Her full nature . . . spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half doing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.
— from Middlemarch, by George Eliot
Some of you have asked after the woman I wrote the last Three Things post about, and I appreciate that. I’m more sorry than I can say to tell you that it’s my best friend Aimee’s mother.
Jeanette was diagnosed with Stage IV brain cancer this past March. She underwent surgery to remove most of the tumor and then received both radiation and chemotherapy. She had ups and downs, and the prognosis was never great, but we all so hoped for a miracle, or at least more time than we got. She began declining steadily towards the end of August, and by the end, she was bedridden and often unable to respond, though she usually knew when people were with her.
I have known Jeanette since I was 14 years old. It wouldn’t be exaggerating at all to say that she was like a second mother to me. In high school, Aimee’s house was the place all the kids wanted to be because Jeanette and Bill, Aimee’s step-dad, were totally laid back. They were great fun to be around, but they also knew when to make themselves scarce, and as long as we weren’t out of control, they left us to our own devices. They took all of us in and loved us and counseled us and fed us and, in my case (and in the case of her sister’s friends), sheltered us for a time.
As we grew and went off and had lives of our own, they still asked after us and greeted us with hugs and kisses and questions about what we were up to. They always encouraged us in whatever endeavor we took on and supported us and shared their wisdom, which was vast, freely. I loved them dearly.
Bill died in November 2005. The minister at Jeanette’s memorial service said it best: She was a widow, but she never stopped being married to him. Aimee told me that it was Jeanette’s great hope that, after she died, she would be reunited with Bill. I don’t know what I believe, really, about what happens to you after you die, but I hope with all my heart that they are together again.
Three weeks before Jeanette died, I went to Richmond to say goodbye. It was a difficult thing to do; she was bedridden, nearly bald, and able to communicate very little. She knew we were there, though, and we had some good laughs and a few tears. Aimee and her sister were gracious enough to give me a few minutes alone with Jeanette, and I was able to tell her how much she meant to me and how grateful I was to have her in my life. I know that she understood; she cried a little when she realized that what I was really saying was goodbye. She grew sleepy, so we decided to go. I was the last one out, and before I left her side, I kissed her forehead and said, “Goodbye, Jeanette; I love you.” And that was the last time I saw her.
Aimee asked me to share Jeanette’s obituary with you; you can find it here.