It was a year ago today that my friend Jan Marie passed away. I didn’t find out until ten days later. I spoke to a mutual friend who was also worried about her and suggested that she check the local paper just in case. Sure enough Jan’s obituary was posted online and confirmed what we were worried about. Having my fears confirmed left a hollow place in my chest and that emptiness still persists.
I never met Jan face to face, but we chatted online on an almost daily basis and frequently spoke on the phone. She was a good friend and a huge supporter of my writing. She designed and created the cover for my first book and my second book as well, but more than that she encouraged me when few others did. Jan loved my family as if it were her own and often sent things she had found or created that she thought we would enjoy. She was special to me and I will never forget the smiles she brought to my face.
Despite the happiness and support she brought me, she struggled to see the value in her own work and life. She struggled with physical and mental disabilities that so many people would have succumbed to. She was estranged from her family, but when her mood was good and she was in a positive cycle you could tell she loved them but struggled to express it.
It was ironic that a woman of such limitless creativity struggled to find a way to communicate with others. Her passions were immense and her principles uncompromising. Often we would speak and I would try to help her understand that people made mistakes and should be given another chance, but I think I could learn something from the way she would not bow to pressure or let people live to a standard that fell short of her own. She could be harsh and demanding, but there was pain and beauty beneath that exterior and I only wish that more people could have known it.
She would have loved seeing the way my kids have grown in the last year, and I am sure she would have sent me dozens of emails with promotional materials for my new book, but she is gone and I can’t help but feel poorer for the loss of her company even though I am far richer for having known her.
God Bless you, Jan. I hope you have found peace at last and that the pain is a long distant memory.
- The Art of the Obituary: An Interview with Margalit Fox (theparisreview.org)