First a bit of context. John Baumgart has been kind enough to field a lot of my questions about coins I’ve been unable to identify. Our conversations have led to numerous submissions to LVA, resulting in 8 discovery coins in my name. These results, uplifting and fun as they’ve been, really don’t convey the amazing energy and kindness that I experienced. In other words, it’s not just what JB and LVA have done, but how.
Like many of you likely were, I was so moved to hear of Marilyn’s passing earlier this year. I’d learned a little bit about her from others, but never had the privilege of meeting her in person. My professional life revolves around chronic pain, trauma and suffering and I can say that we are never immune to life’s hardships – whether they happen to us directly or to those around us. I also know that the simplest act of kindness and compassion can make the world of difference for others when they’re going through a difficult time.
The death of a long-time partner is definitely one of these times.
I, therefore, decided to include a gift to the man who’d gifted so much to me in the past when I was submitting a recent shipment. He knew nothing about it, and likely he wouldn’t be able to say who the heck “Gary Redfeather” is… but I was raised to not let a few minor details derail what I believed would be a welcomed experience.
I’ll share a copy of the letter I sent to him and his responses. First, you might want to grab a good drink and settle in a bit as this is likely to be a bit longer than the normal OT posts.
Here’s what began our conversation:
First, my sincere condolences to hear of Marilyn’s passing. Words will never fully capture how much we want to stand with one another in adversity, but how impotent we feel when we try. Often we need to trust that our heartfelt words we can chose will offer up some comfort. From what I’ve heard from the VAMWorld and SSDC discussion fora, she was quite the lady who brought many people joy and happiness. I hope the innumerable memories you formed during your years together will continue bringing you joy that only sharing a life with someone can bring.
While I’m submitting a few coins for you to review (details below), I wanted to give you a special gift that might serve as a reminder that we can see beauty in the midst of trauma.
The enclosed art is a hand-carved burl bowl that I collected from a tree in Wyoming. Burl (or burr) is a reaction of a tree to an insult – be it a parasitic infection or in reaction to some toxin the tree took up through its roots. Mostly, burl are cancers of the tree that show up like cancers can in humans: as ‘bumps’ along the bark (like moles or skin cancers on us), or outright tumor growths that look like ‘blobs’ either throughout or within the tree. Any living and dividing tissue can become cancerous (as we all know). Burl often are found in the root balls of trees as that’s where the most active growth occurs (the root system being the most active and the most exposed to toxins in the soil and water), but they can happen anywhere – the trunk, the branches or the tips…
The burl formation is the tree’s natural reaction to something traumatic – the tree often fighting whatever the trauma is in an attempt to ‘wall it off’ from the rest of the plant. This trauma can kill the tree for sure, but if it doesn’t it can be harvested off helping to save the rest of the plant. This is akin to “cancer surgeries for trees.” This is what I do in my spare time: I’m a tree cancer surgeon who then takes the burl and carves them into stunningly unique creations. Creations that are brought about because of the trauma, not despite it. Beauty because of trauma. And when the burl gets used for another purpose – like to hold car keys, flower petals, or other mementoes – it shows there can be life after death (the death of the branch, for example).
I hope you accept this gift as one that helps remind you that there is, indeed, life and beauty after trauma. Uniquely designed by nature and me, and appreciatively gifted to you.
Now, on to another passion we share: VAMs and potential discovery coins!
Before sharing his replies, I thought it beneficial for you to see what one of these bowls looks like:
Now, his responses, in his own words:
I then asked him if he wouldn't mind me sharing this information with the VAM community as I didn't want to presume such information should be made public. He thought the request would be fine, and added a bit more of their wonderful story:
Thus, you can see both LVA and Marilyn experienced their own versions of trauma… both were impacted… and both grew because of their experiences. Importantly, they grew together as well as individually.
My hopes in sharing this story and information is that you can perhaps see your own traumas as experiences that have changed you – for the better. We’re all scarred, scared and tattered – we all share our own versions... completely unique to us, but something that connects us all as one. We’re all in this together if we so choose.
Marilyn is already missed but not forgotten. Hopefully not soon, but LVA will reach the ultimate place we all do. I’m honored to have helped him in my small way to make that time a little more beautiful.
Thanks for letting me share a bit of this with you. Hopefully future VAMmers will be able to connect more deeply with the hobby by learning a bit more about the lady behind the man behind the hobby.
With all my appreciation and wishes of health and happiness to you all.