Make Room For The Stuttering

On Community

Posted on: June 5, 2009

This post does not have that much to do with stuttering. It is more about a very moving experience that I had, that re-inforces the value of community. I thought I would share it because the stuttering community certainly has moved me in a very special way.

A memorial service for a friend really gave me pause to think about community, and how critical it is to have a community of love and support while we are living. We should not wait until someone dies to celebrate the goodness we have in life.

I met Jean at a time in my life when I needed help, and I was strong enough to ask for it. I went to Jean for counseling, but in a short time, she provided much more than that. Jean was a friend in many ways – she was caring, non-judgmental, believed in me unconditionally, and encouraged me to do the same and love myself.

She was interested in learning about my stuttering, so we talked a lot about it. Something new for me at the time. We also discussed other issues in life that parallel the stuttering experience. In fact, Jean really helped me launch this whole journey of  self acceptance, and for that, I will always be grateful.

She began to share with me the things in her life that she found meaningful. She was deeply interested in peace and social justice, and was often involved in peace demonstrations. (A mutual friend would later tell me stories of the times Jean was arrested). She was involved in yoga and meditation, took care of her body and soul and practiced mindfulness.

As a psychotherapist, she was also deeply interested in dream work, and was actively involved in a new way of connecting with people – through cyber dream work. Before Jean became really ill, she shared with me stories of some of her recent trips to Ireland and Iceland. She and others were pioneering this new way of helping people find themselves through interpretation of their dreams – in cyber groups held all over the world using the connectivity of the Internet.

Throughout Jean’s courageous battle with cancer, when we could no longer meet together physically, she stayed in touch with me via email. She shared a treasure trove of private thoughts she had about the meaning of life, her gratitude for family and friends, and her excitement about soon becoming a grandma. She once told me how she reflected on life when a single beautiful gold leaf floated through her window, which helped her see the beauty of that day.

She also shared with me some of the bad stuff too how chemotherapy was effecting her, how humbled she felt when she was sitting in a room with other cancer patients getting their drugs, and the incredible pain she was experiencing. Through it all, I was honored and touched that she chose to stay in contact with me. She was sharing a story with me about living and dying with grace and dignity.

When the emails stopped, I wondered and worried. I did not know her husband, so I felt I would be intruding if I called. A friend let me know he had heard she was in and out of the hospital. It was this same friend who delivered the news to me when Jean died, seven months after being diagnosed with cancer, and two weeks after her granddaughter was welcomed into the world. I had prayed that the child would come while Jean was still with us. I hoped she had the opportunity to say hello to Kelsey Lynn, this precious child who Jean loved long before she arrived.

When I heard the news that Jean had died, I was very sad, but also so happy to have known her and felt her impact on my life. I learned there would be a Memorial Service to celebrate her life. I wanted to go, even though I did not know many of the other people in Jean’s life, or her family. Well, that did not matter, as when we all joined together to celebrate a beautiful life, we became one community, full of the same love and energy that Jean embodied in life. You could feel the spirit and one-ness in the room.

And I learned how Jean’s life quietly impacted so many others, as people shared stories about her quest for dreams, hope, and peace. Paper origami cranes, the symbol of peace, were hung all over the sanctuary, as a tribute to Jean’s belief in peace. We were all encouraged to take a crane with us. Jean was also accomplished in knitting and crocheting (which I did not know) and so many people spoke lovingly of the homemade gifts that Jean had given to people over the years.

All of us who knew Jean in life, and were present at the standing room only Memorial Service learned some lessons about death and living. A life well lived leaves a lasting impact on all you meet, even if, like me, you only knew the person for a short time. We leave gifts, a legacy, and those gifts will be passed on to others we meet in our lives.

I truly felt I was part of a special community of love that day as we said good-bye to our special friend. Her death was a celebration of living, and many people will fondly remember the peaceful woman who was sent off among the peace of the cranes.

I have my paper crane hanging in a special place in my home, and thank Jean often for coming in to my life. And I am reminded of how she unconditionally accepted me for who I am, all of me. That’s what its all about – unconditional acceptance.

Copyright © 2009

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2 Responses to "On Community"

“I beleive they are angels among us.” You surely met one.
You are blessed to have known Jean, may her soul rest in peace

Wow! Wonderful words Pam.

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© Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering, 2009 - 2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Pamela A Mertz and Make Room For The Stuttering with appropriate and specific direction to the original content. Same protection applies to the podcasts linked to this blog, "Women Who Stutter: Our Stories" and "He Stutters: She Asks Him." Please give credit to owner/author Pamela A Mertz 2017.