Hello to everyone gathered here this morning. How pleased and proud I am to be here today with all of you who love Betty as I do. My name is Clare Rimmer and my husband, Charlie, and I have been Betty's and Peter's friends since the early '60's when we all lived at Groton School. Way back then I knew that Betty was someone very precious and significant who had come into my life--someone whose warmth and enthusiasm and goodness were deeply appealing and totally satisfying to me. Our friendship developed good, strong roots during those six years at Groton--strong enough to sustain us over a long separation of close to 20 years. The Willauers went on to found the Hurricane Island Outward Bound School in Maine, and we went on to a new life on the north shore of Boston. Except for Christmas cards and an occasional phone conversation, we were out of touch, but, I like to think, never out of mind of one another. And what I want to talk briefly about today if FRIENDSHIP, and in particular, Betty's and mine. I am sure that what I am going to say will mirror the thoughts of so many of you here today.
What a marvelous and miraculous thing friendship is. For me, a friend is someone for whom you feel affection and esteem. Those are good, meaningful words, affection and esteem. They are surely the fundamental feelings we experience when we make a friend. And when we form a friendship, a new and important dimension is added: that of engagement and interconnection. And therein lies the magic of friendship. It is the mutual, shared understanding and acceptance and trust which develop between two people and allow them the freedom to be themselves, to extend beyond themselves and ultimately to be their very best selves.
And so it was for me with Betty. We reconnected about 10 years ago, as smoothly as though there had never been any interruption. What is perhaps unique about our friendship is that it was not necessarily based on shared experiences at Hurricane Island or on a pulling boat or drown-proofing in a quarry. I was never the intrepid adventuress like Betty, never one to test myself to the degree that she did, and certainly never as self-disciplined as she was. But how I admired those qualities. Instead, I experienced another kind of sharing with Betty and it was a magical and God-given connectedness that allowed us to hear and explore each other's thoughts and feelings and concerns, and to give and to receive strength and comfort from one another. And we always found great pleasure just being together. I would come home from a visit with Betty with a bounce in my step and a lift to my spirits because of her contagious enthusiasm and love for life and her innate wisdom and compassion. Betty was the most substantial, most real, most courageous and least selfish person I have ever known. She gave, and she gave more, and she continued giving until the very end.
Exactly two weeks ago today I had the incredible privilege of being allowed some time with Betty to say goodbye. It was an experience I will never forget and will treasure forever. I was able to tell her how much I loved her and how deeply I would miss her, and she told me she was at peace and not afraid. She said she felt she had lived and loved fully. We had a tearful parting, but I hope it brought to her, as it did to me, a measure of peace in knowing we had brought a lovely friendship full circle.
I realized as I drove home that I had never stopped hoping for a miracle to make Betty well, and I was struggling to grasp this tragedy when I suddenly understood that another kind of miracle had occurred for all of us in the wide circle of love surrounding Betty. And it is so exactly in keeping with her life. Her resounding "Yes" to life and her unbelievable courage enabled her to face her death with strength and patience and thankfulness for all that had been good, and in doing so she shared her final and greatest gift to us all, the lesson that life fully lived is the best possible preparation for death.
For this, dear Lord, make us truly thankful.
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