Tribute to Jan Kay

Goodbye to a gentle woman.

Jan Kay social worker/Hakomi therapist,

friend and colleague will be sadly missed.

Many of us have been touched by her gentle wisdom.

Jan died peacefully at home with her family on Sunday.

May she rest in peace and may her family find solace in their loss.

Letter to a friend on leaving

When I heard the news of your death I wrote a biting poem, all elbows and flailing fists. But that one isn’t for you. You deserve a gentle song to sing you to your rest. These are my sweet memories of you, a few small precious moments shared and held immortal by these words.

Goodbye and thank you my gentle friend, may your spirit find peace.

I didn’t know you well, or for long, was it 3 years, or maybe 4?

But your leaving left a mark on my heart.

This morning as I walked the walk of my routine I felt you close beside me, warm memories pressing against my skin. The trees bowed down to listen, scraggy eucalypts their grey-rough-bark softening. I never remember the names of the eucalypts, you would. You remembered everything.

Crisp pictures of you leap across my mind’s eye, your neat thick hair and your excitement, almost child-like, when you had it cut short. The soft clink of your silver bangles against your fine wrist, I think they were a gift from your husband but maybe I imagined that. The particular way you folded and tied your silk sarong, though you called it by another name, when we went to that mindfulness course together over summer. The scarves and A-line skirts, your style of dress, all come back and wander through my memory-lane like a heard of Jersey cows going to their milking.

My heart dictates to my mind as I walk the rhythm, mind stumbling to find the right words in the clutter of my brain. So that I can hold these memories before they fade, in a letter that you’ll never read.

Shared moments arrive fresh and warm, like a sleepy child after an afternoon nap. I hold each one close to my chest, and gaze into it, folding it open.

Slipping out of a conference, like naughty schoolgirls, on that last boring dark winter afternoon, and sipping tea from delicate china cups, sitting like rich ladies on the tapestry lounge, ankles crossed. Yours had pink roses on it, at least that’s how I remember it now.

Our long conversations in cafes about our work and life, holding the space open for each other, in the shared respect and intimacy of crone wisdom. Sometimes I cackled too loud and the other patrons looked up, but you didn’t seem to notice, or mind.

We approached our work so differently, as if from opposite ends of a long balancing pole. You came to it in a neat and ordered way, like a Keats poem, “Ode to a Nightingale,” perhaps. Against your order, my way looked like a drunken stand up poet forgetting lines, or making them up as it goes along.

You never complained about my confusions and wild ideas that sometimes took us around in circles. You were always patient when I forgot the names of things I should have known. And somehow, together we found our common ground, a deep respect for each other’s understanding of the great mystery, the human psyche, and our work within that wide field.

We were like long time soldiers back from the front line. We’d earned our scars and medals. We knew the cost of the work, and knew the need to take time to nourish the soul, and naming and sharing was nourishment. And then you took time off, making space in your life for what was precious your family and grandchild. I remember the day you told me, I felt happy for you even though I knew I was losing what we shared. And I envied you.

And when you came back, the others joined our small group and filled the spaces between us. Sometimes I missed what we’d had. But now you are gone I am glad for what we had.

Death arriving so soon, so close, calls me to remember what is precious. To find what my life stands for, to find what I love.

Yesterday I wrote poetry all day. I forgot about the things I should have done. It was delicious. I still haven’t found just the right word in that one line. But looking for it is like seeking the beloved, following some mysterious trail, sniffing the scent. Who knows if I’ll find that perfect word to hold the arc of beauty in light piercing the cloud, or the way the child bends in to see the beetle on a daisy. I don’t mind if I never find it. I only know that writing is at the heart of my “one wild and precious life” and I will follow where it leads me.

I don’t want to be sitting in a padded armchair waiting when death comes. I want to be out chasing the wind with a feather between my teeth trying to fly.

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