His body physique was strong, fearless, and yet his blond hair and blue eyes made him gentle and once you got to know him, one of the kindest souls you’d ever want to meet or know. He did not have any filter, talked incessantly and would get so fixated on whatever he had to say that sometimes you had to focus on something else just to keep sane, nod occasionally to give courteous attention to his voice, then smile, but often it was hard to even engage because he did not come up for air in his own conversation, but he was easy to love anyway.
His generosity was astounding. If it was snowing out and he was driving by and saw you shoveling snow, he would pull over with his car, take a shovel out of his trunk (because everyone keeps a snow shovel in their car trunk, right), and start shoveling with you and crack a bunch of jokes in the process. Before you knew it, the walkway and driveway were cleared and what may have seemed like a mountainous winter task at first, just miraculously, flew by when his help was offered. Actually, come to think of it, before you even had a chance to decline any offer, he already was helping. He was just that way.
I’d often invite him for dinner on a Wednesday mid-weeknight treat and I’d make sure to cook extra food and have an extra meal for him to eat the next day for lunch or dinner. He lived alone, never married; never appeared to be interested in sharing his life with anyone special; never wanted to cohabitate with anyone; never spoke of entertaining friends in his home; never boasted about what he owned or bought or what he was going to buy. He was content with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich which he basically lived on. He was a Hindu believer and lived a very humble existence, very much a minimalist.
I never really knew how he lived until he unfortunately had a flood in his basement from a severe rainstorm that lasted 3 full days and the Saw Mill River had risen to the residential street level foundation of homes aligned by the parkway. It took several nights to get the water out and conveniently, every one of whom he spoke so highly of, didn’t seem to be around to help even though he always was there to lend a helping hand to everyone else.
He complimented you often and always said “Thank You” several days and weeks later even for the very smallest acts of your own kindness in return. Stephen Radomski, of Polish descent, passed away of a long battle with colon cancer on March 4, 2004. Although the disease eventually robbed him of his strong physique and dynamic smile, each time I saw him, I said “hello handsome” because he truly was and his spirit shined even into the last days of his life.
One of his dying wishes was to have my husband, also named Stephen, and I, go somewhere on vacation but it had to be exotic and somewhere that we had not ever travelled before. In his will, he gifted to us this vacation request and after about a year’s research and planning, we decided on Bali, Indonesia as the destination.
Stephen would often play his guitar, self-taught and jam along with what is also called “band in a box” after those Wednesday night meals at my house, and he would set the box to a snare drum and then add echoes with chants.
He did whatever made him happy and his smile would light up a room. He had an ideal inner belief system of “Happiness” so it was most appropriate that once arriving in Bali, the facial expressions of almost everyone we met living in Bali, did reveal much happiness. There seemed to be a profound level of joy in all daily work, no matter what type of work was being done. Whether your craft was making jewelry, carving wooden sculptures, making musical instruments, painting pictures, picking rice in the fields, making prayer offerings of flowers and food, or sweeping the walkway, smiles were part of the landscape.
Stopping first in the wealth of Singapore on the way to Bali offers a complete contrast to lifestyle; and although I bought a fashionable and casually comfortable, linen ensemble in Singapore and paid a fortune for the designer, I was immediately humbled once arriving in Bali.
Stephen did not really have anything of great monetary value to offer anyone but his soul was enriched beyond anyone else’s that may have ever obtained great wealth.
The location of Bali was the absolute perfect place to leave his spiritual mark and I decided to take it along with me on the 20-hour journey by air from New York, USA an Indian Arrowhead Stone that he gave to me before his death. When he gave it to me, he made it very clear of how special it was to him and that he had found it in a field by a small brook when he was a little boy and kept it ever since. I was to take good care of it and I’d know when it would be the right time to sell it or give it away but that it was so precious to him for sentimental reasons but he also wanted to emphasize, that I too was special to him for my acts of kindness to him throughout his life.
Once in Bali, I was often reminded by tour guides that Bali in Sanskrit meant the island of sacrifice, offering, and reincarnation. Stephen lived in these beliefs making Bali a beautiful tribute to who he was as a human.
I can still feel the vibration of the gong resonating within my being as we entered Le Meridian resort and I recall the accompaniment of the traditional Balinese gamelan. If I ever need further reminding, I can gently chime my own gong that I had ordered custom-made, along with my own gamelan from the Gableran Instrument Factory in Blahbatuh, Bali. Having a kinship to such sounds deep within my being, it was absolutely a necessity that I have these instruments in my home, and that I also have one custom made for my sister of whom I also knew had a spiritual connection to such tone and sound.
In addition to the music, I fell in love with Tanah Lot Temple which is bordering the Indian Ocean. Being one of the most famous temples on the island with the Hindu shrine and that it sits on a three-acre rock in the sea, I felt an immediate connection to the temple. When the sea rises it appeared as if the temple is part of the sea and it seemed like the best resting place for the Indian Arrowhead that our good friend, Stephen gave to me. I carefully took it from my pocket, untied the little leather lace from the tiny little leather pouch, paused, took a breath, smiled and said, “rest in peace dear Stephen” tossed it out as far as I could and a few tears left my eyes. I knew in my heart that he’d have loved this place and would probably have even been humbled to the extent and say that he didn’t deserve to be there.
We were greeted with warmth everywhere we went and humbled while watching handmade offerings, “canong sari” being made daily of palm leaves with arranged flowers such as frangipani, jasmine, lotus and sweet fruits all of which were to token a symbol of gratitude to God and The Creator of Life. Bali has some of the most unique flowers I had ever seen but these flowers were often the choice assortment that I can recall.
We toured the entire island experiencing Ubud art and culture, visiting Uluwatu Temple and the Pura Ulun Danu Bratan temple, and was so intrigued that it dated back to the 16th century but how the people as a whole, really appreciated their faith and God in religion. We also went to the Sacred Monkey Forest. Although I wanted to buy bananas to feed the monkeys, I didn’t need to since I was able to watch so many tourists who were not advised by their guide, thank you Wayan, warding off the hungry monkeys.
The rice fields never seemed to end and I gained a deep respect for each person picking it with the back breaking effort.
Although dining at Kuta Beach seemed picturesque with the wide-open seashore, dining tables with umbrellas facing the sea, and picking my own fish choice from the swimming tank was impressive and which is (home of the Ngurah Rai International Airport) to the south; receiving one of the most glorious Thai massages in a gazebo overlooking the Indian sea and Seminyak will forever be an experience that stays etched in my mind. The sun was warm and we were cooled by the shade of the hut. The massage technique was nothing that I had ever experienced back in the USA and it left both Stephen and I in such a state of bliss that we remained on the soft mattress in the hut until sunset.
We feasted for two glorious weeks of delicious grilled fish, fish curry, potato curry, coconut curry, fish satay, and the seashore flavors of ginger, paprika and honey stayed prominent in my mind. I was inspired to include such flavors and create an inspirational Balinese dish named Mahi Ginger Glazed which is included in my cookbook, Yvonne’s Cookbook “Let’s Eat!” Authentic Neapolitan Recipes & World Travel Inspired Meals, along with Scallop Pot Pie Coconut Curry, and Red Snapper Curry Foil Baked. I often cook with this combination and add in garlic and onion. People that have tried each of these recipes have complimented me on how good it tastes and I proceed to share the story of our friend Stephen, our visit and life changing experience of Bali, Indonesia.
As further sentimental value, we were given three of Stephen’s guitars one of which is an acoustic guitar with a cobalt blue face, similar to his eyes. With piano being my instrument of choice, I do not play guitar but my sister does so I chose to give this blue acoustic guitar to her since I knew she would appreciate and play it. Both she and I sang at Stephen’s passing funeral while she strummed on the guitar that he once picked the strings of each fret and one of the songs was “Wind Beneath My Wings.”
I have travelled all over the world, and Bali, Indonesia is by far, one of the most memorable in the sense of unity that is felt by the people. Whatever is a Balinese person’s craft or skill set, they each work with the utmost of integrity and joy and take “Happiness” pride in all that they do.
This is what our friend Stephen was like and this is why we believe the Pura Tanah Lot Temple is and always will be guarding with protection of his spirit and bringing joy and happiness with each tide that comes in and moves out back to sea. Sunsets are cascading and setting the stage for some of the most glorious pictures with tourists, but with each ripple, that beautiful smile of “happiness” will forever set the tone.