April 27, 1955 – April 5, 2019
Alyce Gilmore was my best friend. I don’t know that she would say the same of me; she knew so many people and was so widely loved. But for me, a shy, quiet, introvert who chooses her very close friends carefully, Alyce was truly my best friend. We shared so many common interests: beagles, of course, a love of horse racing, the arts, the wonders of nature. We would often talk about our spiritual path; both of us exploring the wisdom offered by a variety of faith traditions. We shared a similar sense of humor and loved to talk about the movies. At the risk of sounding irreverent, on the day that she passed, to ease the sobbing and the numbness, my daughter and I watched Monty Python’s Holy Grail, as we had several times before with Alyce, shouting out the lines, once again able to hear her voice and feel her presence with us.
Like most of us, Alyce had been broken many times by life. We knew each other’s broken pieces and what I appreciated about Alyce was the ability to talk about what was broken without judgment. In fact, I think that what we had loved most about each other was our ability to pick up our broken pieces and put them back together into a beautiful, stronger, new whole.
Alyce was broken once again in early 2018. When I visited her in December 2017 to see her last litter of puppies, I could see the signs…and I sensed that she could, too. As a 10 year survivor of non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, a cancer that took half of my stomach, digestive abnormalities have become a close acquaintance of mine. I encouraged her to see a doctor and soon after, the process of picking up the pieces and making things whole began for her once again.
For Alyce, making things whole from the broken pieces of her physical and spiritual reality required quiet reflection and a few close friends and family for support. When she told me of her diagnosis, and told me that she didn’t want anyone else in the beagle community to know, I honored that request. I understood why she made that choice, but I also knew the shock that would come when word got out. She was so loved and so admired…but I think that she knew that.
I visited Alyce last May and she took me to the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge to see the alligators, the egrets, and the abundant wildlife to be found there. We ate crawfish on her back patio one night and gazed at the heavens through the Skyview app that she had on her phone. We watched a documentary about Jane Goodall and the work that she did in Africa.
“I don’t think that faith, whatever you’re being faithful about, really can be scientifically explained. And I don’t want to explain this whole life business through truth, science. There’s so much mystery. There’s so much awe.” Jane Goodall
Alyce wanted to remain in awe; to continue exploring the mysteries. There was pain, there was fear, but she chose to keep on living and finding happiness in every day…
“Watering the seeds of happiness is a very important practice for the sick or dying. All of us have seeds of happiness inside us, and in difficult moments when we are sick or when we are dying, there should be a friend sitting with us to help us touch the seeds of happiness within.” Thich Nhat Hanh
It was hard to be so far away in Seattle but we stayed in touch by phone. I loved to hear about the time spent with her sisters and family and knowing that she had close friends at home to water seeds of happiness.
I think that we’ve all been trying to water the seeds of happiness with the tears of sorrow for the past few days. I’ll share one more quote from Thich Nhat Hanh, the Buddhist monk, whom Alyce admired so much…
“When we lose someone we love, we should remember that the person has not become nothing. ‘Something’ cannot become ‘nothing,’ and ‘nothing’ cannot become, ‘something.’ Science can help us understand this, because matter cannot be destroyed—it can become energy. And energy can become matter, but it cannot be destroyed. In the same way, our beloved was not destroyed; she has just taken on another form. That form may be a cloud, a child or the breeze. We can see our loved one in everything.”
Alyce will be present for me in so many forms: in the form of a beagle that I know she would love, in works of art, in the majesty and mystery of nature, in the laughter of a child. In memories of late night hotel conversations: talking dogs, binge-watching Say Yes To The Dress, or arguing over which of us loved Anthony Bourdain more…
It’s been an adventure. We took some casualties over the years. Things got broken. Things got lost. But I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.” – Anthony Bourdain