With great sadness, we share that our friend, the great storyteller and Parabola’s Epicycle Editor Diane Wolkstein passed away early yesterday morning in Taiwan of a heart attack. She was not conscious but she was not alone. Buddhist prayers were recited, and a rabbi came to say kaddish.
Her death is a great loss to her family and her many friends. She has been a warm and constant support at Parabola as we seek to open to and serve the broader world. Her last story, “Opening the Gates,” in the Spring 2013 issue, grew out of a conversation Diane and I had about the need to help people remember their potential for generosity—for dancing with and contributing to life.
The story (which we will soon be posting on the Parabola website) is a tribute to one of her greatest teachers, Shlomo Carlebach, who told the story often. She included a postscript that repeated a message that was very dear to Diane–and especially important now to Parabola and to the world: “I studied Torah with him. After each person contributed, Shlomo would praise him or her, ‘Sister, you’re the best!’ or, ‘Brother, you’re the highest!’ Sometimes peoples’ comments made no sense or seemed to be completely unrelated to the discussion, and I would wonder why Shlomo showed as much respect to those with little to offer compared to those who were much smarter. It took me years to understand. Shlomo saw the goodness and spirit in all beings. He continues to open the gates and inspire all those who would join him.”
Diane Wolkstein opened gates. Her life overflowed with joy, intensity, friendship, love, and spirit. Having seen the joyous, playful way she performed parts of the Chinese comic classic Monkey King, in which the mischievous Monkey King storms heaven, we can’t help but think of her as gleeful now, as she is carried to heaven by angels.
One cold night last autumn, Diane came to see me at a little Parabola event at the late, lamented Orchard House Café in Manhattan. Her Diane’s presence was so warm, I didn’t mind that no one seemed to be showing up. When the time came, she told me to stand up and tell my story, never mind what was happening outside. Afterwards, she reminded me of her great teacher Shlomo, eager to commend me for staying connected to myself—reminding me that all of us can be vehicles for what is highest and best.
She will be missed.