Joy and Sorrow

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” I have been in sorrow’s kitchen and licked out all the pots. Then I have stood on the peaky mountains wrapped in rainbows, with a harp and sword in my hands.” ~Zora Neale Hurston

Have you experienced a time when several events converged to remind you of life’s joys and sorrows? This is how the last four weeks were for me.

It started on April 7 with the death of a dear friend. Que Throm was one of the most vitally alive and fully engaged people I’ve ever known. A southern belle from Plains, Georgia, she was an artist, college professor, world traveler, enthusiastic life-long learner, hostess, and benefactress of the arts. Her generous mentoring of me and my work over the years has been unlike anything I’ve experienced. When I taught at the Winter Park Jung Center she encouraged me to teach a class on the psychological meanings of the Greek Goddesses and invited several friends to join it. After the Center closed I taught a dream study group in her home for several years. When Healing the Sacred Divide was near publication, Que invited me to introduce it at a reception in her home. She and her artist husband Cicero split every year between Orlando and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. One year she arranged for me to speak about my newest book at the annual San Miguel de Allende Writer’s Conference, again with a reception afterwards.

Cicero died a few years ago and Que was diagnosed with Stage IV pancreatic cancer last year. She chose not to have chemotherapy so she could enjoy her life and friends to the fullest in her remaining time. For most of that year she had few symptoms, none of which were debilitating. Two weeks before she died we lunched together. Afterwards she took me on a tour of the beautiful nearby campuses of the Maitland Art and History Museums where she showed me the site and plans for the new building she had endowed. On the day she died, Que got ready to go out to lunch with two friends. Shortly after they arrived she felt faint and decided to lie down for a few minutes. Less than an hour later she died in the ambulance on the way to the hospital.

I will always be grateful to this remarkable woman for modeling how to be a friend, live a full life, and die with zero drama and infinite grace. She was a rare individual who made the mosaic of her life and death into a beautiful work of art. Rest in peace with your beloved Cicero, sweet friend.

This gorgeous painting of hers brings joy every time I see it.

My birthday was the day after Que’s celebration of life. Fred made plans to celebrate my life that evening at a nearby restaurant with our children and grandchildren, but instead we went to the hospital to visit a close relative who’d had an accident that afternoon. I’m struck by how easy it is becoming for me to let go of my plans and flow with events as they happen.

Yesterday I received two more reminders of the ever-present realities of life and death, joy and sorrow. First, Anthea Turner’s daughter called to say that her mother had died peacefully in her sleep. At one time or another Anthea was the chairman of nearly every volunteer arts organization in Orlando, including the Orlando Ballet, the Orlando Opera, the Orlando Museum of Art, and the Friends of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra. In her 90’s she still attended almost every performance of the opera and the Phil. When she could no longer drive, she often rode with us. Strong, vitally engaged with life, and completely lucid to the last, this gracious lady was an inspiration to everyone who knew her. I was lucky to call her friend.

Hours after I heard about Anthea, another friend told me Nell Martin had died. Nell was a force of nature. I had never met her when she called me after reading my first book, The Bridge to Wholeness. By the time our conversation was over she had invited me to hold a weekend workshop for women at The Swag, an exquisite rustic resort in Waynesville, North Carolina. She made the arrangements, sent out invitations, and facilitated the weekend with the finesse of a professional manager/event planner. Like Anthea, she died in her sleep. To lose two dear friends in the same day was a striking synchronicity and quite a shock. Yet, the reality is that thousands of Ukrainians have had the same experience in far worse conditions over the last two months. I grieve over this terrible injustice.

“And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears. And how else can it be? The deeper that Sorrow carves into your being, the more Joy you can contain.” ~Kahlil Gibran

As a horse crazy child, horse-owner, mother, and grandmother of another horse crazy girl, I was filled with joy when I accompanied my granddaughter to the season finals of the Interscholastic Equestrian Association in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last week. Sophia is a junior in high school. She earned her way to the finals by placing first in her class in one regional show and becoming the Reserve Champion in another. Here she is riding her horse Quinn in one of those shows. Although she didn’t place in the national finals this year, it was a wonderful learning experience and there’s always next year!

Today I feel a little less controlling and a lot more prepared for life’s joys and sorrows. What has life taught you lately?

Paper and E-book versions of The Bridge to Wholeness and Dream Theatres of the Soul are at Amazon. The Wilbur Award-winning Healing the Sacred Divide can be found at Amazon and Larson Publications.com. Jean’s new Nautilus Award-winning The Soul’s Twins, is at Amazon and Schiffer’s Red Feather Mind, Body, Spirit. Subscribe to her newsletter at www.jeanbenedictraffa.com.

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Comments

10 Responses

  1. Dear Jeanie, that is so much sadness. Three deaths of such vital people. So many condolences. I can only imagine. Each of them heroines of their lives who made such a beneficial impact on yours. Blessed you are to have known them. May their memories continue to be a blessing. I am struck how each of them died peacefully. I am constantly reminded that life is not a dress rehearsal and how important it is to live a meaningful one. Who knows for whom the bell tolls and when? An old friend and lover of mine from a long time ago has been in recent contact with me. Lennie is an old man now, approaching 90 – he was much older than I am, one of the kindest people I have ever known. I suspect this contacting of me has to do with his awareness of his approaching death. He reminded me that we took his elderly father at the time (from Odessa originally) to Fiddler on the Roof in Johannesburg … apparently I suggested it. I don’t remember … but it’s a nice memory.

    It may be a Buddhist saying ‘keep death alive on your left shoulder’ – which I do in my way. I love your two quotes.

    In amongst the sorrows of the world, are the joys. We’ve been away for several days and it was lovely to be walking among some striking mountains. But, because I wanted to walk on the beach today, I took myself off on a small walk in constant admiration of the beauty and gave silent thanks for my blessings.

    So many congratulations for your granddaughter – and her horse of course!

    With Love, Susan

    1. Thank you, Susan. Sophia is an excellent rider and Quinn an excellent horse! The riders didn’t bring their own horses to the Nationals. They rode horses that were randomly picked for them by the event planners; a different horse for each event. Somebody told me there were about 90 horses from various stables in the Harrisburg area that were being housed (or stabled!) at the arena for these events. It was really fun and fascinating to watch.

      Yes, all three of these women were bona fide heroines who made a powerful impact on many people’s lives. They had so much in common. They were all curious life-long learners, lovers and supporters of artists and the arts, and active participants in the lives of their communities. All led deeply rich and meaningful lives. I see them as examples of women who manifested the finest qualities of the Queen archetype. I also found it very interesting that they all died peacefully! I feel so lucky to have known and learned from them.

      How interesting that Lennie is contacting you again after so many years. You must have made a major impact on his life. I suspect he takes great comfort in his memories of you and wants you to know it. So sweet!

      Your walks in the mountains sound wonderful. And bracing! I imagine it must be getting quite chilly there now. I can’t wait to get back to “my” mountains in June. It’ll be much cooler there too, even though it will be summer.

      Much love, Jeanie

  2. Oh, beautiful, eloquent, grace-filled and wise Jeanie! I’m so sorry to hear about the passing of Que and your other friends. Of late I have been spending more time thinking about the reality of aging. Not just my slipping memory and sagging body parts, but how the lives and relationships with friends and family are shifting as well. I wish our Matrix group was still together to host a retreat on aging gracefully. I would so love to be in the circle of other wise women to hear stories and gain wisdom and be comfort by everyone’s story. Your blog was a bittersweet reminder of the glory of friendship and the inevitable losses we face. I miss you!

    1. Thank you so much, Beth. I miss you too and am comforted to hear from you!

      Aah, the glory of friendship. It’s such a gift. It would have been so much fun to get the wise women of Matrix together again for one last event! Aging is very much on my mind too. I’ve thought about writing a book about it but don’t have the inspiration or motivation right now. I feel the need to learn some new lessons that require more time and reflection than I normally have available when I’m working on a book.

      Much love, Jeanie

  3. ♥ Thinking about you. Ageing, relative and personal, is not an easy subject to find words for. The busy tragic/comic world does not want to know about this inevitable process. Losing friends is not a consuming concern for younger generations. I lost a few dear friends during the last few years, and aging has been on my mind a lot. May you find words for it.

    1. Thank you, Ashen. Yes, aging (I just looked up the spelling of aging and discovered that “aging” is the only appropriate spelling for American and Canadian English, and “ageing” is the standard spelling for British English and all dialects of English outside of North America) is not only difficult to find words for, but also difficult to know how to spell! 🙂 Neither the word nor the reality is, as you say, a consuming concern for younger generations.” It certainly wasn’t for me in my younger days. Logically, of course, I knew I wouldn’t stay young forever, and having experienced the death of a parent at an early age, death was often on my mind, but the reality still seems to come as a shock to most of us. Thank you for the blessing.

  4. Oh dear Jeanie. This sounds so hard. You’ve had a pile up of lessons about mortality and loss of people who have stood by you and helped you on your path. It seems all these friends died with support and in peaceful surroundings. May we all be so fortunate–and, yes, it contrasts sharply from what’s happening in Ukraine or people dying on the streets in poverty or with violence. I feel fortunate to know about the lives of your friends. I met so many people in my extended spiritual community in the late 1960s or early 1970s, so a week doesn’t go by without someone getting a tough diagnosis. We’re aging together and dealing with all the struggles inherent in trying to age with grace. The community coheres and provides mutual support which is so fortunate. This week a friend and I visited another dear friend who lives in a memory care facility, but she still knows me and asks about my older dog and my sons and enjoys a blueberry scone. No need to talk about the tragedies of the world with her, but instead a chance to laugh about experiences from the past and remember the days when we saw the Dalai Lama once or twice a year.

    I’m glad your granddaughter took part in a prestigious competition no matter how she placed. She had the experience and it added a little brightness and excitement to a rough world for a teenager and her grandparents. Take care and be well.

  5. Thank you for your kind and comforting words, Elaine. Yes, I’ve experienced a lot of loss lately. Tears come easily to my eyes these days. But so do smiles and laughter. I have so much to be grateful for. My daughter invited me to attend a class with her on fluid painting tomorrow at a nearby art center. It will be a fun Mother’s Day outing. I feel so fortunate that my children and grandchildren live only 10 minutes away. And our grandsons are coming home from their first year of college this weekend. We’ve missed them! Tonight Fred and I will attend a presentation of the Orlando Philharmonic Orchestra tonight in our new Steinmetz Hall featuring Carmina Burana!! I’m starting to think like Que: just enjoying each precious moment with my friends and family and the good things life has to offer while I can. Be well, dear friend. Jeanie

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