by Jan Baughman
Philip & Frances Greenspan, September 15, 2007
Winners of The Fellowship of Reconciliation's Festival of Peace award*
(Swans - February 25, 2008) I have been pondering of late the power of words. We've all experienced the profound impression that the words of a particular poem, novel, love letter, or speech can make, or those insults launched over the years that are impossible to erase from our brains. And then there are the rare instances in which a simple exchange of words -- a question here, a suggestion there, a compliment and a respectful disagreement, grows into a virtual relationship that transcends physical reality. How it is possible to become so attached to a person three thousand miles away in cyberspace only known through written, and very rarely spoken, language? Such is the beloved presence that became "pgreen" in Swans HTML nomenclature: our dear friend and long-time contributor Philip Greenspan, whose death this week has broken our collective hearts.
Phil loved word-plays and a good pun; was apologetic about his writing and lavish about our editing; attentive to the events in our lives, whether learning of them through e-mail, Swans' listserv, or our writing. He'd send (always, always, signed from he and Fran, or he and "the Boss") a get-well wish, or an encouraging word, a donation to Swans, even a thoughtful wedding present, which was completely unexpected and very much appreciated! Over the years, he became Swans' resident activist, and his e-mail submission of his biweekly article would include a rundown of his and his wife Fran's current activities, from attending war protests to hosting political documentary screenings, a tireless schedule that was enough to make these "young" editors exhausted. He also gave us detailed health updates, not in a complaining sort of way -- when it was about his own condition, it was matter of fact, or self-deprecating, as when he took a silly fall with serious consequences. We heard about his cataract surgery, the state of his knees, his treatment approaches, and the like. When it had to do with Fran, though, his concern was apparent and there was nothing matter of fact in his tone. Fran was his rock and his soul mate. But never, not once over the six-plus years did he mention his history of prostate cancer -- fifteen years ago, I believe -- nor the symptoms he was experiencing recently as a consequence of its recurrence, which so quickly took his precious life.
Thank you, Phil, for enriching our lives. Though your words will live on in a legacy of unselfish passion and compassion that we must carry forward, your absence leaves a quiet void in my inbox, and in my heart.
Philip & Frances Greenspan (undated)
* On September 15, 2007, Phil and Fran were awarded the Festival of Peace award at the Fellowship of Reconciliation's national headquarters in Nyack, New York. According to their Web site, "The Greenspans have worked tirelessly in Westchester and Rockland Counties for years to promote peace and justice and educate their communities."
About FOR: Since 1915, The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) has carried on programs and educational projects concerned with domestic and international peace and justice, nonviolent alternatives to conflict, and the rights of conscience. A Nonviolent, Interfaith, tax exempt organization, The FOR promotes nonviolence and has members from many religious and ethnic traditions. It is a part of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation (IFOR), which has affiliates in over 40 countries.
The top photo, slightly cropped, was taken during Phil and Fran's acceptance speech. The original full size photo can be accessed on flickr.com. The bottom picture comes from the FOR Peace & Community Web site. (back)