Bereaved But Still Me

A Duet of Joy and Sorrow with Alden Solovy

December 02, 2021 Alden Solovy Season 5 Episode 12
A Duet of Joy and Sorrow with Alden Solovy
Bereaved But Still Me
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Bereaved But Still Me
A Duet of Joy and Sorrow with Alden Solovy
Dec 02, 2021 Season 5 Episode 12
Alden Solovy

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In this episode, “A Duet of Joy and Sorrow with Alden Solovy”  we’ll be taking a look at some of the issues surrounding that very challenge.

Alden Solovy spreads joy and excitement for prayer. An American Israeli liturgist, poet, lyricist, author, and educator, Alden is the Liturgist-in-Residence for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. His writing was transformed by multiple tragedies, marked in 2009 by the sudden death of his wife from a catastrophic brain injury. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem to synagogues throughout North America, as well as Leo Baeck College in London and Limmud Conferences in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. He’s the author of five books of liturgy, including a trilogy of poetic prayer books from CCAR Press: Most recently This Precious Life: Encountering the Divine with Poetry and Prayer, along with This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings and This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day. Alden’s work is anthologized in 15 volumes from Jewish, Christian, and Catholic publishers. Alden also writes for Ritualwell, RavBlog, and the Times of Israel. He’s a three-time winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism and the founder of ManKind Project Israel. In 2012, Alden made Aliyah to Jerusalem. You can find his latest work at ToBendLight.com.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Alden's CCAR Press page (to order his books): https://www.ccarpress.org/content.asp?tid=432
Alden's Blog:  https://tobendlight.com/

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Links to “Bereaved But Still Me” Social Media and Podcast Pages:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bereaved-but-still-me/id1333229173
Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/show/heart-to-heart-with-michael

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Show Notes Transcript

Send us a Text Message.

In this episode, “A Duet of Joy and Sorrow with Alden Solovy”  we’ll be taking a look at some of the issues surrounding that very challenge.

Alden Solovy spreads joy and excitement for prayer. An American Israeli liturgist, poet, lyricist, author, and educator, Alden is the Liturgist-in-Residence for the Pardes Institute of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem. His writing was transformed by multiple tragedies, marked in 2009 by the sudden death of his wife from a catastrophic brain injury. His teaching spans from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem to synagogues throughout North America, as well as Leo Baeck College in London and Limmud Conferences in the U.S., Canada, and the UK. He’s the author of five books of liturgy, including a trilogy of poetic prayer books from CCAR Press: Most recently This Precious Life: Encountering the Divine with Poetry and Prayer, along with This Joyous Soul: A New Voice for Ancient Yearnings and This Grateful Heart: Psalms and Prayers for a New Day. Alden’s work is anthologized in 15 volumes from Jewish, Christian, and Catholic publishers. Alden also writes for Ritualwell, RavBlog, and the Times of Israel. He’s a three-time winner of the Peter Lisagor Award for Exemplary Journalism and the founder of ManKind Project Israel. In 2012, Alden made Aliyah to Jerusalem. You can find his latest work at ToBendLight.com.

Links mentioned in this podcast:

Alden's CCAR Press page (to order his books): https://www.ccarpress.org/content.asp?tid=432
Alden's Blog:  https://tobendlight.com/

Links to “Bereaved But Still Me” Social Media and Podcast Pages:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bereaved-but-still-me/id1333229173

Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/show/heart-to-heart-with-michael 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HugPodcastNetwork 
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGPKwIU5M_YOxvtWepFR5Zw 

Website: https://www.hug-podcastnetwork.com/

Support the Show.

Links to “Bereaved But Still Me” Social Media and Podcast Pages:

Apple Podcasts: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/bereaved-but-still-me/id1333229173
Spreaker: https://www.spreaker.com/show/heart-to-heart-with-michael

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HugPodcastNetwork
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGPKwIU5M_YOxvtWepFR5Zw
Website: https://www.hug-podcastnetwork.com/

Become a Patron: https://www.hug-podcastnetwork.com/patreon.html

Philip Proctor:

In a previous life, Melinda was a famous opera singer. And I was a stagedoor Johnny who had fallen head over heels in love with her, and proposed marriage and she turned me down. Well, this time, I was more famous than she was, and I got her.

Michael Liben:

If we've learned one thing over the years, it's that everybody's grief is unique. I can only imagine the loss of a spouse, yet I move in a world where many people have lost children. We don't compare one to the other except to say that every life is precious and we all share in our desire to perpetuate the life and memory of ones we have lost. How many of us have encountered the kind of enduring love that can bind us together for decades? How can we process the loss of such a loved one? And are they really gone when they're no longer with us? Welcome dear friends to a very special episode of"Bereaved But Still Me". Our purpose is to empower the bereaved community. I say special because once again, a very dear friend of ours is with us today to share his story as we remember Melinda. Phil Proctor is an actor, singer, writer, producer and a 50 year member of the four man, thrice Grammy nominated, Firesign Theatre, whose archives were recently purchased by the Library of Congress. They continue to release new recordings and books at their website, www.firesigntheatrelegacy.com. He also toured for years as Procter and Bergman, who also produced three records and several films. He's won a Theatre World Award LA Weekly, and the Drama Critics Award, was cited as Best Actor for"Museeka" by the LA Free Press and shares a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his role as Howard. In the three time Emmy winning "Rugrats". He starred in films, TV and radio, voice characters for Pixar and Disney, is the drunken French monkey in Dr. Doolittle movies, Dr. Vidic in "Assassin's Creed", and plays multiple roles in the"Golden Age Pulp Fiction" audiobook series. He's appeared on and off Broadway and in many local and regional theaters, and is a longtime member of the prestigious Antaeus Company that's "Antaeus, Come and See Us" as well as touring in a reading of Don Quixote and the LA guitar quartet as Hercule Poirot in Agatha Christie's BBC murder mysteries. He voiced Dr. Seuss' "The Cat in the Hat", Horton the elephant, Thidwick the Moose, and "The Grinch That Stole Christmas" for the popular Toniebox. He co authored the play "God Help Us" which starred the late Ed Asner, and toured the US and Canada for several years, as well as his memoir,"Where's My Fortune Cookie", which I have, and I think you should have too - also available as an award winning audiobook, and has continued to work in a touching short film about Alzheimer's called "Old Friends" with Dakin Matthews and various radio productions including an upcoming six part adaptation of"Treasure Island", featuring John Goodman. He is presently co hosting Phil in "Ted's Sexy Boomer Show" with Ted Bonnet, live every Tuesday on KPFK-FM and available online anytime and writes "Planet Proctor", a popular blog for over 25 years that you can read at www.planetproctor.com. On a personal level, Phil has been married three times - he has a daughter Kristen, from his Norwegian wife Barbro, and two teenage grandkids. Audry and Bowen, and recently lost his wife, artistic partner and soulmate Melinda Peterson from a heart attack two weeks before her 74th birthday. Now he lives alone with his cat Pepper, but has many, many, many, loving friends. It's no secret that I'm a big fan of Phil and the Firesign Theater since I first discovered them in the late 1960s. If you look back in our archives, you can find no less than four episodes dedicated to the members of the Firesign Theater who have left us way too early. But today we're going to celebrate the life of Melinda Peterson, Phil's third wife and soulmate. Phil, thank you so much again, for being with us on"Bereaved But Still Me".

Philip Proctor:

Well listen, hearing that career resume, I'm exhausted. No, no, I think I have to go lie down.

Michael Liben:

Yeah, let's go, forget it.

Philip Proctor:

I have been in the in the show business for over 65 years because I started as a child actor on a live television show in New York on WPIX-TV called "Uncle Danny Reads the Funnies" and I've never really done anything other than act on stage, screen, and outer space. So, and I'm not kidding about outer space because the "Fireside Theatre" helped to develop XM satellite radio. We did a comedy show for them called "Fools in Space", because it was the first satellite beamed comedy show. It's been an amazing life and it's still going on, in spite of the fact that I lost my my invaluable partner, my irreplaceable partner, the wonderful Melinda Peterson, and we'll honor her and talk about her today, and how I'm really trying to carry on without her. You

Michael Liben:

You know, Phil, it's very easy when you're around for me to just put it in drive and hand you the wheel. But I do have a couple of nice questions, we'll see if we can do it. One of the things that we've learned here on this podcast is that the most important thing we can do when we're talking to somebody who's lost somebody is to just listen. So with that in mind, tell us about Melinda - how did you meet? And how long have you been married?

Philip Proctor:

Well, we were married for about 32 years. And the way that we met was described in my book, "Where's My Fortune Cookie?", but I'll give you a brief resume of it because it was pretty amazing. I was working with my partners in the Firesign Theatre, Peter Bergman and Phil Austin, both of whom have passed on and both of whom you've been kind enough to feature on your show. But we were doing a bunch of a commercial, we created like a little commercial company together. And by the way, we released all of these radio commercials and the Jack Poet Volkswagen television commercials that we did on a download at our websites.

Michael Liben:

Yes, I saw it, I'm excited to get it. I'm sorry, it's like, you know, it's...Everybody, as soon as you're finished with listening here, go get that.

Philip Proctor:

And I got into a dispute, a conflict of interest dispute with my partners, because I have a flourishing voiceover and on camera commercial career, as well as other things I was doing. So I quit. I said, alright, you know, I'm not going to do this anymore if you don't respect my independent career. And then I go home, and I'm going, "Well, now, what am I, what am I going to do now?" I said, "Well, maybe I should get involved in some play readings, so that I can kind of maybe get into it". Brrrrring... I go pick up the phone, "Hello?" "Hey, Phil, it's John Acorn, I'd like you to do a play reading that we're doing at the Actors Studio. Are you interested?" Wait, let me think about it. "Yes!" All right. So it's a movie script that they want to hear in front of the audience. And it's at the Actors Studio, just below Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. And after it's over, there's a lady in the front row who says,"Phil, I don't know if you remember me. But we studied with Uta Hagen together in New York. I said, "Oh, yeah, Shelly" and she said, "Well, I'm trying my hand at playwriting right now and I've got something I think you might be right for. Can you do a Russian accent?" [speaking in a Russian accent]. I think maybe I can try". I went to the Soviet Union with the Yale Russian Chorus, so I speak Russian, you know. Getting crazy. So I said, "Fine. So what's the name of the play?""Oh, Nude Radio", sign me up! Okay. So the next day, I go and I meet Sage, the lovely director, and I'm working with a pretty girl who is Bob Shaye's sister, Bob Shaye created New Line Cinema and the Firesign Theatre had been negotiating with him to do a version of"Nick Danger, Third Eye", right on early cable television. So of course it was, you know, charming. I'm working with his sister, that's great. And so we read through the play, and we have some conversation about it. And we go home, we're gonna start serious rehearsals the next day. I get a phone call from Sage, "I'm sorry, but Jean"... I can't remember her real name, "she is not going to do the play. "Oh, no why? Was it something I said?" "No, no, she's..." the play is about... I'm now talking to you, not this is, this is not Sage. The play is a girl from Valdosta, Georgia, who is basically a farmer's daughter, and I'm a Russian exchange agricultural student who want to learn agriculture technique from America. Okay, so I come over and the play is about love at first sight, coming from entirely different cultures and falling in love. And the play ends with the two characters climbing into bed together at the end of the act, and then they pull the curtain, like God. Anyway. So that's, that's the arc of the play. And unfortunately, Bob Shaye's sister, comes from the south. And she did, is afraid she spent all this time trying to get rid of her southern accent. And she was afraid it was gonna, she was gonna revert. Now, this is crazy thinking to me, because like, I was from the south and say, "Oh, great, you know, let me just talk a little bit". But anyway, I honored her choice. And Sage says, "Don't worry, I'm bringing in another person you'll really enjoy working with". Well, the next day I show up and there's this beautiful young woman named Melinda Peterson. And we read through and she's fantastic! Doing a great southern accent, she's funny, she's pretty, perfect for the part. And we immediately, you know, felt a kinship with one another, professionally. Well, one thing led to another and we basically fell in love doing this play. And we, we flirted with one another after rehearsal and, you know, and a relationship evolved. And actually, we ended up just like the characters in bed behind the curtain. All right. now...

Michael Liben:

So, wait a minute Phil, this is just really method

Philip Proctor:

The madness to my method, we really fell deeply acting right? in love with one another. And it was in a way love it at first sight and imperfect for two actors to fall in love doing characters. But Melinda and I knew that this was a serious business, that we were actually going to be together and wanted to get married. We knew that from the beginning. So we consulted with some psychics. And one of them said a most interesting thing. He said that in a previous life Melinda was a famous opera singer. And I was a stagedoor Johnny who had fallen head over heels in love with her and proposed marriage. And she turned me down. Well, this time, I was more famous than she was. And I got her. We got married up in Ojai, at The Ranch Restaurant out in the herb garden. And the Firesign Theatre had not been working together, we'd been kind of estranged for a while, which happens when you have a 50 year career, by the way. And so I had naturally invited all the members of the Firesign and their spouses to come and join us for the ceremony. In fact, David Ossman did the ceremony, okay, he's one of those matchbook preachers. Yeah. Actually ordained, so he can do marital things. All right. So David married us. Peter was there with his wife, and Phil was there with his longtime companion Una, and somebody took a picture of us all together, the Firesign Theatre, and then somebody else took a picture from behind us, of somebody taking a picture of us. And I got that picture. And I made copies. And I sent one out to the other three members of the Firesign, and I said,"Firesign's back". Okay. And that inspired us the whole event getting together again, to get together for our 25th anniversary tour. And it led to a whole bunch of records with Rhino, and a big touring career, that Melinda became a part of that I can talk about later.

Michael Liben:

That's lovely. What's it like when you're working with your wife professionally? Do you give each other notes on......your performance, is that is that

Philip Proctor:

Oh, yeah. tough? Oh, it was helpful to have one another, to make comments and notes about an evolving performance. Okay. It always helped us. And yes, I did also get an opportunity, especially through the Antaeus Company, which is a classical theatre company, to work with her on stage. We did a Gilbert and Sullivan plays together. And we did "Trial by Jury" together. So it was wonderful. And also at that time, we did lots of play readings with the company, and we did a lot of uh, we try out things with staged readings that could become possible mainstage productions, so we got to work together a lot. And it was just joyful, can't tell you how much. Later on, when I introduced her to the world of voiceovers, we worked together for many, many years, right up to the end of her life, doing audio productions, recreations of old time radio shows. We had a wonderful run with David Ossman, again, at the International Mystery Writers Festival in Owensboro, Kentucky. For like four years, we staged audio readings with microphones and scripts of various mysteries in various formats, movies, plays, and short stories, which were all up for awards every year at the Mystery Writers Festival. And we had our own little theatre, and Dave Ossman directed us and his wife Judith Walcutt helped produce it. And so we would do like two or three performances a day. And again, that was an amazing opportunity to work with her and other people like Harry Anderson who came in...

Michael Liben:

I think it's lovely that you found a way to work together and to enjoy it. Not everybody can pull it off.

Philip Proctor:

Oh, absolutely, I mean, it was part of the reason that we got together, we just knew we had found the perfect partner, the perfect playmate. No. And also, at that time and early in our relationship, she was still very active in regional theater, and she'd go off to Sacramento, or she'd go down to San Diego to do a play.

Michael Liben:

Can you tell you one really good Melinda story, something that will introduce Melinda to all of the listeners so that we can share in her memory and know who she was? Can you give us something good? Oh, that's great.

Philip Proctor:

I'll just tell you a story that represents how playful she was and how, how much in cahoots we were together all the time. We were rehearsing a musical at the Antaeus Company, and there were some outside actors who came in to work with us. And when Melinda and I were working on stage together, she would often do things like this - I would be doing a scene and I'd stop for a minute and I say, "You know, Melinda, we should really do this..."and I go over to her and maybe touch her and she say,"Don't touch me!" you know,"Don't touch me!" "Okay", I back off. Well, one of the one of the actors who didn't know us and know that we were playing and putting them on, leaned over to another actor and said,"Somebody's gonna get hurt". We'd put that on her gravestone, if we had one. We played together, we laughed. The thing Or, "There is Laugh After Death". Because about our marriage, it was so constantly wonderful. And the thing that really cemented us together was our sense of humor. We shared an incredibly, sometimes, you know, sardonic sense of humor, and we were laughing all the time. You know, yes, we'd have serious discussions. And yes, we'd have arguments. I mean, after all, I'm an only child, she comes from a family of seven, so there's bound to be different perspectives in living. Right, but we were...wow. And laughter was the thing that kept us always, always going, you know, in fact, the memorial that I will eventually have for Melinda at the Antaeus Company I'm calling, "Melinda Peterson, Laugh After Death". there is. One of the things that got me through my, is getting me through, my bereavement and my grief at her loss, is a sense of humor. I'll give you an example. Four days after she died, which was July 31, just barely six months ago, she came to me in a dream. And she's, after teasing me, which she used to do because again, she comes from a family of kids, used to tease one another. I'm an only child, nobody ever teased me, you know, she, and drive me crazy. You know, when she teased me. Okay? But it was also playful. So after she finishes teasing me in this dream, she comes over to me and she says, Philip, you know, we come from the same insane asylum. Only different wings.

Michael Liben:

Oh, gosh.

Philip Proctor:

Okay. That's funny! So you know, that her presence, when I feel her presence, it's invariably because she makes me think funny. I still think funny. And sometimes, for instance, when you, when I'm even dealing with the realities of her loss, funny things come to me. She wanted to be cremated. So we did. And I'll tell you, you'll get a thrilling story about that later.

Anna Jaworski:

You're listening to "Bereaved But Still Me". If you have a question or comment that you would like addressed on our program, please send an email to Michael Liben at michael@bereavedbutstillme.com. That's michael@bereavedbutstillme.com. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The opinions expressed in the podcast are not those of Hearts Unite the Globe, but of the hosts and guests and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to congenital heart disease or bereavement.

Michael Liben:

After Melinda passed, you went to work on an independent film, "Psycho Ape II" with our mutual friend and your...

Philip Proctor:

No, "Psycho Ape II" is... you've heard of low budget movies. This is a "no budget" movie.

Michael Liben:

Yeah, I understand that.

Philip Proctor:

We did it in somebody's home on a hot day out in Encino. Okay. I did go away to do Treasure Island, a radio adaptation by David Ossman's son, Orson, on Whidbey Island for a week, on location. That was shortly after Melinda had passed away. And it was very therapeutic for me. You know?

Michael Liben:

Well, the reason I bring up "Psycho Ape" was because you were working with a mutual friend who I was able to contact during the production. And you don't know this, but and I'm sure I'm not the only one, a lot of people were concerned about you. And of course, we still are. So while you were working on the film with Bill, I contacted him through Messenger, and I didn't ask him how that film was going. I said, "How's Phil doing?" Awww It was really important that, you know, I get some kind of feedback and he told me you were doing all right. And so that was my question.Was it therapeutic to jump so deep into work so fast? And apparently it was.

Philip Proctor:

Oh, absolutely. Oh, yeah. You know, the show must go on. And life must go on. And I think the most healing thing that anybody can do, is to continue to honor the relationship by doing that, which we both loved to do together. Okay?

Michael Liben:

I definitely agree with that. Some, somebody on a recent on a recent episode said you have to give yourself permission to go on.

Philip Proctor:

And well, actually, when you're an actor, you have to wait for somebody to ask you. That, to give you

Michael Liben:

Do you find that people shied back? Do people shy permission, "You want to do this job?" Okay, you know, and we're talking. back? Is it don't bother Phil? Or did the offers keep coming?

Philip Proctor:

I am not an A list celebrity. So the kind of work that comes to me is, it's great work is wonderful work. But it's on a more personal level than that. And what I'm trying to say is there's not a lot at stake, if somebody's gonna hire me to do something that I'm really, really good at. And I'm working with people that I love, who were also really, really good at it. But that's it's I'm protected, you know, from the very beginning. It's like, "Oh, good, here's something Phil can do". First of all, the Bill that you're talking about is Bill Weedon, who was my classmate at Yale, class of '62, and is a remarkably talented musician, and songwriter, and has found an entirely new career at the age of 83, playing monsters in these, these low budget cult-like horror films, they're really a lot of fun. And...

Michael Liben:

He loves it Oh, no, no, what are we going to do!?

Philip Proctor:

He loves it. And again, so I was delighted, I've done a couple of them with him. And I was delighted to be able to play with him, you know, in a project that he's becoming renowned and well known in. But when I got the job offer to do the radio adaptation of Treasure Island, which will be a six part six hour series, it was made even sweeter for me, because my So anyway, this is the fun of it. And the same dear friend, John Goodman, who like was a Firesign fan in the early days, and connected up with me and Peter Bergman, and the whole Firesign, and has been a personal friend for all lo these many, many, many years. And we've worked together on various projects. But this one, John Goodman bought me a first class ticket up and back from LA to Whidbey Island. Isn't that sweet? But by the time that he booked the flight up, it was a little too late and so there were no seats. So when I got on the plane, I had booked a seat for you know, in the back, he got up, he gave me his seat and moved back with the people. That's John Goodman. His nickname is "Goody", and he's just the best. And of course, the first day that we worked, he is playing Billy Bones, and I'm playing a French pirate by the name of Black Dog and I killed him! I killed John Goodman! with Melinda. She was absolutely my life partner in everything that we did. She was a total genius, which I kept telling her she was, but of course she was also modest. Here's a woman who could cut my hair and do our taxes. Okay?

Michael Liben:

Just everything. What more could you ask?

Philip Proctor:

Because she designed the house that we're living in. I bought this house, right, with my second wife in, in the 70s in Benedict Canyon and it's a canyon home, built into the hillside and we had, in the early rains, back when we had regular rains in Los Angeles, that the house would kind of flood because it was right up in, you know, the hillside. So Melinda, I found an architect. And we built the house up in the back, we put a patio up there, and these retaining walls, which are planters up into the hillside. Because among her great talents, she was a genius, natural born gardener. So not only she designed the house to be pretty much waterproof now. But she built it up in such a way that we can grow our own food. Lettuce and, you know, bees and things. And beautiful, beautiful flowers everywhere, everywhere. So that's here I'm living here I'm living in our house, which she also made safe for old people, because we really thought we were going to be able to grow old together. When we'd see an old couple bent over with canes, walking across the street, we say, "There we are". Right. It wasn't meant to be primarily because she was a lifelong diabetic. When I married her, it was definitely in sickness and in health. I knew that she had a disease it was adult onset insulin dependent type one diabetes. And we, during the 32 years of our lives together, a lot of advancements were made in the control of the disease, so that at the end of her life, she really did have it under control. But you know, we went through, she'd have serious lows, in which time she'd become like a non compos mentis, she kind of disappear. And I had to sometimes get glucose tablets into her or go and get a Coca Cola or something. And it happened, you know, in Italy, and it happened in France. And, you know, wherever we were, it could happen. It happened in Norway. I learned to live with it, we learned to live with it together. And she was doing fine. What led to her death was that she had an unfortunate fall on a trip that we were making to Palermo, Italy. And she broke her kneecap and she broke her left shoulder. And it's a story in its own. It happened at a bed and breakfast outside of Palermo, in Sicily. She slipped on a little tiny piece of of coverlet that was on the floor, on this linoleum floor. And she stepped on it, it went out from under her and I saw her go down like a ton of bricks and she broke her knee and she broke her shoulder, my God. So that was the rest of our trip in Italy. So I went to Palermo, we had a wonderful friend who would drive me around and helped me get stuff for a leg brace and things like that, which they don't supply in Italy. We did the best we could to get her back to the States. And she was recovering. She was you know, having therapy here at the house, we had nurse care and everything. And we went to the you know, the specialists. She was doing okay. But then after we spent a lovely Sunday together, she went to go to the bathroom and with her the special walker she had, and she came back and said, "I can't catch my breath". I said, "Oh my God, now what?" I said, "Lie down, honey, lie down. "I feel nauseous, just give me a towel, I'm gonna throw up". "Okay, okay, okay". "I think I need to go to the bathroom". These are classic signs of a heart attack, shortness feelings of nausea, feelings that you need to eliminate. And I did everything I could, she wouldn't let me call 911. And I would say within five minutes, she was gone. She went. And I can't tell you what it is like to see someone you love that much, suddenly become inanimate. I saw it happen right in front of my eyes. And it was like, "No,! We didn't plan for this!" That's the end. It's like the door slammed in my face, game over. She was dead all of a sudden. And that's not the plan, what, that, no. So the rest of the evening was calling 911, and of course they tried every heroic effort to bring her back. But at a certain point, you don't even want to bring them back because they might have brain damage or you know, she was gone and I knew she was gone. Her spirit was gone. Now later, I was told by a friend of mine who went to her psychic to ask about Melinda, that she was surrounded by angels, who were orienting her immediately to life on the other side. And one of them asked her, "How are you feeling?" and she said, "I'm pooped" and that's true. After every therapy session, she would say to me, "Philip, I'm exhausted", she was working so hard, we both were, to get her back on her feet again, and to carry on with our lives, and it was exhausting. And she didn't make it. Now, her brother did some research on diabetics, women who had her condition, and looked into when they most of them died. Most of them died at the age of 64 of a heart attack. And Melinda made it right before her 74th birthday. We could look at it as saying we squeezed 10 more glorious years out of our lives together.

Michael Liben:

I would say that's to your credit.

Philip Proctor:

Well, it's to both our credits, we were so happy. We were creatively happy, we pretty much did everything together, you know, and we were pretty much inseparable. And we had a wonderful romantic life right up to the end, which was really the the attraction that brought us together, stayed with us for our entire time together. We never lost our romantic interest in one another, all of the beauties that come out of that in a relationship. So it's like, yes, it's a terrible, terrible loss. God it's terrible shock, blah, blah, blah. But I have to say that not only was our relationship uncommon, my grieving has been uncommon. I can't say that I've gone through that checkoff list, denial and all this stuff, you know.

Michael Liben:

No, I didn't do that either. I'm glad you brought that up. Because I wanted to ask you what your coping strategy was, I see that you've thrown yourself into work, and work is some way, perhaps to connect directly with Melinda because you did so much work together.

Philip Proctor:

Yes.

Michael Liben:

And I know also from Facebook, that you've been finding more and more treasure troves of photographs, and you've been putting them out for us, all of us.

Philip Proctor:

Oh, yes. Well, a couple of things. Friends, the thing that has helped me the most right, are friends. I have a terrific support system of friends, whom I've worked with, collaborated with on various things, and who are, we've just known for a long, long time.

Michael Liben:

You are so blessed with friends, you are always surrounded by friends, old friends, new friends,

Philip Proctor:

Well, I'm very lucky. I'm a Leo. And Melinda everybody just sort of gathers around you like that. was at Leo. We have Lions of different sorts in art and

Michael Liben:

Apparently so.

Philip Proctor:

Yeah, we would have dinner parties up on the stuffed toys and everything all over the house. We often would patio that Melinda built with the built in barbecue, and, you know, have lovely parties with our friends. And that all kind gift one another with a Leo something for the house on our of came to a screeching end, but we honored and celebrated birthdays, and Leos are very gregarious. Before... friendship. And we're very lucky because you think about it, we're in a repertory company that have now known one another for 15 years and worked together. Okay? This is friendship. It's unique and wonderful. And I wish everybody else who goes through something like this is able to reach out to their friends for succor, or you know, or help.

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Michael Liben:

I'm gonna grab the Leo thing for a minute, because I know that there's an interesting story about Pepper and Redford, you want to just go there for a minute?

Philip Proctor:

All of my wives are Leos, by the way, and my girlfriend Diane is a Leo. I'm attracted to a beautiful me. I wanted to see myself in a beautiful female form, and I did pretty well I'd say. Melinda and I are cat cat lovers. We've had cats all of our lives together. And at one point we had three of them and their personalities are so amazing. Anybody who knows and loves cats, I'm preaching to the choir, that the cats are not standoffish and aloof. They know what they want, and they'll tell you, but they're also funny as hell, right? And loving as can be. Melinda near the end of our life together, she saw a cat that one of the Antaeus members was putting up for adoption. And it was a beautiful Maine Coon. Okay. And, very handsome cat. And we had never had a Maine Coon before. They're extremely unique. They're known as the American lion. They have a squeaky little voice - meow, meow - and they're big fluffy cats they're beautiful, and very calm and very commanding. And and we named him Redford because he was movie star handsome, okay. At the time, we only had the one cat whom we've had for a long time, which is Pepper. She's an old lady now, she's probably 12. But she's been with us with all the other cats that have come into our family come and gone. And she was dominated by Redford, because he's a big alpha male. He used to go out, walk around the whole neighborhood, visit the other cats in the neighborhood. Everybody knew him. And he would sit on the bottom of our steps when people were walking their dogs, and the dogs would look at him and go, "What's that?" He would just sit there like a little king. And they go ahead and he was so powerful that one morning one of my neighbors told me he was out on the street and a little coyote, a little coyote came trotting by which happens here in the hills. And he jumped on its back and ran up the street to scare it off. That jumped off, okay. He also, a cougar showed up on the street. And he out stared it and it went away. But it was a raccoon that killed him. He got out one morning. And apparently, according to the neighbor where he was killed, there was a raccoon, a mommy raccoon with babies, and he must have heard the raccoon rustle or whatever, and gone up to investigate. And she attacked him and killed him.

Michael Liben:

If I understood correctly, Redford was Melinda's cat. She was. it was hers.

Philip Proctor:

Yeah. She was, and you know, and of course, that hurt me very much because I felt like I should have guarded him more. I would have had to have restricted his behavior. But you know, in honor of her, I felt like maybe I should have, although another friend of mine said, you know, up there in heaven, she suddenly said,"Redford! What are you doing here? Okay? so yeah, well, that's good. I

Michael Liben:

So yeah, well that maybe is a good thing, but-

Philip Proctor:

Maybe that's what happened. Who knows? It's all just so mysterious.

Michael Liben:

When Redford died. I was struck by that it was so close, on after Melinda's death.

Philip Proctor:

When she was healing from her broken bones, and she was downstairs in our little guest room. He would come in every morning, scratch on the door to be let in and spend the whole day with her. You know, cuddling her or getting her neck or the pillow next to her. He was he was a registered nurse for all the times she was down, you know. So, anyway, right now, I have Pepper who is right next to me here on the table. And she could not be more loving. As a cat would do, she realizes she's the queen now. And it's just her and me. And she is just the most loving thing. Redford used to sit on my lap all the time. He's a big old cat by the way. And warm, warmed my knees and she does that now. You know, she she's with me, she's for me, she sleeps with me, and and it's very helpful. You know, it's very helpful. It again is one of the continuity of my life with Melinda was our love of these animals and our getting to know them and they're bonding with us. And so it's bringing me comfort.

Michael Liben:

Before we have to close, a lot of our guests have made this connection between loved ones and butterflies. I know you have a story there so talking about the butterflies.

Philip Proctor:

Well, during the first few days after her death, friends came pouring over with food and drink and sympathy and we have a lower patio as well as the upper one. And Melinda had created what she called the spa dama outside in front of the house in this little area, which is her private place. Okay, this other reason why we got along so well, she had her own.

Michael Liben:

Okay.

Philip Proctor:

I had to ask has permission to go and sit next to her, you know, and she met she made me a spa duomo, my own little private place in the back. Well, we're all sitting around this round table that she had designed for us, and a butterfly suddenly appears - it's a monarch butterfly. And everybody notices it because it's making a big commotion. It's fluttering, and it goes around and around and around and around the table. And when one of my friends' wives got up to go look at Melinda's roof garden, it followed her upstairs onto this in patio, and it buzzed, she, when she came down she told us, it buzzed around her head so closely, that she could feel the air from its wings, fluffing her hair. All right. Pretty amazing. Great. Okay. Four days later, my daughter, Kristen, who thank God lives five minutes away from me, with my two grandkids, teenagers, she came over to water the garden with me. And the butterfly shows up again. But this time it plays with me. And it's zooming at me and it's going around my head, and it lands and it shows me its beautiful wings, and then it flies around again and lands. And Kristen took a video of it with her phone. Right? Well, this is all wonderful. And everybody you know, who knows about it is it that's definitely, she's showing us she's beautiful, she's happy, she's free. It's okay. And then, she was cremated, and the owner of the funeral home, the White Diamond Funeral Home, was a very nice lady I got to to work with over the phone. She brought Melinda's ashes up to me personally. And she walks into our home. And she has a clip, a hair clip, on her hair. It's a monarch butterfly.

Michael Liben:

That's beautiful.

Philip Proctor:

Isn't that beautiful?

Michael Liben:

It's nice to know that somewhere, somehow, Melinda is not far away. And she goes on. And so do we all.

Philip Proctor:

One of the things about her ashes is we ordered these rosewood, little rosewood ash holders, and it says on it, "From Melinda, with love, for your garden" and I put some of her ashes in those. And I've been sending them off and giving them to people on whose gardens she's worked. Italy. She got on Imperial Beach. She's on Fox Island, Washington. She's back in West Hartford. She's basically like in five places at once when she's not anywhere at all.

Michael Liben:

I'm not, I'm only laughing because that's a Firesign gag. If anyone missed it, I apologize.

Philip Proctor:

Well, that's how-

Michael Liben:

That's wonderful. And I like also that it's places you go to so that you're never you're never very far. She's never very far from you. I really love that.

Philip Proctor:

One last joke that you can use and I use and everybody who has received these little vials to sprinkle in the garden - they all agree that she's a great piece of ash. You know, it was, she makes me laugh, she makes me laugh. And that has sustained me. But don't don't get me wrong, I miss her like crazy. Okay. And I'm, my life is really filled with diversions to honor her, to keep my, either keep my mind off her or honor her, you know, and yeah, and it's just the mornings and the the evenings going to bed alone you know and getting up alone, except for darling Pepper. Yeah, that's tough. And I often relive, you know, what happened to her. And and I just want to mention one more thing that you can all you can edit this any way you want. The last trip that Melinda had planned for us, and she always planned great, great trips. We went to New York to see some theater and friends, we went to Amsterdam, which we love. We spent two weeks there. We were there for the King's birthday great celebrations. Then we were supposed to take a night train to Zurich, Switzerland. Take the night train to Zurich. Okay. We love sleeping on trains. Night train to Zurich, get on a tourist bus down to Milan, we love Milan, beautiful cathedral. Take another tourist bus down to Genoa and get a ferry, an 11 hour ferry up to Palermo.Whoa, wow. Let's go. Well, they canceled the night train to Zurich. And all of the dominoes fell. And we made a travel decision. Oh, let's just fly to Palermo. But what what we should have done was go to Genoa and get that ferry ride. Because we've been talking about, you know, is cruising in our future? You know, let's try it out. We didn't do that. It may be because we couldn't get reservations or something. But it was an existential moment. You know, where you go, all right. So if we'd only did that, she'd probably be alive right now. Or she might have died of a heart attack anyway, we don't know. But the fact is, we all have to live with the reality of the things that happened to us, and make the best of it. And that's what she would want. Oh, one last thing. One last one last last. Yes, this you'll love. When one of the things that she was doing, she always took Italian classes, Zoom Italian classes for years. And I'd hear her laughing oh my god, she had fun doing that. And so this time, she also decided to take a creative writing class, which made me so very happy because we collaborated on a lot of writing together. She had directed the Firesign Theatre on tour, and she helped us with some of our, you know, records and things. And so she committed to a creative writing class. The first assignment was, write about your own funeral. Oh, oh, and she did. I have it right here in front of me. It's titled"Thoughts Thought at Melinda's Memorial", okay. "Nobody really dies till she's forgotten". And she writes about me in this and here's what she says, "Look at poor Phil. He's in despair. I've never seen him so downcast. Oh, wait. He just made a joke and got a laugh. He'll be okay". Thank you, Melinda, I'm okay.

Michael Liben:

And thank you, Philip Proctor. I wish we were here under better circumstances, but I'm glad that we were able to talk about Melinda. And it's what you said. And that's what she said, people are not dead as long as we keep them alive in our memories. And that's a very, very important thing. So sadly, our time here is ending. But I want to thank you so much for joining us yet again.

Philip Proctor:

Well, it's always wonderful to talk with you. And it's also a very healing process. And I thank you for the sympathy and the support.

Michael Liben:

I'm happy to help. I hope it's worth something recently, I'm just very happy to help if I can. I'm being told here also that you're the most guest-y of guests, which means that you have joined us now for the fifth time. That makes you a record breaker.

Philip Proctor:

Hey, do I get an award?

Michael Liben:

I wish I had an award to give you. One day I'll think of something.

Philip Proctor:

Well listen, Michael, I would rather be the most guest-y than the most ghostie.

Michael Liben:

This is true. And I appreciate the thought. It's always a pleasure, and I do wish that we had something else to talk about, maybe we'll start a podcast on fishing and we can talk about fishing that would be fun.

Philip Proctor:

That'd be fun.

Michael Liben:

That'll be fun. Ummm, oh yeah - This concludes this episode of "Bereaved But Still Me" and I want to thank Philip Proctor for sharing his experiences with us and for introducing us to his beautiful wife, Melinda Peterson, and for allowing us to help share in her memory and her stories with those who have not known her. Perhaps now we can also collectively keep her alive that much more. Join us again at the beginning of the month for a brand new episode but till then, please remember moving on is not moving away.

Anna Jaworski:

Thank you for joining us. We help you have felt supported in your grief journey. "Bereaved But Still Me" is a monthly podcast and a new episode is released on the first Thursday of each month. You can hear our podcast anywhere you normally listen to podcasts at any time. Join us again next month for a brand new episode of"Bereaved But Still Me".