Memorial Minute for Elizabeth Ann Lyzenga Waterman
As approved by The Meeting School's Community Meeting, Fifth Month (May) 6th, 2009 Elizabeth Ann Lyzenga Waterman died March 10th, 2009 at the age of 34 from severe complications of Lupus. She was a joyfully married wife, a loving mother, a faculty member and crucial part of the Meeting School community, where she lived and taught for nine and a half years. She was born August 7th, 1974 in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the daughter of Ann and David Lyzenga. During her childhood, her family attended the Campus Chapel of the Christian Reformed Church. She graduated from Community High School, a progressive alternative school in Ann Arbor, in 1992. As a student at Bryn Mawr College she began attending Friends Meetings, and became a convinced member of Haverford Monthly Meeting, Philadelphia Yearly Meeting, in May of 1996. She graduated with a B.A. in English in 1996, and went on to the Earlham School of Religion, where she earned a Masters in Divinity in 2000. While at ESR, she led the Richmond Young Friends group, bringing together high school youth from programmed and unprogrammed meetings. For three summers she worked at Camp Woodbrooke in Wisconsin, finishing as assistant director, where her skills in management and leadership flowered. In 2000, responding to a clearly felt calling, she moved to Rindge, New Hampshire to become a faculty member at the Meeting School. As an intelligent and feisty advocate of both strong community and high academic standards, she played an important role in guiding the school's educational program, while she kept a cozy, quirky, nerdy and accepting vibe in her homes at Aurora and Helios Houses. She taught writing and shared her love of diverse literature, from poetry, to contemporary African-American women writers, to the Bible. As a knitter and quilter she was a brilliant colorist; she said that she liked "the design phase.... and [didn't] understand why or how you would ever follow a pattern." She made complex pillows to illustrate geometry principles, and toys out of cloth for her young son Elijah. She taught geometry for many years, sympathizing with her students' frustrations about math, calling geometry "an arcane priestly wisdom" and creating her own course in it, based on constructions. She empathized with her students about many things; she was known by her house students as a good listener, a patient, comforting and relaxing presence, and someone who could be accepting of her students' mistakes. She was wonderful cook --her old email address was "lentil swami"-- and was the first kitchen coordinator for the Meeting School. She loved choral singing and the harmony of voices; she compiled our TMS songbook, gave us the right pitches, and subtly taught better singing to the whole school. She promoted harmony among the faculty as well, encouraging potlucks and clearnesses, maintaining a grounded presence even in strife. She was a discerning and vital Recording Clerk of the Faculty Meeting for many years. As Curriculum Coordinator and Registrar, she championed academic improvement, using her gifts of clarity, analysis, and consistency to shepherd us toward the joyful integrity of challenging classes. Her devotion to the school's philosophy was responsible for many improvements in our program. The Meeting School was home to her, as she filled her houses with books and cats, appreciating and helping create the beauty of the place. In 2005, she convinced her sister Megan to join her for two years in working at the school and the Lyzenga sisters became a social center in the school community. She lived out her faith in many ways. She had a mystical side, attentively listening to the Inward Guide for leadings both small and large: she viewed many of her major life decisions, including going to Earlham, working at the Meeting School, marrying, and adopting, as callings from God. At the same time, she treasured the sacramental side of outward worship, presenting deep programmed meetings for worship at Earlham and semi-programmed ones at the Meeting School, where she served on the School's Ministry and Counsel Committee. In 2003 she transferred her membership to Monadnock Monthly Meeting, New England Yearly Meeting. She said, "I believe in being a part of a faith community and that no community is perfect... I want to call myself a Christian, but I get all cagey and precise and over-explanatory about 'that word.'” She volunteered in the children's program of the Friends General Conference Gathering, and was on the planning committees for and led Bible presentations at the FGC YoungQuakes retreat programs from 2000-2002. She had a gift for explaining the stories in the Bible to unprogrammed teens in her quiet, impish, but serious way; she spoke about Jesus in a way that made him accessible to them. On August 1st, 2004 she and Craig Waterman were married in the Meeting School's Barn under the care of Monadnock Monthly Meeting. She and Craig had met while both were faculty members at the school; they became engaged after he left, and he eventually returned to TMS full time to houseparent with Elizabeth in the school's Helios House. In 2007, they adopted a son, Elijah, while leading a school Intersession project for Hurricane Katrina recovery in New Orleans. She and Craig loved each other in marriage in such a way that everything they did deepened it, whether pain or laughter. During her last illness, she wrote, "It’s scary how wonderful it is to be married. ...—I just really lucked out. My self from the first two-thirds of my life would be surprised." They yearned for a child, considered carefully before pursuing adoption, then waited with joyful expectancy until Elijah came to them. She adored Elijah; being a mother for him brought her great joy. Elizabeth was both earnest and humorous, both gentle and fierce. She strove to live up to the ideals of peace, justice, and simplicity with grace, thankfulness, and joy. We in the extended Meeting School community have been deeply saddened by her loss, and inspired by her example to greater faithfulness, excellence, discernment, and quirkyness. We are deeply grateful for her presence in our lives.
Poem for Elizabeth Lyzenga Waterman
The following poem was written by members of the Meeting School community, especially student Meg Prouty, to honor Elizabeth Waterman. It imitates Edgar Allen Poe's The Raven in a nod to a similar imitation that Elizabeth wrote during her own high school days, and that she shared with her writing classes to much acclaim. Meg read this final version at the parents' coffeehouse the night before graduation, when departing faculty minutes are read. We found it very moving each time. It was lettered for presentation to Craig with our signatures.
Once there was a woman of theory, whimsical, quiet, strong and, clearly content and at home on a quaint farm school, the complex woman of lore. Oh how she plotted colors, not nearly mapping, quilted us together with a vision that kept tapping, as of some one gently rapping, rapping us in music and pitch, oh the beautiful woman, Elizabeth, Elizabeth of lore. Ah distinctly we remember, the love-sparked ever-glowing community member And each striving teenage ember, she blew to flame with breath of knowledge, for Eagerly she pushed us towards tomorrow, and wishfully we sought to borrow From her patience, her noble spirit, here, forever more. Open here she sung as mother, sang to her love with many a flirt and flutter for joyous was the birth of Elijah, a haven in his laugher forever more. Not the least bit of impatience had she for him, in tantrums and in dances, naps and sitting in laps with a love strong as the Lord. Lady Elizabeth, into Elijah your enthusiasm poured. The impish look that swells in his smile glows in the likeness of yours, likeness of yours forever more. Oh the silken glimmer of radical certainty, the rustling in her eyes of each deeper idea filled us, with fantastic acceptance of terrors, working through the errors -- oh, how she pushed us, to still the beating around the bush, take our problems by the heart -- And in the hardest moments she stood strong and repeating: ‘tis some strength to be soft spoken in a time of hardship, in a time of bleeding ‘tis some strength to find such humor in life and in its gamesmanship. Presently her soul grows stronger, hesitating then no longer. Deep into the lightness your loved ones stand peering, long we stand here wondering, fearing the way in which we should go now, doubting the dreams in which we see you. But our silence must be broken and from your life a sermon unspoken calls us with intuitions in our minds collectively: to strive to observe, as you have done, to teach as you can teach us how to walk forward. We look to you, take hold of you, holding us, together still, and the only words to speak, have been spoken.