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Remembering Isabella Fine

Remembering Isabella Fine

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Published by Andy Hubbard
A few memories of Isabella Fine I shared at her memorial service.
A few memories of Isabella Fine I shared at her memorial service.

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Categories:Types, Speeches
Published by: Andy Hubbard on Jun 08, 2011
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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We had just sat down to interview Isabella, in hopes of preserving some of her wisdom for us and our children. Weeks before, we had scheduled this time,and she had obviously given some thought to how she might sum up her life in afew words. This is what she said:
“I have had an elegant sufficiency. Any more would be a copiousredundancy.”
It was a phrase heard in polite society a hundred years ago, a way toacknowledge that a meal had been perfectly satisfying. But like so many thingswith Isabella, it was so much more.Holding the little card on which she had written it, she said: “I have it hereevery day, and I know it says the truth.”She paused, then continued: “That would be good on a tombstone, exceptthey’re going to spell redundancy wrong, and copious, forget about it, that willthrow them off entirely, so I have to use it now.”With Isabella, we never knew whether we were going to get that littleinsight, the wry wit that makes it stick, or both together.The Isabella we knew was always about making connections between her faith and the faith of her friends. For us, the intersection was an annual Passover meal hosted at our house. It began with our friends George and Davena Day, andof course, soon included Isabella. The fact that we were eager but ignorant of the
tradition didn’t seem to bother Isabella in the least. She took special delight as thechildren held up finger puppets representing the 10 plagues of Egypt and madeappropriately gruesome sounds and faces to accompany them.During the Passover meal this year, Isabella’s hands were not as steady asthey once were, and a bit of wine spilled from her glass. But instead of soakingthe table, the drops formed a dozen or so perfect little crimson hemispheres thatshimmered on the stain-resistant tablecloth. The Passover meal came to standstill,until everyone had shared Isabella’s wonder at the sight. That was the Isabella weknew: always on the lookout for the tiniest miracles, and making sure thateveryone, especially children, didn’t miss them.For Isabella, I believe that finding the joy in life and the people around her was not a character trait, but a discipline. I believe this because she taught us howto cultivate this discipline in a very tangible way. Not long ago, Isabella presented us with a small box containing index cards,and the word HAPPY stenciled on the lid. The idea was simple: write your happymoments on the cards as often as you could, and put them in the box. The Isabellawe knew sought out and reveled in the bright and beautiful moments of her life,and made sure we would write down our own, and dip into them every chance wegot.

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