We Remember Claudia
June 27, 2020
So often when I sit down to write my thoughts and feelings it's directed to Claudia. Talking, writing, emailing with Claudia is one of my very favorite things to do. Sometimes it's silly stuff, sometimes very serious, sometimes sad, sometimes full of 'motherly advice'. And she'd write back too. Always full of love. Always. We had the best best conversations. After such a conversation I felt uplifted, encouraged, proud and just so grateful to have my darling daughter. And more and more, I looked forward to sharing everything with my amazing grown up daughter.
So here we are. I'm writing again, but this time, not directed to her. For those who are gifted with a sense of continuing life, that's great. I just don't have that gift, so for me, these words, and every word I ever say again, are not going to Claudia's ears. So where can they go? To your ears.
Here is what I want to tell everyone here. Our lives are precious. Each of us touches so many others. Each of us holds a spot in the lives of so many others — spots we may not even be aware of. Please please remember, you and your life belong not just to you, but also to the people who love you.
I know very well that, in the end, we, all of us, just live according to what makes sense to us as individuals. We have to do what we do out of love of ourselves. But as a mom who has just lost her daughter, I guess because of ..... I don't even know what..... I can only plead that each and every one of us remember that spot we hold in each other's lives.
Also, I am sending a huge thank you to all of Claudia's friends. While, from my view, Claudia suffered greatly, I want to believe she also had plenty of pleasure, joy, fun and love. I want to believe that, and I am looking at you to help me know it is also true.
Wild Geese by Mary Oliver
You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.
I have so, so many cherished memories of Claudia that it’s hard to pick one. So many images of her growing up flash before me. All the fun times we had when I returned at Christmas, her as one of the "Nervous Zervases", cutting out paper snowflakes stands out for some reason. I have such a fond memory of Claudia dressed up as Frida Kahlo with a bright shawl, flowers in her hair, standing near some trees with Carter and I madly dancing around her, photographing her. I also clearly recall opening presents Christmas morning with her boyfriend Tony and seeing how very generous she was to everyone, even on her meager salary.
A few years ago, she joined Rachel, Owen, Raymond and I to go to the White Dog. On the way home, we sat in the back of the car and she told me of how she stuck up for someone who was being mistreated at her job and that was why she lost her job. I think it may have been a person of color if I’m not mistaken. It made strong impression on me since we spoke of the importance of speaking up, defending what is right, sticking to our integrity. She seemed so strong and clear with a sure moral compass when it came to what she considered fair treatment.
I know she struggled mightily. I can’t begin to know the enormity of her day to day challenges that only seemed to get larger as she got older. But even with all this, I experienced her as present and transparent, her radiant, innocent heart was open, loving and always ready to connect with me. For me, she was pure sweetness. I so enjoyed her ready laugh and treasured her compassionate and generous nature. I will miss her gentle spirit greatly.
I love you, dear friend,
I first met Claudia at a shower/welcome party at Rachel’s sister Martha’s home right after she was brought home from Chile, so it’s been a long time.
I only saw her a few times each year, but got to share many experiences with her as she was growing up. Here are two of my favorites:
Rachel and Carter gave themed Halloween parties every year. One year, when Claudia was maybe 3 or 4, the theme was Animal House. I came as a black cat, with a long tale. Claudia loved that costume and for about a year after that, every time I saw her she would peek around the back of me to see if my tail was showing.
One year, when I lived on Hortter St in Mt Airy, I gave myself a birthday party and everyone ended up cancelling except Rachel, who brought Claudia. She was about 5 or 6 maybe and showed up with a little tool belt around her waist. I can’t remember exactly whether they were real toy tools or drawn and cut out make-believe tools (or both). But there was something very creative about it. We spent some time talking about the tools and what they were used for and I took a polaroid of her dressed like that. It was always my favorite photo of her. I think I gave her that photo one time when she was in her teens or 20s. But I also have this very clear memory of having seen it recently – in the past 2 weeks – and since I can’t find it in any of the usual places in my house, I must have dreamed it.
May your memory be a blessing, Claudia.
from Tracy and Amity
Our thoughts and open hearts surround you now and always.
I will never forget how sweetly Claudia welcomed Amity into the group of internationally adopted girls. She was always so kind with her, always sharing her lap and her pets, especially her bearded dragon.
The range of her love was impressive.
We won’t forget her.
All our love,
Tracy Kauffman and Amity Wood
Living in Germany, I had not seen Claudia for many years. It was only through your sharing, Rachel, that I learned of how very troubled and tormented she was. The last time I saw her was, I think, when she came to Cape May with a strange fellow who slept in the car. She had made a wonderful cheesecake for us. Before that, I remember her sitting on the loveseat in the living room in Cape May, along with Ezra and Marcel and Chris. The four of them were sharing music and earphones and I thought it was just the cutest thing. Before that, I remember her proudly swimming in your pool. You told me you had taught her to swim. And before that, I remember a tiny little girl who, before she could talk, would bounce along to the rhythm of music. She came into your life...and ours...shortly before Uli and I married and she was the youngest person celebrating our wedding in 1988. So many memories. I hope you are able now to look at these good moments without being clouded by the bad ones.
Hugs to you all,
We remember dear Claudia and we grieve her. I grieve that this world will no longer hold Claudia,but each of us will. So many hearts will with great love.We will carry her love in our love.
by WS Merwin
Your absence has gone through me
Like a thread through a needle
Everything I do is stitched with its color.
I met Claudia for the first time one evening at Rachel and Owen’s. She was sitting with Carter’s painting of her as backdrop. I was drawn to her immediately. I felt her love. This is my main recollection.
Claudia, abide and shine kindly here with us always.
Another evening Claudia had arrived with a friend’s dog. She was completely comfortable with it (If only I could recall its name & didn’t have to speak of it as it.) She was kind with it and very present. They were wrapped up tenderly as one. There was at the head of the table warm snuggling going on. It’s not a stretch at all to imagine Claudia on a farm or elsewhere tending a whole slew of animals lovingly.
I feel thanksgiving for having met and known Claudia.
(To shift a line of e.e. cummings a wee bit): We carry your heart with us Claudia. We carry your heart in our hearts.
Walking with Grief -- A Celtic Prayer
Do not hurry as you walk with grief
It does not help the journey
Walk slowly, pausing often
Do not hurry as you walk with grief
Be not disturbed by memories
that come unbidden
Swiftly forgive and let
Unspoken words, unfinished conversations
be resolved in your memories
Be not disturbed
Be gentle with the one who walks with grief
If it is you, be gentle with yourself
Swiftly forgive, walk slowly,
Be gentle as you walk with grief
I first met Claudia as a baby when she was just 2 years old. Rachel and Carter and I shared the same babysitter on Violet Lane. On hot days, the kids had a wading pool and were always up to lots of fun since there were often 5 kids together at once. When I moved to New Jersey, Rachel wrote me a letter predicting that we would remain very close friends — which was fabulous for me and the kids. Thank God for Rachel, Carter and Claudia.
The kids were close playmates. We took lots of trips — to Isle of Spring in Maine, to Valley Forge, to the Poconos — white water rafting in Western Pennsylvania.
Once when Rachel and I tried to roll down a steep hill (with the kids) we found ourselves dizzy and sick to our stomachs — without realizing it, we’d grown too old.
Frequently ferrying the kids from place to place (and there were times when she and I were in the car alone), Claudia was very shy and didn’t speak, but suddenly she would look at me with an impish glance and would burst forth in peals of laughter. This happened every time I gave her a ride. She saw something absurd in our being in the car together that I couldn’t quite grasp, but we laughed ourselves silly anyway.
The ability to laugh (according to Aquinas) is one of the most defining aspects of being fully human. I am so happy to have known Claudia for so many years. I loved her and worried about her. I will sorely miss the chance to make more memories with her.
from Orlando and Patricia
"Ode to a Falling Leaf" written and composed by Orlando
March 26, 1988 – June 20, 2020