Forever & Ever

28 February 2023
Charlotte and Bardwell Smith

In late November, after learning that his friend and mentor Bardwell Smith had passed, author Parker J. Palmer ’61 shared a poem he composed in 2015 after visiting Smith and his wife Charlotte in Northfield. “Charlotte, another great soul, was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease,” Palmer remembers. “What unfolded that afternoon was grace in action, a lesson in love.”

In a humble attempt to honor all of those staff and faculty lost in 2022—as well as all of those left behind—we present Palmer’s moving tribute, which he wrote “hoping never to lose the memory.”

Visiting Charlotte & Bard

He’s 90, full of wit and good cheer. She’s 89, no longer clear who she’s with or what’s happening. Before we go in, he explains, “She’ll ask the same question time and again. It’s hard, of course, but she remains her same sweet self and we love each other more than ever.”

Today she wants to know, “When was the last time we saw each other?” “Last year at this time,” we say, “right here in your lovely home. It’s so good to see you again!” “Oh, yes!”, she says, with her whole heart. Five minutes later she asks again.

“Would you like cheese and crackers?” she asks. “Sounds good,” we say, and I ask if I can help. He warns me off with a shake of his head, quietly saying, “She can still do a few things like this—they help her feel more in control of her life.”

She returns with a tray—cheese, crackers, napkins and small plates carefully arranged—stopping in front of each of us until we take our share.

“This is communion,” I think, “the bread of life, the wine of love, and our cups floweth over. Never has a cathedral seen a moment more holy than this.”

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