Wednesday, September 14, 2011


I'm back in El Salvador, but my heart keeps turning to Albuquerque in the 1970s, when Helen Cooperstein and Patricia Clark Smith were among my best friends. Helen, a beautiful, intense artist, wove beautiful wall hangings and capes. Pat, a fellow Assistant Professor in the English Department at UNM, wrote her discovery of New Mexico's vast spaces and human histories into moving poetry.

I learned before my recent trip to New Mexico that Helen had died a year and a half after being diagnosed with cancer (this photo of her was taken last December). She and I had talked several times during those months - about her son and grandchildren, about our lives, about God. She came into a place of peace in those last months, and it was both joyful and sorrowful to visit with her son Noah, his wife Marta and their two young boys in Albuquerque.

It wasn't until my last day in New Mexico, visiting with my longtime friends Mary and Paul Davis, that I learned of Pat Smith's death in July, 2010. I have so many memories of times with Pat, parties and food and talks and exchanging poems, memories of visiting her when she was teaching on the Navajo reservation or in various Albuquerque homes. I'm sad that I fell out of touch with her.

I grieve the loss of these two friends, these two lights in my life. And I know that Helen and Pat live now not only in my memories and those of other friends, but in the wideness of God's mercy.

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