Today, because I am in San Francisco for the final event of my book launch tour, I regretfully have to miss the memorial service taking place today in Los Angeles for one of the remarkable contributors of Epiphany, Florence Horne. Florence passed away on February 3.
I met Florence through my friend, Brian Braff, a photographer who has a project called Age Looks At Aging. Florence not only participated in this project, but she also served on the project’s Board. When I interviewed her last spring, she was 91 years “young” and our conversation went on for over an hour. She had many fascinating epiphanies throughout her life that we discussed, but I always marvel at her greatest epiphany that happened when she was only 10. She was my eldest contributor, yet Florence had her epiphany at the youngest age of everyone I interviewed.
Florence’s epiphany is a great example of how a simple moment can have a profound impact on one’s life and goes on to affect many others’ lives as well. After interviewing Florence, writing the epiphany story and getting her approval, I put it aside to work on the next ones in line, and was using a different quote than the one we have now as the title. Then one day I was struggling with something in my life – I can’t even remember what it was exactly – but I remember turning the car around while thinking about it, and suddenly I realized that I had pushed aside or dismissed what I thought was worthless and had completely missed what was truly important and very valuable to me. This realization came to me using the exact terms that Florence had expressed in our interview. Because of her pointing this out and expressing it to me in the way that she did, I was given the context and the tool to understand and see what I was doing in my own life. When I got home, I changed her title quote to what it is now. This exact quote of hers had come to my mind and helped me with a struggle and brought awareness to my life. And as people have expressed to me on my book tour and in interviews and as you’ll see in the letters below, she is bringing awareness to others’ lives as well.
Below are copies of emails from Florence to me; from Brian to friends of Florence’s and of Age Looks at Aging; and the last one is from a gentleman who is a fan of Florence’s from Epiphany. Florence attended the book launch party in January in Los Angeles and her note to me is a testament of what can happen when you share your stories and how important it can be to your loved ones. Brian’s note summarizes the spirit of Florence and her effect on us all. And lastly, everyone in the book’s bio, photo and website is on EpiphanyChannel.com so that people who read the book and come here to explore, can further research these amazing people. It made me so happy to see that someone had utilized this tool to reach out to Florence directly to tell her how her story had affected his life. The act of expressing to someone how they have touched your life is usually as profound and important as sharing your own stories.
It was an honor and privilege to know Florence and to be entrusted with her story. I’m very grateful that I had the opportunity to once again thank her at the party in January for sharing her wisdom with us and how much her encouragement and praise meant to me. (Because, believe me, she was not overly sentimental or insincere in any way!) Florence was as sharp as they come, and I only hope I live as fully and as long, with as bright a mind and as warm a heart. Rest in peace, dearest Florence. Rest in peace.
From: Florence Horne
January 8, 2011
Re: Epiphany Party, January 13, 2011
Everyone I know is impressed with the nature of your book and the fact that I’ve been included within those pages.
My family has become witness to something they never knew about me.
I am planning to attend and Brian has offered to be my date.
Loved reading your cogent introduction. Great work.
To: Elise, Age Looks at Aging Board
From: Brian Braff
Sat, Feb. 4, 2011
Subject: Florence Horne
I don’t remember the exact quote Josh offered last night as his favorite from our board meeting, but it was from Florence (of course), and was something like, “Until I’m gone, I’m still here.
Florence passed away last night.
While I’m personally devastated by this loss, and can’t imagine life without Florence, I’m choosing to see the impact Age Looks at Aging and all of us had on the end of her life, and the impact she had on us.
From the time I began the pilot project of ALAA, Florence continually expressed concern for “those who don’t have a voice” – the people who experience real challenges in their lives that have them be incapable of expressing themselves fully. That has always been the Florence I have known – concerned about others – wanting to make a difference for people.
Florence got to be fully expressed and powerful through this project. She saw herself much differently than when I first met her, and had a completely different listening from her family, which meant so much to her. She also got that she had our listening, and she thrived on being with us and being such an important part of what we are about doing in the world. And what would we have been without her?
We have lost Florence, the person, but we haven’t lost what she taught us, and who she made us. There will always be a seat on the Board for her. She is gone, but she’s still here.
To: Contact@ Age Looks at Aging
From: Ronny V.
February 16, 2011
Subject: For Florence Horne – Epiphany
Just wanted to say I was quite moved by your small synopsis in the book Epiphany by Elise Ballard. I really appreciate how looking deeper into a single individual or situations will give me an opportunity to deepen my understanding of the intricacies of life in a more meaningful way.
Ronny from Denver, Colorado!
You can see the video of Florence talking about her greatest epiphany in life here.