Letter from Elizabeth Flanagan to the Segals
Dear YoYo and Jim,
I feel terrible that it has taken me this long to write. It certainly is not because I haven't been thinking about you or missing Anton. Somehow, I feel that not writing allows me to hold onto Anton -- and I am just not ready to say goodbye. However, as his memorial draws closer (and as I see his web site filling up with letters and pictures), I realize that I must put something down on paper. I fear that I will never be able to articulate how precious Anton was and how important he was to me. I remember when I was in Costa Rica Anton said he didn't like to write letters because they were so 'final.' I am now struggling with that same feeling.
Anton is such an integral part of who I am today. His ability to know me, love me, believe in me, and support me was such a wonderful gift. His love and acceptance of me gave me the strength and courage to love myself for who I am -- and for this he has indelibly touched my life. I remember when he was leaving for Japan we were talking on the phone. We were sharing things we loved about each other. I remember I said that I loved it that he didn't care if I shaved my legs or not. He thought this was odd. Unfortunately, I was not better able to articulate what I really meant, which was that I loved it that he loved me for who I was, for what was on the inside -- and didn't care about unimportant external things. I always have, and I always will, carry Anton in my heart and feel his love and support.
After spending the day with the two of you in Houston, it became clear to me how Anton became the person he was. You two are so incredibly loving, caring, giving and supportive -- it is no wonder your son was just as extraordinary as the two of you and an outgrowth of your love. The apple did not fall far from the tree! I hope you know how amazing your son was, and just how much he was loved. I also hope you can appreciate just how deeply he touched the lives of so many people -- I am certain he touched more people in his 28 years than most do in a lifetime. I feel blessed to have known him and thankful to you two for raising such an influential and inspiring person. He gave of himself so freely and without fear - it is a tribute to how you two raised him. One thing I want you both to know (something I take solace in knowing), is that Anton knew he was special. I remember one time I asked him if he was the favorite grandchild of any of his grandparents. I can't remember exactly how the conversation went except that he said he had always known he was special. I find comfort in knowing that he knew he was loved, blessed, and cherished.
Although I feel I have not, and could never, do Anton justice in a letter, I will stop trying and instead retell an 'Anton story.' Probably my favorite one is from our senior year in Winthrop House. It was common for a group of people to sit around after dinner and tell stories, make each other laugh, etc. One night, our friend Ali told a story about how her father cooked a huge vat of chili and how her two Labrador Retrievers somehow managed to get it off the stove and gobble it all up. (The dogs proceeded to get sick from eating too much and threw up the chili. Ali walked in just at this moment, and didn't have time to clean up the mess. When she returned later that day, the dogs (being dogs) had eaten the chili again and were again laying around moaning from eating too much. A few weeks later, Anton didn't remember where he had heard the story about the two Labs and piped up that he had a story to tell about two Labradors and a vat of chili. It wasn't until about halfway through Anton's retelling that we realized it was the same story Ali had already told us. Anton had mangled the story so badly that it was barely recognizable. And, the most amusing part is that he said "the mom was pregnant so the father was cooking." This was not part of the original story. Rather, he had just made that part up in his mind, presumably to justify why the mother was not cooking. And, Harvard being the PC place that it is, we were all in hysterics.
I would love to speak with you both. I know the past few months have been challenging/painful and I want to be respectful of your space and needs. If and when you feel up to it, please call or email me. It would mean a lot to me to reminisce with you and keep in touch with you. I had always hoped you two would stay in my life, although I never imagined it would be this way.
Elizabeth (Betsy) Flanagan