FRAGILE ANGLES by Debra H. Goldstein

dhg-photo.jpgFragile Angles by Debra H. Goldstein

Recently, I had a birthday, but I didn’t have a lot of time to dwell on being a year older because my calendar was so full of “special” birthday events. Besides attaining another year of age, I’m sure I gained five pounds during the celebrations! What was important to me during what became my birthday month, were the friends and family members who wanted to share it with me. Each lunch, dinner, cupcake with a candle, was delightful, but three things put it all in perspective for me: receiving the Mildred Bell Johnson Lifetime Achievement Award from the Girl Scouts of North Central Alabama, an engagement party for my youngest daughter, and the unexpected death of a friend the day after he was part of a small, but joyful, birthday dinner party for me.

Three days before my birthday, I spoke the following words before almost four hundred people as I accepted the Mildred Bell Johnson award:

When Mildred Bell Johnson founded the first Girl Scout troop for African – American girls in Alabama and then worked diligently as a civil right activist, educator, Girl Scout district director, and assistant moderator of the United Church of Christ, she never dreamed that there would be an award named for her. She was doing what she believed was right for her community and for young women.

Today, I am humbled receiving the award named for Mildred Bell Johnson not only because of its namesake, but because of my admiration for the women who have received this award before me. They are a class of women whom I deeply respect for their integrity and their willingness to often forsake recognition while bringing others together to make a difference – or as Girl Scouts say – to leave a place better than we found it.

As a brownie, Girl Scout, and leader, I was taught and taught others to believe that we have a responsibility to be involved in any way we can contribute. I also learned that none of us do it alone – no matter how hard we work.

To digress for a moment, when my son, Stephen, was just beginning to learn how to print, he did something wrong and apologized by leaving a note on my pillow that he signed your little angle as he couldn’t spell angel.

I am honored and grateful today to accept this award, but it really is a reflection of the accomplishments and efforts for our community and its members by most of you in this room.

I thank the Girl Scouts of North-Central Alabama for singling me out today; I thank my friends who listen and help me connect the dots whenever I get a hairbrained idea, and I thank my family – especially my husband, Joel, who for thirty years has supported me in anything I try to do and our four wonderful children, three of whom are here today. They, and all of you, are the angles that combine to make me whole. Thank you again.

At that moment, I was a little worried that receiving a lifetime achievement award at this age was premature, but I was excited to be joining a class of women I deeply respect. It was a perfect day.

A few days after my birthday, five couples got together for a “special” birthday dinner. We laughed as we shared good food, friendship, and an evening where work and pressures were forgotten as we enjoyed each other’s company. It was a weekday work night, but we ignored that fact and stayed longer than any of us meant to. As we compared notes the next day, everyone who had been there agreed, it was a time good memories were made.

We flew to Houston two days after the dinner to attend a shower for my daughter and her future husband given by friends of his parents. When we landed in Houston and I turned on my phone, I saw I had voicemails, texts, and e-mails asking me to immediately call two people. We all know that when messages say urgent, but don’t say why, it isn’t good. It wasn’t. One of our dear friends who had been at the birthday dinner had had a stroke and died. He hadn’t been ill. He wasn’t old. My husband and I stood in the airport shocked remembering humorous exchanges with him during the birthday dinner, plans he had made to go to a basketball game next season with my husband, and realizing that in a matter of hours the love of his life was now a widow. We walked to the car waiting for us in disbelief. As my husband made small talk with the father of my daughter’s fiancé, I called our friend’s wife and other friends and shared a moment of shock, sorrow, and “what can we do to help” with them. Then, my husband and I had to put on our game faces to enjoy the weekend with our daughter.

I have blogged before about my reaction to my daughter being in love (My Daughter is in Love – 9/23/12) and once again, I felt excitement and joy seeing how happy she is. Her happiness brought me flashbacks of when I fell in love and got engaged. As the weekend progressed, I couldn’t help but think about our friends who also had a perfect love that now had ended as I watched this young couple just beginning their lives together. Aloud, I wished them joy and happiness, but in my heart I prayed for them. It was a prayer that comes from knowing how important the angles are that make us whole and how fragile keeping them together is.

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  1. April 1, 2013 at 11:34 pm

    First of all, congratulations on receiving such a wonderful award! Next, wow–life can throw curve balls, can’t it? You have to much to look forward to. I hope the road ahead is as smooth as it can be!

    • April 1, 2013 at 11:48 pm

      Thanks Kaye. I know things have been a wild ride for you, too, of late, but as you have noted repeatedly in your listserve postings, there truly is a silver lining in much that happens.

  2. April 1, 2013 at 2:33 pm

    Debra, what an honor to receive that Girl Scout award. We seem to have some things in common. I was in Girl Scouts a couple of years as a kid, until the leader quit. Then I was a Brownie/Girl Scout leader for ten years before I quit when they were all almost done with their senior year in high school and time was a problem for all of us.

    I also had four children, three still with me. My oldest son died of cancer at 18.

    I’m looking forward to seeing you at Malice this year.

    • April 1, 2013 at 11:49 pm

      Gloria – looking forward to seeing you again at Malice. Thank you for sharing your thoughts in response to my blog. I hadn’t known about your son – even though I know time has passed, I’m sorry. We’ll have to compare scout and children stories when we get together again. Also looking forward to getting a copy of your new book!

  3. April 1, 2013 at 1:13 pm

    Debra:
    Very touching, heart-felt, and insightful post.
    This time of year, for me and my family has become one of joy and sadness as well. We’ve always loved the joy, comraderie, and the warmth of Passover, until family members starting dying the week before, during, or week after Passover. Now there’s no curse on the family (LOL) but over 20 years- the lifetime of my nephews- we’ve lost a grandmother (bro-in-law’s mom), a grandfather (my dad),and 4 uncles (all my mom’s brothers and one of my dad’s). Come to find out in family history, 3 other relatives died in the same time frame. It adds another layer to the bitter herbs during the seder.

    As for joy, this season has brought news of college acceptance for younger nephew and a successful VisionWalk, with the help from giving friends like you. So life is very much like the “Hillel sandwich” of the seder, combining the bitter with the sweet. And the knowledge that we persevere on.

    Mazel tov on your birthday and may the year ahead be filled with an abundance of sweet.

    • April 1, 2013 at 11:51 pm

      Thank you for your comments, Gail. What a great analogy you made – to the Hillel Sandwich. So true that life so often combines the bitter with the sweet.

  4. April 1, 2013 at 12:01 pm

    Ah, the richness of life. You’ve done a lovely job describing how joy and sadness mingle, and the importance of service. Thank you for sharing this. (Long time Scout here, too — from 2d grade through high school, camper, and camp counselor!)

    • April 1, 2013 at 11:52 pm

      Much appreciate your comment. … and learning a new non-legal fact about you – a longtime involvement with scouting. BTW, loved the cover you recently posted for your new book. I’m looking forward to telling my readers about your 2 new series.

  5. Rhonda
    April 1, 2013 at 6:40 am

    Debra,
    Your blog was beautiful and touching. I am so sorry for the loss of your dear friend.
    Rhonda

    • April 1, 2013 at 7:13 am

      Thank you…for your kind words and for letting me know mine touched you.

  6. Judith Schulman Miller
    April 1, 2013 at 6:06 am

    Thanks for sharing. What beautiful thoughts . How glad I am that Will had such a nice evening with us on weds. Life is precious. Every moment counts.

    Judi

    Sent from my iPad

  7. Rachel Russell
    March 31, 2013 at 7:40 pm

    Debra – I continue to be engaged by the content, emotion, joy and thoughts in the words you arrange in these blogs. You touch many people as you write about life. Thank you. Our hearts have been heavy for our friend and we have expressed our love in a variety of ways. I am so happy for your daughter, the plans for her wedding, and the anticipation of a beautiful fall day for this couple’s vows.

    Rachel

    • April 1, 2013 at 7:19 am

      Thanks you for taking the time to write this comment. It means a lot to know when my simple words resonate with others. We are anticipating a beautiful day for our daughter….and hopefully the only hiccough is my dress came in too small. I would blame the five pounds of birthday celebrations, but I would need to lose forty pounds for the top to fit….they made it two sizes smaller than the one I tried on instead of one size larger. But if that is our worst headache in the scheme of things…,,,

  8. Carole Pizitz
    March 31, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    A beautiful blog…so touching, so intimate, and poignant.

    Congratulations on your honor..you are certainly so deserving as those women you respect and admire!

    I went to visit April yesterday and she spoke about your bday dinner and what a fun evening it was, so reading your blog made it even more meaningful and heartbreaking!

    Loved reading about Jennifer’s happiness and upcoming wedding….. And especially thru your eyes and heart as her Mother….so beautiful…..

    Keep on writing…..

    LUV. Carole

    • April 1, 2013 at 7:23 am

      Carole, thank you for your comment. As you well know, the balance of joy and sorrow is so precarious that we can’t take anything lightly.

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