A woman of mystery died on February 9, 2009 at 9:50 PM at Sarah House in Santa Barbara. After a year spent looking into the abyss with unflagging courage, tirelessly working to ensure a safe refuge for her son, Tessa Pangle finally took the extended hands of her Mamaw and Papaw and went home. If we are to learn from the experience of others, then she was some teacher. In the last year of her life she overcame absurdly uneven odds and used every minute to take care of her children, to fall irrevocably in love, and by the amazed gratitude she had for the simplest kindnesses, teach everyone around her a definition of grace.
Because she was an intensely private person, there is no resume to be recited, or list of honors and awards to be recounted. But there are many things to be said about this brave and independent woman who ignored many reasons to cast herself as a victim, rather to choose a path lit by her delight at living in a world that brought her the surprise of love. Tessa was a woman who knew the value of a dog's good opinion and a stinker's bad opinion. She wanted to cook for the ones she loved, and wondered at those who made the choice to spend life unhappy. She spent too long estranged from her family and had the courage to reconcile with them before she left.
Tessa adored her children and had the fortitude to let them go away from her at the moment when she most wanted to hold them tight to her. She had steel in ways that all of us hope we do. And perhaps most important of all, Tessa had gratitude for the true love that came so late into her life, and which brought her into a family of whose love she was in awe.
In lieu of flowers, Tessa would have wanted donations made to Sarah House, where she spent the last weeks of her life enfolded in the wings of those practical angels, who did everything to keep her comfortable and safe, and to whom we are all indebted. In lieu of a memorial service, honor Tessa by living well. Hug the ones you love for no reason, eat Chicken In A Biskits and watch Food TV, make Valentines and actually send them, take your kids out of school and go pick apples, be the first one to make up after a fight, do nice things for strangers, reconcile with loved ones you've lost, fight for people and animals who are without advocates, eat something fabulous because life is short, and spend the time you have looking into the faces of those you love. Tessa would like that.
Tessa is survived by her daughter Angelina and her son Benjamin, and by Nick, the man who was the love of her life.