Saturday, December 23, 2006

One Last Poem

Holiday festitivies ring strangely out of tune. Like a member of an orchestra, I sit ready for the Christmas concert, only to look around and realize with surprise that the conductor has gone missing ...

For those faithful blog readers of the past few months, I offer one last poem from the thirties, which I found among my mother's papers:

I love to show that I
am well-informed
I always feel so spry
when I've performed.
I chatter sotto voce
of Benedetto Croce
and mention with esprit
Paul Valery.
I talk with intuition
about the art of Titian,
and revel in the Beaux-Arts
and minuets of Mozart's.
I pounce like any vulture
on gents of lesser culture.
The sculptured gods of Myron,
the light-heart loves of Byron,
I speak about with ease and will
for all is grist unto my mill.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bea's Memorial Service

My brother has graciously provided a summary of remarks during Bea's memorial service:

NICK: We’ve gathered here this evening not to mourn my mother’s death but to celebrate her life. She had more influence on me than any person I’ve ever known, and her main quality in this regard was her capacity for expressing love. The name Beatrice means "one who blesses.

I remember her sitting and listening for 45 minutes while I sang the entirety of a musical performance I was rehearsing. I remember her taking me to my first baseball game. I remember when she invited a troubled officemate to come live with us for a while. And I remember that she was the only one of my son Ben’s four grandparents who could connect with him. Her love for me was so intense while I was growing up that she had trouble placing limits on me.

She was a complicated woman. She participated in the 1963 march in which Martin Luther King articulated his dream, but she was afraid of street crime and suspected our maids of drinking her wine and putting water in the decanter, so she wouldn’t notice. She was a highly paid professional in an era when most women were putting all their energies into homemaking and mothering, yet by the time most women were working, she regretted not devoting more attention to her children. She embraced my father’s ancestry - saying Good Night to me in Russian, observing the custom of sitting quietly before a departure, and co-authoring a book on the tsar and his family - but her New Jersey roots kept showing. I could never figure out why my father’s ancestry seemed to matter so much more than my mother’s. She loved to enter contests; I remember helping her with a Dial soap contest that involved praising the product with phrases beginning with D-I-A-L. Once she actually won a mink coat in a contest.

My mother never drove a car all her life, but she could be eminently practical. She saw that in Washington in The Sixties success in your field often depended as much on contacts as on ability and hard work. When I was struggling in school, she invited my teachers over for dinner - and invited some single women over, too.

I was struck that the headline writer at the Provincetown Banner, challenged to sum up my mother’s life in a few words, chose "writer and editor." I thought, "Wow, that’s what I am, too." She taught me to play Scrabble, and shared my love of Shakespeare. Whenever I said that one person did something better than another, she would say, "Comparisons are odious."

For my mother, psychoanalysis was a saving grace, a life raft after some traumatic experiences in her early years. She considered Freud to be the most important person of the 20th century. In the fact of all the craziness of modern life, she managed to project a warm, welcoming love that became a life raft for me. I’ll always remember her fondly.

BETSY: Beatrice was my mother-in-law. Unlike all the jokes, we had a good relationship. In fact, over the years, I came to love her dearly. I admired her and she taught me many things. Nick says that at first she may have found me a bit too prim and was unsure I could make her son happy. (You know Beatrice!) Near the end of her life she said she thought I had improved! Ultimately, I felt included in the circle of her love.

I remember how one of the first areas where we connected was about the importance of soil, of earth. Beatrice believed in building up the fertility of the soil and in composting. At one point, I think, she urged Nick to consider a career in soil agronomy. And there was, I thought, a deeper, metaphorical/psychological/spiritual dimension contained in this interest of hers. At any rate, being an organic gardener and composter, I resonated with it.

Mother had studied Italian at one point in her life. She loved to roll phrases of Italian over her tongue. One summer she was fond of the phrase, "Dolce fa niente" which she translated as "It is sweet to do nothing." Since I am always busy to the point of workaholism, and am challenged to balance my activity with time for rest and relaxation, Dolce Fa Niente is medicine for what ails me. Another gift from Beatrice!

Like all of us Beatrice had her struggles and her faults. Sometimes when we were visiting, Mother would get extremely frustrated with Father. One morning I was in the kitchen and she came charging in and poured herself a glass of wine. "That man!" she fumed. After a while, calmed and fortified by the wine, she returned to continue the conversation with Father.

As others have mentioned, Mother was able to relate to our son Ben who has Down syndrome and autism. Of all his four grandparents she was the one who really forged a connection with him. She met him where he was at. If he was obsessed with hamburgers, she made sure she fixed him a hamburger on his first night at Wellfleet. She rolled with his odd behaviors and found things to talk about with him. She had real conversations with him. She was comfortable with him in a physically affectionate way.

And Ben is only the most extreme example of Beatrice's ability to connect and to pay attention to the people around her. She listened and gave good attention to her children and her grandchildren (and her friends and acquaintances.) She was warm and interested in what we each were doing and what we were thinking about. In the spotlight of her attention she made us feel seen and that we were important and loved. Beatrice communicated her love in ways that reached us and fed us. And we loved her back.

NAN (niece): Her mother Dorothy and Beatrice had a rivalry..."Auntie Bea was the most exotic character I was related to"...At her wedding, Beatrice threw rice under her skirt and said, "That’s for fertility."...She was emblematic of something that was radically different.

ELLEN (grand niece): You had to be on time for Beatrice...She was a crucial person at a difficult time in my mother’s life...She remembers Beatrice running naked into the water.

MARGOT (niece): She worked, she traveled, she lived in a cool Washington house, and she’d say something you didn’t expect...Beatrice sent her mother, Dorothy, exotic food for the holidays, like a jar of whale water, baby bees, and was it bull’s testicles?...Remembers fights with Dorothy and saying to her mother, "You two are too old to be fighting."

NATALIE (granddaughter): Learned it was normal to be a highly paid professional and go to the best school and have friends all over world. She wanted to know if she had had "a screaming-mimi orgasm....She never made us feel like kids. She set an example that you can have your own thoughts and don’t have to be ashamed.

NICK (son of best friend): She could say things that shock you...She was not averse to bridging gaps...She was very thoughtful in helping with his mother’s illness.

IRIS: (local cook, friend, former tenant): "She was one of the most beautiful women I’ve seen in my life" and called her "regal."

JULIAN (architect): Asked him to put cabins together as one cottage. She was project manager and agreed to his suggestion to make the deck bigger. She invited him to Wellfleet in the fall and always had an agenda for every visit. Compared her to Katharine Hepburn and said she would be comfortable on the African Queen.

STEPHANIE (granddaughter): Was present at fights between Beatrice and Dorothy, often accompanied by drinking; she remembers Dorothy saying, "No wonder you don’t have any friends" and Beatrice running after her with basket of Christmas cards to refute that statement...She was not a good cook...Once cooked Thanksgiving turkey with a plastic bag of giblets still in it...Gave us vodka when sister had her first period. She paid attention to people as individuals...

SANDY (daughter): She’d get people in cars and feel she had a captive audience. She’d ask my husband specific questions about Swedish politics...

ELAINE (librarian): Treated her as an equal...Gave feeling life is interesting. "Taught me how to talk to all the countesses in the world." "They don’t make them like her anymore."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Why This Blog Must End

Yesterday I decided not to post anymore of Bea's writing. She would have loved blogging had it existed when she was younger. Yesterday, for the first time in over seven months, I did not post a By Bea's Bedside blog. I find myself grieving for both my mother and the high, produced by recording this intimate journey that was the end of her life. As we prepare for the memorial service, I want to again thank the strangers who cared enough to read the blog every day and send comments. Most blogs do not end unless the writer gets lazy. This one is different. It has no reason to continue. I hope, however, to create a book out of the writing Bea inspired and have begun a search for an agent who recognizes its value.

Tomorrow a special treat, a film my son made in memory of his grandma ...

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

A Progression of Shelters

“An umbrella can be a home,
if the rain is thick enough to make walls …”

In our house we weather the pulse of rain
against shingle; stars fizzle
like damp cinders against the window.

People depart, one by one (looking back)
two-faced as the moon; diminished by time.
We who remain deny moon-madness
and are pared away by slivers …

I braid my hair for sleep (a thick coil).
You dream of serpents.

“Remember the turtle when talk turns
to shelters; he carries
his own umbrella.”

P.S. I found "A Progression of Shelters" among Bea's things, in her handwriting. It turns out she had painstakingly copied over the poem which was written by a young friend, Lisa, who recently expressed pleasure that I included in this blog.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Bea's Books (11)

I open a copy of John Hersey’s Hiroshima. On the first page, Bea has put a quote: “The pen is mightier than the sword.” This book is heavily underlined. Bea has also written comments in the margins. I find a post-it, “Of 245,000 population, nearly 100,000 killed or doomed at one blow. 100,000 hurt.” Bea knew John Hersey personally. I know because I find one of his letters. At the end of Chapter 4, Bea has underlined, “Does it not have material and spiritual evil as its consequences which far exceed whatever good might result?” At the bottom of this page, she has written, “I would say that the author certainly profoundly agrees with Father Siemes and gravely deplored use of the bomb. B.G.”

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Why Choose Alternatives to Nursing Homes?

Today I had a lovely visit from Joe, an early reader of this blog. We had tea and discussed life, his Christy, and my mom. Joe homecared Christy, who passed away peacefully at home last spring.

Also, there has been a flurry of blog information regarding elderly care and nursing homes, which I would like to pass on to By Bea’s Bedside readers.

First, FATE, Foundation Aiding the Elderly. Founder Carole Herman’s goal is, "Assuring our elders are treated with care, dignity and the utmost respect during their final years when they can no longer take care of themselves."

The Boomer Chronicles post "Beware of these Nursing Homes" with its link to a September 2006 Consumer Reports article on what the situation in nursing homes is today in America.

Finally, Ronni, at Time Goes By, whose blog today features reference to an article in the AARP Magazine, which you should all read. It is called Embedded.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Bea's Obituary

WELLFLEET – Beatrice (Chinnock) Grabbe, 97, of Old King’s Highway died Nov. 29 at home. Born Oct. 4, 1909 in Belleville, N.J., she was the daughter of the late Harry S. and Bertha (White) Chinnock. She attended Montclair High School, then Kent Place School, and graduated from Vassar College. She worked in New York for Time-Life publications and as a producer for CBS Radio. She was the head of the radio section of the Office of War Information in Washington, D.C.

She also worked in public relations for the Manufacturing Chemists Association and as the editor of American Studies News, a publication of the Fulbright Scholar Program. She married Paul Grabbe in 1944 and in 1970 they moved to Wellfleet where she did volunteer work for Amnesty International. In 1984 they co-authored “The Private World of the Last Tsar,” a collection of photographs of the royal family of Russia. Her husband died in 1999.

She is survived by a daughter, Alexandra of Wellfleet, and a son, Nicholas of Amherst; five grandchildren; one great-grandchild and three nieces and one nephew.
There will be a private memorial service in Wellfleet on Dec. 16. In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations in her memory to Hospice & Palliative Care of Cape Cod, 270 Communication Way, Hyannis, 02601.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Missing Bea

Thank you to all readers who sent emails of condolence. Today’s blog is about recovery. Karyn wants to know how I am faring. The answer is as well as can be expected. The house seems very empty. Even when Bea was asleep, we felt her presence. My brother called this evening to say he has not been able to concentrate at work this week, so I guess he is grieving, too. My daughters call to see how I am. Losing someone who played such a large part in one’s life for 60 years turns out to be a bit more complicated than I anticipated ...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Giant & The Toilet

Bea left notes in the most unexpected places. While sorting through her papers, I discover what appears to be an idea for a children’s story, scribbled on the bottom of a stationary box:

“Wouldn’t it be funny if a giant came along with this big a blade (yd.) and this long a screw, if he lowered the handle and unscrewed our toilet and carried it away – water and all. Mother came along in the car and found the giant and the toilet. Then, they’d take the giant and throw him in the swamp and bring the toilet home again.”

Now, Bea's grandfather was a plumber. In his display window sat a magnificent toilet. As a little girl, she tried to sit on this toilet and was whisked away by one of the relatives...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bea's Journal: The Bird’s Nest

"Casual happenings are sometimes like jewels in our lives. Here is an example: My daughter takes me to see a bird’s nest. There are now no birds in it. 'Their mother,' she says, 'has taught them to fly.'” 6/11/00

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The Mystery Letter

Lisa has just changed Bea when I enter the bedroom. My mother sits alert, enjoying the attention.

“Guess what!” I say. “I found an incredible letter you wrote someone. Do you mind if I read it out loud?”

Bea folds her hands to indicate I should proceed, so I do:

"I was happy to feel your presence at Ted’s Thursday night though the party didn’t interest me very much."

I look down, to see if Bea remembers. She has closed her eyes.

"Life is so beautiful and deep; we must not cloud it with confused points of view and confused bits of conversation. We may speak to our friends of each other, yet our only clear understanding is between ourselves.

I tried to tell Polly something of what we had said to each other Wednesday night but, to my joy, I could not convey it to her, nor to any other person. Only to you I could say something of the effect of that conversation on me by telling you that when I left that evening I had a warmer feeling in my heart for people.

I am very proud of you that you have the will power you have. Do not think of me as one you should or should not propose marriage to. You do not understand me if you think of that. If I marry someone else, it will be because I love him more, because with him I sense life more deeply. And, if you prefer someone else to me, it will be for the same reason. Marriage won’t make such difference. Real love is a thing of the spirit. And I cannot marry anyone with whom my spirit is not in harmony.

The important thing is that our lives must be finer, for having known each other’s spirits.

If I am to be anything to you, I am to be in a way a part of your music.

Neither of us, apart or in relation to each other, should be thinking of marriage as an immediate possibility. We are not ready. My spirit is not ready. Only in my emotions am I ready, but in them I would betray the most essential part of me, the spirit. And that spirit is not ready. It has to be more in harmony with the universe, healthier than it has been. It must subdue my emotions. They have not been in their proper relation as an expression of my spirit.

We must have faith in our religious convictions and live nearer to God. In that way only shall we have vision.

Then, as Time goes on, if we find we are more kin to each other than to any one else, then, we shall know we want to spend life together.

Life is simple and deep. Life is a hymn of praise, “Inasmuch as without Thee we are not able to please Thee” mercifully give us to know Thy spirit more and more each day."

“Wow!” exclaims Lisa.

“Who did you write that for?” I ask. “Bill Whitney?”

“I don’t remember,” Bea murmurs. “Perhaps myself?”

Monday, December 04, 2006

Bea's Novel (2)

On Thursday, by mid-afternoon, Sara braced herself for Kameladevi’s broadcast. Oh, why did she arrange to have a friend on the air? She knew it was bad form, frowned upon. Was it self-destructive? She was proud of Kameladevi, proud to know the Congress Party leader, proud of her contacts with the Indian community in New York. She was all for the Indian struggle for independence from Britain, as much as she knew about it. But now, with Kameladevi about to go on the air, Sara knew she had no idea at all how Kameladevi would behave.

In going over the script, Sara had asked her to change one line. It wasn’t really censorship, just a shift of emphasis so Sara would not feel called upon, morally required, to submit the script to legal staff for clearance. While straightening out the matter, Kameladevi had left for Washington and matters had to be handled over the phone. Anyone who had taken part in the Salt March to the sea with Gandhi, spent five years in a British prison, a former actress at that, couldn’t be easily restrained, Sara had discovered.

She listened, at 3:40 p.m., a copy of the revised script in hand. The throaty voice of the Hindu freedom-fighter came over smoothly from Washington, but when Kameladevi reached the revision, she stopped speaking! What was the matter? Seconds ticked by. No sound. Was there something wrong with the controls? No, because the sound wouldn’t go dead exactly at the point where the deletion had been made. Lost her place? Dropped the script? No, it was silent protest. Then, after the consuming silence registered to that important handful of fellow Indians who had tuned in, the deliberate voice took up where it had left and read calmly to the end.

The whole incident reminded Sara of the last time, several months earlier, when she had, as it were, run afoul of the British Government. Claire Boothe Luce was taking part in a forum series that had been cooked up by Wendell Willkie’s widow and a former opera singer, both rich and limelight-starved. Nobody else wanted this horrible series of three Saturday afternoon discussions. So, it landed in Sara’s lap and she could not refuse. Scripts were due days in advance, but Mrs. Luce sent hers in 14 minutes before airtime. A glance showed it was a very strong plea for the United States to join the Allies, stressing the fact that we were already morally committed. Sara had been instructed not to let anything controversial air without recourse to lawyers. She couldn’t reach one on the phone until she was already in the Control Booth. She read the troublesome lines to the lawyer at his home in Scarsdale. “Let it go,” he said. With a sigh, she did.

As soon as Mrs. Luce had done her stint, the drenchingly beautiful, topaz-bedecked charmer grabbed Sara by the wrist in a tense, cold grip and explained she had to catch a plane.

When Sara returned to her desk, the phone was ringing.

“What happened this afternoon?” her boss asked. “Bill Paley just called. He said Claire Luce just made a stage entrance at his Long Island house party with the words: Bill Paley, your network tried to censor me this afternoon. “Forty minutes after she had left the studio!”…

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Bea's Novel (1)

Deep in a closet, I discover a draft of a novel, which was never published: Circle, Circle, April 16, 1975. It begins,

“To express emotions freely, deep emotions. That’s what we all want. April 16, 1941.” She scribbled the words on a small piece of paper, then slipped it into her desk drawer. There, in that weird place, 485 Madison Avenue, CBS headquarters, it was wildly incongruous even to have such a thought. To write it down helped.

Her desk was in an open area where the Education Department swung into the News Department. She looked up. The two men who sang the Pepsi-Cola commercial were walking by. They carried their ukuleles like mallets and, for some reason, wore leis around their necks as well as Hawaiian shirts, as if in anticipation of television. Soon she would hear, “Pepsi-Cola hits the spot … Twice as much for a nickel too. Pepsi-Cola is the drink for you.”

H. v. Kaltenvorn, has already hurried past. Even when he hurried, he kept his solemn, Germanic dignity. He always seemed about to report a crisis – with dignity. Now he was checking with the boys in the newsroom on last-minute happenings. In a minute he would enter the Sound Room to broadcast the latest harrowing information from the warfronts of Europe.

Sometimes she stayed to listen. Tonight, no. Let’s see. She started to close her desk. Her friend, Kameladevi, would be on the Thursday afternoon talk program, this time from Washington. That was all set up, with pick-up cue from New York. No loose ends to attend to. Just in time to get a bite to eat at the Automat before taking the subway to the psychoanalyst. That letter from Virgil Thompson, where was it? She stuck it in her purse and scooted for the elevator.

On the subway, she read the letter again. He thanked her for her note of condolence and appreciation for his Tribune obituary tribute to Elsie Houston. Elsie was his friend, too.

Why had she done it? “Committed suicide” – strange words – killed herself? This was the first time she had known anyone who did. She thought of Elsie’s program, just two months ago. “Life in Latin America.” Elsie had sung songs by Villa Lobos: “The Donkey-Driver,” “AAAAOOOOWAY.” Sara could hear the sad sound, then again recalled the lilting quality of the voice, like a rare bird born to sing, the haunting music so expressive of Brazil. Maybe Elsie should never have left? Ah, but with a Black father from Texas, it was inevitable that she would want to see his country …

It had been such a coup to get her to sing on the program! Such CBS Education programs had little or no budget. That hadn’t mattered to Elsie. And now this fiery woman was dead. Why? Was it enough reason to be jilted by her French lover? How she must have suffered. It was hard to be partly Negro.

To Riverside Drive at last. “The forsythia are out,” she said to Dr. Witt as she proceeded to lie down, always self-consciously, on the couch. It wasn’t long before she was talking about suicide. Whose? Such a nice man, even if he didn’t understand English very well. He was a lay analyst but before that he was a poet, Rheinhold Neiburhr’s brother-in-law, gentle and comforting.

People wondered why she stayed on in the Education Department at $35 a week and managed to support herself on that amount. Vassar friends did not question her intent. They, too, had been fired up by Professor Helen Lockwood, the spinster-Kodak heiress, the English Department’s social service dynamo. Not so, Mr. Rouke, head of CBS publicity. He couldn’t figure her out. Here was a pretty face, a pretty figure. Why did she waste her time in Education? No money, no future there. When she wore her light brown hair down with the curls tied in back by a velvet ribbon, Mr. Rouke called her “George Washington.” That’s as close as he came to flirting …

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Bea on Racial Relations

I would like to express my thanks to faithful blog readers who have contacted me with condolences regarding Bea's death. It is true: one does feel totally disoriented.

To answer a general question, By Bea's Bedside, as a blog, will stop soon, since my purpose was to document the final months of my mother's life. But, we will do this gradually to help everyone who has complained of withdrawal symptoms!

As the weeks went by, I sometimes found notes which did not necessarily fit into the daily flow. I will now share some of them with you. Let's start with Bea on Racial Relations:

"Current US society, with its obsessive emphasis on the bottom line, has brought welcome improvement in race relations. Black millionaires like Oprah and Bill Cosby have effectively demonstrated impressive abilities to make money. Modern media has provided the means, but the effect is what counts. It seems to me that the new avenues by which these creative people have advanced themselves financially can also educate Whites and other Americans, such as Hispanics, to their intelligence and charm.

The important result, I think, is that the role of Blacks is in acute process of change. I think it is important that this evolution be celebrated.

Now that I am in my 90th year, I think back to racial relations early on. Mabel, the Black Bermudan who worked for my family was someone I loved and hugged. At that time, the movement of Southern Blacks to the North had not yet begun. When it did, we were fortunate to have a distinguished Black leader in Martin Luther King.

Our country needs a few reminders of the progress we have made: During World War II, I was working for the Office of War Information as head of the Radio Section. For this assignment, I had a large staff. At that time, African-Americans made up 12% of the population. So I decided to hire 12% Black in my staff. When my section head’s Southern secretary heard this, she said that the day a Black joined our department, she would walk out. I responded, “That fine with me.” But I discovered that when the staff went to lunch together, we actually had to form a phalanx around our Black staff member in order to be received at local restaurants, right in the shadow of the Capital.

And, earlier on, working in New York, I had a call from a photographer-friend whose assignment was to photograph the Black lady featured as Aunt Jemina on a package of pancake flour. He was trying to find hotels in which this lady could be received.

While at CBS Radio, I was asked to do a report on the extent to which the war message was reaching rural blacks. I arranged for a sociology professor from Fisk University to work on the project. Then came a snag! A vice-president informed me such a project would not get their consultant’s approval. When the consultant did hear about it, he got in touch with top people in personnel and – bingo! – I was fired with absolutely no explanation …

What changes have occurred in the last 50 years! Now members of my family have close contacts with Blacks – all of them rewarding …"

Friday, December 01, 2006

Condolences from Julian

I am saddened to hear of your mother - Mrs Grabbe as i always liked to call her
i knew her for a long time, since 1970
she really liked the big deck of the little house
reminding everyone that it was my idea
i remember making grilled fish for your mother and father on the deck during
one of the Autumns we were invited to Wellfleet
i have fond memories of those times
i will miss her
she had a big heart
with sympathy
julian (Olivas)

P.S. the photo was taken in Spring of 2003 on a walk with the dogs in Central Park
the sky was windswept so the heart held its shape for only about a minute
it was traced by a single airplane at approximately 5000 feet
it only made this one shape
making two passes - one for each half of the heart
how fleeting these moments are


How empty the house is!

Nick and I accomplish funeral home formalities and arrange for a memorial service, to take place at the Wellfleet Library, a favorite haunt of Bea's, Dec. 16, 5 pm. Then we sit together quietly before her boxes of mementos, a life well lived.

I realize I did not fully cover her appreciation of art. Bea has a box of postcards, many acquired during early trips abroad: images of Grecian statues, sculpture by Michelangelo, sculpture from Vézelay, Renaissance paintings and modern art by Mary Cassatt or Vincent Van Gogh. On the back of one postcard, marked Yaksi, Indian, Sanci, 50-25 B.C., Bea has scrawled recently, “Just because it is so beautiful.” There is a booklet from the Musée Guimet, showing a bust of Tara, seemingly in meditation. I also find peaceful Nara Buddhas, which remind me of the last time Sven and I took my mother to the Museum of Fine Arts. We pushed her wheelchair to the Buddha room. That was where she wanted to go.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the HPCCC team, who made such a difference in the last months of Bea’s life, and especially Lisa Olson. Her devotion shines as a model to others. I am glad I have recorded her loving care in this blog. This is how the extreme elderly deserve to be treated.

Among Bea’s papers we find a poem, composed in 1963. I offer it as conclusion, Bea’s wish for the world to find its way, particularly relevant at a time when war kills more civilians in Iraq every day, genocide in Darfur goes unchallenged, and the absence of outrage at murder by polonium-21 makes the needle on our moral compass swing blindly, like our hearts, now that Bea has left …

Come, virgins, in your beauteous prime.
Come, Aztec youth primeval.
Earth moves toward the glorious Sun:
Inexorable the sacrifice of blood.

Ruddy gore,
glutinous and red with corpuscles,
microscopic discs
like gaudy sacramental wafers,
invisibly, but oh so chemically
in league with Earth’s encircling air.

How comforting
to let the mind reflect,
however briefly,
on relatively simple

But enough,
for warmer rays foretell
our growing closeness
to the Sun.
And so to sacrificial season when
blood must encrust
or soak within receptive soil.

We can force the blood to spill
but – here’s the tawdry joke! –
cannot make it soak
discreetly in
like liquid fertilizer.
Who knows? It may lie crusty
for days
waiting for rain.

Christ, with wooden stakes for Calvary,
joins now the celibate crew
on Friday, when the Sun and Moon
position for Earth’s
yearly resurrection.

If Christ had never lived,
we might, forsooth, have imagined Him
out of our own compelling need
for blood.

But Christ did live and die,
Attic maiden, too,
and others in the long procession.
with this difference: Christ chose
to die for others.
Can his death atone?
Can such a sacrifice fulfill
our curious need for blood?

You, there, in Murmansk,
closer to Point Barrow
as the crow would fly
than L.A., Omaha or Ottawa,
be pleased to listen.

If we concentrate
on rockets killing rockets,
we shall kill more than rockets.

More meet, it seems.
the sacrifice of One.
Weary Earth, of bloody sacrifice
Be done.