(Very special thanks to Crosby, Stills & Nash)
A Long time Gone
Bethel, NY – I remember Woodstock.
Although I was too young to have actually gone to Yasger's farm, I was old enough to know and love and listen to the musicians who played that historical, magical outdoor festival. My Woodstock story is about how I got to know and love my friend Lois Yasger, my own little piece of timeless Woodstock.
Many years ago, I worked as a counselor with Max Yasger's daughter, Lois.
We met in the college town of Urbana-Champaign, IL, where my field of study at the U of I was psychology. Lois was an R.N. and we worked together one year and became friends. We got to know each other, talking about life and school and acting, as I was involved in theatre, television and radio then and she had also dabbled in theatre while at school in New York. Lois was newly married to “the love of her life” Todd, and she was working full-time to put him through graduate school. She was so blissfully happy with him, as she would describe how she couldn't wait to get home to the farm house they were renting outside of town in the country, to make whole foods dinners (before it was trendy) and play her music as loud as she wanted.
Lois was unpretentious - the anti-hubris. She only told me that she was Max's daughter after several months had gone by when “A Long time Gone” happened to play on the radio and we both began singing along in harmony to it. I said it must have been so cool to have been there, and it was then that she nonchalantly told me she was Max's daughter. She said very little else about her “past life” with her father and her family and how her new beginning with Todd was a “high” like no other. God, she showed it, too. I can't begin to describe how impossibly and serenely happy she was, everyday. Her passionate zest for life was contagious.
That winter, Lois couldn't wait for it to end so she could plant a garden in the spring. She talked about having kids one day, and loved their dogs – once bringing one of them to work -- frightening some of the patients and pissing off the management. (We frequently giggled in our mutual disdain for pedantic and uptight authority figures.) She was a little older than me, and on occasion, when my dawning of the Age of Aquarius angst would sometimes submerge my thoughts, I would take great comfort in her opinions and sage advice. She was as fair as she was strong, and her steely resolve tempered with quiet widsom and sharp insights revealed a spirited, ancient old-soul.
On any given day, it was always me who would scramble to make it on time for work. When I'd arrive, Lois was always there first. Throughout our work together, she never took a sick day.
Despite this, it was hardly surprising for me to not see her arrive first one grey, dark December day, when we had a terrible ice storm which knocked the power out and made the streets treacherous to drive and the sidewalks dangerous to even walk on. If there were ever one time I thought she would stay home, it was that stormy day. Since I lived only three blocks from work, I would walk and did slip a couple of times on my way in during the icy rain and snow storm that left glistening icicles that were sharp as knives on the trees. The ice storm turned the streets into ghostly sheets of tread-less, deadly ice.
She never made it to work.
Lois died in a car crash on her way into town from her farm house, when the van she and Todd were riding in veered off the road into a ravine. They say she died instantaneously upon impact, which, whenever I think about her, always brings strange, cold comfort.
The oddest thing about her death is that even then, I never believed she had really died – just went away. I asked over and over how it could have happened, as if rehearsing it somehow, like our lines in a play, would bring her back.
This week, as we commemorate Woodstock, I think of Lois and still feel she is out there somewhere, spreading her joyous laughter and warm-hearted wisdom around to make this world a better place like she did mine, so many years ago. This, to me, is the essence of what it means to live an honest life of truth, integrity and zest for life in all of its goodness and community. Lois had no time for fools and fakes.
I don't really know if we die like dogs, but knowing Lois has made me realize that our lives, no matter how rich or poor, are only carried on by the love and goodwill we invest in them. To speak out against the madness.
That I had the great fortune to have known this beautiful, timeless soul, Lois Yasger, for just that fleeting time is worth a thousand miracles.