The Tribe Of Jan
There are very few people in this world that stand out among the thousands that you will meet during your life. The kind of person that makes those around them better people without those people realizing it. Someone who might have the answers you are looking for at a particular point in your life but who would guide you to discovering those answers yourself rather than just giving them to you.
Jan Eileen King was one of those very rare people.
She passed away on August 27th, 2010.
Now, we all know that no matter how mean someone was in life, it seems to be all forgotten when they die. Most people who knew that person find something nice to say about them at the funeral or at the gathering at someone's house after said funeral. It's the old "let bygones be bygones" attitude and everyone goes off back to their lives afterward. People don't like to speak ill of the dead. Most times the deceased is never given a second thought by those people.
Jan was nothing like that. She was one of the most loving people in the world as many mothers and grandmothers are. Her kids and her grandchildren adored her, as did everyone who knew her. As with most people remembered fondly, she was always there when you needed a friend and more importantly, she always there when you didn't know what you needed.
You see, Jan had a gift. A very, very rare gift. A gift that is hard to explain and even harder to get others who didn't know her to understand. Especially via a blog written by a moron. But, I promise to do my best.
Jan didn't have a perfect life early on. She was molested as a child and later her first marriage was unsuccessful. Her second marriage though would last her the rest of her life. It was a wonderful coupling of two incredibly strong, moral people. She went through two pregnancies but they lost both children at birth or just prior to birth. A lesser person by this point would have given up on life. Jan and her husband Glenn didn't let this stop them. They adopted 2 children and raised them to be wonderful people.
I knew Jan for 20+ years but never knew her religious beliefs or unbelief. That is one of the many things Jan would let people work out for themselves.
You see, she was a gentle breeze. She wasn't a hurricane force wind that shoved something down your throat nor did she condemn you for having a different view of someone or some event. When you talked to Jan she guided you down your own path without you knowing it. She imparted knowledge to you that you may not realize for a long time afterward.
Jan and Glenn were married for over 30 years. Glenn and I would go into lengthy political debates and suddenly, at some point in the evening, Jan would say pleasantly "Well, I think we're all tired so why don't we continue this tomorrow?" When it came to other discussions, if you had a different point of view on something, Jan would say "Wow, how did you come to that conclusion?" She didn't say that to challenge you, she genuinely wanted to understand how you came to your conclusions and many times, you would be stating your case and find that somewhere along the way that your logic was flawed. Jan didn't say a word or say "I told you so" or even hint that you had been previously wrong. She'd sit and smile and talk to you about the subject or any subject for that matter. That was her gift. Jan could correct you without ever saying a contrary word, she could let you find your own path and even if it differed from hers, she would find your path just as interesting as hers.
One time many years ago I was going through troubled period as we all do from time to time. I was on the phone with Glenn and Jan and talking about the situation and expecting them, as my friends, to take my side and tell me how I was right and the other person was wrong, etc. You know, the typical things you expect your friends to say. Jan had rarely spoken during the conversation. At the end of my rambling she said, "Well, I'm not going to say I hope for any particular outcome in anyone's favor but I do hope everyone is satisfied and can accept whatever outcome there is."
That was Jan. And she was right. As always, she was right. Those of us who knew and loved her couldn't wait to just sit down and talk to her. We could talk about any subject and you knew that you would learn something from her. She might only say 10 words in 3 hours but those words would shed a light on some aspect of the subject that you probably had not considered before.
There are few people that can teach you without you knowing it, few people that can say something contrary to your belief on a subject in such a way as to not offend you or call you "wrong". Jan either had you rethinking your feelings on a given subject or reaffirmed your current standing on an issue but in each instance, you learned something. She did it without malice, without passing judgment and without offending. She honestly wanted to know how you felt and what you thought and the logic you used to arrive at a particular decision or stand on any subject, life, love or politics.
And the most wonderful thing someone can do in this world is teach you something that you will relish and carry with you for the rest of your life. Someone that can teach you something that you happily and excitedly pass down to your children and grandchildren.
And if you're really really good at it, you can do it without them even realizing it.