This post is of a personal nature. My hope is to provide life-affirming value and inspiration, as we all strive to be better people during our cherished time on earth. To understand the importance our interactions have with each and every person we touch, and to strive to make each and every day thoughtful, impactful and filled with affection towards others. But most importantly, to pay loving tribute to a true best friend, one of the most wonderful people I was fortunate to have ever known – Elizabeth (Betty) Howard.
My dearest friend Elizabeth (Betty) Howard returned home on November, 11th 2019. Her light will continue to shine bright upon this world. I write this in loving, and inspiring memory.
They say you can count the number of true friends throughout your life on one hand. I’m not convinced this has been proven.
If this is true, have you ever wondered what the stats are for true a BEST Friend? I guess, in the literal sense, “best” is the penultimate. I was fortunate to have one-upped and was blessed to have found the BEST-EST friend a person could ever have. That friend was Elizabeth (Betty) Howard, my self proclaimed “adopted second mother.”
When you search for words to define friendship, certain qualities come to mind: trustworthy, compassionate, empathetic, loyal, observant, forgiving, non-judgmental, objective, equitable and sincere.
Add to the mix charitable, generous, optimistic, courageous, selfless and spiritual and you have described Betty.
Flashback to college – Shenandoah Conservatory of Music, 1988.
It was my Sophomore year in college as a Music Theatre major. I was preparing to audition for the lead in the musical “The Pirates of Penzance.” My part-time work-study job was working at the school’s theatre box office, which basically consisted of studying music theory, memorizing lines and lyrics, . . . . and attempting to practice dance combinations in the hallway (imagine Lucy Mcgillicuddy at the Trocadero). Good times!
A slender blond lady I had never seen before was walking down the hall. My audition was the next day, so I stopped her and asked if she would mind. taking a few moments to listen to my audition song, and to give me her candid opinion. She politely obliged. Shy, I was not!
The introduction that day would start a relationship that would span three decades. She gave me her approval, and I got the part – Frederic in The Pirates of Penzance, and more importantly – her self-proclaimed adopted son!
Betty was ten years my senior, so she was significantly more evolved as a person than I was at the time. It wasn’t uncommon for her to drop everything to help me run lines for a show, or give me her last ten dollars to buy both of us a midnight Donato’s pizza, or go for a 6:00AM cinnamon raisin biscuit run at the local Hardee’s during finals week. Occasionally, begrudgingly. Always, accommodating. Generosity was in her DNA.
Resilience – Living With Bipolar Disorder
“I have learned to live each day as it comes, and not to borrow trouble by dreading tomorrow.” – Dorothea Dix
I remember one specific night in the dormitory when Betty told me about her past. Her life experiences instilled within me the importance of strength, optimism, and resiliency.
Betty encountered obstacles in her life that most would find insurmountable. No matter what life threw her way, Betty endured with a smile on her face, and unwavering faith in the kindness of others.
In the early ’80s, before bipolar disorder was understood and given an official DSM diagnosis, Betty suffered the first of what would be two severe manic episodes.
During this period in history, many people didn’t understand this illness, and the behaviors exhibited by people experiencing a manic episode were often seen by friends and family as insane and incurable.
Throughout Betty’s life, her struggle with bipolar disorder had left her homeless and freezing on the streets, a victim of sexual assault and discrimination, and experiencing feelings of abandonment from friends and family. Her family temporarily cut their ties with Betty during this time because they couldn’t face this difficult situation, and were able to reunite and rebuild stronger relationships as time passed.
Throughout it all, Betty ALWAYS maintained her strong faith in GOD and never once allowed herself to see the glass less than mostly full.
During her first manic episode, she was found and eventually made her way to St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, where for 22 months she was able to find food and shelter.
Although her time at St. Elizabeth’s was bittersweet, she met some friends during her two years there that would last her lifetime. However, she also encountered some situations during her stay there that would have scared and scarred even the toughest soldier.
The mental health community has made significant strides since that time, although society has a long way to go. Still today, many people are left homeless on the streets due to mental illness, a fight Betty would want us to continue to fight!
Later in life Betty’s medical condition, combined with her subsequent struggles with weight, lead to multiple instances of job discrimination, and subsequent challenges to make ends meet. She would literally have $100.00 to her name, and would still find significant time to donate her time to help those in need, and would always contribute her tithings to her local church.
Betty’s altruistic behavior helped mold myself, and my company into what we are today. Each Christmas, rather than provide physical gifts to her family and friends, she would always send a card to her loved ones and make a donation to a worthy charity in that person’s name. She knew the value of helping those less fortunate and knew her friends and family didn’t necessarily fit the bill.
To receive these gift cards from her not only conveyed to me her value of beneficence, but it also made it clear to me the importance of philanthropy and humanitarianism.
Betty was one of the most optimistic, kind and loving people I have ever met. Her faith in God was unwavering, and she always demonstrated values of altruism. She didn’t judge people and would be the first to try and find the absolute best in everyone.
If you made it this far, I thank you profusely for reading.
For every tough time, seek thanksgiving.
For every embroilment, seek empathy.
For every adversary, seek accord.
For every blessing, seek beneficence.
In honor of those gone too soon, and the amazing people who are still present in your life. During this holiday season, try to do something special to make a difference in the world. Below are some ideas.
- Actively listen to others. Set some time aside in your day to shut down your electronic devices, get rid of distractions and have an actual conversation. Make sure to periodically repeat to the person what they just said. This will help assure the other person that they are important, and are being heard.
- Pay it forward. Make a list of ten things someone has done for you in the past week or month. It can be something as simple as buying you a cup of coffee or preparing dinner for you. Next to these ten items, make another list of ten things you can do for someone else. Mark each item off the list once completed. See if the completion of this task doesn’t bring a big smile to your day.
- Turn your hobby into a gift. If you are an amazing cook, volunteer some time preparing food at a local food bank. If you are a massage therapist, donate some massage to patients at a hospital, or the elderly at a senior center. If you are a smarty-pants, take some of that brainpower to an underprivileged neighborhood and tutor a student in need.
- Practice common courtesy. Make sure to say please and thank you when you order lunch at the local diner. Hold the door open for your neighbor when they enter the building. Simply look at passersby and smile and greet them on the street . . . they may think you are crazy, but who cares!
- Feed the displaced and destitute. Carry a nutrition bar or piece of fruit with you every day and offer it to someone in need.
Imagine if every person practiced just one small piece of charity, empathy, and compassion every day? This would create an exponential wave of kindness that could change the world.
I know, I may sound pollyannaish . . . prove me wrong!
I love you Betty, my second mother, and true best friend! You will be remembered and missed by so many. Thank you for a lifetime of life-affirming lessons.
Richard A. Lehman, LMT, CSCS
Compliment Your Body, LLC
New York, NY. 10018
Compliment Your Body, LLC has been providing in-home and corporate / event chair massage to New York City and the surrounding boroughs since 2014. Commitment, compassion, connection, and charity are the pillars of our business. We have partnered with Food Bank For New York City through 2020. Three meals will be provided to those in need with every single scheduled in-home or corporate event massage. Visit www.cybnyc.com to schedule your in-home or corporate event massage today. Experience the CYBNYC difference.
The ProLon Fasting Mimicking Diet Review Dietary crazes and trends come and go, but the science that supports some and not others doesn't fade away. Instead, scientists conduct more research to...
11 Best Types of Massage for Tennis Elbow A great game of tennis can leave you feeling on top of the world. However, it may also leave your outer elbow feeling sore, tight, and painful....