The focus on death and dying is becoming a regular feature on this blog.
First, Bloomington was the locality featured in the conscious dying process of well known local author and activist Carroll Krause. See this, this, this, and this. Several posts documenting Carroll’s process went viral on this blog, generating over 1.5 million viewers.
And now, our town is again the locality featured in the extraordinarily peaceful and communal dying process of Lucille Bertuccio, the one woman everybody recognizes as the Mother of all things environmental in Bloomington.
Here she is, striding straight-backed through town. (She refused to own a car.)
Go to her facebook page for the rest of the story and lots of photos: her continuous, passionate advocacy for the Earth and her Earthlings, whether human, plant, or animal. Founding, co-founding, or pioneering many ventures — the Center for Sustainable Living, Wildlife Habitat, worm farming, Transition Town Bloomington, on and on and on, at one point she even turned her basement into a community food pantry! — she never seemed to tire of speaking, teaching, and acting up for those who are marginalized, whether it be the ecosystem itself, or the wild plants within it, including us wild humans! She had a wonderful laugh. And she was an intensely serious and committed member of activist groups —
— and friend to countless people, for example, Ria Collee. Love this picture of the two of them.
She also ran for County Commissioner once. In fact, that’s how I was introduced to her, by name only, on signs, when I arrived here in 2003.
I wonder what would have changed here, had she won. How much she could have spurred on even further, ever further, into protection and nourishment for all living things.
Not all that long ago, I was walking down the street with my puppy Shadow. And there was Lucille, walking not too far away with one of her daughters, who had come from Portland to live with her for awhile during her recuperation from cancer. I didn’t dare draw closer. For they were arguing, vociferously, and loud! An amazing demonstration of passion in action, Italian-style!
Last spring when I went to her house for more red wriggly worms for our Garden Towers, she seemed too thin to me. I was concerned. She brushed it off. Not too long after, Lucille went to Portland to be with both her daughters, who lived next to each other. And it was not until last Thursday night that the shocking news went out, via facebook, that Lucille was in the final stages of thyroid cancer, in hospice, near death! They asked for us to send letters which they would read to her.
Immediately, I left our weekly Community Dinner, went to my room, closed my door, and wrote to her.
Two of the people who gravitated towards her here and who have since moved to the west coast, drove up from California to see her. Here is their account of Lucille’s dying process. What a magnificent woman, in life and in her dying! And what a glorious exercise in community.
Five of us met in Portland Saturday morning to spend some time with Lucille: Mike Englert, Bev Carson, Nurhayat Elturan, Heather Clemons, and myself. Lucille’s daughters, Elizabeth and Mari gave us a few instructions and left to do some errands. We brought with us love letters, poems, and other loving thoughts that you all had sent us to read to her.
She was very happy to see us and smiled a lot. She squeezed our hands, but could not move much or speak. She was on oxygen and had some trouble breathing clearly. We spent two hours reading letters and showing her photos, running our fingers through her beautiful hair. We sang her a song. She was interacting with us and urging us to continue. She even showed some humor. We fed her chocolate ice cream.At around noon, she seemed tired and we asked her if she wanted to rest. She nodded yes, and started to sleep. Mike and I stepped outside on the porch for a few minutes. The sun came out while we were standing there, which is somewhat unusual in Portland this time of year. The others stayed with her and after about 5 or 10 minutes, they motioned us to come back in. She was breathing very shallowly and irregularly. As we surrounded her with love, her breathing continued to become slower and more shallow and then stopped. We stayed with her for another 30 minutes, until the doula arrived.Lucille went peacefully. She was comfortable and having a good time. We were showering her with love, from us and from all of you who wrote such beautiful things. She will have a green burial midweek and will be buried in a meadow in a nature preserve in South Central Washington.After we helped Mari and Elizabeth wash Lucille, we said our goodbyes. Heather went home to her kids, and the rest of us wanted to do something that would honor Lucille. We thought about driving to the ocean, but it was two hours away. We tried to go to the Columbia River, but we ran into gates everywhere. Mike suggested driving to Multnomah Falls, and we took a chance. It turned out to be open at night because they have a restaurant there. It was just the right place to go. Being so close to the natural power and beauty of millions of gallons of water falling off a cliff was the huge show of nature that we were looking for. As we looked skyward through the mist that enshrouded us, just above the top of the 600 foot falls, the stars were shining so bright. We felt Lucille’s presence there, and everything felt right.Thank you all for sharing your loving thoughts with us to share with Lucille. It meant the world to her in her closing moments of a life so well lived! She will live on in our memories and through all of the teachings from her that we pass on to others. Even at the end she was showing us how to leave.With all of our hearts,Mike and Jeanne