First and Last Memories

This is a copy of my talk at Cynthia’s memorial service, celebration of life, on May 28, 2011.

Let’s roll the clock back 49 years to September 1962. I’m sitting in the choir loft beside fellow bass George Whitehouse at the Arlington Street Church in Boston. In walk his wife Janet and a new girl I’d never seen before. “Wow!” I whispered to George, “Who was that?” He wasn’t sure but thought she might be working at the UUA at 25 Beacon Street.

A couple weeks later she followed me down from the choir loft. “Don’t you ever speak to anyone?” she said. Not sure why I hadn’t, but I was pretty shy and it may have been my fear of rejection. At any rate I remember I was pleased and ended up driving her home that day. We chatted for quite a while and then we walked over to a park nearby, Palfrey field I think it was. She was walking a little ahead of me in the park and was wearing her green dress which fit so nicely. I caught up with her and kissed her. It was then I sensed a certain shyness in her too, a sensitivity under her outward brazenness, and I fell in love with her. I have that vision of her in her green dress to this day. Yes, she captured me but I captured her too.

We became lovers fairly soon after this. We would go back to my room at Westbourne Terrace in Brookline after choir practice, have a glass of wine, chat, and more. At church when the choir wasn’t performing we would write notes to each other on the order of service and pass them back and forth, pretending to be listening to what was going on down below. We became pretty inseparable.

I would even drive her to Harvard Square in the morning where she could catch the subway to Boston for her job at the UUA. I would drive from my place in Brookline to her parent’s home in Watertown where she was staying. Then I’d drive her to Harvard Square and we’d talk all the way. Then I’d drop her off, turn around and head out to Bedford for my work.

Just a few days ago I found a note from that time which she had saved in a calendar book. It was a note I wrote while at work telling her how sorry I was I didn’t drive her to Harvard Square on that particular day. The note began: “Sweetheart, I’m so sorry I missed you today. I missed your smiles and your talk and your golden hair”. I explained again the reasons I could not drive her (I had called her early in the morning to explain.), and then I closed with “Sweetheart, I think we are getting still closer.” Yes, she was my golden girl, my one and only unique Cynthia, and she stayed that way for nearly 49 years.

Now I’ll fast forward to May 2, 2011, the last day she spent in our house in Denmark, Maine, the house she designed, had built, and had loved so much. She was eating very little then and would not stay seated for more than a couple minutes while I was trying to feed her, sometimes with Kate’s help. But the one thing she did love to eat was ice cream. I would sit in front of her while she was on her soft chair and spoon feed her French vanilla ice cream. She never refused this. Her mouth was always open and ready for the next spoonful. This was our last shared joy.

On May 3 the ambulance took her to the Hospice House in Auburn, Maine. She died nine days later on May 12. I was with her in her last hours and through the end and I still called her sweetheart.

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