http://alumnae.llli.org for current Alumnae information. This article is an archive of the Leaven Publication.
We Remember--A New Tradition
Melissa Clark Vickers
Huntington TN USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 38 No. 1, February-March 2002, p. 24.
Of all the sights and sounds that happened at the 2001 La Leche International Conference, perhaps the most poignant and lasting came at the Alumnae Tea during what is sure to become a new tradition: the reading of the names of La Leche League Leaders who have died. In LLLI’s 45 year history, there have been thousands of Leaders who have worked long and hard for the organization. Inevitably, given the number of Leaders who have served and the age of the organization, there are those who have died and are missed by their LLL families.
The idea for this kind of remembrance ceremony came after the death of a well-known and well-loved longtime Leader, Roberta Bishop Johnson, perhaps best known through La Leche League as the editor of Whole Foods for the Whole Family. Roberta lost a long, feisty battle with cancer on July 13, 2000. Her passing became the catalyst for an idea to honor all the Leaders who have died.
Nancy Franklin, an LLL District Coordinator in Texas, USA, LLLI Alumnae Association Board member and chair of Special Projects, proposed modifying an annual Texas A&M University ceremony called “Muster” where any “Aggie” (an A&M student or graduate) who has died in the past year is remembered. Nancy suggested that a similar ceremony would be appropriate for the Alumnae Tea during the LLLI Conference. The Alumnae Association requested names, dates of death, and hometowns of any Leaders who had died since the beginning of the organization. By the time of the Tea, on July 8, 2001—nearly a year to the day of Roberta’s death—they had a list of LLL Leaders.
How best to honor these Leaders? The Association wanted a simple, dignified, and heartfelt way to remember each Leader. They decided to use as a focal point a poem often read at Jewish funerals that is found in the Reform Jewish prayer book, “We Remember” (see sidebar). During the Tea, after the fashion show and the wonderful tales from the seven Founders, the lights were dimmed and serene piano music, played by Brian Harris, signaled a change in focus from festive to reflective. On a large screen, a slide showing a warmly glowing candle began a lovely slide presentation created by Joan Crothers, Leader from Rhode Island, USA. Founder Marian Tompson and Nancy Franklin read the poem and began reading the list of names as they appeared on the slide, arranged by year of death.
The audience was hushed and subdued. Many held hands, and many shed tears. There were occasional soft gasps as someone recognized the name of a Leader whose death was previously unknown. At the end of the list, the candle reappeared and the room remained hushed for a few moments longer. Nancy showed the group an album with the names written in beautiful calligraphy by Susan Baker, Leader from Massachusetts, USA. After the Conference, the book was brought to the LLLI office, where it is displayed on a simple table with an electric “candle” next to it.
Nancy has continued to collect names of Leaders who have died since the Conference, as well as those who died earlier but whose names didn’t reach Nancy in time for this first ceremony. This is sure to become a powerful tradition to honor the lives of the women who have helped make La Leche League what it is today. “So as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.”
We Remember Them
In the rising of the sun and in its going down, we remember them;
In the blowing of the wind and in the chill of winter, we remember them;
In the opening of buds and in the rebirth of spring, we remember them;
In the rustling of leaves and in the beauty of autumn, we remember them;
In the beginning of the year and when it ends, we remember them;
When we are weary and in need of strength, we remember them;
When we are lost and sick at heart, we remember them;
When we have joys we yearn to share, we remember them;
So as we live, they too shall live, for they are now a part of us, as we remember them.
Editor's Note: The prayer, “We Remember Them” © is included in The Gates of Prayer, a Reform Jewish prayerbook published by the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), and reprinted with express permission of the CCAR. We are grateful to the CCAR for their gracious and generous permission to reprint this piece in Leaven.
Melissa Clark Vickers has been a Leader since 1990 and lives in Huntingdon, Tennessee, USA with her husband, Bob, and children, Dan and Merrilee. She is currently serving as an Online Professional Liaison Resource Leader (OPLR) for LLLOnLine, and was fortunate enough to have known and learned from Roberta Bishop Johnson.