by Gee Jae Arnold
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Monday, February 20, 2006
Today I went to a "celebration" of Jeanís life but Jean was not there. In her place was an urn and picture of her...smiling. I was crying because she was not there.
Jean was not an island she was a bridge Ė she bridged lives and connected to people. I met Jean a number of years ago through a mutual friend, Jerry, who lives in Sweden. Our first meeting was such that I knew that I wanted to get to know her better. I did. I thank God, that I had the opportunity to know her and to share memorable times with her. Time spent with Jean was always special and memorable. Every encounter was purposeful and meaningful. Jean was a purposeful woman as well as an encourager!
Jean encouraged me through cancer, the loss of my mother, emotional and financial bankruptcy and my pursuit of a college degree. She was always there, in my life, encouraging me. She encouraged me to write a book. I did. When I sent her the manuscript, even before reading it she asked me if I wanted her to read as a friend who loves me or as an editor with more than 20 years experience. Iím no fool, I said, ďAs an editor with more than 20 years experience who loves me.Ē
Jean took time from her busy schedule and not only edited the manuscript but educated me in the art of fine writing. She smoothed out some of the rough edges. After seeing the work that Jean had put into editing my manuscript, I felt compelled to do likewise. Even so, I sat on it for three years before completing and submitting it to a publisher. It was accepted for publication. My editorís work was minimal. I acknowledged Jean in "Dropped!", which was released this past January. A book signing was scheduled for Saturday and I had sent Jean an invitation.
For the past several months I kept trying to contact Jean by e-mail and telephone calls with no success. Consequently, a longer period than usual passed without me hearing from her. I figured that she was busy or traveling, as she usually did, but I knew that she would get in touch eventually. Thatís just the relationship we had. But I knew that she would come for the book signing even thought I'd already sent her a copy of the book. Then on Sunday night I got a call from her and we spoke for a long while and brought each other up to date. She told me that she had contracted lime disease and that she was unable to do anything for almost four months. But she was feeling better and was catching up with all that she had let go during her illness. She also acknowledged my first book signing and said that she would definitely be there the following Saturday. I planned to introduce her as the person that played a tremendous part in my life and in the writing of the book.
Then on Wednesday I got the call from another of Jeanís friends, informing me of her death on Monday. Just like that. After my initial outburst of hysteria, disbelief and shock I went for a walk and tried to sort our my thoughts. Annie had said something about a car, going fast, late for a Tango lesson, being in a hurry, driving off the road and dying instantly. Somewhere in my heard I heare the words, ďJean would have preferred to go this way. It was quick and hopefully painless.Ē I walked for what seemed like hours and found myself heading for my favorite bakery where I fully intended to buy myself a cheesecake and eat the whole thing. Then I thought, ďJean would not like that and tomorrow neither will I.Ē Instead of the cheesecake I went home and colored my hair Elmo red. I had to do something! Then I laughed at myself, was thankful that I did not do the cheesecake, and I knew that Jean was laughing with me and at me.
Today I went to a celebration of Jeanís life and was struck by the number of people who claimed to be Jeanís best friend. Jean had the ability to make everyone feel special. She loved life. She loved people. Life loved Jean because she lived it. People loved Jean because she loved them.
Today there is a void in my heart and in my life. I miss you Jean. I know that you are only absent from your physical body because you will continue to live in the hearts of the many people who love you. The memories that you left us that we will share over the years will keep you alive forever. I thank God for having known you Jean Zipser. You will always be a part of my life. I will not say goodbye because I know that I will see you again because we are in the same family, the family of God. Please say hello to my mom for me.
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