When I got back home, I went to the dictionaries. The Chambers Dictionary of Etymology has “soul” dating back to 1121, developed from the Old English sawol meaning “the spiritual and emotional part of a person.” ”Anima “has no entry of its own but the entry for “animal” says that it derives from the Latin animalis “from anima, life, breath, which is related to animus mind, spirit.” The Devoto-Oli Italian dictionary adds some interesting nuances for “anima”- “the essence, the fundamental impulse, the promoter. … Of the artist who transmits life, force, feeling to her works.” That was Liz – more than our soul she was our breath of life
Liz had a superabundance of life, of vitality, and she transmitted it to everyone she came into contact with, to all the people she “collected,” as her daughter Sarah told Father Mike. And first and foremost to her siblings. Like all siblings, we have always had our disagreements and moments of disappointment and conflict with one another. Liz’s vital curiosity was sometimes felt to be intrusive and occasionally ruffled feathers and hurt feelings. But she never stopped reaching out to each and all of us, held and showed a keen interest in each of her nieces and nephews and her “grands,” starting with her own splendid grandchildren but including all the children of her nieces and nephews. She was the heart of our network, the spirit that kept the lines of communication up and running. I think that’s what Roberta meant, and she was right.
As the written and spoken testimonials have poured in in the two weeks since she died – from her fellow advocates for Hispanic immigrants, from friends and neighbors, former students, her children’s friends from their teenage years, from the Governor of Maryland and a US senator – we have learned, or been reminded, that Liz’s vitality also touched innumerable people outside of our family. That is a great source of comfort. We can find solace for our loss in the knowledge that her overflowing vitality lives on, is still there for us to draw on.
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