Tuesday, July 14, 2015

a gap in the circle

Death has claimed another member of my inner circle.

Last week, my friend John Hofer informed me that Jana, his wife, had suffered a massive stroke.  The prognosis was not good.  She was admitted to hospice.

Yesterday morning, John wrote me with the news I had been dreading.  Jana died on Sunday night.

A stroke!  The word just did not match up with the Jana I knew.  She was an active hiker.  She monitored the type of food she ate.

I met Jana through John.  John and I worked in the legal division of a workers' compensation insurer in Salem, Oregon.  Our friendship grew out of a common interest in philosophy.

I wish I could say when I first met Jana.  But I am not certain of the date.  It was most likely at dinner in the early 90s.  Food is the communion of friends.

She was never a shrinking violet.  And she had that quality I most admire in my closest associates -- she was bluntly honest.

John and I have a tendency to enjoy playing with words and ideas.  Whenever we would launch into one of our esoteric festivals of wit, she would roll her eyes and go do something practical.  Because she was a practical woman.

And professionally accomplished.  Before she retired, she worked in managerial positions with the State of Oregon.  I loved hearing her work tales.  None of it was gossip or vitriol.  She simply relied on her Aristotelian reasoning in a bureaucratic world that verged on the Kafkaesque.

Even though we had our differences politically, we could both discuss world affairs civilly.  In today's society, that is perhaps the rarest virtue of all.  And the reason was simple: she respected those around her.  She was not merely a humanist in name; she put her beliefs into action.

She doted on her son, Jordan, and her granddaughter, Anna.  Both of them offered a center to her life.

That photograph of Jana (in the plaid shirt) says a lot about her.  She was not always comfortable with groups of people.  But she would shine amongst the people admitted to her inner circle.

That is how I will remember her.  Surrounded by friends.  Chatting civilly about things that matter.  Sharing her honesty and her strength.

When I asked John if there was anything I could do right now, he responded: "Right now, Jordan, Anna, and I are moving through the day as normal as possible, living life as we have always lived it as a family."

Living life as we have always lived it as a family.  That phrase is perhaps Jana's greatest legacy.  Hers was the strength to carry on.

Even so, Jana, you will leave a gap in the circle.

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