Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Gift

After the wind-bruised sea
furrowed itself back
into the folds of blue, I found
in the black wrack

a shell called the Neptune -
tawny and white,
with a tail

and a tower
and a dark door,
and all of it
no larger

than my fist.
It looked, you might say,
very expensive.
I thought of its travels

in the Atlantic's
wind-pounded bowl
and wondered
that it was still intact.

Ah yes, there was
that door
that held only the eventual, inevitable

There's that - there's always that.
Still, what a house
to leave behind!
I held it

like the wisest of books
and imagined
its travels toward my hand.
And now, your hand.

Yesterday I attended a memorial service for Arnie Bleiweiss, a fellow member of my congregation.   We celebrated his life as we heard sharing after sharing about the remarkable life he had led. He had given a great gift of science, mentorship, and companionship to those around him.   The house was packed with people who had come to cherish, and to say goodbye.  Though there were moments of laughter, there were also tears. For the sanctuary was so empty without him. 

But what a house he left behind! I thank him for his wisdom and his memories, that travel from my heart and now to yours.

What house do you know that now stands empty, but is evidence of pricelessness?


  1. There is a small wall display case in the library of the school where I was a guidance counselor of thirty-five years. It is probably not empty now, but for me it will never hold anything as meaningful as the memorial it held to a great teacher who died before her time due to a medical error. About a year before I retired the display photo, some of her prized teaching items, and the bio from the newspaper was removed by a principal who never knew her. The faculty had almost completely changed so that there were only six of us left who had seen her in action.

    Her parents named her well. She was of Greek heritage and had been an opera singer for years over in Europe. Her name was Fredricka Aphrodite Kalogerakis. She'd start in the fall telling her fifth grade class, "Just remember that Miss Kalogerakis will 'take us' on a journey this year." With her last name rhyming with 'take us' the children never forgot how to say it. Aphrodite is associated with beauty. Freddy was certainly a beautiful person through and through. She fostered a real love of the arts and creativity in her students. She saw the beauty in every child. Their self esteem soared in her class. She taught them beyond the curriculum about cultures the world over, often having them dance and sing to understand. I have only two physical items to remember her by. One is a tape (which I should have put on a CD) of her singing in her operatic voice her favorite selection from "Porgy and Bess." The other item is a small wooden vase in the style of Greek art which she brought back with her one summer. In the summer she visited Athens with family members and former colleagues in the Opera. I placed her pitcher on a display shelf in my new home. It stands out as very different from the rest of the things. At first my two friends from where I used to live, who come to visit me sugested I remove it. When I said that Freddy gave it to me they said, "It stays". Now when they visit we reminisce about the good times we had together with Freddy and the number of lives she touched.
    She had a Greek Orthodox funeral. An interesting part was that on the way to the cemetary the hearse drives to the person's home and waits a bit so that the deceased can say good bye to their home.

  2. Did Miss Kalogerakis ever teach at Jane Stenson Elementary School in Skokie, IL? I have been trying to find her for years. I knew she left our school to venture Europe to pursue her operatic career. She was a great inspiration to me as I have been a professional musician my whole life through her encouragement. I am sad to hear that she is gone but would be very interested to know more about her life.