Penn. Written while Penn was in prison, these words beautifully describe the kind of friendship that never dies, the kind of friendship that Dora valued and embodied:
“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.

Death cannot kill what never dies.

Nor can spirits ever be divided, that love and live in the same divine principle, the root and record of their friendship.

If absence be not death, neither is theirs.

Death is but crossing the world, as friends do the seas; they live in one another still.

For they must needs be present, that love and live in that which is omnipresent.

In this divine glass they see face to face; and their converse is free, as well as pure.

This is the comfort of friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are, in the best sense, ever present, because immortal.”


Stan Searl, clerk of our Meeting, wrote this amazing poem that captures the essence of Dora and her relationship to our Meeting:

Why couldn't you be reasonable like me and all these other Quakers?
Why couldn't you be rational
And full of perspicacity and even common sense?

Why couldn't you have a real job
And an income
And be good,
To love your neighbors and be like us these perfect Quakers?

To me,
Knowing you is like
Feeling myself in the midst of a rock and roll song
Where the beat goes on beneath everything
Thumping and bumping
As we drum our hearts together,
Beating onto our bodies
Pushing ourselves,
Singing and dancing
With the drums echoing
On our skins
Look at me,
I am here
And alive just the same as you.

After all,
As Quakers together
We don't know what we're doing either
Leading with our noses
And smelling our way together
As you interrupted our precious silent worship once again,
Insistent and determined
And so angry that you threatened to blow up our carefully scrupled
edifice of calm

Challenging us to be present to the Divine in the midst of such intense anger.

I must admit that I never understood your righteous, Jewish anger
As you limped into our worship with your inner truth.

Reflecting upon your intense presence in our worshipping community,
I dream of you
Sitting on your couch in your tiny Montana Street apartment,
Looking up at your visitors
As you became an illuminated painting,

As if the Inner Light had entered you
And spewed out its Truth into Santa Monica and flowed right into the
Pacific Ocean itself.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much, Anthony. This is a wonderful tribute, - and also a great description of the flavor of the Quaker beloved community.