In Remembrance of

My Forever Friend:

Mary Jane

(Rich, Root, Madsen)

March 8, 1924 -- October 31, 1999

I just received this letter from Mary Jane's oldest daughter, Holly

( Thank you Holly!  I erased your last name and address for privacy purposes )

Holly, as evident in the letter, above, and on the back page of the funeral announcement, below, was the oldest of Mary Jane's children.  Dermont had many children and grandchildren as well.  I only met Dermont a couple of times, however, while they were on a mission in Washington, DC, so i will focus on my very long term friendship with mary Jane in this belated "eulogy" of sorts.

I feel compelled to write some of my memories, feelings and thoughts down and post them for others to see.  It is too much of an emotional burden to write it and not throw it out onto the net, where perhaps none, perhaps many, will read it and see and share my emotions about a great light that I was privileged to know, that has now been extinguished in this world.  I rather like to imagine that as she left the world to travel to her eternal abode, the angels had to shield their eyes from her now unshielded inner brilliance.

Just like Beatrice, in Dante’s epic poem and life, she was a light unto many here, and has been called home to be a light to many more.  Figuratively speaking of course.

But it is what I like to imagine about the day she and her husband died, in a car crash, 31 October 1999.  I like to imagine that if we had been there with our spiritual eyes wide open, we would have never seen the dark ugliness of mangled cars and bodies, but would instead have lifted our eyes cautiously into the brightness of the Divine emanating ( mostly from one person, I can have my prejudices, can't I? ) from the twosome moving up and out of our frame of reference.

And I imagine that Mary Jane is holding Dermont's hand with a loving hand and is gesturing to him to look up, and thus urging him into the brilliant future they will now share.  She was obviously a Goddess in this life, and that would have been revealed as she left this life, I’m sure.

I got to know Mary Jane Root in a class I was taking at Mountain Home Air Force Base, while stationed there from 1964 through 1967.  The instructor taught the college course I was taking in three locations, and since Mary Jane had missed a three hour class in Boise, she had accompanied the instructor to Mountain Home to make up the class she missed.  We very quickly became aware of each other because right away I gathered from her arguments with the teacher that she was Mormon.  I was a brand new Mormon.  So I introduced myself and found myself immediately drawn into her circle of love.

From late fall 1964 to fall 1967 when I left Idaho and married Audrey, I was a frequent visitor at the home of one Mary Jane Root.  At one of those earlier visits she picked me up downtown after I had called to see if it was convenient to come over.  She had missed another class and was driving to Payette to make it up, and she asked if I wanted to go.  Sure, then I could skip the next class in Mountain Home later that week!  It was on this ride that I believe we got to know one another very well and began to cement a long-lasting friendship.

She was larger than life, to me.  Her family was as lively as any that ever existed.  She was married to a doctor, Frank Sr., who was friendly to me but whom I never did really know.  But Mary Jane was a transparent person, to be with her for even a little while was to know her, and to know her was to love her.

She practiced an open house policy, and I learned over time that I was always welcome to hitchhike up from my abode at Mountain Home Air Force Base, about 40 miles away, and either visit or even spend the night, occasionally.  If something exciting was happening, like an excursion or something involving the family, I was invited to participate as if I were part of the family.

Some of my closer friends at the base came with me at times and were invited to share their life in the same way.  One, also Mormon, also became a close family friend.  The others were more interested in those fabulously beautiful daughters, but quickly learned that making that sort of interest obvious was not going to lead to being invited back.  Mary Jane was protective of her family, and exercised caution and good judgment in deciding whom she trusted to be around.

It was very interesting to me, serendipitous, that in 1995 while visiting with a woman and her family, now living in Texas, whom I had met on the Internet, I found another person who had known the Roots in Boise.  Boise is where this woman was raised, and she remembers going to their home with her brother who was the same age as some of their children.  He was there for some Church-related activity or other, and she was very welcome to come along and play with the younger children.  It was an open house.  It is a small world!!

She was a political activist and a crusader for her issues of choice in the community and the nation.  She had a razor sharp mind and was not afraid to tell anyone not only that they were wrong, but also why, and to any level of detail or depth the person was interested in.  I got clobbered with that razor sharp insight a few times, and although it cuts deep to have someone you love say you are wrong about something, she always emanated love and afterward you did not ever have a doubt about whether or not this disagreement had diminished that love.  It had not.  With me, she exemplified the ideal of unconditional love.

I say “with me,” because later I became aware that this was apparently not always so with all her children.  As a parent, I know that it is easier to be accepting and forgiving of a stranger whom you love, than it is to be that way with those with whom you have the special bonds that exist between parent and child.  Mary Jane was not perfect, and did try to influence, if not coerce, the behavior of some of her children with the tool, the strong cord, that parent-child love provides.  But I was not her child, just a very good friend, her “forever friend” as we concluded after it came my turn to be a positive influence in her life as she went through the pains of spousal betrayals and then divorce.

I am not qualified to pass judgments on these very personal developments, but I did understand how she felt and how she perceived what was happening to her, and we exchanged some very meaningful letters and talks during those tough times.

But I have not yet touched on her devotion to her religion.  She was a very happy Mormon, a proud descendant of the Mormon pioneers.  She was directly related to Charles C. Rich, one of the very prominent Mormon pioneers who was a good friend and close associate of Brigham Young, and who personally led the settlement of several areas, including southeastern Idaho, around Bear Lake, to help establish the boundaries of the expansive empire that Mormonism created in a very short time.  Those pioneers endured what now seem like incredibly harsh conditions, in several western states.

She was not aghast at polygamy, felt it had been a practice directed by God.  She told me of some of her family lore that proved to her that it was the key to a better life here, for women, as well as men, as long as it was practiced as prescribed by Deity.  She also pointed me to some literature that idealized the practice and its effects on both men and women if done as God had directed it to be done.  I was convinced, and with her looked forward to the future day when Christ would return and all would be established again in accordance with His directives on how families would be organized into the eternities.  I fell off that wagon of belief, with a thud.  She did not.  She is, I imagine, quite happy to be her second ( and forever ) husband’s eternal second wife.

If the Mormon concept of heaven is correct, knowing her, she will be called to serve many missions there, just as she served many missions here.  She devoted herself to Church service with a passion that was mighty to behold.  She served, as far as I can recall, twice on Indian reservations in Arizona, in the Salt Lake City temple complex, and with Dermont in the Washington DC temple complex.  I have no doubt, if heaven is as she believes it is, that she is already a leader among the deceased.

If heaven is as Mormons believe it to be, she will in no time be a direct and trusted advisor to God.  And if God follows her advice, this world will soon be a better place.  Love will be the order of the day, and light will shine more brightly from the heavens.  Of course, there will also be plenty of sharp and insightful words for those on paths not leading to love and light.  But instead of an Inquisition with painful torture and death by fire there will be an Inquisition with the torture of exposure to love and light for those who reside in hate, and who are comfortable in ignorance  and darkness.

As I note in the letter I sent her in 1995, partly reproduced below, she flat out told me my new beliefs were wrong, but welcomed me back into her correspondents’ circle after a few years of neither of us writing, and expressed naught but love.  No judgment, no coercive manipulation by withholding love or caring.  Unconditional love.  She let me know that no matter what my current views on God and the universe, we were unbreakably “forever friends.”

I visited her a few times since 1995, and wrote to her, and received mail back from her occasionally, until 1998, when both of us again got self-absorbed.  I wondered what I had done to not receive the 1999 Christmas letter she produced every year for all her children and grandchildren, and which always got sent to me no matter what.

So this year, 2000, I was thinking of writing my own Christmas letter, and sending it to her, to reopen the lines of communication.  And then, on the last day of November, I received the above letter from Holly, her oldest, and one of those beautiful daughters mentioned previously, saying that her mom had died in a car accident the last day of October of the previous year.  She had found my letters among her personal things and thought she would inform me.  That was a very, very kind and thoughtful thing to do.  I appreciate it.

As much as I appreciate it it also made, and still makes, me very sad.  Sad, and just a little mad at myself at assuming she would always be there and writing right now was not that pressing of an issue.  I now, of course, regret allowing the correspondence and communication to lapse once again, just for these last two years.  It is a selfish notion on my part to feel this, but of course I would have felt better had she died with more recent memory of my telling her of my love for her.

When I now, at this moment, think of Mary Jane I get warm inside and fill with love.  Who knows, maybe it is a direct emanation, from her “heart” ( her center of being ) to mine, rather than a just a heart-warming and heart-filling memory.  I like to think that.  It feels good.

And if it feels good, it is time to quit writing.  So I will end with an edited version of the last very long letter I sent her:

Mary Jane & Dermont Madsen                             Thanksgiving Day 1995

Mary Jane, my dear, dear Forever Friend!

I'm so glad to have found you again!

I hope Dermont realizes ( 1 ) how fortunate he is to have you as life/mission companion, and ( 2 ) that your heart is as expansive as the universe itself and my taking up some space in there doesn't shrink his share one bit.

Hearing your voice again, as strong as ever, and sharing your mind again, as sharp as ever, and feeling your love again through those words and thoughts, as overpowering as ever, made me melt in my chair.  I was a total idiot to let our correspondence go by the wayside a few years ago.

And I feel very bad that I chose to not respond to your last letter, sometime in 1992, just as you were embarking on a very difficult period in your life.  I regret not being there for you!  I did not know what was going on and was selfishly withdrawing into a little box with wooden walls wherein my infantile view of the universe would not be challenged.  Please forgive me.

I began to feel a powerful loneliness a few months ago and mentioned to Audrey that I needed to find you.  Some significant events happened the last little while that made me think of you more and more until finding you again became an obsession.  And when I did find you just a day ago it was as if a part of myself that I had lost returned, and I became more whole than I have been for a long time.

And your story of trials that would make a normal heart fail, followed by triumphs that are nothing but magical, made me cry for you in my heart, first for sadness then for gladness!

Apparently, some power greater than all of us said: “It is high time Mary Jane was rewarded for her unwavering and untiring devotion to all in spiritual need.  She need no longer be a lone woman in the Garden, let us send over Dermont, a kindred spirit, to be a companion for her.  And let us have some fun with them and see how long it takes them to notice that their garden blossoms more luxuriantly everytime they conspire to give our Love away.”

Do you recall that some years ago I sent you the story of Francis and Clare, Catholic Saints who were so strongly bonded by love that when they parted to go on separate life-missions, at the place where they parted company in the forest roses burst into bloom in the depth of winter?  I think that story is somehow another version of the garden story.  It is a story of how a love relationship can be filled with Divinity to the point where it overflows and causes all things nearby in Nature’s garden to blossom.

When you spoke first of your and Dermont’s garden in Idaho, and then you shifted so easily and naturally to the two of you being children playing in a Divine garden of love, I saw roses bloom in winter in my mind.  I saw the Divine Love that can be totally overpowering at times, but usually is playful and life-giving and brings out the innocent, fun-loving child in us, and brings us childlike appreciation and joy in simple things such as a loving look, a squeeze of a hand, a soft word, a twirl of a dance, a night breeze in our partner’s hair, etc.  It makes us once again innocents in the Divine garden. . . .

One thing I have learned is that as soon as we ( me too! ) let go of pretensions and drop all defenses, we are so naked that the Divine shines right through us and every thought and every word and every touch carries Divine Light and Love into all who are in the garden with us.  It is a powerful and empowering experience to be naked in this sense and to let the Divine enrich you!  And, my dear Forever Friend, it reminded me of, because it is the same as, the light and power and love I used to feel in your communications to me, and that I used to feel when communicating back to you.  You have a gift, Mary Jane, and in this garden symbolism it is the gift of being naked, being so transparent that seeing, hearing, and touching you is seeing, hearing and touching the Divine! . . .

As I begin to catch on to this [open and 'naked'] way of seeing and being, I am reminded of you at every turn.  Who, over the decade of my falling away, disagreed with me forthrightly, but RESPECTED and LOVED me unconditionally the whole time?  I can honestly think of no one, not a one, but you.

Others were convinced I was under Satan’s influence and I could FEEL their strong disapproval, their looking down on me either in pity or with loathing.  Their accusations of intellectual dishonesty, in writing and to my face, hurt in particular since that was a point of ( very human ) pride with me, and an anti-nakedness-defense par excellence!  And in my [family] I still sense [occasional] fear for me, . . . because being outside their vision I have become unknowable and therefore unpredictable.

So here I am.  Again in intellectual turmoil.  Again in times that portend change in my spiritual life.  And all at once I turn and say, where is Mary Jane?  And the answer is simple: “right where she always has been, in the Divine garden, receiving and giving away Divine Light and Love, now with her companion, Dermont. Follow the trail of blooming roses and you will find them.”

Mary Jane, there is and always has been something magical about you.  You’re in my heart and in my soul, and I’m expanding both heart and soul right now, excuse the carpentry tools and scaffolding, to make room for your companion.  I love you!   ( Original signed, of course )

That was 1995.  And now, in 2000, having just learned what happened in late 1999, I still feel to repeat this, I feel its truth, strongly, within, although I don't know it to be true intellectually:

"I turn and say, where is Mary Jane?  And the answer is simple: 'right where she always has been, in the Divine garden, receiving and giving away Divine Light and Love, now with her companion, Dermont. Follow the trail of blooming roses and you will find them.'”

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