My new friend Mavis died yesterday. This is a picture of Mavis with my other new friend, Barbara, at January’s lunada. The lunadas are at Mavis/Barry’s house, Mavis being the mother of Barry, the head geezer in my geezer band, Harmony Roads. Barbara, the only other chick in the band and not really a geezer … yet … has known Mavis since Barbara moved to Costa Rica 39 years ago.
To me, Mavis is an inspiration, La Reina (lah ray-EE-nah, the queen) of Costa Rica’s expats. She’s lived here so long, it’s hard to think of her as an expat, an outsider. Particularly since, along with her son, Rick and her daughter-in-law Karen, she wrote The Ticos, Culture and Social Change in Costa Rica. Published in 1998, it is a fantastic resource. Even though it’s non-fiction, I actually thoroughly skimmed it. (The only books I read cover-to-cover these days are bodice-rippers. Sad, but true. Blame it on Jan.)
I met Mavis a few months ago at a book club meeting at her house. She was the one who read the poem about Carrots Fucking The Earth. I loved her immediately and decided to do whatever it took to hang out with her. I have a penchant for LOLs (little old ladies). Like Sandford, my Key West mom. Sandford and I had sushi every week for 17 years. She just celebrated another birthday and is well into her 80’s. Then there’s Jo, my other Key West LOL of many many years… The fact is some LOLs know some very useful stuff. Stuff you only learn by living a really, really long time.
Mavis, a prolific writer, had just started a writer’s group, planning to meet every two weeks at her house. There were five of us: Barbara, Mavis, Jo Stuart, Sandy and me. I’m not sure how I got in this group… I can’t even identify a subjective tense. Maybe they didn’t know that. But I do write, sometimes endlessly… that must qualify me. I secretly think Mavis felt about me like I did her: energía simpática. The few times we were together, we laughed a LOT. The first writer’s group meeting was a week ago last Tuesday. We each read something we’d written – I read This Ain’t No Workout-Time, a post that got us all laughing. They, on the other hand, read stuff that could actually get published… I was impressed.
Mavis looked a little peaked at the meeting. Two days later she was in bed and in CIMA two days after that. I visited Monday. Every breath was a struggle, I never expected she’d live through the night. But I underestimated her like we tend to do LOLs. Mavis’ family was getting to Costa Rica as fast as they could, the last arriving yesterday morning. She very generously decided to wait. As soon as they were all there, holding hands around her, she took her leave. Talk about living to the end. I aspire to this.
Sorry for your loss.
That’s sad, but she is really inspiring. I read her book a couple of years ago to get some insight into our prospective new home and found it to be quite interesting.
I was sad to hear that Mavis Biensanz has left us.
Costa Rica will be a little dimmer without her marvelous personage lighting up this corner of the world. It wasn’t very long at all after I became interested in Costa Rica thirty years ago that I began to hear the Biensanz name, and I have heard it ever since. I read “The Costarricans” and later “The Ticos”, when it came out.
She struck me as such a fascinating lady that I had always had hoped to meet her but it just never worked out.
Thank you for writing these remembrances of her today. I’m so sorry for your loss.
Why can’t all the good ones live forever?
I haven’t read Mavis’s works before, but I’ll seek them out now.
One of the best requests I’ve heard regarding funerals was from an elder friend of mine who requests balloons, not flowers, be brought to hers. Which is odd, because she always has fresh, exotic flowers in house. A new bouquet arrangement every week. Maybe she thinks she’ll have had enough of flowers by the time she passes, and would rather be surrounded by a bunch of hot air at her celebration of life.
If Mavis’s kin are of the ilk to appreciate a little eccentric memorializing, maybe you could bring balloons to her service.
At my friend Jim Scarborough’s remembrance gathering, after we hed all shared our stories about our friend, everyone went outside and was given a balloon. A final prayer was said and then we all let our balloon loose. We all stood quietly and watched as the balloons all soared higher and higher until we lost sight of them. It was more moving than I ever expected it would be. Several people commented what a nice closure it made for them.
I suggested doing this for my Mom’s remembrance service and it helped my sister who was having a difficult time with the loss.
Thank you for your kind wishes. The service was yesterday, I didn’t think of balloons!! But I’m sure this won’t be the last remembrance – she was very loved and respected. At next year’s gathering, balloons! She would love that. Here they put you in the ground/urn SO FAST, you don’t have time to blink, much less plan.
I read her book before coming down to Costa Rica. It was the most helpful and informative source I was able to find.
I would have loved to have known her.
Hi Sar…That she went peacefully and with family around her is a blessing. Mavis also wrote a more recent book titled, “A Year with Carmen,” dedicated to her grandaughter, Jana Mavis, also a writer; a collection of short stories and poems…reflecting her joy for life and endless sense of humor.
Generously, Mavis dedicated the profits of this book to be donated to the Womens CLub of Costa Rica Scholarship program…her legacy continues.
What a jewel…and inspiration, indeed.