Letter to Walter

August 7, 2005

Dear Walter,

Your assistant from Lansdowne Road, John Brown, phoned saying you died peacefully in your bed this morning at Charing Cross Hospital. Something we all expected...at 90 one is allowed to die. Still, the sadness intrudes along side the joy of knowing you. The last man standing is now gone. At least the remembrances' of your long and productive life can now be written about...especially your masterful Alexander teaching skills and your wonderful sense of humor. You have always brought about a lightness of heart, a lightness so often forgotten by the 'serious' teachers of today. For me though, it was your humanity that overrides all and still lives.

In those happy years, in the mid 1970's, when Lena and I and our very new son John Michael lived in your top flat at Lansdowne Road, I was a witness to your everyday life. I can picture you getting up early to ride your horse in those leather chaps...on the weekends wearing an ink stained printers bib at your Sheldrake Press (located in that little cubby hole behind where your car was parked)...and typing away in the office on a Sunday afternoon, keeping on top of your voluminous correspondence--for once not wearing the ubiquitous 3-piece suit and tie! A man ordinary to the point of being extraordinary. A rare kind of extraordinary. The masterful simplicity of living in the present moment--a quality that today is so fashionable to talk about, but unfortunately few achieve it.

Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius--what a name--was the last of the great Roman philosophers and the first of the scholastics of the Middle Ages. Fifteen hundred years ago, Boethius wrote this sentence: "O happy race of mortals, if your hearts are ruled as is the universe by love." Walter, your kind heart was truly ruled by love.

There you were in the peaks and valleys of my life. You were so supportive when Lena died and then a few years later when John Michael took his own life. I still carry with me the e-mail you and Dilys sent, "Above all Michael, remember you are not to blame...no one is to blame." This always gives me solace. Walter, you taught us that guilt in life is a wasted emotion and that teaching which creates fear is ethically and morally unacceptable.

The other night, I watched in your honor the classic British movie about the kindly public school headmaster titled "Good Bye Mr. Chips". At one point Chips says, "We must have hierarchies in life...we must have points of reference!"  In hearing this I realized the importance of you, Walter, as a true 'point of reference'...like the North Star...belonging to no one, but to all. Consistently simple, giving the rest of us a focus as we walk through our overly complicated lives. You were incredibly supportive of us all as individuals...not only in our lives, but especially in our Alexander teaching. You believed in the power of the individual...you believed in us, and our ability to think on our own. Something Mr. Chips would agree with.

Good bye Walter and thank you. The honor and pleasure of knowing you continues.... With love, Michael Frederick  

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