In family life, food, in the neighborhood on December 23, 2009 at 9:20 pm
I am one who was shocked at the news of Leila’s passing. I just went to her blog to see how she was doing. I met Leila while both of our sons attended Bonnie’s class at the preschool in Oakland. We went to the park together a few times and to her house for a play date. I remember she served the most wonderful tea from India. I spotted an Indian store the other day and thought I might go inside to try to find that tea. I remember right after 9/11, seeing the photo of her and her husband in front of the World Trade Center. We had just a few good times together. I left the Bay Area right before she was diagnosed. She told me about it over the phone shortly after we moved. We kept touch a little through our blogs after that.
I am so, so sorry for your loss, David, Joseph & Jacob.
In family life, food, in the neighborhood on October 18, 2009 at 8:52 pm
I’d been reading Leila’s writing for a while before I realized that her family had become part of the Sequoia community. Because I’d decided that we were like-minded after reading what she’d had to say, I thought it was pretty lucky for me that now our kids were going to be at the same school. So, I figured out who she was and introduced myself. She was open and cheerful and joked about her changing look due to hats and wigs, instantly putting me at ease. We had many friendly encounters during the year.
At the school’s pancake breakfast last spring I took this photo and sent it to her. She wrote back right away with not just a quick thanks, but with this message:
“I love it! There’s something about the pancake breakfast that just makes me really happy. School kitchen with working stove, real dishes & cutlery, Dads busy – and that the club is seventy years old! It’s the best of American community life. I was a childless bohemian for so long that this sort of thing feels like a buried part of our past recovered and refurbished. My kids just adore these school events, too. It’s old-fashioned fun at bargain prices.”
I didn’t know Leila very well, or for very long, but I wanted to. I am very sorry for her family’s loss.
In blogging, food on October 15, 2009 at 8:35 pm
Words, pictures, stories, recipes and hyperlinks were our connection. No human touch. No sounds or voice recordings. No emails but for a few comments. No non-verbal gestures or body language. And no clues to secret places. But I was pleased to be numbered her buddies.
This new universe, this Internet, this Cyber Highway through history and the stars provided an occasional crossing of ways. And like a memory of the touch of a butterfly, or distant sound of a whippoorwill (in this case, a Dove) or frisson of a fresh insight, something we shared survives her passing. And someday we will meet again. Eventually will get to know one another better, sharing the immortalities we left behind by blogging, building in eternity a project we began years before.
In family life, food on October 15, 2009 at 3:33 am
Ten years ago I attended my soon-to-be husband Ken’s high school reunion at Lawrence Hall of Science, that beautiful location overlooking the SF Bay. In a hall full of strangers Leila came over to me and greeted me with such warmth, as if we were old friends. She knew Ken as David’s old buddy from high school-and I was Ken’s new girlfriend. It seemed to me that Leila had this ability to put people at ease. I immediately felt comfortable with her-and we were soon talking about our mutual experiences living in New York, and how great it was to be in the Bay Area.
Over the next few years Leila came to our wedding, invited us to dinner, shared picnics and parties and political gatherings with us. She and David went out to one of the last Star Wars films with us-a time before the cancer. She came to our son’s baby shower with a knitted cap on her bald head and she was beautiful that day, not morose but celebratory. On other occasions we spent time discussing writing, walking along the Alameda waterfront after a lunch of avocados, tomatoes, sandwiches and other sundries on the meadow at Crab Cove. Leila began writing her novel while in remission-sharing her prose with me. She encouraged me to get back to writing-something I’d given up for too many reasons. Her enthusiasm-her vitality-her will to live and write and explore the things that mattered to her spread and inspired me.
We spent some time journaling together and emailing. Her love of books and the group of writers who surrounded her seemed to carry her towards renewal even in the face of something as all encompassing as the metastatic cancer she lived with for years.
When we last spent time with her alone, we went to a planetarium viewing at Chabot Space & Science Center. We were there with Joseph and Jacob and our son Ethan. Just before the show, the kids ran about while we walked to the telescopes that overlooked the Bay. Leila gazed out at the view, mentioning that she thought it was so beautiful as the fog flowed over the hills across the way and the ocean air caught the douglas fir, cedar and eucalyptus just below where we stood. She seemed to see it with a freshness that is rare. On the walk back inside the museum, Leila told me that she was tired of the drive to UCSF for chemo. She was going to try something new, something a bit experimental, a new way of receiving chemo-had that been what she said? And she was going to be monitored closely by her doctors. I listened, expressed my thoughts as we walked towards the planetarium theater. The boys ran ahead, excited as we climbed the stairs to our seats under the magenta rose dome. As the lights dimmed, Leila watched with awe-the universe opened up to us. And she kept saying that it was so amazing, how incredible that there were so many stars-“magnificent”. This seemed new to her, the immensity of space. She sat next to Joseph and kept saying that it was incredible. We were all amazed by that simulated journey to the outer reaches of the universe. I had hoped to see her again soon after that. But our last chance to see her was brief-We had a few words, a few warm embraces-Her last phrase to me: “Go take that beautiful boy of yours home,” gesturing to Ethan. We will miss her and send all her family our love and condolences.
In cancer, CCA, food on October 14, 2009 at 8:42 pm
I only knew Leila for a short time many years ago when we both worked at the California Culinary Academy. She had recently come from New York. Sometimes we had lunch together and talked about this and that. Many years later I found her. Can’t remember how but I did. She had already had cancer but was full of the kind of spunk that says, “I’m fighting this and I’m going to win.” I grieve her passing. I lost my mother when I was 22 and I think of her children and it makes me cry. It is simply a terrible thing. As I come into my 62nd year, I sigh and think about how it still feels terrible to have lost a beloved mother so young. I pray that her family will find peace in the love they shared with her and that time will bring another opportunity for mothering.
Blessings to those left behind, Blessings to Leila wherever you are.
In food on October 14, 2009 at 1:39 am
This is one of those things the universe dishes out that I don’t understand, how someone so totally alive could be taken so inexplicably.
I only knew Leila for about 9 months, but she inspired me and I looked up to her, literally and figuratively. She seemed like a mother bear ready to protect whatever she cared about, which it turns out, was a lot.
I really loved that I could talk to her about anything and she would know something about it. We once had a 15-minute conversation about homemade sauerkraut, for example. Her passion for writing inspired me as well.
I remember on some holiday, maybe Veterans’ day, I was home alone with no plans and she spontaneously invited me over to a little gathering she was having. I was the only single person but she made me feel like I belonged. The food was delicious and the napkins were beautiful and I am glad that I can remember her like that, happy with her family and friends and looking radiant.
Leila, wherever you are, I am glad to have known you. I wish your family healing and hope, and your spirit, peace.