Living for the Bigger Picture – a Tribute to Lizzie Kothe

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Greetings everyone. Sanbonani nonke. iSikhumbuziso sika Lizzie namhlanje.

What can we say about Lizzie? A larger than life person, a truly caring and serving lady. Always adding a glamorous and effusive sparkle to every occasion. Certainly we can learn from her life and use that wisdom to help us serve others better and live more happily. Into sifunde kuyena lokwasi ukusiza abanye abantu futhi ehlala ejabula.

Her Love of Children

Lizzie always took a great interest in everything and everyone around her. Particularly the children. She was always asking after them and offering her encouragement and support to their endeavours. She would provide insightful comments about the way they were living their lives and whether she felt they were embarking on good or not so good directions. She never held back with her praise for young people.

Her philosophy

Lizzie saw her philosophy friends as her spiritual family, her group and everyone in the world as her brothers and sisters. This outlook was particularly beautiful since no-one was excluded. In a true sisterly manner her positive guidance didn’t necessarily reinforce one’s ego and many of us were told off in a forth-right manner when we erred! Fortunately we had learnt, through philosophy, not to be put off when criticised and to get along with everyone even when some peoples actions did not appear to be in agreement with our views.

Lizzie epitomised an open-hearted view where all were part of her big family. She is a big family lady and this quality will stand her in good stead in all her future journeys. One cannot speak of Lizzie in the past-tense – all she is and was will be with her in her future journeys and her immortality will remain with us for-ever. She loved nothing more than a big grand occasion such as a dinner-party, wedding or the Christmas lunch she attended, with her family, the day before she died. She always noticed the food, décor, what people wore, how they conducted themselves and the atmosphere of the day. She never missed a trick!

When Mark Graham was dating Louise she approached him one day and asked of his intentions. Next thing she helped him organise an engagement ring at her favourite Durban jewellers and now Mark and Louise have three lovely daughters!

Lizzie loved her philosophy tutors. On residential courses she adored her overseas tutors, especially the men, who came all the way from Britain, Holland, the United States, Australia and New Zealand. Of course her favourite was Mr. Elias, from England, and we have received greetings from these wonderful people following her passing. She never held back with her loud and effusive (gushing!) compliments as they arrived to tutor us and her frank attentions often caused a wise, elderly, man to blush with self-conscious embarrassment.

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A Larger-than-life View

Lizzie was a larger than life figure in all she did. She always dressed to the nines in a different, colourful, yet tasteful outfit. Every detail was taken care of from shoes to head-scarf and a large flashy ring. Her clothes were one of her trademarks and they added to her effusive, welcoming and engaging manner.

Reliability and Stick-atted-ness

Lizzie attended her philosophy group every evening for the 35 years we knew her. I cannot recall her missing an evening unless there was a serious reason such as her being in hospital! Neither did she ever miss an evening when volunteering to serve tea and welcome early students on a separate night. Lizzie was also dedicated to her role of shopping for supplies for the school of philosophy which she managed for at least the past 25 years, buying groceries and supplies for the kitchen and bathrooms. She never moaned, well sometimes she did, but with good reason and we were often taken-aback by yet another useful and frank insight.

Lizzie took care of everyone. Tembinkosi Dlamini, who helps protect our cars at 240 West Street, became a firm friend of Lizzie and she made sure he was well fed and received his tea and supper even when the rest of us had forgotten. Siyabonga ukuthe ukhona namhlanje, uTembinkosi Dlamini.

Lizzie never missed the School of Philosophy residentials either. Never missing a weekend or the longer week-long retreats which she attended annually for the past thirty years – these were not always a walk-in-the-park and at times she was expected to share bathrooms and stay in dormitories which even people half her age would baulk at.

She was tough and never took her own personal comforts too seriously. Recently she laughingly told Liz that only last year, 2015, she mounted a horse and fell off the other side – perhaps some of you were with her? She often told Liz about her riding exploits as a youngster where she rode at the Royal Show – she laughed and said that one of the judges once remarked that she had a good seat!


When her beloved Dad became infirm she cared for him beautifully until the end of his life. She looked after him like a King and he adored her. She loved her little car and would bring him to visit us on our small-holding in Merrivale where he would also give us constant advice, Lizzie like, about how to manage our affairs.

Lizzie loved holding her own functions at the family house and we can all remember a luncheon or dinner party where her generous hospitality came to the fore.

A deeply Spiritual Life

The following extracts come from the recent December residential she attended where she studied the works of Marcilio Ficino. Ficino was the guiding intellect behind the European (Florentine) Renaissance and served the Medici family as the teacher and spiritual leader that supported that great transformation in Europe. When the African renaissance was much talked about by Thabo Mbekhi we were privileged to have Clement Salaman (a well-known renaissance scholar and member of the School of Philosophy) present the College Lecture at UKZN. His advice to all of us was to study the great teachings of Africa, such as Hermes Tries Magistus, from which the European Renaissance was drawn. Liz also had a great love of the work of Hermes.

And God said: “Put an end to your tears, my daughter, and do not torment yourself; it is no stranger who speaks to you but one who is your very own, more familiar to you than you are yourself. See I am here with you, both within and without, the greatest smallness and the greatest greatness.”

How full of life is that death by which I die in myself but live in God, by which I die to the dead but live for life, and live by life and rejoice in joy!

God, the unity of unities, brings me to myself, because he makes me live with himself.
My God has come to me; the God of the universe has embraced me. God himself nourishes me wholly, and he who created me recreates me. He who brought forth the soul, transforms it into angel, turns it into God. How shall I give thanks to you, O grace of graces?

Extracts from Marsilio Ficino: Vol. 1 Letter 4

Tributes to Lizzie continue to flow in:

From Geraldine, Lois and the Durban Ladies
Deepest sympathy
Those we love don’t go away
They walk beside us every day
Unseen, unheard, but always near
Still loved, still missed
And very dear.
From Irene Klopper
My dearest friend Lizzie
I will miss your happy friendly laugh at our meetings.
May you rest in peace.
Love you dearly.
Mrs. Klops (as you used to call me).
And from Conor Graaf

To Lolly, Jeanette and all who loved Lizzie: At the retreat in Durban from the 13-16 December Lizzie made many profound observations. I really felt that she had found the very grace she was always seeking!
From Jeannie Petersen
Godspeed Lizzie!
As in life, your passing was quick and decisive, leaving no grey areas.
You gave life your all. Your service, strength, warmth, enthusiasm and courage will not be forgotten. A great void seems to remain, though it cannot be so for death is only a change of state.
Our sincere condolences go to your nearest and dearest,

This is a message from Dr. Chris Dickens – the former leader of the School of Philosophy in KwaZulu-Natal. Chris is now living and working in Pretoria. He has asked me to extend his apologies for not being present today.
I knew Liz for some 32 years as a member of the School of Philosophy, and what an experience that has been! She was quite a lady, a true philosopher at heart, filled with enthusiasm to learn about life and to distinguish the real things from the transient.

Liz’s appearance was a pretty good reflection of her character – somewhat refined but with a tendency to be wild and exuberant! On any day upon entering the School building, if Liz was there, which she generally was, there would always be a sense of bubbly enthusiasm to the place that filled the entry halls. She would always exclaim with delight when any of us would appear in the door of the house, and would rush over for a hug peppered with all sorts of expressions of happiness that we were there.

When new students arrived, she was no less enthusiastic, greeting them with exuberance and in no time extracting from them their name and other details, I think often to their bemusement, but there was never any doubt that she made them feel very welcome. She was often at the centre of the serving of refreshments to all in the house, which she did with gusto although at times as much tea ended up in the saucer as did in the cup! But the spirit with which she did it was a testament to her spirit. Always caring, full of delight and energy, and when the chips were down and she was in full philosophical pursuit, then she was serous and perceptive.

Liz was a delight to have around, as a friend and as a member of the Philosophy School. Anybody would be proud of the things that she did, yes not very conventional, but she left her mark on this world which is a better place because of her.

I remember her with love and a warm heart. Her soul will have earned a good place where she goes to next, of that we can all be assured.

And finally from Peter Gardiner and the many other School of Philosophy friends in London.

Greetings to all from London on this celebration of a very special form of the Self – Liz Kothe – a real servant of the school and a wonderful friend.

Speaking to Liz on the day before Christmas Eve she was her perky self and the only clue, noticed at the time, but only realised in hindsight, that all was not well was a short memory lapse while she was talking. As in all our conversations she spoke of her love for the teaching and the school especially her beloved PMB school. She was inspired by Andrew Braithwaite’s inaugural speech at the recent residential and in typical Liz style committed 100% to the new leader. (Now that Chris is living in Pretoria Andrew will lead the School in KZN).

I know we will all miss the raucous welcome given openly to old and new members of the school and the great service that Liz delivered but as Sri Bhagawan stated “the Guru is not the body and contact with the Guru remains long after the body has gone” likewise we can expect “subtle service and support” from our servant Liz.

We will keep all of you in Mind during the celebration today.
Best wishes and love to all.