Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remembering Steve Imhof


I just found out yesterday morning that Steve Imhof died Jan 8 of a massive heart attack. Today's blog will be a eulogy for my friend—too soon gone.

I first met Steve in 1980, when he and his then-wife Joy were living near Canton MO (only about 45 miles from Sandhill Farm) and were available as a midwife team. Ann and I wanted a home birth for the child we were expecting, they were the closest midwives willing to work with us (which was no small thing at the time—midwifery was was not legalized in Missouri until 2007). They worked with us on prenatal visits, and then Steve assisted when our son, Ceilee, was born in our bedroom on a cold, sunny morning, January 27, 1981. It was the first birth at which Steve was the primary attendant—noteworthy for a profession that's overwhelmingly filled by women.
While we were wholly satisfied with our birth experience, Steve & Joy were fundamental Christians, and there was tension about our divergence spiritual views. While it may seem strange that we'd select midwives that held such views, there were not a lot of choices. 

Missouri is an odd state in which the combination of: a) inexpensive land; b) minimal rural zoning; and c) permissive laws around homeschooling have resulted in encouraging both the religious right and the liberal left to try their hand at homesteading in the Show Me State. Both segments are interested in exploring alternate lifestyles based on values that are not popular in the mainstream and desire minimal regulatory interference. That said, while both tend to share a passion for large gardens, home births, and parental involvement in the education of their children, the political outlook of these two segments could hardly be more different—which led to some odd moments of solidarity among people you might expect wouldn't talk to each other.

I recall an awkward moment during a routine postpartum check-up when Steve spoke enthusiastically about abortion protests and I couldn't (or at least didn't) resist inserting my view that abortion is a personal matter to be decided by a pregnant woman—who should have full authority over her own body—and I didn't see it as morally wrong. I'd lost track of Steve shortly after this tense exchange. Steve & Joy moved out of the area and we found different midwives for subsequent Sandhill births.

Then, out of the blue, Steve resurfaced 27 years later. After reaching disillusionment with the narrow-mindedness and judgmentalism of his church—and a difficult separation from Joy—he remembered Ceilee's birth and his brief contact with intentional community back in 1987, and was curious about what that kind of lifestyle might lead to. Amazingly, he was able to track me down through FIC's Communities Directory. (The internet moves in mysterious ways.)

For 38 years Steve had been a minister of an evangelical Christian organization. Then he got religion… about how people can connect with the divine in many more ways than are defined by a single articulation. This latter day ecumenical Steve was scarred, but not scared. He was also much more curious and much more interesting. He was no less dedicated to being a helpful person, but, somewhere in the vicinity of his 60th birthday, he started asking a lot more questions. There is something totally awe-inspiring to me about encountering people north of 60 whose souls blossom instead of shrivel—and Steve was such a person.

Six years ago, after we'd reconnected, I told him that I'd be in Atlanta for a facilitation training and he drove 300 miles for the chance at a brief conversation with me. Intrigued by the training, he decided to sit in and became hooked. Ultimately, he attended each of the eight weekends (most of which took place in North Carolina, which meant eight hours of driving each way) and then starting applying what he learned. First with with the volunteer fire department back in Panama City, and later with Occupy Panama City.

Two days before his heart gave out, Steve had been in communication with Ma'ikwe and me about driving his motor home up to Rutledge this summer to participate in Round Two of the 37-day immersion Ecovillage Education US course.

While I reckon we'll still be able to draw on Steve's supportive spirit this July, now, sadly, we'll have to do it without his corporeal presence. So long, buddy.

1 comment:

Lily Truong said...

I'm so shocked and sad to learn about the news of his passing right after I found Steve's Florida Coastal Integral Community project. I was so excited about that potential community, especially it was said to built on Integral framework. Does anyone know how far along the project is and if you could point me to any one whom I could inquire more information on that project?