An ancient belief in the Tibetan spiritual tradition holds that one dies as he or she has lived. Elizabeth (Mahat) Guest died peacefully at her home in Amherst on Oct. 16. She was 95.
According to daughter Anne Hazelton, her last month was inspirational. She said goodbye to old friends, and remembered people and events that had played a prominent role in her life. Son Jim Guest read her poems by Emily Dickinson that had spoken to her since her college days at Mount Holyoke. Her sharp mind, sense of humor, and presence of aristocratic grace were strikingly in evidence to the very end.
Mahat worked successfully for many years in alumni affairs for Amherst and Mount Holyoke Colleges. She was honored for her work in both places, receiving the alumnae medal of honor from Mount Holyoke in 1984 and the Distinguished Service Award from Amherst in 1999.
On East Chop, Mahat will long be remembered as a special friend. Since learning of her death, several people have come to me with stories about special kindnesses they received from her during her sixty years as a member of our community. Warmth, kindness, generosity of spirit, and a “true lady” were words expressed by the people I encountered.
As I walked past the Munroe avenue home of Mahat and Al Guest the other day, a large lump grew in my throat. In different ways, these great people have inspired and enriched my life. Mahat was a thoughtful and generous supporter of my writing. Her insights and comments on an early draft of my second novel were constructive and helpful. It was a delight working with her. While Al is remembered for his many career-related achievements, I am most appreciative for his service to the tennis club.
Mahat never played tennis, and Al tried. He played with two forehands if I remember correctly. What people will never forget is his dedicated service on the board, and the long list of teaching professionals he recruited from Amherst College. I remember most fondly the help he provided me the summer I managed the club.
He would show up unannounced with tools, and work alongside me for an hour or two. Then, as quickly as he had come, he would smile over at me and say, “Okay Chief, I will leave the completion of this project in your capable hands.” This happened several times over the course of that summer. At first I thought that he was newly retired and in search of something to do. I later concluded that my life had been touched by a truly good man.
East Chop will miss Mahat and Al Guest. We thank them for all they did to make our community a better place to live. We also thank them for Jim and Anne. It is comforting to know that the parents will continue to be with us through the lives of their wonderful children.
An informal reception for family and friends in Mahat’s honor will be held on Nov. 17 at the Amherst College Alumni House between the hours of 2 and 4 p.m. In lieu of flowers, contributions in her memory can be made to the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst or Mount Holyoke College in South Hadley.