Jeanne's service was Sunday, December 15 at a place that was special to Jeanne, the Panama Tea House.
The people who came to the service were from different times in Jeanne's life and it was nice to hear about her as a longtime friend, a mother, a teacher, a writer and a cancer care advocate.
Jeanne asked that an excerpt from the novel Life of Pi by Yann Martel be read and also a letter that she wrote. It only seems fitting to share these with those people who cared about her that could not physically be at the service.
Reading from Life of Pi:
I speak in all modesty as I say this, but I discovered at that moment that I have a fierce will to live. It’s not something evident, in my experience. Some of us give up life with only a resigned sigh. Others fight a little, then lose hope. Still others—and I am one of those—never give up. We fight and fight and fight. We fight no matter the cost of the battle, the losses we take, the improbability of success. We fight to the very end. It’s not a question of courage. It’s something constitutional, an inability to let go. It may be nothing more than life-hungry stupidity.
Letter from Jeanne:
There are a couple of things I want you all to know.
The first is that no mother could be prouder of her children than I have always been of Akira and Robin. I love them dearly, and I hope in the days, weeks, months, and years to come, when you remember me, you will think of Akira and Robin and what they might need from you, now that I am no longer here.
Please take care of them for me.
I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in 1998. As you know, my life with cancer has been, for the most part, a wide-open book. I wrote about my cancer because writing about cancer was a way of living with it. A way of fighting back. It has been hard, living with this disease. And yet, cancer forced me to be the woman I was meant to be.
My best writing is my writing about cancer. Some of my closest, most honest friendships grew stronger because I had cancer. And some of the sweetest days of my life are days that I lived knowing that I had cancer.
Did I want to die young? Oh, no. I always thought I would live to be 96, like my grandmother, Margaret Mazzoncini. It was very hard to let go of that—to accept that I was not going to live to be an old lady, grumbling about the normal aches and pains of old age, and wearing purple.
But from the time I learned I had cancer, I think, I made the most of the days that were left to me—and as it turned out, there were a lot of days. Many more than anyone would have predicted. I thank the many friends who helped me make the most of these days. You know how much I love you.
Finally, just a few words about the people who spend their lives taking care of people with cancer—doctors and nurses, of course, but also pharmacists, therapists, researchers … Plus the people who schedule appointments for all those scary tests—MRIs, PET scans, bone scans—and the technicians who operate the scary machines. And the new immigrants who work in the parking garage and take out the trash—always with a smile.
Having cancer would be so much harder if all these people did their jobs as if they were just doing their jobs. But they didn’t, and they don’t. I would like to thank all these people, Dr. Doug Lee, Flora Coughlin, Dr. Steve Eulau, and all the rest, for their care, for their honesty, for their kindness, and, yes, for their love. I would not have lived as long as I did without these people.
I have lived with cancer for 15 years. Those years are a triumph of love and care and generosity by all the people who never let me down. I thank you.