Today we received word that Jan had died. Jan was a most remarkable coworker and fought an exceptionally brave battle against cancer that ended at 6:00 this morning. Within the past several years Jan helped her daughter through surgery, treatment, and therapy for oral cancer. Within the past several months Jan's mother died at home of stroke, in her arms. Within the past weeks Jan suffered pain most of us don't even want to think about. Any one of those torments would have visited years' worth of distress upon a person; nobody should have to endure what she did in the closing chapter of her short life. It makes me angry, sad, and fearful all at one time.
The last time I spoke with Jan, when she was still coming to work, she quietly mentioned as an aside that "I'm losing my fight." I knew at once what she was talking about. I remembered when and how she said it. I had nothing to say to her in response, however. I didn't say, "what do you mean?" I knew what she meant. I didn't say, "oh, I'm sure you are wrong." I was sure she was right. I didn't say, "that's all right." It wasn't all right. I didn't say a thing. I just went on with the work we were doing and treated her just the same as I always had: with great respect for her skillful and meticulous work, with silent admiration for her courage, but with the knowledge that she would soon no longer be a part of my work life. She was gentle, strong, patient, intelligent, quiet, happy, and a joy to be around. I hope she knew how I felt about her: one of the finest people it has been my honor to have been associated with. I've always told everyone who would listen what I thought of her. I just never told her. Now I can't.