for lucia, still and always

September 26th, 2017

Many years ago, when I thought my life had just about ended, that my heart had died, and I would never be happy again, I wandered into a little shop and garden on Virginia Street in Houston. There, I met a woman who taught me things. She taught me that flowers are spirits and that stones are medicine; that herbs are wisdom, food is fortune, and friends are gold. She showed me that books are pictures and pictures are books; that music is alive. That the lines in your palm are your map, and the symbols on a card tell your story. Her garden was a place of hope and healing. It seemed as though just about everyone in the city had passed through her gate during a dark and halting time in their life and found a reason to believe.

She had once wanted to be a nun, or so I recall, but the cloister had been too confining. Instead, she made the world her sanctuary and gave everyone in it a home. She gave me a room above her garage to practice meditation when I was just starting to do it and needed a circle of friends to keep me going. She said it would help her to have the space filled with silence once a week on Sunday mornings, and that breath was the voice of God.

She and her husband, Michael, were master gardeners. Now I know what that means. It means she bowed to the earth and revered the fruits it bore. She knew that thyme is courage, sage is immortality, and rosemary is remembrance. I asked her to arrange herbs as flowers at my wedding banquet, a kind of secret blessing just between us.

There is not one thing that I ever did that she did not applaud. She sold my books. She sang my praise. I last saw her three years ago on a visit to speak at the Rothko Chapel in Houston. She and her husband, older and more frail than before, lingered back, not wanting to take my time, she to whom I owed every day since the first day I entered her door on Virginia Street.

She has been ill. She has been quiet. She has been still and always on my mind.

She is peace.

Lucia Ferrara Bettler
September 17, 1948 – September 22, 2017


  1. A beautiful tribute. What a remarkable imprint she left on this world. May she rest in peace.

    Comment by Amy — September 26, 2017 @ 5:23 am

  2. So beautiful. And sad. And beautiful. Such a tribute to Lucia’s life and what she meant to you & to the world. Thank you for sharing. xo

    Comment by Pauline — September 26, 2017 @ 5:28 am

  3. beautiful remembrance, Maezen. Thank you for telling us about her and about what she meant to you.

    Comment by Julie — September 26, 2017 @ 6:13 am

  4. I wish I had known her. Peace to your friend.

    Comment by todd — September 26, 2017 @ 6:51 am

  5. So beautiful. May her memory be Eternal.

    Comment by Marcea — September 26, 2017 @ 7:01 am

  6. How very beautiful. Love, light, and blessings. To her. To you.

    Comment by Diamond — September 26, 2017 @ 7:04 am

  7. Our heads know things come and go. But our hearts, our hearts, to them coming and going are both a surprise again and again. Khalil Gibran was right when he said that joy and sadness are two sides of the same coin.
    I’m very sorry for your loss.

    Comment by Simone — September 26, 2017 @ 8:57 am

  8. A lovely tribute to a lovely woman.

    Comment by Leslie — September 26, 2017 @ 9:17 am

  9. What a lovely tribute!

    Comment by Laura Stuart — September 26, 2017 @ 12:41 pm

  10. Thank you for your beautiful words?

    Comment by Judy Webb-Martin — September 26, 2017 @ 12:54 pm

  11. This slice of history fills me with laughter and tears ~ warmth and comfort. Something so good … thank you, Karen. <3

    Comment by mary petro — September 26, 2017 @ 9:14 pm

  12. Your garden is a place of hope and healing too. What a remarkable legacy. Sending you love, lots of it!

    Comment by Ben Ming — September 26, 2017 @ 10:42 pm

  13. Honored to hear the story.

    Comment by Bonnie Rae — September 27, 2017 @ 3:42 am

  14. I’m so sorry for your loss, but also my heart is full for all you have gained in knowing her. I am profoundly encouraged by her example, and by yours. Much love.

    Comment by Arlyn — September 27, 2017 @ 6:38 am

  15. A bow, a bell. Thank you for this beautiful tribute to a woman who meant so much to you. Ripples out, touching us all.

    Comment by Katharine Weinmann — September 27, 2017 @ 7:33 am

  16. And here I sit and cry for two people I have not met. This touched me so very much. Such beautiful words.. for a beautiful life. Love and hugs to you. xo

    Comment by Jen — September 27, 2017 @ 9:52 am

  17. /\

    Comment by NATHAN HAYES — September 27, 2017 @ 1:27 pm

  18. I am so sorry for your loss. She lives on through your beautiful words and continues to touch more souls.

    Comment by Christina — September 27, 2017 @ 7:01 pm

  19. I feel I just walked with you in her garden. Be well, dear friend!

    Comment by Chris Bertrand — September 28, 2017 @ 2:39 am

  20. Maezen, I’m so sorry for your loss…

    But that said, I’m also so incredibly grateful for the joy and profound wisdom that she shared with you. That amazing gift lives on in the beautiful words that you wrote here, and all the others that flow from you as the same gifts to all of us. I feel like I can imagine just how proud she was of you, of knowing you, and of loving you…hence the universe.

    Hugs to you, my friend.

    Comment by Jean Breheney — September 28, 2017 @ 3:10 pm

  21. Thank you all for your kind condolences. Please know that I truly feel no loss and no end. In gassho, Maezen

    Comment by Karen Maezen Miller — September 28, 2017 @ 3:22 pm

  22. I met Lucia and Michael in Houston at the Unn of St Thomas in 1970. This was before they were married and I might even be given some credit for them getting together. But that is a long, silly story. Anyway I didn’t know that Lucia had passed and don’t know if Michael has, not having seen them in over 40 years. Thanks for this beautifully written piece about a beautiful person.

    Comment by charlie hopkins — May 28, 2018 @ 4:24 pm

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