Michelle Dray Falvey
1962-2013, Santa Barbara, California
Beautiful, brilliant Michelle Falvey passed away suddenly September 14th in Santa Barbara, California after a courageous, six week battle with aggressive cancer.
Born in Boston on June 9, 1962, Michelle was raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts by her fun-loving and adoring parents, Art and Betsey Falvey, along with her beloved younger brothers, Ryan, Mark and Justin.
After graduating from Wellesley High School in 1980 and Tufts University in 1984 with a degree in English, Michelle spent ten years in Boston working in advertising, fashion photography, and the restaurant business (Olives). Every role she played was informed by her curious and sharp mind, her incredible sense of humor, and her ability to connect with and understand people.
From a young age Michelle possessed an intuitive understanding of people and a genuine interest in helping them. Her parents infused her and her three brothers with a strong sense of social justice coupled with a generous heart. Based on these interests, she eventually decided to pursue a Masters Degree in Social Work. While studying at Boston College, Michelle interned and worked at Crossroads Rehabilitation Center in Jamaica Plain as well as at the Massachusetts Medical Health Center, a Harvard University Affiliate Psychiatric Teaching Hospital where she cut her teeth in individual, group, and family psychotherapy. She attained her Masters Degree in Social Work from Boston College in 1994 and thus began her path to help others on a full time basis through social work.
Shortly after receiving her degree at Boston College, she moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico to apply her skills and passion for helping others in a community that still treasures her to this day. While in Santa Fe, Michelle worked at Pinon Hills Residential Treatment Center in Velarde, New Mexico as a psychotherapist where she served at risk adolescents and their families. As with many of the programs she was involved with, she created and implemented clinical trainings for staff.
In 2000, she moved to Santa Barbara to continue her work as a psychotherapist, clinical supervisor, program administrator and university teacher with several organizations in town. During the 13 years she lived in Santa Barbara, she provided clinical leadership increasingly informed by her study, and then implementation, of mind and brain-based treatment intervention. She developed a range of recognized mental health treatment and training programs, serving the Santa Barbara community in the position of clinical director for the Council on Alcohol and Drug Abuse, Domestic Violence Solutions, Sojourn Early Childhood Mental Health, and St. Vincent's Family Strengthening Program. At each position, she became a role model as a clinical director and endeared herself to clients and staff alike with her deep compassion and respect for her clients. Directors who followed in her footsteps note a huge legacy of information and programs that she left for the years to come.
Michelle was dedicated to her spiritual practice based on Buddhist philosophy. She received numerous teachings from the Dalai Lama as well as Pema Chodron. She supported this learning with a daily meditation practice as well as many silent retreats. She was a regular at the Vedanta Temple in Santa Barbara and she also enjoyed the quietude of the Monastery of Poor Clares.
In recent years she studied under Dr. Dan Siegel, a noted author and neurobiologist from Los Angeles. Through his mentoring, she became dedicated to integrating the discoveries of neuroscience into the practices of mental health intervention. It was through her dedication to these studies that she came to serve Santa Barbara’s most vulnerable and at-risk populations. Michelle was able to assist them in releasing trauma by translating the complexities of brain science into words and examples that revealed to her colleagues, supervisees, and clients the components of a truly healthy mind and brain. She was asked to begin writing for Dr. Siegel just weeks before she received the cancer diagnosis that diverted her to work in another realm.
She leaves behind her life partner, Lori Pearson, of Santa Barbara, CA as well as her parents Art and Betsey, of Wellesley, MA, her 3 brothers– Ryan of Somerville, MA, Mark of Suzhou, China and Somerville, MA and Justin of Los Angeles, CA as well as many other deeply loved relatives and dear friends from Santa Barbara, Santa Fe, Boston, Wellesley, Longwood, Tufts University, and Boston College School of Social Work. We will miss her bright colors, her scarves, her keen sense of humor, her sparkling smile, and her beautiful being.
Services were held in Santa Barbara, CA on September 22nd, 2013 at the Vedanta Temple. Donations in her memory, will be directed primarily to children and women in need, and can be made to both or one of the following organizations:
Santa Barbara Foundation - Attention Kristina Stewart, 1111 Chapala Street, Suite 200, Santa Barbara, CA 93101. Checks should be written to Santa Barbara Foundation with a note in the memo line listing Michelle Falvey Memorial Fund.
Vedanta Society of So Cal – Santa Barbara, 901 Ladera Lane, Santa Barbara, CA 93108. Checks should be written to: Vedanta Society Santa Barbara with a note in the memo line listing Michelle Falvey Memorial Fund.
The following tribute from one of Michelle’s clients captures her impact on so many:
When I first met Michelle, I was without a home, lacked safety and permanence and I was expecting my second son. I was on a precipice, and she caught me one warm afternoon on the street outside her office. She saw me walking as in flight, in the midst of fear, a day unlike any other, a moment that was as a microcosm of a whole. Sequences of darkness, instability and pain, the vulnerability, the being within me ~ in this moment she extended her hand to me. She spoke to me with hope, a clarity and directness in her tone that I would come to know well, a cadence and rhythm I would cherish. I did not know what was within her when we met, I could not have anticipated the power she wielded, and I did not understand the magnitude of the gift she would selflessly and assuredly offer me.
Through our acquaintance, she instilled within me the desire to look inside myself, become enveloped with the beauty that I found, and abstain from denying, dismissing or loathing the ugliness. She encouraged me to develop a coherent self-narrative, an awareness of self, and in doing so bestow the greatest gift to my children. I spoke to her every week, she created the space we met in her office, she adorned it with color, articles of simple good creation, and cheer. She was a warrior to me. Her eyes were sharp, bright, analytical and bird-like, and they held a tender luminosity ~ alternately at times they bore into my own with uncommon acuity, provoking me towards action, dark with depths of understanding. All her movements were quick, fluid, agile and capable. She pressed in close; she invited, she captivated and astounded me with her memory and knowledge. There were moments when I was rendered speechless by her insight and magic, and sat, basking in the time that was not time, not defined by minutes, or seconds, but rather by awareness, reserves of power, rejuvenation and healing.
Michelle, often you said you had no children of your own. But you loved your own mother with a ferocity and devotion that is rare, you were the eldest of your siblings who you spoke of dearly, and you loved and cared for the children and mothers who were under your guidance with a diligence and compassion that was more than human. In this capacity you demonstrated a masterful quality that assimilates to nothing closer than maternal love. As I knew you, you were a mother, a matriarch. You were a woman who was a guardian, and your children were those most in need of such a figure and steady, trustworthy source of love.
It was you who first spoke to me of dreaming, and seeking a path not unlike your own. I began a journey towards this mission while you still lived, and I will continue it. I will seek to be like you, and give, and remain grateful and humble. No aspect of my future endeavors and aspirations will be separate from the memory of you. I had the honor of being in your presence and under your care, and I will honor you with every step I take after I leave this program that is touched in every way by your work and spirit. I know this story of gratitude is far from limited to me myself and my family, and I hope the thoughts and love of the hundreds who you helped in your life carried you in some form when you sought a respite, and desired comfort and solace.
With all my love and my deepest gratitude, Rima
Published in The Wellesley Townsman from Oct. 22 to Oct. 29, 2013