delivered by Carl J. Schroeder, 11am Pine Plains, NY, July 30, 2011 Peck & Peck Funeral Home
Each of us is so much bigger than we know. Human beings are vast beyond imagination. When we are born, we are given finite lives in which to feel infinite love. This is not possible, it doesn’t seem fair! Time and again, we are both condemned and privileged, to experience the openings to boundless love followed by the limits of incalculable loss of that love. It is both the greatest joy and the hardest pain we will ever know, to so love and lose love, and still, at least for now, this is the way we must go.
When we gather to remember a life as beautiful as that of my sister Beth Schroeder, Steve’s wife Elizabeth Ashton, your friend Beth, the heart aches and the soul longs to have her still here with us in the physical body. But Beth has made the leap into pure spirit, she is energy now. And because of the infinity of who we each are, we can also experience, each in our own ways, that Beth is still here with us, just as we were always together with her there, in that infinite place from which we all come. Trailing clouds of glory, as the poet once said. You are glory bound, as my sister once wrote, and sang to each of us with her open heart.
Beth was close to everyone and everything, that is who she was and always will be. A shining good soul of service to this vast universe, greater than we or even she will ever know. Humble and strong, unjudging and true, Beth felt her own way through life as we all stumbling do. As signs of her closeness to our parents, she was diagnosed with cancer on the day of our father’s funeral, and then she lived 11 more beautiful years with us all. Beth entered that change we call death on the day of our parent’s wedding anniversary, which was two days before the day that our mother died. Beth’s life was pure magic this way, and still she did not know fully who or what or how great she was. None of us do, and yet we live and love on.
I grew up with Beth, we were just 3 years apart. So I was a little bit older and wiser perhaps, but we’ve always been close. All of my life, I have felt a great presence that was guiding and encouraging me to live my own dreams, often quite literally, and time and again I would be amazed to discover that this presence was Beth. For I am a mystic, I like to push the limits of eternity in the physical form, I want to know God and that source of the infinite love as clearly as I am by divine grace allowed.
When you’re young you don’t know who or what you are, so Beth and I looked forward to the future together, equally eager and confused by it all. As I worked out my mystical path, I had experiences that made me an absolute freak to most people, there were so many things that I could not talk about. And always Beth heard me. She was my longest most trustworthy confidant, and she would never judge. As I figured out how the universe worked, she would say oh Carl, that’s so incredible, you make me feel so ordinary in comparison. And I would say Beth, but you’re right there as well, you just don’t even know.
Well now sister Beth knows. She knows more than all of us put together, because we’re still limited to our physical forms, and she is free and beyond all that pain she was enduring just to stay a little longer and brighten our lives. When the body becomes a shell, and the spirit needs to expand, we are given that freedom to go. And actually, it was a miracle and a blessing that Beth lived largely pain free and far beyond her medical prognosis, even up to the last big bluegrass party that Beth and Steve had in their backyard just 7 and a half weeks ago.
All of us expected to live long happy lives with Beth, each in our own ways, and now she is gone and transformed. But I have to tell you, that this is what she does, she’s done this before. Until the world is ideal, until there is heaven on earth, Beth is one of those shining ones who focuses us on the months and days that we still have together, so that we may make the most of our precious time in the body. For too many years we have known that Beth might not be around much longer, and so we cherished and shared with her even more. She had a way with all life. She tended her gardens, her cats and her dogs, and she tended to all of our very own souls.
On the morning of Wednesday July 27, I awoke a little before 7am with a song in my mind. I was expecting to go drive to see Beth in her final days, after having given a talk in Cambridge the night before on spiritual love. The talk had gone well and was another great step for my dream career, just as Beth had always encouraged me to develop. Beth believed in people and the power of love, and she was as I said a great presence in my life for me finding myself.
So I’m not saying this is the best song for you all to enjoy, it’s rather punky and rebellious and mystical from my college days. It’s by Pete Shelley who was known for pushing gay rights, which as some of you know was just one of the many social justice concerns that Beth held. As I resonated with some of the lyrics about the needs for more love and change in the world, I cried that morning way way beyond my expectations, and I didn’t know why. Then Steve called me to say that Beth had just passed in his arms. So I posted these lines on my facebook page, because I knew that Beth had spoken to me as she was leaving her body in these words of this song:
I have a feeling, and I know it will never die
It’s part of the answer for asking the reason why
Out of the darkness the bright light surrounding me
I’m a part of everything I touch and see
I feel the sound of thunder and laughter
It’s tearing me apart
I hope that you will remember
The echo of my heart
Witness the change
Witness the change
Witness the change
Witness the change
Both Beth and the world are changing in ways that we can barely imagine, to make humans more free. Beth has gone ahead of us, because her soul is so very big, and her body could no longer contain all that she needed to be. To the very end I was learning more about my sister, and how much she loved. Just a couple weeks ago I was blessed with a final weekend’s visit with Beth, and she spoke of how proud she was in her job as a New York state town clerk that by law all couples would now be able to marry here. She said she would leave her job soon though, because she wanted other people to have to hand out those marriage licenses, it was too easy for her to not judge. For Beth it was easy to celebrate love.
I apologize if that issue presses your buttons, I have to say that I felt Beth wanted me to mention it, that’s all. She was and still is an activist for a more compassionate world on so many levels. Her close love of nature and ecology is huge of course, so if you want to remember Beth, be good to a plant, a garden, an animal, yourself. Enjoy music and art, because she shared that with us as well. Many of you know and treasure her original songs, she had a beautiful voice, the voice of a soul and the lyrics of a seeker after that soul. Her humility was in being both lost and found, not rising above anyone else, and serving human needs as they came to her. She was the family caretaker, she helped my father and mother and grandmother to pass at the end of their struggles with cancer, now she is free of her own.
One last story that I don’t think she’s ever told anyone, I hadn’t heard it before. On that last visit day, I told Beth how I’d had another one of my mystical dreams, in which a melody from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake came to me. I was so profoundly moved by this dream, and because I’ve long held mystical feelings for Russia, and had the amazing experience of adopting one of my beautiful sons from there, I speculated that in a past life I had heard this song at an original performance of the ballet in Moscow. To my surprise, Beth said oh, which melody. I sang it, and she said oh my god, that’s the one! When I was a little girl, I loved that song so much that I choreographed my own dance to it, but when I went to dance it at a recital this girl who hated me broke the record, so I had to dance it without music. That was difficult, but I did it, I was so proud of myself! So I was amazed as Beth and I found and played the song again for each other on her computer, because this was yet another example of how when you least expect it, Beth will be there, to encourage your dreams and share the way.
So now, I would suggest as a kind of meditation, I’m going to play this short song from Swan Lake. Let’s imagine that this time to dance her dance, Beth has the music, but not the physical body. Close your eyes, and see Beth in your mind, and open your heart. Beth has a new body of light, it is graceful and it goes everywhere that she is called to love and serve. You know how much she always wanted and expected to be here with us for more years in this life, it’s just that her body was tired and could no longer contain the great soul that Beth was and is and shall ever more be. Thank you God, for the many blessings we know as Beth.
(played Swan Lake act 2, final scene, the piece that is about 2 1/2 minutes long)