heron in flight


Good bye to my best friend

Thanks to all of you for coming. Raye would’ve been so happy to see you all here, she so loved this community, and of course her family and friends who have come here to be with us today.

Raye loved the coast with its foggy weather, and she loved the people we met here. The friends that we made, some of whom have become like family. She felt that she belonged here, and that gave her happiness.

She gave back as much as she could, as a teacher, a volunteer, as a mother. To me she gave the most of all, as a wife of 45 years. I’ve lived with her all of my adult life. And I loved her, as many of you did, but in our own special way.

I took her for granted in a lot of ways, the qualities she brought to our relationship that made it so comfortable, so easy to live together. So lately, I’ve been trying to articulate what it was that made her so special. Maybe some of you saw the same things in her, and that’s why you have come here this morning.

We all knew her as a lively, funny, cheerful person who was fun to be with, of course. I loved those things about her, but they weren’t the real reason I felt the way I did. There was a lot more to her than that.

For one thing, she was creative. And tasteful. And enterprising. We remodeled our home once, knocking out a wall, and she designed our new space. Hired contractors. Painted walls and doors herself. Now I live in that environment, and she’s still there with me, wherever I look. But her creativity wasn’t the main reason I loved her.

And she was smart, too. Not with words or technology, but with people: she could understand and communicate like I never could, in ways that didn’t require words. On a trip to Japan once, we were in some store buying lacquerware. I’d been studying Japanese for a few years and I was trying to deal with the shopkeeper, who spoke no English. When I pulled out my credit card to pay he started asking me something very complicated. I had no idea what he was trying to say, but Raye figured it out right away: did I want to pay in installments. She didn’t need words. She understood gestures and attitudes, looked in people’s eyes to know what they were saying. I didn’t realize how smart she was, at first, because I’m not like that at all. But although I really came to appreciate that perceptiveness, it wasn’t really the main reason that I loved her, either.

You may not know this, but she was an adventurer. You have to have adventures in life, that was our credo, and Raye was game for anything. Right after we got married we wanted to travel, but we didn’t have much money. Still, we saved up what we could, quit our jobs, packed up our apartment, took backpacks and hitched around Europe for a year. Throughout our lives we managed to create opportunities to travel, Malaysia, Europe. month-long trips to Japan.  Everywhere she would meet people, interact and learn things even though she often didn’t speak the language. I often spoke the language but would just stand around and stare.

And she had the courage for adventure. She was brave enough to follow me into a post-doc’s uncertain career in the Midwest, and ultimately to our landing place out here, with two kids in tow. Raye was always positive, she faced any challenge or catastrophe with optimism and resilience. When we hitchhiked, she always knew a ride would come. And she believed she could beat the cancer that finally killed her. Even in the worst, painful moments of that fight, she carried herself with dignity and grace.

She was intrepid and I loved her for it. It made so many things possible, but even that was not the main reason I loved her.

Raye was above all a very loving person. She could look a you in the eye — not just me but many people — and say I love you and mean it. XOXOX. I could never do that. Her love kept looking for ways to express itself. Mine was usually hiding. And she loved so many people, her family, her friends, the children at Farallone View, the school itself. I could only manage a few. She looked for the good in people, in me, in you, in the bad boys in her 5th grade class, and she always seemed to find something to love.

In love she was generous. Give the waiter a nice tip he was one of my students. This cousin needs help with tuition. And she was always willing to give something up. She took pleasure in giving. If you needed something, she would just look to see if she had enough. I’d look to see what we’d have left afterwards, but she never worried about stuff like that: socking it away for her old age.  It just made her happy to give to the people she loved.

In love she was supportive, she wanted to help people achieve their goals. After all, she was a teacher, and a great one. An enabler. She supported me while I went through grad school, pushed me to go there in the first place. It made her happy to see me succeed and to have been part of it.

In love she was responsible, late night homework grading, meetings. Getting to class well before the kids to set up. You weren’t just going to school, you were going to Mrs Furst’s room, she was always there to let you in. Kids felt safe there. They trusted her. That gave her joy.

So, while I loved my wife for all the reasons I’ve mentioned: her creativity and adventurousness, her perceptiveness and humor, perhaps my greatest reason for loving her was that she was so full of love herself, of laughing, selfless love, that I just couldn’t help myself. She knew how to love, and I didn’t. But when she looked at me, she saw something good there, too. And she trusted me, completely, with no holding back. There was never any doubt in our relationship.

We were opposites in many ways. She was always cheerful, I was a grump. She was gregarious, I am a hermit. Her glass was half full, I had an empty paper cup. She held everything precious, I took it all for granted. She thought I was the greatest thing on earth, and I didn’t even realize what I had in her. But she knew how I felt about her, even before I knew it myself. That made her happy, too.

She understood me, and we fit together perfectly and resonated. Together we were more than the sum of our two parts. Often we would sit in separate rooms at home, each doing our own thing. We were alone but we were together. We were always together.

Now she’s gone and the parts can’t match up anymore. But she gave me something in our 45 years together.  She changed me. Where the pieces used to fit, my edges aren’t as rough as they used to be. So in a way I still carry her with me, and I always will. Maybe it’s the same for some of you. Maybe she changed you, too, in some way, and you’ll always have that.

Raye was very happy in this community, that’s where we can find consolation in her passing. She lived a good life here, really felt that this was home, the place where she belonged. That was important to her. Many of you have come this morning because she touched your lives in some way: as teacher, colleague, family or friend. You’re the reason she was happy here. You should feel good about that. She loved interacting with you and she felt your warmth and regard for her. You gave her joy, and I thank you.

And now, let’s raise these Mimosas in a toast and send her on her way with one last blast of love.

Raye Furst
Raye L. Furst   August 2nd, 1947 — April 2nd, 2016


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