Friday, April 18, 2014

Tal Streeter : August 1, 1934 - April 17, 2014 .

Tal's body left this world yesterday afternoon, at 1:45 pm , April 17th 2014.  He had passed the previous night with the Dream of Flight Family visiting.  I saw no further evidence of stroke. His right side was not paralyzed and he recognized each of us as his eyes fluttered open on hearing a new voice. He spoke only a few words in the four days . He tickled my arm when I helped aides move him. He seemed not so much in pain, as in a deep sleep or perhaps deep concentration. His breathing was even but it stopped every five or six breaths for what seemed like forever. 25 seconds of apnea and then he would start again.

Romig and I slept beside him that night and the next morning we stayed gathered 'round him taking turns sitting beside him. He had visits from many of his friends.  Gerry came and his eyes fluttered open as we listened together to Chopin and a quartet of  Robert Schumann  with Pablo Casals and Rudolph Serkin on the piano.

Romig and I started to sing songs that we loved, listening to a bit of Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley and Randy Newman. We read from the Philosopher's Kite and started telling him the story of Little Talkite.

How we walked out line and with a tug, launched Little Talkite, Romig and I . We started letting out kiteline as he started to pull to go higher and higher. We described the creatures he would see up there : a bumblebee, a dragonfly, clouds and a moon . A small white butterfly came and sat alight on his right shoulder. We described how the clouds would come buoy him up, so light was he...he found thermals and started to climb even higher. He was so far up, we told him he appeared to us as a tiny dot. We let out more line. I told him that I had a pair of scissors in my pocket . When he was ready, I said I would cut the line and release him. He said the words "higher and higher"...and he seemed to just float up there for awhile.

Ellen Ambujam Verkerke, his massage therapist,  someone he trusted so much, came. She shown a small light on his chest and he visibly calmed even more. She offered council to mom and I, that perhaps we shouldn't try and stimulate him too much more. that it was difficult for someone to allow themselves to go. She left.

Then Virginia Gilstrap, his hospice nurse came in. She listened carefully to his breathing.and took us aside for a few moments and described how the process would look. Not five minutes later, I saw his eyes open as if startled, we went back to him and held his right hand, mom and I and sat quietly beside him as he took his last breaths. He clenched my hand tight and pulled it up towards his chest and then...was no more.

I cry as I write this now, but at the moment I felt a great well of release. We all did I think. He had great peace on his face.

David and Gerri (Tal called her "Gigi") came back in and Virginia helped us the four of us wash his body and dress him in simple white shirt and pants. Gerry put a black jet bead necklace with one red bead on him that she had made and was precious to him. We put two paper airplanes his godson Tiger made for him in either hand. One was the "Swallow " that Toki -san had taught Tiger to make, carefully curling the wings like one curls a mustache. Fiona put a packet of licorice tea in his sock. Mom put a ring on his left hand that his friend Chimney Butte made him.

His aides and more of his friends came to see him...and we sat around telling Tal stories. Where and how we had met, his flight on Tom Odai's small plane when they flew him down from Manhattan, Kansas to Santa Fe almost four years ago this coming August,  We wished all of his friends could have come and joined us for what was a really happy moment.

We will certainly be holding a memorial service for Pop in the coming months to coincide with the opening of the Dream of Flight Museum and Library. I will let everyone know well in advance so that you may all join us, in celebrating this life and ongoing legacy that Tal leaves us with.

Look Up! You will see him up there flying very very high!

Tal's Dream of Flight Family

Santa Fe, New Mexico April 18, 2014


  1. Lissa & Romig, I'm so sad and have been since hearing of Tal's passing yesterday from David. I've passed on the information to people who needed to know and were close with Tal or respected and admired him. Let me know if you'd like to hear from them through your email addresses. A lot of people want to express their condolences.

    And, Lissa.. thank you so much for putting this butterfly blog online. It has been a way for all of us to keep up with Tal's days and hear of the news. Thank you also for mentioning us in your post about starting this blog. We're all hoping that it will continue with the Dream of Flight Museum and Library as a forum for all of the Friends of the Sky to connect with their lines and thoughts.

    We'll be doing a kite fly on the beach in Santa Monica next weekend. For us it will be in honor of Tal. We'll fly a special kite for him.... higher and higher!

    Best winds! George Peters and Melanie Walker

  2. Oh Romig, there is so much I want to say to you, yet none of the words seem adequate. Please know that I am thinking of you, and will find a way to see you soon.

    Lissa, someone told me once that the most important thing you will ever do in this life is pick your parents. You hit that one out of the park!

    Sending all my love, good thoughts and wishes on the warm breezes~

    Meg Albers

  3. Dear Lissa, So sorry to hear of your father's passing and thinking of you and your mother at this time. Sounds as though he will be happy to be released from the bonds that gravity put on us all. Please stay in contact - we miss hearing from you. Sue and Richard Stevens, Witney, UK

  4. Thank you for your beautiful account of Tal's last hours. Murray and I somehow always think of Tal in connection with flight--not just because of the adventures we had at Storm King amid all those kite-flyers, but because his imagination was always flying. He was the king of armchair adventurers as well as an on-foot traveler in other cultures. Listening to him talk was itself an adventure.

    We remember the wonderful party you gave in Verbank in 2002, when I was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship. To make that celebration of family and well-loved friends an occasion, I remember that Tal sent up some kind of small hot-air balloon (no one has been able to remind me exactly what it was). There was an apparatus and a fire and a lot of calculation. Then slowly the object rose and rose and drifted away and out of sight. Murray and I had never seen anything like it.

    On that day, Tal gave me a picture he had created of twelve, slim, beautiful kites--rectangles set in a little army of two rows. We hung it in our house in Massachusetts, without realizing that a bit of sunlight would have an effect on it. After a while, the parts of the kites that had been black turned emerald green! I hoped Tal wouldn't be angry with me for my carelessness and the possible damage to his work. I needn't have worried; he was amazed that the change had occurred and delighted by it,

    That artwork is now well-shaded in our New York apartment; you see it in front of you when you come in the door, but have to stoop a bit to read his lovely inscription. One of the pictured kites bears what looks like a small part of Tal's Endless Column, that lofty red sculpture that graces Storm King. Several times I've stood beside the actual piece and thought it would be a good thing for angels to climb (if their wings needed a little rest before they launched themselves heavenward). Monkeys might slide off. I think of it as a ladder for Tal's spirit to climb before. . .what else?. . .taking off in yet another playful flight.

    Deborah Jowitt |

  5. Lissa,
    All my love to you and Mom. Sweet dreams of and for your dad.
    Please let me know if you got the long e-mail I sent days ago? I felt like sharing my thoughts privately and didn't know how on this blog.
    xx shari