She fought the good fight, she completed the course;
she has now entered into the rest apportioned to all
upon the end of their days by the grace of God.
Leslie has been a lot of things to many people: sister, friend, confidant, muse, leader, follower, wife, mother, caretaker…and that just scratches the surface.
Greatest of her attributes, though, was that of being a real person. Watching her during my lifetime grow into someone who figured out that there is no perfect, no textbook yet written that can make perfection, and that life is something you live far more than do…she excelled.
She had a great base of understanding how to live life, figuring out how to find joy in things great and small without a lot of fanfare, then deliberately making plans that grew into big things with big outcomes. In her job, in her raising John & Kelsey, in her work with animals, at Brown, and all those committees…and in her personal thrust…Leslie knew how to take every situation in, get her arms around it, and carry on to make what was…different. Often, better.
She’s one of those who made Cancer better, though her benefit is nil. It seems this disease got the best of her despite everything she and we could have done. Yet, if you list the daily accomplishments undertaken during both rounds fought she had the better of this disease.
It did not stop her from working until she decided it was time to retire.
It did not stop her from being a devoted wife to Ken, nor did it stop Ken from being the devoted husband who changed the course of his career to fight her cancer and understand its complications.
It did not prevent her from living life to the fullest – and she did that with such enthusiasm after the first round that not even I can recall all she did and all she accomplished. But to those who understand Leslie and witnessed her boundless energy in those days, we can all piece the many events, laughs, accomplishments and causes which will take months to recall and post somewhere.
It did not prevent her from being vulnerable, either. Often she would be having to endure something very tough, and some of you know the quiet approach she would make to disclose some of what troubled her. In her first round during one of the holidays she came to me privately and asked if I would be certain to look after Ken, John and Kelsey. I asked her what she knew that she didn’t want to say. Doubts about her treatments and strength to endure gripped her with the fear she might not make it; her faith was kicking in at the same time to counteract the fears yet realities were tempering belief. Knowing how hard it can be to hold out for miracles and live in the moment, a simple agreement to her wish and a standing with her in that struggle was what she needed most.
Spiritual people have a tough time trying to get past real moments because their knowledge and application of Scripture leads every thought and deed. That kind of positive enforcement is good, but hard to temper with moments which scream louder. Les figured out when to answer the scream with real words, emotion and feeling. Many didn’t know to what extent she was in agony, but that is a part of the woman who wanted not to trouble others and attempt to lead by her own example. A faith flaw? Perhaps, but her quiet in struggle has produced many virtues that showed all who witnessed her in life to be strong, balanced and committed…attributes treasured in a time when so many walk away from when things are far less difficult.
She succeeded in life and living right to her last breath. Hers is not a failure of being beaten; after all, no one living is promised life past an endpoint. So, dear sister, you truly did all you needed to do and left us a legacy of living which is the ongoing story of your life with us. I have no regret holding out your hope of beating cancer, simply because our faith tells us that when we stop struggling, we win battles. You won the battle in breaking immense suffering by surrender, and in doing so, you have deservedly won your peaceful rest.
We mourn the loss with a host of reasons, greatest of all the absence. I still find moments where a quick text wants to fly from my fingers to your now silenced phone and emails…or I hear your name…or have another John Denver tune to get the eyes misty.
In trying to write this from my new Texas home I have heard every single Denver tune except one, and it is the one which speaks more truly of you than all the others.
https://youtu.be/3YnfCH7LNcM – “Perhaps Love” J. Denver, L. Pavarotti
When there is death, we all try to take away something from the moment…a fragment to hold onto that somehow keeps love close though time and death which are separators. I don’t have anything to take away, and find we all have something we’re adding, and that is the pieces of Les she shared with all of us. The more we remember them, the more we talk about them, the fondness will find the loss being overshadowed, for good has that kind of power, obliterating suffering, loss, pain and trouble. That is something I know Les would desire for each of us – not to be crushed by this – but to be all we can be for each other and ourselves while she sprinkles a memory of mirth or profound thought from our mind’s own memory bank.
There is one though in her life to whom I am forever grateful, and that his her husband, Ken. To dedicate yourself to love and her struggle with your life and career is something I know she found incredible to witness and receive. Watching you, observing you, speaking with you so often in these trying days gave me such assurance and respect for who you are and what you do, and having you as family continues to be a valued part of my world.
Most special for us all was their first – and only – performance together at Shady Lea in Rhode Island on October 3rd 2015. They had practiced a tune together for a little Bluegrass set before a small audience. We were told everyone loved it. The highlight – a frame that will last forever in our minds is after the final strum, as the applause rose, when they looked at each other and the love, joy and mirth of the moment was alive in their gaze. This is where the writing stops, and the performance takes over. It is where my thoughts remain in memorial.
Heaven holds us close, we do so in heart and mind.
Thank you David for being by my side in every step, then and now.
To my WINY Radio family and audience
who continue to send love, thoughts and prayers…
I am eternally grateful to you for our friendship;
you are more than just the best audience in the world,
you are among the finest of people, treasured each day.
-Bill Alley, 21 Oct 2015