Dear Joe, Julia and Richard et al.,
As you regroup from your journey with Joan down the road of love and life and loss, my love and thoughts and prayers and warmest wishes to you during this time of cherishing, and letting go. All last week, I identified with a marvelously layered moment in Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" when Vladimir bemusedly shares his paradoxical feelings to Estragon:
VLADIMIR: I missed you... and at the same time I was happy. Isn't that a strange thing?
Amid grief, to feel such love: for Joan, from Joan, for those Joan loved and for those who loved her back. Something else, too: warmth and joy, the imprint of Joan's touch and example, the way she showered who she was with, held them close, squeezing an arm and leaning in, asking who some lost soul wandering the streets was, stroking head or hand when you shared a hurt, a marvel of love, nurture, nursing, gracious and supremely interested in others. Joan was diligent, delightful, her abiding interest in the needs of homeless women and men matched her relentless walks and countless, heartfelt (and heart-healing) talks. It is a gift to see these photos that radiate her love, her smile, her joie de vivre, that laugh so forceful and so full from someone so petite…
I was lucky that Joan, Eleanor and I all came to work at the Inn when we did. Years later, we walked Jamaica Pond and di the math, realizing we'd begun work there the same year! We dubbed ourselves "the Class of '87!" In truth, Joan (and Eleanor) were the class of '87, but I am so lucky to have been their classmate! Joan's compassion, skill and incredible attentiveness to the care and healing of women and men who came as guests inspired me. Joan matched the care she showered on guests with such love, warmth and interest toward colleagues and friends!
And her resolve! Advocating for women who'd been victimized, loving, encouraging and supporting them through medical stays, court cases, healing their hurts and affirming their dignity and worth when they doubted they had any. She taught me so much!
Joan once had me memorize a stanza from Dylan Thomas' poem "And Death Shall Have No Dominion." Someone had stitched it into a panel of the NAMES quilt when it was first displayed in Boston, back in 1988. I mentioned how I admired some verses, so Joan insisted I memorize it-on the spot! Here it is again, as she once requested:
And death shall have no dominion. Dead men naked they shall be one With the man in the wind and the west moon; When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone, They shall have stars at elbow and foot; Though they go mad they shall be sane, Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again; Though lovers be lost love shall not; And death shall have no dominion.
I know that insight spoke to Joan: "though lovers be lost, love shall not!" and am sure the love so generously shared by you and Joan, so tenderly returned in the beautiful, dignified, way you accompanied her in these last weeks and months, will never be lost!
Thank you for opening and sharing this space with us.
Jim Greene Class of '87