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Patricia Neal: One Swell Dame

16 Aug

Patricia Neal - photo by David ShankbonePatricia Neal died last week. She summered on the Vineyard for as long as I can remember, a beloved, friendly, down-to-earth woman who contributed to the life and welfare of this island on a regular basis. Just this past Monday, she allowed her excellent company at dinner to be auctioned off to the highest bidder at the island’s Impossible Dreams fundraiser. I have a set of her candlesticks from the house-and-chachke sale she hosted at her home for Vineyard House, a halfway residence for people in recovery. She knew that people would spring for a traipse through her house, and she gladly offered it.

I love what her kids said her last words to them were.

After a life filled with triumphs, sure, but also tremendous pain and challenges - including the early deaths of 2 of her children; being incapacitated by a series of devastating strokes as a young adult; having to sweat for years to regain most (but not all) of her capabilities; being left by her husband and the father of her six children… I could go on. Her life was not a walk in the park, by anyone’s standards. But she was a life-loving, vibrant, thoroughly engaged, generous, giving woman.
Her last words to her kids?

“I’ve had a lovely time.” 

Just like a mannerly guest, leaving a swell party. 

What a beautiful good bye!

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award