(excerpt from our new book, Love is Forever – available Dec. 21, 2022)
Today, Phyllis Kaplan turns 92. I met Phyllis in an online course that I was teaching at the University based on The Power of Love book, and at the end of the first class meeting, she asked if she could sing a song to us. She sang “I Know This Rose Will Open” from her heart and it brought tears to my eyes. It was so simple and trusting. That Rose song became the theme song for our group.
The song was written and composed by a seminary student named Mary Grigolia. She was in a class on Death and Dying, and the professor told everyone to write their own eulogy. Just imagine! Write your own eulogy! Mary set to work on this assignment, but nothing came through until the moment she stopped trying so hard, and then she suddenly found herself singing a little tune under her breath. It was the Rose song, whole and complete! Mary said:
What I take from the experience is the great responsiveness of the Universe/Spirit/ Deep and Creative Self, when we allow ourselves to be present, to listen, to sing along, but not to assume we can control its scope or view….I know this rose will open….I am the rose. We are all the rose. Opening. (Mary Grigolia quoted by Kimberley Debus in “Farfringe.com” blog, republished by the Heritage Unitarian Universalist Church.)
Phyllis introduced me to that beautiful song. She IS the spirit of the Rose in its ever-opening glory. She said she was grateful to be in a class to learn about love. She was 90 but still eager to learn how she could expand her heart. I hope that, if I reach old age, I will be open to love and to learning. That was three years ago, and I still see Phyllis every Wednesday in a weekly online Loving Kindness Meditation group.
Phyllis’s life journey has not been easy. At age 4, she escaped with her Jewish family from Austria during the Holocaust. That set the stage for her life of major losses and constant change. Unlike many of us, she did not allow the pain of life to close any part of her heart.
This week, in the online group, she wore a bold red shirt with large white letters on the front: “BORN AGAIN… AND AGAIN… AND AGAIN!” She’s a Jewish member of the Unitarian Universalist church, and so you can imagine the befuddled faces of Christians of the “born again” variety who want to discuss the topic with her! They soon realize that her take on “born again” is not the same as theirs! Hers is not a one-time moment of surrender. Hers is a continual dying and rebirth to ever-deepening love, as she is transformed by the joys and challenges that Life brings to her. She is an inspiration to everyone who meets her. And – sidenote! – she has several men contending for the honor to be her boyfriend!
That reminds me of two other friends, Lee and Lloyd. They both lost their spouses and then they met each other at a residential retirement place here in Redlands, fell in love with each other and got married in their 90s! I also met them through The Power of Love, when they showed up in the pouring rain at our first book event.
Lee and Lloyd embraced me as one of their own. It is very healing to be loved in that way—unconditionally. We might long for our own parents to love us that way, but perhaps they are not capable, and so, Life brings us other dear people to fill the gap. Lee and Lloyd bought a case of The Power of Love books and sent them to their friends in far-flung places. Their lives are devoted to Love.
You don’t read about such people in your news feed, but it’s people like Phyllis, Lee, and Lloyd who keep the candle lit within the heart of humanity.❤️
—Dr. Fran Grace, author of The Power of Love and director of Inner Pathway.