MY FRIEND JOANJoan was one of my true lifelong friends. To be remembering her life here now is incomprehensible because I thought she'd be here forever, long after I was gone.
It seems like Joan was always near, yet Rebecca reminded me the other week that we had really only lived in the same place at the same time, in Evanston, Illinois, around the corner from each other, for about 3 years. I was shocked to realize that it had been such a short interval in our lives, because we were always in touch, often meeting up back in Chicago after our family had moved on to Philadelphia.
Joan and I met in those formative years of our lives. Our children were small and played together like siblings, back and forth between our homes. One would assume that the kids were the catalyst to our friendship, but really it was just an instant bond between us as adults. Like Joan, it was an easy and uncomplicated relationship. We spent a lot of time sharing life's "ups and downs" over Peet's coffee in Joan mugs, plentiful in my house. Joan and I were unlikely friends, as we were different in many ways. I read Vogue; Joan did not. Yet she became one of the very few special and trusted friends in my life. She was never judgmental. She was always supportive and encouraging, insightful, and loyal. She would listen and understand. Most of all, I knew she truly cared. I think that knowing Joan changed my life and the way I looked at things. I admired her unpretentiousness and her conviction to be who she was. Joan was tenacious, she was creative, and she was vibrant.
In looking back, those beginning years of our friendship were golden years with so much of life ahead and no thought of life ending. As the years went on, we shared happy landmarks: our children leaving for college, their marriages, and the unbounded joy of becoming grandparents. We both loved to travel and traded stories of distant destinations.
We thought about the future and shared concerns, but the most heartbreaking confidence came when Joan told me hesitantly that she had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The gravity of this event hit and we knew we had to talk. It was our most difficult conversation, but we weren.t silent. Time was now precious. When she told me that she probably wouldn.t be able to travel to Boston for the birth of Rebecca.s baby or be able to rejoice at Julie.s wedding, I knew the disease was in control. I was angry that she could be robbed of such joy.
I never got a last goodbye, as Joan died 8 days before my ticket out to see her. She had insisted that I stay with her, because, as Joan said, the new guest bed "was a dream in which to sleep" and added "the best conversations are always those held in nightgowns after hours or before!" I regret that we never had those meaningful last conversations in those quiet, wakeful hours, but I will always remember the ones we did share.
So I am especially grateful that we had wonderful day together last fall on a beautiful warm Chicago day. Ron had had his book signing and when Joan and I got together the next day we were so happy to catch up on each others' lives. Julie and Rebecca and families were coming in to celebrate Joan and Ron's anniversary, the Africa trip was in the planning. Life never seemed better.
I will always miss Joan, but I will never forget her. She impacted my life in many positive ways, and for that, I thank her. Most of all, I thank her for sharing her love.
Joan used to always joke that my house was a virtual "Joan Rapoport Museum" because I have so many of her pieces. I used to get a special preview of those pre-Thanksgiving "Pottery by Joan" open houses and every trip to Chicago meant a carry-on back full of Joan's pots. Now they are poignant reminders of my very gifted and cherished friend Joan, who is never far from my thoughts.