Doreen Birdsell

From the first time Doreen walked into the classroom where I was seated at Saugatuck Church in Westport, Connecticut, things got brighter.

We were both members of a fellowship that included frequent shared experiences, not only during our regular meetings, but also in assisting each other with the pressures of everyday life. Doreen served as half of my Pressure Relief Group (PRG) for over a decade. The suggestions Doreen came up with, and modeled in her own life, were always divinely inspired. They required practical steps, but the path was inevitably spiritual: taking actions based on faith. The year was 1997, and we remained close friends through her move to Provincetown where she and her partner, then wife, had purchased an inn, my divorce and subsequent relocation to New York City, theirs to Florida, and the myriad challenges in between.

During a visit back to Westport from P’town in the early 2000’s, Doreen showed up at a morning meeting I was attending. I was agonizing over the arrival of my coaching and leadership partner from California. Our program was all set, and I looked forward to his stay, but having to make up the guest room was paralyzing me. My housekeeping skills are delinquent, and I don’t enjoy any part of bed-making or cleaning. “I just want someone to do it for me!” I whined during my share. I can’t remember if it was during the meeting or right after that Doreen piped up, “I’m an innkeeper. I love making beds.” She followed me home and that guest room sparkled with her touch.

Doreen and Lisa at their Commitment Ceremony

What most comes to mind when I think of Doreen is love. She (and her wife, Lisa) had the deepest faith of anyone I’ve met and exuded that in every interaction. She passed away yesterday evening at 5:18pm. As Lisa said, “She needed to stay on earth until our country transitioned,” and she did. She’d been battling lung and brain cancer for over two years. I never once heard her complain. She always wanted to know how I was doing.

Dearest Petunia

My last visit to see Doreen was the day the news came out that Biden had officially won the election. Heading to the MetroNorth Station at 125th Street to visit them in Black Rock, CT, I was riding the M125 bus when a raucous cheer went up. There was hooting and hollering as we traversed from west to east. Seconds later my phone dinged as family and friends texted to be sure I’d heard the news. Lisa met me at the Fairfield Metro station with Petunia, their beautiful rescue whom they so lovingly nurtured to health after her traumatic beginning, and drove me the mile or two to their condo.

Doreen was in a recliner that allowed her to keep her body moving. It was clear she was in pain, but she never mentioned it. We talked about mutual friends, the election, my world and life. Had I not seen her physical condition, I wouldn’t have known how ill she was. I stayed an hour. Lisa said it was the most engaged she’d seen Doreen in weeks. I left optimistic.

There have been weekly prayer calls for Doreen – last night was the 105th – to share poetry, songs, uplifting readings or stories to help her through. Lisa rarely left her side. Other good friends took shifts, even during this pandemic. She stayed alive to see our new president take the oath of office, a bookend to our November visit.

I write this to spread Doreen’s message of love and faith. Even though she’s no longer with us, her legacy is pure light and love. May you have a moment of her spirit touch you as you read my story.

With Doreen and Lisa at my 60th

 

 

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