Last night I had a dream that my late father-in-law George Smith was sewing a giant quilt that was half complete. In the dream I was surprised that he could undertake such a large project while I was attempting to complete a much smaller task. I can’t remember what I was fumbling about with, but I remember thinking to myself – “look at George with that big needle and thread and that enormous quilt!” The dream lingered in my thoughts the next morning as I tried to understand George and his life with me.
It was 1979, when I met George and his wife Virginia after I had been dating their daughter Carol, one of their 12 children. George and Virginia welcomed me into their home and family at first sight - an openness and warmth that was unconditional. Over the course of our three decades together - in all our weekends, all our meals, all our outings there was never a raised voice, never a heated debate, never any conflict – seriously never. How can these be? I can honestly say I have never had that kind of relationship with anyone.
George and Virginia lived a life of acceptance. There was seldom a point of view they would not at least consider. There was always a serious desire to discuss and explore “ideas.” Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying “Small minds discuss people. Average minds discuss events. Great minds discuss ideas.” George hardly discussed people, rarely discussed events, and always discussed ideas (granted with anyone that would listen, and no matter age or what language.) George’s views were never about small things – but always about the big picture - always about our spiritual life in the universe. He wanted to know understand our social mission as a humans and uncover what was beneath the interwoven fabric of all living beings. For years, as he bid farewell, hugging me he would utter “keep the faith.” I thought he was referring to religion, but only after he turned 90 did I ask him what he meant. He pointed to his heart and explained that what he meant was to keep the faith within yourself – to be true to yourself.
When I first met George and Virginia they had departed from the Catholic Church and were exploring Eastern forms of religion. I was in my early twenties hanging onto post 1960’s idealism while struggling with growing conservatism the world would soon envelope in the 1980’s. Meeting them as a young adult I cherished them as my mentors for spiritual quests and voyages into the world of ideas.
So back to the dream. .. I am an agnostic and it’s hard for me to embrace an after-life where I see George in some heavenly place stitching on the fabric of time, and yet again, I must admit that if anyone is be there – it would be George. George is, has, and always will stich on a giant quilt and what that quilt is I know not. But watching him that night in my dream was all I ever wanted to do life – to watch him work away, carve away at the mystery of life. So I say “Stitch on Sir George, stitch for us all!”
In fond memory, I’ll miss you dearly.
P.S. George died in his home 3 days before his 91st Birthday on February 2, 2012. Many Imago fans will recognize his wonderful illustrations in “The Cowboy” one of the features in “FROGZ.” Working with George on that project, with Virginia standing behind him correcting his every mistake (as she always did) is a collaboration I shall cherish forever.