Remembering Evelyn Berger
Just a little over a week ago, on St. Patrick's Day, a host of saints welcomed a new one among their number: Evelyn Berger, my dear friend and dedicated Sonoma Valley volunteer.
Loretta Zweig offered, "I'm sure St. Patrick was there to welcome Evie today," while her husband, Richard Zweig, calmly added, "She brought sunshine to a room." And indeed she did.
Diana Hindley, who has known Evie for years and most recently has been part of the Threshold Choir singing every week for both Ev and John Berger, said, "She has never stopped being grateful for her life, her friends and her family. She has been an amazing inspiration in the way she has expressed her love for her friends."
Ah, yes, so true. Even in her last days, unable to speak, a frail yet peaceful Evelyn was ever positive and outward turned.
Bouverie Preserve's Manager Nancy Trbovich spoke of Ev's friendship and help when Nancy first started working at the Bouv: "I will forever cherish the talks we had while drying endless dishes in the kitchen. (Ev's) bright smile and joyful spirit will be missed by all of her friends here at Bouverie."
And it is Nancy's note that helps me most recall Evie's everyday attitude of helping others. She did it humbly and wholeheartedly. It was just who Evie was.
Her kind demeanor and beneficent countenance were inspirational. When you were with Ev, it just seemed easy and natural to do for others. Whether that meant contributing to Friends of Turkana, an organization she founded, or feeding neighbors by volunteering for FISH. And it felt good. More than anyone else, Evie taught me that helping others makes your own troubles disappear.
When I first met Ev, as a returning adult student at Sonoma State finishing my degree and earning my teaching credential, she quickly talked me into joining FISH, helping with food delivery and rides. The enticing offer of a backyard swim after a hot day of packing groceries and carting them to Glen Ellen families cemented our friendship. Sitting around her pool discussing our boys, our lives, hopes and dreams, frustrations and trials, is something I will always cherish. Evelyn helped me to see things clearly.
Later, when I joined the Bouverie's docent training, encouraged by Ev, we shared duties from training other docents, to newsletter work, to serving on the board. We sang with Quercus Quire in classrooms throughout Sonoma County and beyond. She could carry a reasonable tune, but mostly it was the smile she beamed to the audience and back to the choir that gathered all of us in.
In these last few weeks as I've yearned for that loving embrace, that smile that brought sunshine into life, I seek signs that Evelyn's spirit is still alive and with us.
Of course: a spirit so strong, so vibrant, so focused on love, is bound reverberate for a long, long time. It is expressed now through all of us who loved her so. And that simply is Evie's gift: to turn to one another, not with the question of what can I do, but with the love and conviction that we know what needs to be done. Just do it, quietly, humbly and with love. As simple as that ... and as profound as that.
Godspeed my sweet Evelyn Mary Benson Berger; I'll see you in the by and by.
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Share your good news with friends and neighbors in Glen Ellen. Call or write me at the numbers up there by my smile. Or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Glen Ellen chatter rarely requires timeliness; however, if your news does, please be sure to contact me at least two weeks before the run date.