Linda’s Life Story
“…In truth, it is life that gives unto life…[we] are but witnesses.”
“Oh, I am so glad that you are taking the canoe out onto the water again.” I smiled as we lifted the craft from its nest of grasses—it was like Linda to express gratitude for this moment. Was it not she who was performing a favor by lending me the canoe? Yet her experiences have shown her that it is truly through giving that we receive. This seemingly unreachable ideal takes on a new immediacy when illuminated by the simple acts of a life consciously lived. Linda’s is such a life. Perhaps that is why she draws the threads of community around her like an agile spider. Her caring enables others to live and love more fully. But she has come to this place after a lifetime of seeking, learning, suffering, and loving…and she has lessons yet to learn. Each time she teaches a biography course for adults she discovers something new about herself.
Linda Bergh was born in a small town in Iowa and grew up in Illinois. Her parents gifted her with an avid interest in human consciousness and development. Her home environment was not always easy so Linda sought refuge in community service and work with children. She left home to attend college at the University of Wisconsin, Madison as the Civil Rights and Peace Movements were just beginning to alter the face of society. It was a time of discovery and transformation for Linda as she became exposed to exciting new ideas and experiences.
After receiving her Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, Linda moved to Berkeley. There she became involved in community projects at the campus YWCA. She arrived full of youthful idealism in the fall of 1967, the fall of the flower children. The scene in Berkeley was eye opening and at times overwhelming. There was much work to be done and Linda threw herself in with abandon. The war was becoming increasingly pressing. It was a time of demonstration and change as Linda found herself involved in the lives of many people struggling with the war. Though the issues were of tremendous importance, Linda wondered how one could engage in progressive social change without utilizing polarizing and divisive tactics.
Then came the gift of an illness. This seemingly unpleasant stimulus prompted a period of intense soul searching and inner development. It allowed Linda to step away from the stress and the hopelessness. She realized that she had been confronting extremely difficult issues without knowing how to digest them.
Linda began her exploration of inner worlds by seeking out different types of knowledge. She read and attended a variety of experiential classes focused on growth and self-development. During this time, a caring mentor helped to guide her ever closer to herself through the exploration of dreams and journaling. This person suggested that our engagement with the events of our life is of critical importance while the events themselves are less significant. That idea became a guiding principle for Linda.
Linda’s career has always brought her great joy. After obtaining a teaching degree, she worked with emotionally disturbed children and later trained teachers at St. Mary’s College in California.
In the realm of relationships, the path toward happiness was slower and more arduous. The fear of duplicating her parent’s relationship exerted a profound influence on her. After she was able to acknowledge and move through this fear, she met Paul. Both of them were at a point in their lives where they were ready to be honest and open in order to help one another. Their love blossomed and they were married.
At the time when Paul entered her life, Linda discovered the ideas of Rudolph Steiner, founder of the Waldorf Education model. She was excited by the fact that his work blended spirituality with education. Through her engagement with these ideas, the seemingly disparate facets of her life began to merge into a larger and more unified vision.
The arrival of daughter Kirsten into the lives of Linda and Paul was a cause for celebration. Linda had always wished for a family and she was ready to dive into a new adventure.
Soon Paul began to yearn for the wild lands of Minnesota. Linda thought that he was crazy. She had discovered the pull of the natural world in California where her hiking trips had led her to encounter a new part of herself. But Minnesota ? Well, love can take you to strange lands…and so they went. In their new home, they found a Waldorf School for Kirsten to attend. Lindabegan teaching kindergarten at the school. The Waldorf community became an important part of their lives, helping them to create an experience of exploration, wonder, and celebration for their daughter.
In 1995, Paul died of cardiac arrest. Linda had lost both of her parents shortly before his passing. Although Paul’s death was sudden and unexpected, he had been told at age 9 that he might die, as he had a hole in his heart. Both he and Linda had decided that the joy of living and loving together outweighed the risk of loss and pain. Still, Linda had not really faced up to the possibility of this event.
As Paul lay dying in the hospital, he was surrounded by family and friends who gathered to sing him across the threshold. For three days after his death, community members came to read, sing, or reflect with the body.
The following year, Kirsten and her dear friend Nina Dietzel both died in a car accident. Linda, who was a passenger in the car, was severely injured. Faced with a shattered body and the loss of her entire family, Linda drifted through sorrow and uncertainty. “At this moment, I have surrendered knowing who I am,” she wrote in a forward to the book Tapestries. And yet, she somehow found the strength to keep going. The community rallied around her, offering food, companionship, and love. Their kindness helped to keep her afloat through the pain.
Now she is able to offer her love and support to others who are suffering. Her previous soul work also guided her through this period. She reflected upon this in her piece for Tapestries: “The inner courage to face an unfathomable present comes from the strength and consciousness built through each stage of development. The on-going search for ‘Self’ is deepened by life’s challenges if we can open to it.” Now she frames her story not in terms of loss but in terms of gain. For she recognizes what a gift it was to have forged these bonds, to have shared in so much love and happiness. And she knows that she can remain connected even as her beloved ones journey on.
As Linda gained strength in her recovery, she began to teach again, this time working with adults seeking the soul movement their children found in Waldorf education. She has become one of the core teachers in the Twin Cities Novalis Institute which is dedicated to serving adults who wish to open to their inner striving within community. The institute also serves the local Waldorf community with foundation studies for teacher training.
Great love came again into Linda’s life when she met Jack. And that love splashed over into the lives of those near them. Even the insects, the flower, and the birds seemed to be celebrating the joyous event of their wedding. Linda knew that the risk of marrying someone who was nearer than she to completing life’s journey, would be outweighed by the joy, the laughter, the hardship, and the growth they would share. And it was. But it was still hard to loose Jack’s companionship when he died.
All lives are individual and unique and yet we can learn much from the paths that others have walked. Linda’s path reminds us that, through deepening our understanding and love of ourselves, we can approach the world more lovingly and honestly. Her journey suggests that the joy of diving into new adventures outweighs the risk of suffering. Through opening ourselves and becoming vulnerable, we allow others to connect with us. We can then create bonds of mutual caring and support. We can hold each other in times of grief and work together to create a healthier and more joyful world.
But understanding all these things on an intellectual level is not enough. I know this because it is still difficult for me to open myself to others, to love myself, to leap into new adventures trusting that all will be well. And that is why it so important for young people to have individuals like Linda in the community. Through watching people who have traveled life’s most difficult roads and emerged filled with love, we can internalize the lessons of their lives. And, when we see them fumble, we understand that everyone has their particular struggles. We know then that we are not alone and we dare to hope that we, too, will be filled with boundless love and joy.
Written by Bernadette Miller, age 24
Friend of Linda Bergh