Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Death In The Family

My step-daughter, Christie, died last Saturday after a 21 month heroic battle with pancreatic cancer. For years we called each other "Step." During this time I grew closer to her than even one "step" away; so that I began addressing my messages, "Dear Near" and signed them, "Stepless."

One of life's paradoxes is how the best in people is brought out in the worst of times. An outpouring of kindness and generosity came from caregivers and neighbors and expressions of deeply felt appreciation for her are still appearing on her website, Center for Jewelry Studies, from all over the world.

I recall how similar acts of compassion were daily occurrences when my daughter, Janice, was in her early years. She was born hearing impaired and received special education at the John Tracy Clinic from age two to six. I often wondered why this open-heartedness offered her couldn't be extended to all of us.

Christie was a self-taught jewelry historian. Her subject was as inexhaustible as her passion. She became a pre-eminent scholar in gemology, jewelry, it's design and historical context that brought these pieces into vogue. She authored three books and lectured internationally. Having created her life's work she was an artist whose narrative itself was her art.And in pursuit of beauty she became the lamp by which we all learned to navigate our own way.

I watched in wonderment as her friends, students and colleagues gathered around her with love and offerings of their time in her final ordeal; as if people were waiting to share themselves. In the confrontation with mortality we all go through a transformation into a deeper place.

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