Approximately two months ago I wrote a short article on Marty Weiner and his death. Peggy LaCerra who was Marty’s partner for many years wrote a comment on the article and also shared her eulogy of Marty. Her writing has helped me create a clearer picture of Marty and his life and death. Perhaps it will do the same for you. I asked Peggy if I could re-post the entire comment as a blog post and she graciously agreed.
Thanks for your remembrance of Marty Weiner. There has been so much speculation about why Marty took his life, not to mention judgment about his decision, that I want to share my perspective. Marty had struggled for many years with the pain that invoked his suicidal ideation — it was the same pain that formed and fueled his genius as a healer and an artist, and this past April, he decided to release himself from it.
I lived with Marty for almost 9 years, and there were times that his pain was too much to bear for me; I can only imagine what it was for him. Yet, people came to him from far and wide with their physical and psychological burdens, and he transformed them with his touch and his words; others — many of them Feldenkrais practioners, students of ‘consciousness’, former clients and people who had simply heard tales of his abilities — came simply to hear him share his knowledge and wisdom. He carried on, sharing his gifts with others, in the face of his personal anguish, day after day, year after year, until his own pain was too much for him to take. From my privileged perspective, his path was nothing less than spiritually noble. Here was my eulogy for him:
When I heard the news of Marty’s death, I grieved deeply the loss of this exceptional man, whom I had loved dearly, and who had been my life partner for 9 years. My heart broke sensing what I felt might have been his final moments of anguish and fear, and with the realization that my last moments with him were to be those gray and painful ones that I had spent preparing to leave our temple home for the last time.
For the moment, I had forgotten the central point of his brilliant philosophy of life, and healing, and art. As most of you know, in addition to being an artist, Marty was a teacher and practitioner of a unique hands-on healing method, as well as a philosophy of conscious experience.
His approach to healing the bodies, minds and spirits of others is perhaps best captured by a beautiful Galway Kinnell poem, which he kept framed in his treatment room. It is called “St. Francis and the Sow”:
stands for all things,
even those things that don’t flower,
for everything flowers, from within, of self-blessing;
though sometimes it is necessary
to reteach a thing its loveliness,
to put a hand on its brow
of the flower
and retell it in words and in touch
it is lovely
until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing;
as St. Francis
put his hand on the creased forehead
of the sow, and told her in words and in touch
blessings of earth on the sow, and the sow
began remembering all down her thick length,
from the earthen snout all the way
through the fodder and slops to the spiritual curl of
from the hard spininess spiked out from the spine
down through the great broken heart
to the blue milken dreaminess spurting and shuddering
from the fourteen teats into the fourteen mouths sucking
and blowing beneath them:
the long, perfect loveliness of sow.
Marty saw everyone he touched as a beautiful and whole work of art – regardless of their medically-diagnosed conditions or personal sense of imperfection, and his lessons showed us new and more expansive ways of being, of experiencing our own wholeness.
To hear the words he told us, about us and to be held in his healing hands was to be ‘reminded’ of our own perfect loveliness, to feel our own ‘self-blessing’, perhaps for the first time.
But it was his private sense of irreversible imperfection and its attendant anguish that fueled his genius and every aspect of his life’s work.
At the age of 6, Marty was diagnosed with a spinal tumor and admitted to Massachusetts General Hospital for a series of radiation treatments that would disintegrate his vertebrae in the region of the lesion, and require him to be in a full-body cast for six months, and on crutches for another year.
His parents lived across the city from the hospital and didn’t have a car. They had four children, all told, with another small child at home to care for, and jobs to do . . . And so Marty was left alone, sometimes for days and nights at a time, in a dreary ward (which was characteristic of large municipal hospitals in the 1940s), with only rare visits from the professional-but-impersonal medical staff – left alone with his extreme physical pain, and his absolute immobility, and an excruciating sense of his own imperfection.
This nightmarish experience was the seed of the bud that blossomed fully into Marty’s extraordinary healing talent, a talent that touched the lives of heads of state and industry, celebrities and star athletes, homeless persons and immigrant children with equal tenderness and love.
The demons of his early experiences never left him; rather, they remained as his ever-present teachers, and his private struggle with them continued to fuel his powerful healing talents, his art, and his philosophy of life until he made the decision to end his own.
Now, as I remember Marty and his core teachings, I see clearly the whole masterwork of impressionistic art that was his life.
We can neither appreciate it, nor understand it by stepping in close and focusing on any one moment, dark or bright, and it is not in anyway diminished because the last dab of paint applied to the canvas appears to us gray rather than robins-egg blue.
For us to see Marty’s last moment as a ‘senseless tragedy’, or his life as ‘imperfect’ or ‘distorted’ because of it, would be to miss the genius of his central teaching and the exquisite beauty and absolute perfection of the whole being that was, and is, Marty Weiner.
If you want to know more about Peggy you can find her at: The Center for Evolutionary Neuroscience. There are two pages on her website that I find particularly fascinating: Intentional Self Creation and The Mind is For Movement. Peggy is an accomplished researcher and author and wrote the book The Origin of Minds: Evolution, Uniqueness, and the New Science of the Self which you might find quite fascinating.