Sunday, June 21, 2015

my friend janet

This time the news came suddenly and unexpectedly. 

My friend, Janet Meloy Freiling, has been fighting cancer for some time.  We all knew the chances were that it would take her life.  But we did not know how quickly it would happen.

She faithfully posted on Facebook about her tests and treatments.  So, I was not too surprised when she matter-of-factly checked into the hospital on 3 June for "a partial bowel blockage" -- in Janet's always blunt and accurate reporting.

Over the next few days, she kept us informed that nothing seemed to be changing.  Other than the fact that she was very tired.  In the midst of all that, she took time to praise the jewel of her and her husband's life -- her daughter, Caroline.

On Thursday, I received a Facebook message from Kelly Fuller (a mutual friend) informing me that Janet's condition had seriously worsened, and she was slipping fast.  It did not seem possible that death could intrude that quickly.

I have known Janet and her husband, Steve, since the 1980s.  Politics was our meeting ground during those heady days when we made the fundamental error that life could be made better through political organization.

We were young -- both of them younger than I.  We were balls of energy.

Especially, Janet.  She had to be one of the most optimistic people I have ever met.  In political meetings, where the worst sides of people inevitably emerge, her smile and joy of life were always a rallying point for those of us who considered politics a joyous crusade rather than a battlefield to leave the wounded to deal with their own fate.

That is not to say that she was not capable of moral dudgeon.  Her Irish blood would rise whenever she encountered injustice or boorishness on the part of people she opposed -- or, for that matter, supported.

When I ran for the legislature in 1988, Janet and Steve supported my opponent in the primary.  When I won that battle, they were there beside me in the general election.

And it was the start of a great friendship.  For several years, we would share dinners and telephone calls to keep up with our respective lives.  And, of course, there were the recurring political meetings.

They were dog people.  Janet was raised around Labradors, and shared a lot of hunting tales with me.  My life with Professor Jiggs (my golden retriever) sprang from those roots.

At that point, their dog was Winston.  Whenever we would let the dogs get together for a play date, they would have a grand time -- as would we.  One evening, while we headed off to dinner in Salem, we put the dogs in my basement. 

When we returned, we learned why most people do not own two dogs.  Being bored, they decided to strip off the hot water tank insulation.

But Winston was soon to take second seat to a new family member.  Caroline, their daughter, completely changed their lives.  I remember the day they told me she was on the way.  We were at dinner.  I have never seen such joy.

And that joy has continued all these years.  I have followed Caroline's life at some distance.  But Janet's Facebook postings have kept me in their lives -- even though I now live far away from their home.

Kelly notified me yesterday evening that she died just minutes before.  "
She was with a room full of family and us, and passed peacefully."

The driving force in Janet's life was her Christian faith.  It is where she found her joy of life and her unending ability to share it with us.

Anne Lamott once wrote: "[A] basic tenet of the Christian faith is that death is really just a major change of address."  In our faith, we believe that death is merely a continuation of life.  That, through death, we enter into the presence of our creator.

In that we take comfort.

Even so, I am going to miss you, Janet. 

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