Dear friends and family,I deeply regret that I cannot be there, in the flesh, to honor the life of this great lady.
If I had some magic pixie dust to eliminate the 3000 miles and 300 academic commitments, I would be standing before you with a slide show of at least 3000 photos taken of or inspired by the lovely spirit Virginia Demaris. Instead, I am challenged offer to my respects in 500 words or less.
On the other hand, I doubt that there is any way I could truly demonstrate in words or actions the quantity and quality of love that I will forever feel for this woman, for ours was a relationship that evolved over the course of 50 years.
(This is the Memorial Brochure)….
She was my Aunt Virginia, and from my earliest memories stood as a beacon of matriarchal wisdom, generational family solidarity, and spiritual integrity.
In the early days, she helped tame the tree-climbing tomboy in me with cookie-baking sessions, delicate lacy garments, and the secrets of social grace. In those days, I held her in awe, as the world she represented was so far afield from my free and blissful Utopian and Bohemian existence out on the Fish Trap. Yet she managed her many challenges and responsibilities with a quiet strength and dignity, and these were qualities that earned my utmost respect and became standards for my own evolving identity. Still, at times I worried that her polite reserve might mean that she was not as happy as she deserved to be. So in moments when that familiar wicked twinkle would begin to shine in her eyes and she would burst forth with some outrageously humorous comment, I found reassurance that all was right in the universe.
(Aunt Virginia in 2002 @ Dad’s 75th Birthday Party)
With apologies for blowing my 500 word limit, I must share one particular moment that stands out in time, back in the year 2000, I think. It was a particularly sunny day and my plans had shifted such that I had nearly the whole day to myself. On a whim, I decided that if she was up to it, I’d spring my Aunt Virginia from Panorama and we’d run off to Westport for the day. Westport had always been a sacred space for us, as our families had met there for annual camping trips beginning when I was around 4 or 5 years old. The ocean had always seemed to bring out the free spirited libertine in both of us. Feeling completely safe, at home, and in unison with God As Nature, we’d both slip into that familiar state of divine quietude against the rhythmic sound of the pounding surf, offering ourselves up to the cleansing and revitalization delivered by the powerful ocean winds. Then we would begin performing the ritual of roaming the shore in search of natural treasures, sharing our discoveries with childlike delight and challenging one another to find things evermore beautiful than the last. Although my lovely Aunt was coming to the end of her time in the mortal coil, her attention less focused, her words less fluid, and her limbs less strong and sturdy, she came alive that day. We slipped right into our zone of quietude and spent several splendid sun-drenched hours simply rolling with the wind and collecting agates in the surf. The turgid breezes kept the heat at bay, and seemed to offer extra doses of vitality as she surprised me with stamina comparable to my own. To my utter delight, her competitive spirit was kindled as well and she put me to shame — yet again — with her masterful agate-hunting skills, all the while insisting in her customary generosity that I take home the spoils.
But perhaps my favorite moment, was a comment she made as we neared the end of our trek. We were on our way back to my car, strolling arm in arm, and at times shoulder to shoulder trudging together up through the sand dunes and crab grass. It was actually quite a ways, slow-going and difficult. We were both tired after a day of full exuberance and she was, after all, now quite delicate. But we both still basked in the bliss of the day. The sun was sinking behind us casting those long, lovely afternoon shadows that often marked the end of the most savoury summer adventures. Up until that moment we had been reverently silent, simply being with one another, and enjoying the mutual support – hers in the quiet trust of my steady hand and physical balance, and mine deriving from the entire legacy of this dear woman now fully living within me.
And then, as the car came within view and the real world beckoned, there must have been a wicked gleam in her eye that I missed due to my intense focus upon navigating the safest path for my precious cargo. For at that moment, she pointed down to our long limbed afternoon shadows that sprawled before us shoulder to shoulder, shadows that were topped by two wildly wind-whipped heads looking something like a pair of gigantic dandelions having gone to seed, and she quipped “Lovely hairdo my dear!” sending us both into peals of laughter.
Well, I suppose you had be there to fully enjoy that special moment, but I’m certainly glad I was. And as it turned out, that would be her last visit to the ocean while in the mortal coil.
Now that she is gone, I hope her spirit can soar wherever it may be. I do know, however, that I carry part of it within me, as I would not be the person I am today without having known the truly lovely and amazing Virginia Demaris. And as part of her legacy, I aspire to embody the transformation and unconditional love we shared, to approach each relationship and live each day as if it might be my last – with all the spiritual spontaneity, honour, and integrity that that implies.
Thank you for listening.
Katherine Peil (February 2008)
Bob PetersI just wanted to let you know your comments were well received. The Turnbow family loves and admires Virginia DeMaris a lot, and are very glad that people like you treasure her memory as well!