The Memorial for Charlie and Edie SeashoreThis past Saturday, March 11th, was the day we were supposed to remember Charles Seashore in Columbia, Maryland. And we did just that.
By: Matt Minahan, Ed.D.
But just two weeks ago, within hours of the end of the first memorial service for Charlie in Oakland, CA, Edith Whitfield Seashore passed on.
So, it was a day to remember not just one, but both of the great Seashores who touched so many of our lives, and had such a profound impact on our field, and loved and cared and taught and led and mentored us.
It was somehow right that we gathered – about 450 souls -- in the Sheraton right across the road from the Seashores’ long time home, and at the edge of the lake right off their balcony in Columbia, MD.
Brenda Jones, President of NTL Institute, and Lennox Joseph, former President of NTL Institute were the two hosts for the event, though it was clear that Edie and Charlie’s daughters, Becky May and Kim Seashore, were the central to the event.
As we entered the reception area, there were name tags to be made and red beads to be worn, plus drinks and dozens of people who were glad to see other, but not necessarily for this occasion. The spirit in the place was respectful of our collective loss, and still celebratory of the great relationships that everyone in the room had with Edie and Charlie. Lots of fun stories about "the time that Charlie said . . .” and "I’ll never forget what Edie did when . . . " And, "I can’ tell you how much I miss them already . . . " There was a lot of that.
In the plenary room, the projector showed pictures of Edie and Charlie over the years. Some serious, most fun, with lovely music on the PA. "More Than Words” by Extreme comes to mind . . . strong, gentle, healing music that spoke to soul of the day.
After Brenda and Lennox introduced themselves, Lennox asked people to stand who knew Edie and Charlie through NTL, the OD Network, American University, Fielding, Concordia/McGill, Johns Hopkins, the Washington School for Psychiatry, and others. It was a wonderful way to see the many ways that Edie and Charlie touched so many of our lives.
The first speaker was Charlie’s sister, Marjorie, 11 years younger than Charlie. She told of being the "Show” part of Charlie’s Show and Tell presentation when he was in 5th grade. Apparently, he thought his younger sister was so cool that he presented her to the whole class. Just in case Marj herself was too young to remember the day, when she had the same teacher as Charlie for that same assignment in the same 5th grade, her teacher told her and her entire class Charlie’s hijinks when she was just a baby.
Edie’s cousin, Rhona Eisner read remarks that had been prepared by Edie’s younger brother, Alan Whitfield, who was unable to attend. There were very funny stories, and some funny pictures, including one from The Washington Post in the 1970s, of Charlie motoring to work down Connecticut Avenue in
DC, carrying a briefcase, wearing a wide-brim hat (not a baseball cap) and a suit, riding a unicycle! There was also a picture of Edie and Charlie (this time, with his trademark red baseball cap) seated in a bright red Mustang convertible, top down, as they arrived at the family’s home in Boulder, CO.
The Seashores’ daughters, Becky May and Kim spoke next. Becky remembered Charlie, saying that in their family, life was lived fully, always pushing boundaries. She said that Charlie had taught them many lessons. He was known in the family for being frugal, and at the same time, frivolous. "If it’s on sale, buy 2. Except when it’s a used Jaguar on sale, then you only need one.” He counseled, "Don’t mess with the IRS.” Charlie had his own advice for the sexes. "Men, if you want to feel great, paint your big toe nail; it works for women, it should work for you, too. Women, find something that is broken and fix it. If you can’t, get another woman to help you. If that doesn’t work, recruit a diverse team to do it. And then debrief!” And for the gardener in all of us, he advised us to plant sunflowers. At the end of these very funny anecdotes, they played My Dad’s Yard by Catie Curtis, a lovely and touching song about all of the things a dad collected, which you can probably find in Dad’s back yard, and that when you’re coming apart, you can surely find a place for yourself in Dad’s big heart. You can read the lyrics by clicking here. You can hear the song performed (but badly captioned) by clicking here. And, you can download the song for free by clicking here.
Kim Seashore’s recollections at this point were about Edie. She said that Edie described herself as "I am a white Jewish woman born in Montclair, New Jersey, in 1928.” And that was a succinct and complete description of Edie. Kim described being in second grade, a very bright and creative child, but still not able to read, and how fiercely Edie fought to get her in to see reading specialists who could help her, including a time when Kim was standing on a balance beam, with her nose against a blackboard, drawing circles in reverse directions with both hands. She described her mother as "The Queen of Reframing” and we all laughed, having been the beneficiaries of that same wonderful skill of Edie’s. Kim said that neither she nor her mother was good at math, and that when Kim came home from college with a D+ in math, Edie said, "Well we know for sure that you’re *my* daughter now!”
Rick Kramer called Edie and Charlie the Lucy-and-Ricky, the Marvin-Gaye-and-Tammy-Terrell, and the Sonny-and-Cher of our lives. Two peas in a pod. Two forces in the universe. He remembered Charlie’s red hat everywhere, including onboard the QE2 and in the dialysis treatment room. And he reminisced about the Labor Day visits they would spend together, with red hats and glasses full of Beefeaters.
Cathy Royal said that both Edie and Charlie were among her first mentors, and how appropriate it was for us to be remembering them on the International Day of the Woman. She remembered long kitchen-table conversations in Bethel, their Use of Self course going back 20 years, and the fact that they both always gave the best of themselves. She said that she still did not know how to express the sense of loss that she is feeling, and is glad that the two of them are together again.
Vic Cocowitch remembered his last conversation with Edie, the one where she asked him to speak in memory of Charlie at the first memorial services two weeks ago. He said, "I asked her, Queen Mother, what should I say?” And Edie’s reply was "Well, Vic, if you knew what you would say, what would you say?” He spent a week visiting Charlie during his dialysis, and was struck with how eager Charlie was to work on improving the dialysis center, even as he was in treatment there. He wanted to form a group (what else?) of dialysis patients, their families, and staff to look at the way the center operated and to make it a more human experience for all (what else?)! In a touching moment, Vic then read Rumi’s poem "On the Day That I Die.”
Marisa Sanchez, co-chair of the OD Network said that Edie and Charlie were the rock stars of OD, and all nodded and laughed in agreement. She said that she hit the jackpot in doing her doctoral studies and dissertation at Fielding when Charlie was assigned her advisor and the host of the local area student gathering, and then he agreed to be on her dissertation committee. She remembered the OD Network conference in San Juan in 2004, when the Network awarded Charlie the Life Time Achievement Award. Edie stood up to say some lovely things about Charlie, and then when he accepted the award, all he could talk about was how much had learned from Edie. She said we call our founders gODparents and that Charlie and Edie were certainly all of that for the field and for all of us. She said that they listened to us fully in ways that no one else did, they loved us in ways that no one else did, and they prodded us to grow and be our better selves. She cited two students of the Fielding class of 2011 who wrote a book called "What Would Charlie Say,” to collect some of his famous and favorite sayings, such as "what would you do if you were bold? Or an adult?” And how difficult it was take this seriously from a man wearing a red hat and suspenders. She added now that, if the book "What Would Edie Say” were written today, it would surely include "How would you reframe that?” and "What’s the worst that could happen?” And the room laughed, and sighed, all at the same time.
Michael Broom, Edie’s business partner on the Triple Impact Consulting workshops, was the last colleague to speak, fittingly as he was the last person to work with Edie, on the day just before Charlie’s memorial, which was also the day that Edie died. He laughed at the fact that Edie was always to be found wearing pearls and heels . . . even on an Outward Bound course. He said that Edie pushed for diversity in our field before diversity was a popular topic, and he noted that the complexion of the room reflected Edie’s expansive and inclusive world view. He said that the best way we could honor Charlie and Edie is to make a difference in the lives of others in the very same way that Edie and Charlie have the difference in our own lives. He closed with a funny story about how he had to manage his own use of self when, one night a dinner, Edie forewent her usual Beefeaters, and ordered a glass of Pinot Noir . . . on the rocks! He concluded by saying there really is no good bye for Edie, because "she is with me always,” speaking for himself and, I’m guessing, most of the rest of us.
Brenda Jones said that Edie was truly special. A unique human being, made of pure sweetness. She remembered the day a few weeks ago that Edie came east to plan for this day, when it was going to be the memorial for Charlie . . . how they met at the airport, had their hair done together, ate lunch at Edie’s favorite restaurant in Bethesda, and then came to the Sheraton to make the arrangements, including the exact arrangement of the chair in the room, just as Edie had wanted them. She said that it was appropriate, and maybe a bit poignant, that we were holding this memorial on the day after what would have been Edie’s 85th birthday.
The final words of the day belonged again to Becky May and Kim Seashore. Kim had some very funny memories of Charlie’s sayings, including "Anything worth doing is worth overdoing,” telling a story of sending out a postcard for the birth of their first daughter, but a wall sized poster for the birth of their second, which he apparently send both to the outgoing US president, the incoming US president, and Queen Elizabeth! Some of them apparently still survive, on the back of closet and bathroom doors. Charlie used to look at all things, good and bad, by saying, "Look, here comes more learning!” She said her father and mother were lifelong partners, and that when Charlie died, Edie said, "I think I’ll be fine for myself. It’s the "us” I don’t know what to do about.” They then played "I Hope You Dance” by Lee Ann Womack and touched every heart in the room. You can read the lyrics by clicking here. Please click here to hear the song and read the lyrics.
They described their deep love and appreciation of Edie, likening her to an artichoke. Yes, we all laughed when Becky said that. But then she went on to explain that an artichoke is all dressed up, but very down to earth. And you can only eat a portion of the artichoke. But it’s always a full meal.
She then remembered the year that Edie’s gift to Charlie was Billy Joel’s "Just the Way You Are,” and played it for us while we sat, humming and singing along quietly, tearing up and grabbing the nearest hand for comfort. You can read the lyrics by clicking here. Here is a video of Billy Joel singing the song live in concert. I’ve been unable to find a captioned version, sadly.
And then we were done.
Well, the ceremony was done. The memories, of course, aren’t. And won’t be. They reach far beyond the hundreds in the room last Saturday, rippling out to the thousands of people touched by the "rock stars of OD,” Edie and Charlie Seashore. How fortunate that our stars aligned and our lives intersected with theirs and that our hearts were touched by the huge generosity and wisdom that they offered us. It is up to us now -- the teachers, educators, learners, students, consultants – to bring the wisdom of Edie and Charlie to a new world in the future that is even more in need of what they had to offer.
The OD Network has posted on the home page two of the articles that Charlie and Edie wrote for OD Network publications which you can download at www.odnetwork.org.
NTL has set up a web page with several lovely paragraphs about the large impact that Edie and Charlie have had on the field, including some wonderful pictures and a link to donate to their memorial scholarship fund.
Please click here to read Charlie’s obituary in The Bethel Citizen.
Please click here to read Edie’s obituary in The Bethel Citizen.