Elisabeth Johanna van Gageldonk-van Dijl 1952 – 2021

Elisabeth had been a member of the Retreat Team for several years and will be known to many of you as a funny, compassionate and deeply spiritual person. She was deeply respected and well loved.

Music for Elisabeth – Camille

When I heard about a commemorative service I asked if I could play a gentle Chopin piano nocturne. It is the kind of music we need when expressing loss. I practised, and was getting pretty good, before I just knew this wasnt an Elisabeth thing at all. And this thought came……..Gradus ad Parnassus.

It is a Latin( Jesuitical) phrase representing continuing striving to get up the hundreds and thousands of steps(gradus) you need to attain the peak mountain (Parnassus), the place of the Gods and the Muses. And in 1906, Debussy wrote a piece, Doctor Gradus ad Pamassum for his Childrens Suite. Satirical. Silly fun.

In it , the pianist makes several efforts to run up the mountain, seeming pretty much to fall back to earth each time. After doing this gradus for a bit, the pianist becomes slightly anarchic, and does nothing but mooch and hop about crossly in the same place. Then has another try with similar outcomes. Then finally, after a bit of a rest, there’s a truly heroic assault at the peak and a triumphant arrival with a bump.

I’m not sure anyone hears this piece quite in that way(quite sure no half decent pianist would play it like me either) But gradus ad Pamassus is Elisabeth all the way.

Clever Elisabeth, ever imaginative,achieving against the odds, never defeated,incredibly funny. All lifes joys grasped in both hands, each setback just a bit of a blip. Warm and genrous. Always validating of others. Beautiful. Unforgettable.

Minnie will sing that psalm reminding us that laughter is also prayer. Jan and her tiny pandemic group witll bring more song.

And perhaps we could say goodbye with Georgia on my Mind, to celebrate New Orleans and the all embracing jazzy experience of knowing her.