Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Celebrating Gabriele

Gabriele Rico is a delight, pure and simple. To know her is to have your world brightened; to be her friend is to be loved. She is one of the kindest, sweetest, funniest, fiercest, most earnest, most loving, devoted, intellectually curious individuals I have ever known. Gabriele is fighting cancer again, and whether she beats this foe or succumbs to its relentless tentacles, she has won the larger war because her relentless will to fight and her incomparable grace in the face of unspeakable pain and sorrow has vanquished the fear of death and has taught us the importance of living and dying on our own terms.

I first met Gabriele Rico in the late 1970's. She taught a class that I took. She also taught clustering to anyone and everyone who was interested. It was her creation and was a new and exciting way to tap into our brains and free so much of what was hidden there. She encouraged us to go forth and teach clustering too, and soon it swept the nation. Now, clustering is taught as a viable alternative (and to my thinking, a preferable alternative) to outlining. I teach clustering in every class I teach, and I tell all my students about Gabriele and how clustering began.

When I was a graduate student, Gabriele and I became friends, and she worked with me on ways to possibly help those with extremely low IQ's communicate via their right brains, most especially with music. We also talked about our childhoods and marriages.

After my children were born, and I was away from academia, I lost touch with Gabriele. Then, when my daughter went to college, the same college I attended, I saw Gabriele was teaching Children's Literature, and I encouraged my daughter to take her class too. She did, and it was really cool knowing that both of us had had the same professor twenty or so years apart, and that the Gabriele my daughter described was the same Gabriele I had known and loved.

When my daughter graduated from college, Gabriele was the speaker, so I was able to go up and talk with her and catch up. Her irrepressible enthusiasm wrapped about me like a comfy, beloved sweater that I'd lost and just found again. She proudly told me of the special photo she'd had taken for her husband--she just beamed. I was in awe. If only we could all have Gabriele's joie de vivre! Then, she took me around to introduce me to professors I did not know and excitedly told them all that I had homeschooled my daughter from K-12. My daughter and I remember the look of horror on a couple of the faces, who looked like they want to take back her degree, but Gabriele was all enthusiastic support, which made me feel like I'd done something grand indeed.

Five more years went by, and in 2011, I was honored to speak at a tribute for my friend Nils Peterson. I mentioned Nils' first cluster, and out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Gabriele in the audience, laughing. What a great moment--it's as if we'd come full circle in a way. We talked at the dinner, and we have stayed in touch by email since that time. She is a star in my firmament.

Gabriele may live to be 100 or she may not live to see 76, but during the 75 years that Gabriele has lived on this earth so far, she has mattered a great deal to many individuals, she has made a difference in how we see the world, and she has made the world a better place in many big and small ways. And Gabriele still matters, still makes a difference, still makes the world a better place during each day she graces the world with her presence. As evidenced by her daughter's blog "Walking Papers," Gabriele soothes, comforts, and loves those around her with every glance, every touch, and every word. Gabriele is a class act if ever there was one, and I am blessed to be her friend.

Fab Four
Gabriele and her daughters a couple of days ago. Photo borrowed from Suzanne's blog "Walking Papers."

Take care,


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