As I listened to the speakers detailing bits and pieces of a life well lived and savored until the very end - with no plans for it ending, I might add - something struck me about those of us sitting in the sanctuary of her church. Many of us were blessed to know Ethel through more than one of her interests and passions. It was then that her skill as a weaver began to emerge in a larger sense.
Ethel was a member of the Handweavers Guild, the National Association of Parliamentarians, the National League of American Pen Women, American Association of University Women and a whole bargeload of Methodist women's groups. She served as a trustee of Ferrum College and wrote a history of its beginnings as a project of Methodist women. She was a gifted needle artist, weaver, writer, parliamentarian and a devout Methodist. She was also fearless in the kitchen and brewed a wonderful pot of tea.
Those of us lucky enough to be a part of Ethel's life became the threads that she skillfully wove. She guided us in and out of the facets of her life, creating a beautiful, soft and elegant fabric.
My introduction to Ethel was thanks to attending my first AAUW program. It was an International Affairs program that she staged at her home. The speaker was her delightful daughter Barbara Craig, a teacher of college professors, and she told us about the focus of education for girls and young women in Taiwan, where she had lived. Ethel's home was a spacious "cottage" at a retirement community, overlooking a pond. I noted a collection of thimbles and knew immediately where one I had needed to go to live.
Some time later, a mutual friend invited two of us to attend a parliamentary workshop because she decided we were future leaders of AAUW. There was Ethel, providing a portion of the program. "There are three rules in parliamentary procedure," she said softly. Holding up a finger, "The first is that we must always use good manners," a second finger arose "the second is that the minority MUST be heard," the third finger waggled "and the third is that the majority rules."
It was a fascinating workshop and I wound up becoming a part of the Roanoke Valley Unit of the N.A.P., where I have succeeded Ethel as the secretary. (Along with a meticulous set of instructions for what to do with the records once I leave office!)
Some time later, I was invited to attend a Pen Women meeting, and there she was! Interestingly enough, that's where I learned she was a weaver. It is also where I learned of her dry wit and her persnickety attention to detail. When the group began to falter, she made a skillful motion that brought it back from the brink and hit the reset button.
We needed to update our bylaws to reflect some of the changes we'd made to the organization to keep it viable, and Ethel, smarty that she was, volunteered me to work with her on that. She provided the guidance and the compass - keeping us focused and attending to the important details. I typed. And learned.
At last month's N.A.P. meeting, Jennie Sue presented a problem for our parliamentary workshop. She'd already consulted Ethel on it, and in the course of describing the problem, Ethel interjected her opinion that the group's bylaws were beyond repair. I'd never heard her at a loss for words before, never mind her voice rising to such a level of frustration that she declared their document to be "crap!" My eyebrows shot off my forehead and off into outer space as I doubled over with the giggles. "Ethel Born just said crap!" I murmured. It's been a month and I'm still in stitches over it!
I received an email from Ethel, four days before she left us. It listed the things I needed to adjust on the Pen bylaws. I didn't get to it right away, but when I did, I followed her train of thought easily and made the changes. Having just spent a delightful three hours with her, talking about what the group still needed to do to grow and thrive, I began to get some ideas.
And that's what Ethel was all about. Ideas. She was full of them! Jennie Sue tells of the time she conned her into learning to play the lyre so that Ethel could have a program with one of her Methodist groups that involved the lyre. Another time she coerced Jennie Sue into learning to chant so that the group could learn to chant.
We all agreed, when Ethel came up with an idea and assigned us tasks, we jumped. We said how high on the way up, and asked when we might please come down. She brought us together, from the different corners of her busy and productive life, and she wove her magic around us, binding us to one another in the most surprising ways. Her standards were high and her expectations reasonable. We could and we would.
Ethel was fastidious and organized. She was a gifted archivist and while she was such a good historian, she was as forward thinking as they came. The recent changes in Robert's Rules of Order came about primarily to address the issues surrounding electronic meetings. With one of her groups, Ethel wondered if they could bring people together by means of Skype!
And so it is that while she is no longer walking among us, her gifts to us live on. We are forever woven into a web of people who will continue to cross paths and hold her dear in our hearts.
Rest in peace, my dear friend. I miss you terribly because I know there was so much more you planned to teach me and I wanted so badly to learn it all from you. I promise to help Jennie Sue get some herbs going at Born Cottage, and I promise to keep Pen Women alive. (I have to! Pat is now prodding me in your stead!) The warp and the woof of your influence will stay in place. Love and peace~