Lisa Heyman & Kvelling with Friends

I hung up the phone with my friend Pam. She said that Kelly had just called her to tell her horrible news about Lisa. She died. At 47. Leaving behind Larry, Roxy and Fire. Pam had sent me an email on 2/17 saying that Lisa had been just diagnosed with Amyloidosis, a blood-borne disorder that could be very serious. The email sounded guarded but hopeful, as the family was exploring treatment options. I asked Ron about it, and he sounded less hopeful. But he added that he could be wrong, not being the most up-to-date on medications that could be available now.

And yet, 8 days later, at 12:30 p.m., she’s gone.

I had told Alyssa that Lisa was sick. And when she overheard me talking to Pam on the phone, she realized that the worst had happened. After a lot of tears, we talked about our memories of Lisa, Roxy and Ruby.


We first met they Heyman/Gauchman family at the Live and Learn conference in St. Louis. Roxy and Alyssa became friends right away.  Alyssa couldn’t remember exactly how they met, but she remembered them spending a lot of time riding the elevators. And Lisa rode with them. Chatting & laughing. No indication that they should stop. The girls roamed the halls together during that conference. I hadn’t met Lisa and Larry until that Saturday night. We were all at the Museum downtown. It was a FABULOUS museum. Pam and I joined Larry and Lisa at a table. We really enjoyed talking with them. As we were talking, Lisa and I realized that we were each the mother of our daughters’ new best friend at the conference. That was a wonderful surprise.

So, after that conference, the girls emailed each other. Lisa and I wrote to each other a few times – primarily to help the girls stay connected. Unfortunately, they weren’t going to be able to make it to Albuquerque for the next conference. Alyssa was bummed to not have Roxy there. She received a BEAUTIFULLY hand-decorated invitation to Roxy’s Bat-Mitzvah and I really wished we could have gone. We were living in Wichita Falls at the time, and New York seemed so very far away.

Roxy and Alyssa were excited to hear that they’d both go to the Live and Learn conference in North Carolina in 2007. Both were interested in cheerleading, so Roxy asked Alyssa to be her assistant with her conference Fun Shop. Pam & Rosie picked up Alyssa and me at the Charlotte airport. Alyssa and Roxy were back and forth a few times on the cell phone, anticipating their reunion. Lisa’s family had arrived a day earlier and Roxie and Alyssa were eager to talk cheerleading.

It was so wonderful to see and talk with Lisa there. She was so excited to give her talks. We talked about the girls doing the cheerleading funshop. She and Larry told me how proud they were of Roxy doing a cheerleading camp out of their home in the summer. They told me how she managed the money, the kids, the parents – all of it! We talked about how unnecessary textbooks were to living a real life. We talked a little about our support groups, her rabbi and how she tried to make all this unschooling make sense to him.

Alyssa also had a connection to Fire. Live and Learn offers Fairy Godparents to anyone who would like one. And Alyssa drew Fire’s name. Alyssa went to the cabin to secretly plant a note. Lisa smiled and helped her lay it out on her clothes, so she’d find it right away. Even though Fire figured it out eventually, Alyssa tried to keep it a secret and got her a bracelet and a necklace. It was fun when Alyssa “owned up” to the fact that she really was Fire’s Fairy Godmother.

And, with one more interesting connection, on the last day, Lisa told Alyssa that she was Alyssa’s Fairy Godmother. Earlier, I had mentioned to her that Alyssa hadn’t received anything from her Fairy Godmother. I really doubt that she actually was, but she didn’t want Alyssa to feel forgotten. Lisa was just that way.

I didn’t realize until now that Alyssa had been to Lisa’s talks. Roxy didn’t want to miss her mom’s talks, so the girls asked some other girls to run a portion of their Cheerleading Funshop. This way they could go together to hear her. And, to be totally honest, I was a little jealous. Roxy ADORED being with her mother. And, it was absolutely mutual between the two of them. It really was wonderful to witness their relationship. It’s been an ongoing reminder to me, as a mother of 3 teens. Lisa was, and is, an inspiration.

Alyssa asked me if Roxy knew her mom was sick then, because she cried throughout the talk. I told her there was no way she could have known. She was probably just so incredibly proud of her mom and what she had to say – all of it glowing about Roxy and Fire. After 12 years of homeschooling/unschooling, I didn’t attend the conference presentation. I regret that now. Alyssa said that what she remembered most about the topic was how important Lisa felt TIME was. Spending time with the girls was paramount – more important than anything else. What a wonderful remembrance that will be for the girls. To know how important they were to their mother. To not just know, but hear it announced for all to hear. I’m sure those tapes will someday be a great comfort to them.

As Pam and I were about to leave the conference. Lisa pulled a few of us aside. She wanted to share something about Roxy that we had to swear to secrecy – she called it Kvelling. I didn’t have a clue what she was talking about. Paula Sjogerman was with us and she tried to help us understand a little more. They tried to help us pronounce it. They tried to help us understand it. Kvelling, loosely translated means rejoicing in your children’s accomplishments… in a good loving way. It’s Yiddish for gushing, and swelling, and delighted. Kvelling. What a wonderful word. THAT should be a conference in itself…a bunch of happy unschooling parents kvelling. ahhh…. THAT would be a wonderful Lisa-Legacy.

Lisa’s passing reminds us again how important “time” with those we love is… how short it can be. Time. It really is all that matters. And an occasional Kvelling among friends.


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