For Betty Ann

BA and me at Pride 2009


I’m the only one, I dare say, who can appreciate at this very moment – Tuesday, November 23, 2010 at 04 04 06 01 EST – both the frustration and the ‘been punk’d’ feeling I have after experiencing countless “(Not Responding)” messages from any number of programs I’ve successively tried to employ in writing what will ultimately be a simple, but sincere, blog.

In the denouement of an evening during which I absorbed much, enjoying some, of the day’s news from a variety of sources I scrolled through my Facebook page – in reverse order of course – until I came upon a message from my friend Betty Ann which included the YouTube video below.

When I have often least expected it, I have been told that something I’ve said, written or passed along has touched another deeply.  This is just such an occasion except, in this case, it is I who has been touched by Betty Ann’s forwarding of this message – to countless friends and contacts I reckon.

Be it the time of night I received it, the mood I was in, the feelings it evoked – or all of these – I was reminded of the empathy, trust and love which Betty Ann embodies at depths which make the oceans seem like single drops of rain.  I have known “BA”, as she invites her friends to call her, since her earliest days of her work with the AIDS Committee of Toronto.  I cherish every single mile of life’s journey that we have walked together, however haltingly at times.

From ACT, BA went on to gift the people she met at Bereaved Families of Ontario – Toronto.

Nowadays, BA enthusiastically invites and responds to life at Shalom Mountain Sacred Retreat and Study Center in the Catskill Mountains of Livingston Manor at what looks to be about the half-way point, maybe not quite, between here and New York City.

Betty Ann knows, more often than she may be told, how the divine mystery of our inner selves works.  While she may not be familiar with these two illustrations their essence remind me of her.

When I saw this video I soon thought of my father, who died in his garden in May of 2002.  Two vignettes sprung to mind.

Once, as we talked about some cathartic moment in what could have been any number of contexts, he quietly said, “Not all of us has had the chance to try to ‘find ourselves’” (I’m recalling that he was quoting that phrase back to, and in reference to, me.)  For many of his generation, he could not have been more right.  This was not a reflection, by any means, on the best-friends-for-life relationship he so richly enjoyed with my mother for fifty-plus years.

The second occasion came at the end of a weekend visit with Mom and Dad, not long after his first heart attack.  I had brought with me a scrapbook-sized photo project someone had done about me in the genre of a day in the life of a person living with AIDS.  Under each photograph was a hand-written note in which I simply commented on the picture or recounted a brief story.  Accompanying one, showing Dad and me shaking hands as I prepared to leave, I wrote something to the effect that it reminded me of an occasion early in school when he set me down off his lap and told me that I was too grown up to kiss him now. Of course – of course – he meant no harm, and my jotting down the story was equally free of malice (I could not have had a stronger advocate for a father throughout our time together), and after seeing the finished photo project Dad never greeted me, nor said good-bye, without a warm, two-armed hug!

Thank you for posting this BA.


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