Fred Lanphear was on the IONS NW planning team. He is sadly missed. It has been almost 3 years since, when close to the age of 70, he was diagnosed with a horrible affliction, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (ALS). At that time, Fred’s community and his extended community, made the altruistic decision to manage his care to learn how to accommodate and care compassionately for the needs of the elderly and disabled within intentional community.
With their help, progressively, Fred became a bodhi satva as he worked at surrendering to the increasing limitations of a failing physicality at the hands of a dreadful disease. His wife, family and community were transformed into saints of compassion. And amazingly, Fred actually authored a book incorporating the wisdom of a life of community building. The last chapter of a book written by a community, is soon to be completed, following his passing last week. The book will be published.
Fred was always humble, even with the incredible achievements he made, which were born of causes of the heart wrapped by a creativity that flowed around consciousness raising, social justice and his love of the earth. With his wife, Nancy, he was a founder of the Songaia Co-Housing community in Bothell, 20 years ago, and the NW Intentional Communities movement. His extended community encompassed over 17 families over 4 generations living in community. Years of tireless dedication to community building worldwide, he touched many lives, mentoring hundreds in leadership from the quiet sidelines.
Fred was a major contributor to the global intentional communities movement. He hardly ever mentioned the sacred gardens he recently sculpted for an intentional community in Mexico, or the village development project in Chikhale, India that he worked in with other ICA staff, both nationals and extra-nationals, or how he silently helped us launch Pachamama’s Awakening the Dreamer in the NW and across the world, and even how he nurtured intentional community building with those beloveds of the Seattle consciousness community, many who have since passed on. His list of silent community achievements, including writing for a magazine, goes on and on, but you would never know it as his most formidable quality was present listening.
On Friday evening, I went to Fred’s vigil. I was welcomed warmly by his wife, Nancy, herself a steadfast community matriarch, and cradled by his family and loving community. It was bittersweet as I experienced the joy of this community which had bonded around Fred. Selfless and wise always with the community’s needs at heart, even to the end, Fred had encouraged members to join joyously in song at his passing knowing that it would help them transcend their grief.
A selfless last wish lifted family and community members into a field of oneness. The room in his house, where his lifeless body lay in silent wake, was a temple of playful song. Fred was adorned by a quilt patched with symbolic icons of his life and large flowers strewn over him, an unlit candle on his chest, and a soft look of light on a translucent face, with his grandchildren holding his limp and cold hands, clearly nurtured in the bardo (transitional state). I was whisked into a circle embraced around his bed and lifted with delightful songs and playful jokes. I noticed how lying motionless and lifeless, he was voiceless to his incredible legacy, yet he had become a living mandala for the consciousness of his community.
I thought how wise this mutual decision of care had been, even to writing a book. And I remembered how ironically, on his seventy birthday, Fred made a mandala of his life. He shared it in a circle with a few us who were exploring how to share our life stories intimately. Reflecting on his life over 7 decades, through 3 focal points of professional work, spiritual work, and community work helped Fred discover his intention for the future; he delightedly turned a corner toward claiming himself as an Earth elder for what he imagined might be the last or second to last decade of his life.
Sadly a few days later he was diagnosed with this diminishing disease, and given 1-3 years to live. Turning the corner again with courage, Fred made a fearless decision, to teach his community and other intentional communities how to care for a member who was terminally ill. It was hard and painful for him, resisting feeling a burden as he slowly became emprisoned to paralysis. Yet his committed intent to care for his community by helping them care for him lifted everyone.
For me, this was the deepest gift anyone could give. The cocoon like memorial, coming from a bonding so profound and welcoming among the community members, left me speechless and so full of appreciation. I had learned so much from Fred and his wife Nancy, both masters at community development. The humble gratitude mixed with a sense of great loss that I shared with the Songaia Co-Housing community around our farewells reminded me how all the compassionate seeds that Fred silently planted from India to the Northwest, have grown exponentially. These many astounding gifts to humanity of Fred’s are mostly invisible. With a life dedicated to relationship building he always put others first to hold the glory. He leaves a legacy of compassionate good work worldwide that is huge and glorious.
His wife Nancy, who is awesome and amazing with her tender and unending giving says, “What an amazing life she has lived with this man!” But then she is equally amazing, coming from her own silent sidelines and sweet compassion. Many blessings to Fred Lanphear and his great big family. Fred lives on though he is missed in so many hearts!