Celebrating a life well lived. You can read other celebrations here.
I have been teaching a long time. I have gotten to know many parents. Most of them have been helpful, thoughtful, kind and supportive. A few have been difficult and even hostile. A few more have left a deep and indelible mark on my heart.
Lesley Arnold was one of those parents. I was about six years into my career– still pretty green. Lesley’s daughter was in one of those classes that you remember forever, a class that clicked. Full of wonderfully creative, intuitive, hard-charging students. I loved working with them. While Lesley was clearly aware of the many gifts her daughter Edith possessed, she never made a big deal out of it. She was a no-nonsense kind of parent, firm, honest and fair – helping out with all of the kids. And, she was incredibly loving and nurturing. She wove the many facets of her personality into a natural motherhood. She made it look easy. I know now that it’s not.
Lesley offered me her assistance whenever I needed it, but she really stepped up to help me develop my art history skills. As a tireless volunteer, and accomplished artist, she headed up the Art to Grow On project at our school. But she also made it personal by bringing me countless books and magazines and ideas for infusing more art into my curriculum. I grew my understanding and appreciation of art because of her. I became a better teacher of art because of her.
She had a wicked sense of humor which was revealed by a little book that she gave me entitled “Great Housewives of Art” by Sally Swain. It still cracks me up.
Mrs. Monet cleans the pool. Mrs. Gauguin has a Tupperware party. Mrs. Seurat adjusts the TV set.
She had a beautiful British accent and a very graceful presence. But right underneath that proper front was a rascal who could deliver a one-liner without ever cracking a smile. And she suffered very few fools.
I lost touch with Lesley when she and her husband Graham moved to Tennessee. I wish we had stayed in contact. A few weeks ago I read her obituary in our local paper. I cried like a baby. Such a bright light, such a wonderful person, just gone.
Then a friend of mine forwarded me an email he received from Graham, with the words “Maybe say a little prayer of joy for a change…” And then there was a photograph of a beautifully radiant Edith, in a hospital bed, holding her newborn son. My heart jumped with joy, and my tears started again. NOT gone! How perfect, the circle unbroken, life moving on. All of the goodness that Lesley put out into the world, continuing on in another life.
I will say a little prayer of joy and a giant prayer of gratitude. Thank you for Lesley.