Saturday, April 11, 2009
Death Be Not Proud
We're 60 now and we're beginning to lose friends, loved ones, parents, and the inexplicable becomes a zen meditation on daily losing. There is no way to explain those feelings of loss. My therapist would say, "Sit with it, Joan. Be with the feelings for as long as you need to."
I opened the mail yesterday afternoon around 5 P.M. There was a letter addressed to me from a man I did not know but whose name I recognized. He was the devoted son to my good friend, Doreen Kuhl. When I say devoted, I mean that with every fiber of my being. Doreen's two adult children, Philip and Diedre, set the standard high with love and devotion to their mother. Philip wrote to tell me that his mother died on March 30.
I knew she was going to die. She told me so in an annual Christmas letter. She said, "This is the last Christmas greeting you will receive. I am dying." I wrote her and we then exchanged a few beautiful letters. Hospice had quietly entered into her apartment in Arlington, Virginia. She told me she was not happy about that. My friend had the most incredible sense of humor, dry, penetrating, sharp, real, raw. "I don't them around me. But they're useful, I guess." She had C.O.P.D, a disease, which she probably had for years and didn't tell me or anyone.
How a person perceives his or her own death is the mark of divineness. Doreen had divineness is spades.
I think Doreen was about mid-70's. I met her in Ls Vegas so many years ago I cannot remember. But I was running a legitimate year round equity contract theater in a shopping center down the road from UNLV where my previous job as an acting instructor ended at the glass ceiling. You remember those days. I woman couldn't rise above her status because men were deathly afraid they might be smart, capable and better at their job than they were. So I went down the street and opened a theater after I spent a year fund-raising and gathering around me the most capable, brilliant theater people in the business west of the Mississippi.
I met Doreen through her husband, Larry, who was my thesis advisor in theater at UNLV where I was getting my second master's degree. Larry was brilliant, too, but difficult. He died rather too soon of lung cancer, which freed up Doreen to pursue her passions after a decade of taking care of him with devotion. She acted a bit in community theater after moving to Arlington, was a docent at The Kennedy Center and museums and did art work for just about anybody who needed it. She was an amazing example of growing older gracefully and full and richly. I remember directing her in "On Golden Pond" one fall season and she had just about the best instincts as an actress you could ever imagine. She had it all over Kate Hepburn. It was her shinning, glorious moment on the stage and I was able to witness it. I don't think I even directed her. She had it all together from the moment of her first rehearsal.
When I told her how brilliant her performance was, she said, "Oh, my darling, it was not, but it was the best I could do." She always began every sentence with, "Oh, my darling."
Doreen is my role model for growing older. She always kept active and fed her mind and soul with important things in life: family, children, giving back to community. She was selfless, loving and larger than her life.
I will miss her.