Today is the 8th of April 2018; three years and nine months after I received the tragic news yet the wonderful honor of being asked by our friend and neighbor, Justin, to deliver the eulogy at his wife Becky’s memorial service.
Recently, I sought and received Justin’s permission to post the writing on my website, ancientwhispers.com to give a wider audience a glimpse into the world of our Becky’s short, sacred life of service. Short her life may have been, but to all who loved and knew her, Becky’s time spent with us was truly fulfilled and her example of how one person’s life spent in consideration of “others first” is her lasting gift to us all. I learned from my friend Becky, that at first glance, beauty may not always be recognizable in the eye of the beholder, but regardless, beauty like a gem and a fearful heart lies hidden away, protected in the most densest of secretive places, yearning to be revealed. When we look with love instead of being led by our narrow fears and prejudices, the most formidable defenses will be washed away like the mere illusions they really are, and the jewel and the tender heart will be exposed in all its glory.
For Justin and Jay
Eulogy for Beloved Becky Teilheit
July 11, 2014
In her own words, Becky Teilheit, on Saturday, June 14, 2014 in an email about her new family member, Biloxi:
“I have the baby. He is the sweetest, cutest, ugliest, stinkiest thing I’ve ever seen. I may be in love. The evil plot may have just stuck me in the rear!”
In my own family of 6 older brothers and 2 waaaay, way older sisters, Becky was the younger sister I had yearned for all my life. We were never strangers to one another when we finally met.
We came together like most neighbors do, chatting over the panel fence, once or twice a week, for 2 or 3 minutes. Her fence backed on to our private lane where I walked our dog, Joe. That was the extent of our relationship even though we had been neighbors for 9 years. We never spoke about things I presumed other people generally speak about, the weather, religion, politics, current affairs, TV Shows. In fact, I hardly ever spoke at all, which I dislike doing anyhow – believe it or not, other than to say the usual, “good morning, Becky,” or “Hi Becky,” if it was later in the day.
In New Zealand I was raised in a small community of grandmother’s. Grandmother, or Kuia (“e Kui”) in my culture is the title of respect given to our elderly women, as well as to women who teach. My grandmothers were considered to be extremely wise and deeply versed in all manner of things. People from around the world came to seek their favor and counsel. Some of those who visited, who never knew better, even suggested they had mystical powers. Later, our group of children shared those statements with each other in private banter for we knew how upset our grannies would get if they heard or even got wind of those remarks.
Those humble, unpretentious women were loved dearly, for the ancient knowledge they shared and for their unique teachings that gave meaningful purpose to all who came within their sphere of generosity and unbridled goodwill.
I quickly fell in love with Becky. I loved her as a grandson would love his grandmothers, or a student, a wise teacher. I knew that in her gifted and heightened awareness, Becky understood the purity of my deep, heartfelt respect for her.
My grandmother teachers had all dedicated their lives in peaceful service to Earth’s Community, especially the weakest. As young as she was, Becky was their peer. They would have gladly welcomed her into their midst.
It was Becky who always took the lead in our conversations, gleefully introducing the most recent addition to her family. Usually a sickly, bewildered looking creature held up high in her arms so I could see the four legged “rescue,” from where I was, sitting in my wheelchair, my view sometimes impeded by the height of the fence. It wasn’t always easy for her, because while all this “show and tell” was going on, her other foster “kids,” including her own four legged pair, would be shaking the bejesus out of the panels lining the boundary with their paws, and any other handy part of their anatomy that might help induce Becky’s attention, pleading for her affection. It was a scene of utter chaos, until everyone received a ringing endorsement or scritch behind the ear from this Earthly Angel. Then, with an exchange of smiles and waves, Joe and I would continue on our way.
Becky always had the most damaged four-legged rescued foster kids at her home, most-times entwined around her legs, fawning their devotion. After having watched this outpouring from innocent animals, from the beginning of our neighborly chats, I suspected this was Becky’s recompense for her sacred service to some of the most wretched among us.
Sometimes, on the odd occasion, one of her four-legged kids would escape their yard and go bounding across our meadow with Becky, leash in hand, (I never, ever quite understood that leash thing), walking leisurely behind in hot pursuit. It was so wonderful to observe and read from a distance. The dog with his or her ears pinned back, chasing the wind in search of that teasing ghost with the most alluring of scents. And Becky, a long, long way behind, in her gumboots, with that beautiful smile on her face, whispering into the breeze, “please Wind, please give us a break, let doggie find and catch you – just this once!”
Becky never apologized for her dogs running free across the land, or even when Betty, her Boxer, would sneak into our house because she wanted to play with Joe’s toys. And we never expected one. There was never ever any malice intended on Betty’s part. And then, there was that smile of Becky’s that could melt an iceberg. Why apologize where heart, innocence and freedom intersect? The trinity of the matriarch seeks no one’s forgiveness. It is replete in Love.
On the odd occasion, it would break her heart to have to scold our border collie Joe when he wandered away from home and somehow got too close to the busy road rummaging for the juiciest of tidbits, especially the dead, critter stuff; to hell with his kibble. She would walk him home up the lane, and we could see how dejected he was at being busted by his “2ND most favorite person in the world.” Of course, Becky would end up giving him one of the many inevitable “doggie” treats she carried around in her coat pockets to help bolster his wounded sense of self-worthiness. All our spirits rested easy knowing Becky was in residence at the entry to our lane. She was the guardian of our neighborhood children both two and four legged.
We have a saying at home in NZ, “Protected under, “nga panekoti,” the petticoats of the Grandmother,” and Becky did that without a moment’s hesitation, and she did it fearlessly!
June 14, 2014, Becky’s last rescue was a little one that no one, absolutely no one else wanted. She held him as high as she could over the panel fence, so I could see him clearly draped over her glowing, smiling face, and introduced me him to me. He came with the most fabulous name, Biloxi.
I looked up at the little, blank-eyed guy, staring vacantly back at me from his loft in the sky and I thought to myself, Biloxi, Becky you’ve got to be kidding! From across the fence, I assumed he was that breed of dog that didn’t have hair or fur. The poor little guy, unbeknown to me at the time, was hairless from mange. His thin malnourished frame highlighted to the nth degree, his boney joints and long skinny legs.
Becky said to me, in the most sincere, angelic voice, “Raymond, isn’t he the most handsomest boy you’ve ever seen in your whole life?” Her eyes were radiating with joy. I was stunned. I could clearly see why no one else would want to take this poor, sick, ugly little boy in, even the rescuers themselves. No one that is – except our Becky.
Biloxi is the name of the tribe, in the language of their Choctaw neighbors. In their own language the Biloxi call themselves Taneks or Tanekshaya meaning “first” or first people. I thought to myself, “How sad and yet how incredibly appropriate it was for Biloxi to be lofted so high into the morning’s blue, cloudless sky by an Angel, higher then everyone else. That simple gesture proclaimed Becky’s little champion, the first among all his scampering equals, probably, for the first time in his short love-starved life.
I remained silent. I couldn’t truthfully bring myself to answer Becky’s question.
The last of my grandmother teachers in NZ died in 1999. She, who taught me all her life about our ancient people of Waitaha’s tenets of peace, it was that grandmother, who sent me into the world to speak about their teachings. She was our matriarch and my beloved mother. My most recent grandmother teacher died Friday, July 11th 2014 while hiking with her husband Justin, a dear friend, and other hikers in the mountains of Colorado after being struck by lightening.
She, alone amongst a large group of fellow hikers, our Becky – alone!
Our Becky, who taught me such a simple yet wide ranging lesson in Unconditional Love.
If grandmother Becky would ask me that same question today – from across this metaphorical “panel fence” dividing life and death, “Raymond isn’t he the most handsomest boy you’ve ever seen in your whole life?,”I wouldn’t remain silent any longer. I have learnt my lesson. I’ve found my tongue. I would remember Becky’s glowing face draped with that hapless, mange-ridden creature, no one else in the world, including myself cared for or considered.
I’ll remember forever the first morning that I met Biloxi and this little creature’s lifeless look, pleading for my response to his Angel’s question and finally, finally, my eyes and heart would be opened to the scope of Becky’s Angelic love and I would reply instantly, looking directly into the imploring eyes of the hapless little Biloxi, “Yes beloved grandmother Becky, he is certainly the grandest, the noblest and the handsomest young boy in all the land!
Biloxi or “Little Bit,” is healing now because an Angel reached across the divide and took him from the lonely, frightening world he had woken into. She had embraced him with her loving arms. It was she alone, who had glimpsed the jewel and tender heart encircled within the fire of discrimination and fear. She saw this Little Innocent as no other ever had. Those cold words we hold aloft as excuses for our indifference; ugly, pathetic and damaged were all washed away for the illusions they were, because in Becky’s pure heart of hearts there existed only LOVE.
Our lane is a lonely walk now. I pass-by that once buffeted fence, almost bursting at the seams from the chaos it once-upon-a-time had to contain and the now silent, empty yard. I whisper my thanks to our Becky for having gifted me with those extraordinary moments in time, and Joe, and I continue quietly on our way…
Somewhere there are fragrant Fields
Swept in eternal Light
Filled with dancing Wildflowers
To each of them was Promised
Never again would they Wilt
Lose their Scent
Nor have their colors Fade
For they reside Now
In that Garden called Eden.
Rest well dearest Becky.
Tihei Mauri Ora
We Live and have Life