Lani Kae Abbott

Lani died at 77, a year of 喜寿(kiju)  – celebrated in Japan as a a year of good fortune, a notion that she took great delight in, as she moved toward her death with both acceptance and consciousness, dying, in her own words, “by grace.” As one of her spiritual teachers offered, “If it’s good, take the blessing.” And, indeed, Lani felt so blessed by her experience of living life within what she coined the “Matrix of love.” Those of us who knew and loved her are blessed to have been in relationship with this remarkable woman who was a shimmering light and a beacon for connection.

Lani was gifted with deep curiosity; a lover of both the material and the sacred, the world was her sanctuary and she loved to travel and experience new places. She moved to San Francisco at 19, a place to which she and her husband, Keith (who died two years ago), jokingly referred to as ‘the old Country’ once they made their permanent home in Longmont, CO. She delighted in a life in the ‘arts,’ beginning her academic journey in the history of art, before deflecting into the world of theater, in which she worked as a costumer and designer.

Lani was a passionate person with many loves: the short list includes life, food, friendship, literature, the visual and theater arts. She was also a life-long learner, deeply committed to reaching for the sacred. Her connection to theater attuned her to the importance of ritual, and her fascination with, and love of, the material world, was embodied in her thoughtful curation of sacred objects, even in the final days of her life.

Lani’s mother’s family belonged to the Dutch Mennonite community, while her father’s family stemmed from Norway. She was particularly close to her Sami paternal grandfather, Harald Hansen, whose indigenous spiritual teachings on how to live were deeply grounding and nourishing to her soul, as well as to her maternal grandmother, Katherine Harms, who gifted Lani with gentle courage and deep Jewish roots. Upon learning of her Jewish ancestry in 2013, she swerved off the Benedictine Oblate path she had been on for some years and embraced Judaism with a full and grateful heart, taking the Hebrew name “Noa.” She experienced her life to be a shimmering – a rippling – from darkness to light, and she was proud to live, and die, as a Jew.

Lani was married to Keith Abbott, her partner of 54 years, who died in August 2019.

Donations may be made in her memory to the Native American Rights Fund or the Snow Leopard Conservancy in Sonoma, California.

Roundcube Webmail    My photo for obit

12 thoughts on “Lani Kae Abbott”

  1. In the two+ years I’ve known Lani, I always treasured my talks with her on a whole world of subjects, including art, her love of nature, organisms of all kinds, animal skeletons and even in sharing our common interest in current political subjects. She was the most spiritual and courageous woman I’ve ever met while being solidly enmeshed in the world around her and having a marvelous sense of humor. I wonder if others felt as I did that there was a deep communication between us, despite our different views along the spiritual and artistic paths she chose to journey among. Since we occasionally talked about hiking in Colorado, I also questioned whether there was any venture she hadn’t tried, any action untaken during her passionate enjoyment of being alive. I will miss her presence terribly and am already donating to the Snow Leopard Conservancy due to her advocacy. I am grateful to have known Lani and her extraordinary gift of joyous living despite having had to overcome so many challenges.

  2. I knew nothing of this in advance and am deeply shocked. Lani was life itself. Full and rich and gorgeous. I knew Keith somewhat when he visited Boulder to teach on occasion at Naropa University, then met Lani when they at last moved to Longmont permanently. Our talks were profound, Lani was a genius at everything she did and I loved conversing with her, exploring her amazing mind. I just found out about her passing, so will stop now to take time to understand it’s reality and to mourn her. I loved her so.

  3. I was shocked to receive the email that Lani passed several days ago. It brought back my memory of when Keith suddenly passed. I met Keith and Lani through Jewish family services. I was a volunteer providing support for Keith. I remember the first time we all met. There was an instant connection which I turned into a weekly date with Keith. This gave Lani some free time to do what she needed to do. Before I would take Keith out for his weekly adventure we’d always talk. I felt the love and concern she had for Keith. A funny story. One day I was with Keith and out of no where he said I need to go to the pharmacy. I was a little confused but took him there. We went up to the counter and I realized Keith was trying to fill a prescription for Viagra. I realized this isn’t right. So I call Lani and she explained what was going on. We had a laugh and I redirected Keith.
    We’d talk about life and politics. We all shared how our country was in turmoil and Trump had to go. I recently had lunch with Lani. She loved Rosale’s pizza in longmont. So I brought a pizza and we proceeded to talk. I could talk with Lani for hours about life. She was a complex person with a big heart. I will miss her.

  4. Lani attended a Sami Women’s gathering at my rural California property in the 90’s sometime. I met her only that once, but we remained connected. We had planned to meet again after these decades when it was safe to travel after covid. I had no idea she had a threatening health issue. What a shock and I grieve. A candle burns for her today. She sent me a unique gift after the ’86 gathering and I have used it every day since, thinking of her thoughtfulness and Sami Spirit.

  5. Lani’s friendship was a blessing. We shared our life stories and our thoughts on every subject over the few years
    we knew each other before her death. The grace she showed as she faced the end of her life was inspirational.
    I was deeply moved by her ability to fully engage with life and to enjoy her connections with others, as her physical energy waned.
    We had many laughs and many serious talks. Thank you, Rabbi Diane, for your beautiful piece about Lani. May her memory be
    a blessing for all who loved her.

  6. I knew Lani for about 45 years, first in California and here in Boulder/Longmont since 2018. Through her grace and love, I believe I will go on knowing her for the rest of my life.

    She really DID shimmer. My husband David Katz and our three boys always enjoyed any occasion with them, always full of laughter, good stories and love, Lani was thoughtful and wise, and was able to find in the tragedies and setbacks in her life both acceptance and joy.

    She loved the mundane and the sacred. Each needed to be inquired into and studied deeply. She was delighted with all the insights she acquired. When she found Judaism, she found home.

    I feel blessed to be counted as one of her friends, and to occupy a node in the Matrix of Love.

  7. We corresponded online, and I only saw Lani in person twice, at ampitheaters, as it happened. First in my city, on Indigenous People’s Day. We watched hoop dancing at the Mural, and drank tea under a display of accordions at the Chihuly café. Lani’s wry humor and easy warmth made it seem as if we had always known each other. She was easy to love. We met again in 2019 at Red Rocks, briefly, both there with other friends to hear Sámi sister Mari Boine summon the ancestors, call down the stars. Now Lani is among them. May her memory be a blessing.

  8. My husband Michael Driskel and I met Lani & Keith in Berkeley while we were both graduate students in the history of art at the University of California, around 1974. We enjoyed their company immensely. Lani was, among many other things, a superb cook. She made incredible meals for us and many of their other friends. Once, she prepared a feast that included whole eggs in the shell which she had somehow stuffed with a filling by pushing it through a tiny hole in the end of the egg!! I kid you not!! She was also a wonderful seamstress: she was able to create a pattern for any garment one might imagine and get all the fabric required to sew it, a skill she used in her theatre work and also in her home home, making clothes, curtains, etc.

    Over the years we all kept in touch, and after she moved to Longmont we visited her several times either at her house or met her & Keith for dinner at her favorite restaurant in Denver. My brother Bob Shedd and his girlfriend Kathy Kane, who live in the city, accompanied us. They were both very fond of Lani, particularly Kathy.

    Her rabbi’s memorial address contained distressing information I did not know about Lani. But her love of life in all of its forms allowed her to find profound peace and acceptance at the end.

  9. Lani spirit, I have searched for you and finally found you. Rest in peace and blessings on new journeys.

  10. It was Lani’s friendship, generously handed out to a young widow with child, that created the foundation for a new life in the country., After an absensce of 10 years. For that, I will always be grateful and love her for that.Lani was a perpetual student and nothing delighted her more than research, for her spiritual home and genealogy. I believe that the energy she put into her searches, was to fill the void of a mother who has lost her child…herself and her daughter. Persephone became another daughter to me, for a while, trying to understand the causes of the estrangement and hoping to affect a reconciliation. In our semi annual trips to Europe, we would always see Persephone,,and still have a relationship with her. This detailed generational dysfunction, revealed, was not necessary and extremely hurtful, and I would have wished that Lani left a peaceful, and spiritual epitaph…..she worked so hard, to attain it.

  11. Family members remember Lani in a very different manner than what she herself presented here in her own words. She was, nonetheless, family despite her invention of fake family identities, namely the claim of Sami and Jewish ancestry. These false identities do not resonate with the traditions and ethnicities of the intrepid family ancestors who immigrated to the United States of America. The family was and is deeply hurt by the fake identities that Lani projected as well as her habit of unkind words, thoughts and actions concerning family members during her lifetime. May it be the Lord’s will that Lani’s relentless path of anger and her pointed destruction of family unity has ceased.

  12. Lani was my first cousin, her mother and mine were sisters. I have tested my DNA and studied Mennonite history and found no Jewish roots. Individuals are of course, always free to choose whom to worship.

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