I first met Trudy smith when I was 16 years old. She gave me my first bird guide. She showed me the birds in a way no one else had ever shown them to me. Trudy was a nurse, and an ornithologist. I helped her catch and band birds at a bible camp in New Hampshire. She was the first woman I had ever met who loved nature as much as I did. She wasn’t afraid of snakes or lizards or frogs. She saw God’s beauty in all the world around her and she loved to share her love of nature and God with others. Trudy was 50 years old when I first met her. I was amazed that someone that old could hike up Mount Washington with me. Now that I am in my fifties, I am still amazed! I remember her climbing the trail and looking left and right and all around for birds, lichens, flowers, anything. Her curiosity was endless; her energy boundless.
Even at the age of 98, Trudy still kept and maintained her bird feeders. When I was there in 2008 we visited for awhile, then we went out to dinner together with her husband, Earl. He was going blind, so she was his eyes, and he was her ears!
Because, you see, one of the most amazing things about Trudy was that she was deaf. She lost her hearing as a child from an illness and never got it back. So, though she loved the birds, she could never hear them sing! From her I learned patience and not to fear someone who is different or handicapped. Since Trudy did learn to read lips, I only had to touch her arm when I wanted to speak to her, but then I had to remember not to look away! She needed to see my mouth move to understand what I was saying! In spite of her hearing loss, she never seemed handicapped to me at all! I only saw Trudy one more time after this, in 2010, when Gus and I moved back east for two years. He took me to see her in September of that year, and though she was still strong, I could tell her memory was fading as she tried to remember me. Still, as I hugged her and cried I could still fell her love for me coming through the clouds of her memory. A year later I started to feel like she was gone, but with Mom’s cancer and other things going on in my life I didn’t check up on it. I was afraid to know the truth. finally, right before we moved back to Tucson I could bear it no longer and I googled her name. It took me awhile but I finally found out that she passed away in the spring of 2011. She was 102 years old! This month is National Poetry Month, and I have been participating in NaPoWriMo 2013 exercise to write 30 poems in 30 days. When I read the prompt for today was to write a Valediction, which is a poem of farewell or good-bye, Trudy was the first one to spring to my mind. I decided to write this post today and post my poem here, because Trudy was MY birding mentor. Without her they might not be a Kathie’s Birds! This is my way of bidding her farewell!
A Valediction for my MentorEven now I see your face Faded blue eyes shining with Joy As you show me the oriole on your feeder.
Long ago you nurtured -this bird love in my heart, --this God love in my heart, --this love for all of nature.
I remember the last time I saw you, shrunken and gnome-like with the pink, leathery skin of old age, Yet eyes that still shone like a child’s.
Oh how I loved you, and love you still. I think of you now like a constant thing, Like birds, and God’s Love.
I knew the last time I saw you It would be our last good-bye, You were 101 then—time had run out on you. I hugged you tight while tears streamed down my face in a flood.
I could tell I was but a faded memory In your aged mind, but, you still loved me, you still loved God, and you still loved the birds.
I wanted to hold you so tight as if my love could keep you from the inevitable.
How is it that you are gone from this life, yet still so alive in my heart?
In the birds I see everyday —I see you, —I see Love.
If parting is such sweet sorrow, then remembering is sweeter still, and saying Good-bye is but a brief moment in time.
~Kathie Adams Brown (April 6, 2013)
- NaPoWriMo 2013 Day 5 Prompt: Valediction
- I am also posting this poem on Kathie’s Poet Tree.
- My Birding Mentor, Trudy (2008 Post on Sycamore Canyon)