WE’LL MEET AGAIN
Within a week, Jim (my husband) and I attended two memorial services for very dear friends. Needless to say it was a tough few days- but it was also thought-provoking and even uplifting.
The first service was for the renowned British journalist, Jeffrey Blyth, former chief U.S. correspondent for The Daily Mail and weekly columnist for the UK’s Press Gazette. Jeffrey covered some of the world’s most famous stories including the assassination of President Kennedy, the killing of Robert Kennedy, the Suez Crisis and the building of the Berlin Wall. He rode into Havana with Fidel Castro and scooped the world with the Grace Kelly wedding story.
The second service was for Charlotte Kelly Veal, the former public relations director for all Hearst Magazines. She began as a secretary atFoote,Cone & Belding in Los Angeles, where she met Helen Gurley Brown. The two remained fast friends their entire lives. Hollywood producer David O.Selznick brought Charlotte to NYC where she held a number of major PR positions at Ladies’ Home Journal, Woman’s Day and Esquire, to name just a few.
Both Jeffrey and Charlotte were consummate pro’s. Both were passionate about their work and devoted to the people who loved them. Both were legends; both were unforgettable. Jeffrey was a lover of the story, of the truth - a newspaper guy. Charlotte was a lover of life, of the dramatic - a magazine gal. She liked being the story. Helen Gurley Brown wrote in a poem to Charlotte (who was known affectionately as “Carlotta”),“Carlotta is an ongoing Italian Drama.” She was.
Loving people spoke movingly at both services. And both had incredibly wonderful music. At Carlotta’s service, a talented, devoted friend sang “I’ll Be Seeing You.” And at Jeffrey’s service the last piece of music played was the old WWI song sung,“We’ll Meet Again” sung by Vera Lynn.Some people actually sang along. I tried to sing but I could only get out a few words. “Keep smiling through just as you always do...for I know we’ll meet again some sunny day...” I felt a tap on my shoulder and Jim, who was sitting behind me, handed me his handkerchief...
The thing is, I kept thinking about how short it all is and how we don’t “get it” about how precious it is. And, of course that took me straight to thewonderful 1938 play by Thornton Wilder, Our Town. I saw the old black and white movie version when I was about 10. It hit me like a ton of bricks. You remember: The protagonist, Emily, dies in childbirth. At her funeral, she begins to miss her family so terribly that she's told by those who have "gone before her" that she may “go back" and relive one day of her life. The “Stage Manager” cautions her, “You not only live it, you watch yourself living it.” But Emily is undeterred and chooses her 12th birthday.
It turns out to be quite a painful experience. Emily's struck by how no one really "sees" each other; they''re too busy with the “things” they're doing... As Emily watches the day unfold, she cries out to her mother who of course, can't hear her, “Just for a moment now we’re all together, Mama, just for a moment we’re happy. Let’s really look at one another!...It goes so fast. We don’t have time to look at one another. I didn’t realize.. So all this was going on and we never noticed...I can’t look at everything hard enough.” Finally, it becomes too much for her; she takes one more look and says, "Good-bye world, good-bye Grover’s Corners..Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking..and Mama’s sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new ironed dresses and hot baths..and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you are too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it, every, every minute?”
“No,” the Stage Manager answers. "The saints and poets, maybe - they do some...”
Most of us aren’t saints or even poets. But we could try. We could try to stop every now and then...and actually look at each other. We could say, “Here we are together...and we’re happy right now. And we know it. Aren’t we lucky?” And then maybe when we “meet again, “ we can be happy...again.
Here’s a link to that wonderful song sung by Vera Ellen. Don’t worry, I’ll be right behind you with a handkerchief.
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2013 All Rights Reserved
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