Lindsie Haxton, a beautiful word that soars into eulogy

COFFEE WITH WARREN, with Warren Harbeck
Cochrane Eagle, May 8, 2013

“What joy and comfort is received as we reopen the beloved covers and keep the story alive.”
—Lindsie Haxton

Over the years that I’ve been writing these columns, one Cochrane reader responded often with praise for beautiful words, dragonflies, and lives lifted upward. For this Mother’s Day column I’d like to pay tribute to Lindsie Haxton, who passed away on May 2.

Lindsie, wife of Terrance Haxton and mother of Heather, Stephen and Christina, was an educator, artist and writer who thrived on beautiful images, sounds and words. One of her earliest responses was to our column on the most beautiful word in the English language (Nov. 26, 2003).

She suggested the musical term “madrigal,” a word appearing in “The Ballad of Beautiful Words,” by the early-20th Century American political cartoonist, John T. McCutcheon. She had learned the ballad from her mother and enjoyed its euphony, as in the lines: “Amethyst, airy, drifting, dell, / Oriole, lark, alone; / Columbine, kestrel, temple, bell, / Madrigal, calm, condone…”

Earlier that year, Lindsie had drawn on her sensitivity to beautiful lessons from Nature in her comment on the dragonfly as a symbol of life after death (my column of Feb. 19, 2003). She recounted a story she’d heard from Don Neufeld, former pastor of Cochrane Alliance Church, about the metamorphosis of dragonflies from larvae/nymphs into glorious soaring creatures. She said:

As I remember it, some dragonfly larvae were sitting in the mud on the bottom of a lily pond, discussing the possibilities of a world beyond their own. They were limited to conjecture, as no larvae that had left the familiar pond bottom to climb up to the water’s surface had ever returned with information about the world above.

One practical-minded larva made a vow to the other larvae: “When I leave this place and reach the surface of the pond, I will return and tell you everything that I have seen up there.”

When the time came for him to leave the muddy pond bottom, he scaled the stem of a lily pad, then rested on its broad, flat leaves. As he lay there, he shed his skin and took on the form of a beautiful, blue winged dragonfly. Spreading his new wings, he soared skyward. This vast, bright, beautiful world was more than he or his larvae kin could ever have imagined!

Regrettably, he was unable to fulfill his promise to the mud-bound larvae. His new form was created to soar, and he could not return underwater. He wondered, “Even if it was possible for me to return, would they comprehend this world that I am now a part of?”

Lindsie found comfort in that story, she said, because of serendipitous dragonfly experiences she’d had following the death of her father three years earlier. “My memorable meetings with the ethereal dragonfly comforted me and reminded me that my father didn’t die. He left this place to soar in another.”

Now it’s Lindsie’s turn to scale the stem of life and soar skyward with a new beauty. But the moments of the earlier journey are not without merit, and indeed like a treasured book, deserve to be eulogized. That was the point of her response to my column for March 7, 2007:

“What joy and comfort is received as we reopen the beloved covers and keep the story alive,” she wrote.

Reflecting on Lindsie’s beautiful contributions to these columns, I asked her daughter Heather, a teacher at Cochrane High School, if she’d be willing to describe ways in which her mother herself was a beautiful word. I’ll conclude with Heather’s response:

My mom truly was a beautiful word, but far too multidimensional to fit neatly beneath the canopy of a single noun or adjective. If one word were to suffice, it would have to be inclusive of many small parts, signs and symbols, which in turn, could be creatively reassembled to signify in new ways.

Such a word might be alphabet (a reservoir of letters) or palette (a surface dotted by multihued paints). Both words, in the ways they necessitate careful and artful selection from among their constituent parts, serve as catalysts to potential beauty. And Mom's gift was her capacity to fulfill that potential. She drew letters together to form the words gentleness, compassion, hope, forgiveness, courage, strength, robin, rain, morning, wing and leaf. With her paintbrush she blended shades of gold, azure, seafoam green, amethyst, white and indigo.

“My original two words are no longer evident, as they have given birth to new ideas and images,” Heather said. “These, in turn, will undergo further change, and in doing so, remain alive. That is their beauty and that was/is the beauty of my mom: growth, life, expansion, upward-lifting transformation. Metamorphosis.”

© 2013 Warren Harbeck

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