Nearly 20 years ago, I found myself a freshman in college at the age of 39. A Lupus diagnosis had changed life’s direction in midstream and I was starting over again. Buffalo State College opened my eyes to so much more in life and although it was a challenging change, it was an adventure I cherish.
I met a lot of amazing people along the way. One of them was a wonderful woman named Jan. She had finally found the courage to step away from an emotionally abusive and crippling marriage to try to stand on her own. It meant leaving her two sons with their father and climbing mountains of obstacles toward a wholeness of being, but she put very ounce of life into making a new life. We commiserated frequently and cheered each other on and she was an inspiration to me. Jan wanted to be able to work with others who were damaged by emotions they could not control. She knew the right doctor and the right medication could be life-changing. Yes, Jan wanted to help everyone.
We graduated, two forty-somethings in a sea of youngsters, and it was our own Olympic dream. I had moved a county away and we lost track eventually, despite well-meaning intentions to keep in touch. Isn’t that always the way?
I heard from Jan’s sister today; my number turned up among Jan’s possessions. Jan passed away earlier this month. She had 12 years after graduation of working with other clients, of mending broken wings and bruised hearts. I’m sure she touched and healed many people in that time. Sadly, she let herself be caught up in a relationship with someone who could not be helped, despite giving everything she had. It sapped the life out of her until she could see no more escape, and the self-doubts and feelings of hopelessness that threatened to bury her twenty years ago overwhelmed her again. Jan chose to leave this world, to end the pain.
What is it about human nature that allows some people to seek out or accept abusive relationships? It’s an age old problem that all the psychological and social sciences will never define or answer. Jan had so much to give others, to give to the world. I am happy that she had those years of happiness and success in between her dark journeys. Perhaps she was always meant to leave this world early, but was gifted with the time to forge a legacy. She leaves her mark on those who were privileged to share her heart and experience her kind and caring nature.
I am sad, my friend, for the pain that forced your hand in the end. I am sad that no one could help you through. I will remember the laughter and tears and endless cramming for those psych exams. I will remember a fragile flower who worked tirelessly to have a moment in the sun. Farewell, Jan. You will be remembered.