“I have decided to stop saying yes to people and situations that don’t support my well-being. Instead, I will say yes to my happiness and yes to my growth, and yes to all people and things that inspire me to be authentic and whole, while at the same time accepting me just as I am. My yes, from here on out, is my pledge to live honestly, my commitment to love myself fiercely, and my cry to create my best life possible. Yes.”
Joan recognized herself in this quote. (I am sorry that I can’t attribute it; apologies and thanks to its author.) I’m so glad she did, because I know all of those who loved her saw her this way already. Sadly, this was the last time we shared our thoughts on anything but Joan’s health, which was declining. She transitioned into Spirit on May 24, at the age of 83. I say transitioned because only the body dies; death is an expansion, not a contraction. The essence of Joan lives on, forever evolving, beyond the limitation of time and space.
Once I said to Joan, “Well, you won’t die anyway, you will ascend.” She said, “Oh, Diane, I love that word!” She had the ability to hear more deeply into the words others would say. We shared that trait; it often emerged over the phone. I might, for example, say “the moon cast such a silvery light,” and Joan would exclaim, “Say that again. When you said that, I saw the purple night sky, and heard all the birds chirping good night to each other.” We often met where our imaginations intersected.
Joan was a poet, painter, and activist, but most of all an appreciator of life. She had a tough life, starting with an abusive childhood, and by her middle years experienced serious medical problems that only worsened as she aged. None of this kept Joan from living her life fully. She could be depressed for a while, as anyone would, but I always marveled at how she was able to come out the other side stronger than before, and never once did I hear her complain or ask, “Why me?”
When I met Joan she was in her early 60s, I in my late 40s; we both worked at the Benjamin Rose Institute. Have you ever met someone that you felt so comfortable with that it felt as though you were picking up where you left off? That’s how it was, at least, for me. We “got” each other right away, and although laughter played a big role in our friendship, I realized over time that we were somehow connected in a deep way. One of those things where you don’t have to talk; you are attuned to each other in a way that makes conversation unnecessary.
One time, after I moved to Asheville and was on my yearly visit home, we had lunch together in Rocky River. Afterwards, we walked into a little store that specialized in unique stationery and art paper of all kinds. We were each drawn to whatever inspired us. I would suddenly hear Joan’s delighted giggle from across the store, exclaiming, “Triangles!” Then we’d share what we found. Joan’s total acceptance of my own artistic orientation to the world was crucial in cementing that aspect of Diane’s identity.
About that giggle: Joan possessed the most wonderful laugh of anyone I’ve known. A sort of quiet, deep-throated sound that would suddenly, mysteriously shift into an infectious giggle that I can only describe as a child’s delight upon seeing her first butterfly. I miss that laugh.
Over the 18 years that I knew her, I watched Joan grow from being terribly frustrated when she couldn’t bring herself to speak her mind to those who wronged her, to being able to speak truth not only to peers, but to power, often on behalf of others who couldn’t speak for themselves. And do so in a way that was neutral, non-threatening. I listened closely, and learned.
Beauty was a kind of shorthand language for us, and we would often share via e-mail or through small gifts what we found beautiful. For Joan, this sometimes took the form of poetry. Here’s my favorite, from shortly after her 80th birthday:
I walked slowly through my apartment today and I liked what I saw. Earth colors, animals, nature, family and friends, and I felt surrounded by beauty. This didn’t start out to be a vehicle for poetry, but there might be one coming. I say might, because I don’t have anything in mind but sometimes I just start to write and there it is.
“I was a long way from home.
I stopped and looked
and there it was
beside me, above me, all around me.
In the trees, in the grass
In all the things we take for granted
There I stood among the enchanted.
I was home.”
I’m feeling blessed Diane with all of the beauty in my life. That beauty especially includes people. Oh such fun to be alive. As you say, with “the merriment of Christ.”
Love and Peace,
A few days earlier I had included in an e-mail a quote from Ken Carey’s magnificent inspired writing, The Starseed Transmissions: “Do not conceive of your world with such gravity. Lighten up with the merriment of Christ.” That phrase appealed to Joan; from then on, the “merriment” suggestion showed up from time to time from one of us to the other. Neither Joan nor I could be called “religious,” but Christhood and the concept of humans evolving toward it was a reality we’d each come to accept. Her every intention was in that direction.
The few times we talked about death over the last decade, Joan expressed some fear, but alongside that a growing faith that something greater was ahead, another version of life here on earth. She had a relationship with the Archangel Michael, who came to her in her dreams. She knew intuitively that she was loved just for being Joan.
A few days after she left us, I was listening to some music from the play “Into The Woods” by Stephen Sondheim. The song “No One Is Alone” began, and I what I heard in every note was Joan speaking to those she left behind:
“Sometimes people leave you, halfway through the wood.
Others may deceive you. You decide what’s good.
You decide alone. But no one is alone.
People make mistakes, holding to their own, thinking they’re alone.
No one acts alone. No one is alone.
Someone is on your side. Someone else is not.
While we’re seeing our side, maybe we forgot:
They are not alone. Believe me, no one is alone. …Things will come out right now. We can make it so.”
Sometimes when I walk outside I talk to Joan in my head, pointing out a gorgeous flower, or maybe a funny cloud. I noticed that after a couple of weeks there could be a whole day when I didn’t think of Joan. The next day I’d start to feel bad about that, a betrayal of her somehow. Then I’d say, no, Joan doesn’t expect that kind of obsession with her. I know she’s still here whenever I turn my thoughts to her, and she knows I love her. She knows everything now.