dimanche 30 janvier 2011

In Memory of a Friend



She called herself Eleven European Mystics. You may remember her thoughtful, poetic comments here and over on Octavian’s and several other blogs. 

She was one of the many magical people I met through perfume, but from the outset, we both knew our friendship wouldn’t last for long: Eleven European Mystics had cancer, and it had spread from her breast to the rest of her body. She’d told me early on, when we initiated our correspondence sometime last summer after we’d been in contact over a draw she’d won. Sometimes we would write to each other several times a day. We spoke about the illness, but mostly we spoke about the things that made her love life: poetry, perfume, and things of the soul. She was an editor and her advice, her belief in my writing, her utter generosity, carried me through rough patches. In those few short months, she gave me more love and light than other people would in a lifetime.

Though she was in constant pain despite the drugs, and moving was difficult, she worked, and had a lover. In her penultimate month, she gathered her strength to travel from Israel to her beloved London in December to meet me there and follow my course. She was unhappy with the way she looked, but her flashing eyes, impish smile and regal mien made her a striking woman – I wasn’t the only one to think so, since a handsome Jamaican man was hitting on her when I met her one morning in front of the London College of Fashion…

She poured all of her passion into that class, then into our talks. There was urgency, but neither of us wanted to turn this into a protracted goodbye: we were still in life, not death. She was funny and honest: I remember how cross she was that she’d loved La Petite Robe Noire before knowing what it was, and how she berated herself for being such a snob. 

On Saturday, after the course was over, we were meant to meet. I sent her a text message and waited for her reply. A couple of hours went by before I noticed that my phone had no signal. From a shop, I called D.M., who had also attended the course, had an English mobile and was also planning to meet her. He joined me immediately and we managed to get her on the phone. She’d slipped on a patch of ice and was in hospital with a broken collarbone. Her many desperate messages only reached me once D.M. and I had arrived at the hospital to pick her up. So that my last time with her, she was between D.M. and I, walking on the icy London streets, telling us Jewish jokes while we looked for a cab that never materialized. We ended up having dinner in a Turkish restaurant near the British museum.
Two days later, as I sent her an email to see if she’d got back to Tel Aviv safely she told me she’d gone blind in one eye. Then that the cancer had reached her brain. Then there was one more message in January. There were a few last comments on blogs. I kept on writing her, thinking maybe she could still read without having the strength to respond. 

I wrote to her again last Wednesday. I’d asked her months ago to give me someone to contact if she went silent. She hadn’t. So I dug through my emails – a now-posthumous correspondence that is still out there in Gmail’s virtual space -- and finally found one where she mentioned a friend’s full name. I tracked down the friend.

Eleven European Mystics died on January 26th 2011. It was a great gift and a privilege to know her.

74 commentaires:

  1. I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a strong and wonderous woman. I would have liked to have known her...

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  2. Jen, thank you. She was incredibly strong and brave indeed to do all she did despite the pain.

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  3. I am ever so sorry for your loss.
    With cancer even though you know the end is coming, it still hits you when it really happens.

    You write about her very beautifully and I am sure she would have appreciated that. It is nice to be remembered fondly, and especially when that feeling is put into words so gracefully.

    Bon courage,

    Barbara

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  4. Barbara, I know a lot of cancer survivors, but the prognosis for my friend was bleak...
    My words don't do her justice (but she'd chide me for thinking that).
    Thank you.

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  5. I'm sorry for your loss, but the way you described her is like the best tribute. And I'd have like to know her as one of those brave persons who are giving all of us a lesson in living. I know there are no words to appease the pain of a loss, but my heart is with you, with her.
    God Bless

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  6. Roberto, thank you. Her comments still live on in the ether and when people read them, they'll her a bit of her voice.

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  7. You write so beautiful and touching about your friend, my eyes where filled with tears when I read your post. Now I will re-read EEM:s thoughtful comments and think about the hard struggle behind her words.

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  8. Parfumista, I think that struggle is what kept her vibrant and present to life.

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  9. hotlanta linda30 janvier 2011 16:35

    Hang in there, and remember that she is whole, well, and in God`s love-filled arms! He gets to hug her for us!!

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  10. Linda, I feel sure she's hugging me now, she was a very warm person!

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  11. It must be hard to write about this and still find the right tone.

    I remember some of her comments and plan to reread them.

    How wonderfull it is that she could inspire such feelings, laugh, joke and be so courageous all at the same time. Some people live to be 80 but never show much courage or affection. Often the "wounded" people are the ones that touch our lives the most.

    Bon courage, Denyse.

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  12. I am shocked and grief stricken to learn her death! May her soul rest in peace.

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  13. Illdone, EEM was passionate, poetic and candid, but she would have never wanted to be spoken of mawkishly, so I tried my best...

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  14. Octavian, she loved your writing and admired you so, she told me many times. I think you brought her a lot of joy.

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  15. I am so sorry, so sorry to hear that, Can't help but cry. F was incredible for sure, so full of live and so strong.

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  16. Marina, I'm sorry you got the news that way. I didn't know you'd been in touch with her... But it's comforting to think she was part of your life too.

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  17. Dear Denyse,
    I remember reading many of her comments on various blogs. Hers were among the ones I would dwell on because of her thoughtfulness, and a sense she wrote with authority on the subjects.
    Thank you for sharing the news and your memories with us.

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  18. OperaFa, yes, her comments were often striking and always heartfelt: she was a writer and despite English being her third language, she wrote beautifully.

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  19. I'm very sad, and sorry for the loss of your friend. She wrote a number of thoughtful and insightful comments on my articles, I would have liked to get to know her better. Thanks for the beautiful eulogy, because we all know her a little better now.
    -Marla

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  20. Marla, there is so much more but it remains in the realm of our correspondence. It's strange to think it's all out there on a computer... I've never given it a thought, to this digital survival.

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  21. I didn't know her but I do remember her comments that were worth paying attention to, she will be missed.

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  22. Oh, I'm so sorry to hear of your loss...

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  23. Tatyana, it was a much greater loss for those who had her in their lives much longer, but I'll miss her very much.

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  24. GalileosDaughter30 janvier 2011 23:21

    I'm so sorry for your loss, and that you had to give us such sad news. You write about her with such warmth and grace, I feel a pang of loss as well. I do remember her comments on this and other blogs. Even over the anonymous Internet, you could tell she was a person of great intelligence.

    May she rest in peace. Peace to you as well.

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  25. I'm very sorry for your loss, Denyse. This beautiful elegy and accompanying photos also brought tears to my eyes. Yes, I always noticed EEM's comments and wondered why she chose that name and who the mystics were. I'm so glad she got to take your course. ~~nozknoz

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  26. GalileosDaughter, I can't presume to guess what EEM's wishes might have been, but I always wonder, when someone who commented often drops out of sight... She was part of this community for very many people.

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  27. Nozknoz, she never did have the opportunity of telling me about the mystics, but I've learned it's a book by Rudolf Steiner. Here's the link: http://www.scribd.com/doc/10035372/Rudolf-Steiner-Eleven-European-Mystics

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  28. I'm so sorry... I remember her comments. Of course I had no idea she was so ill. I don't know what to say. I'm in shock :(
    Rest in peace.

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  29. What a beautiful tribute! It's wonderful that both of you had a chance to know each other, both in 'reality' as well as cyber.

    Thank you for sharing with us.

    xoA

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  30. I am so very sorry for your loss. I have no words to express my sympathy. I am glad she encouraged you to write, because your work brings a lot of joy to other people's lives. It's incerible to have some one in your life who supports you and encourages you to dream. They are a very rare breed.

    Yours truly,

    Carole

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  31. Your post in EEM's memory is a lovely tribute; I'm so sorry to hear of her death. I remember seeing her name on several blogs, in fact I was just reading one of her comments today on an older post. Her words will live on.

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  32. I'm very sorry to hear this, Denyse. Your tribute was indeed beautiful and luminous, and a reminder that the time we all have together on this earth is brief and poignant. Those moments when our orbits cross are to be cherished. Sending you lots of love.

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  33. Isa, EEM did mention her condition in some comments, and was quite forthcoming about it in class in London, which is why it doesn't feel indiscreet to speak of it. That's the way she was.

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  34. Carole, at times I felt unworthy of her praise... but then I told myself that at that stage in her life, she had nothing to gain from lies and that she thought every word she wrote, so I drew strength from her words. It's too early for me, too raw to go and re-read her letters, but I will...

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  35. Anita, it is always wonderful to meet my perfume cyber-friends in the real world. In EEM's case there was more urgency, though at the time I didn't know how much -- perhaps she didn't either, or if she did, she was too considerate to say...

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  36. Gail, it's strange, isn't it? That a voice can still resonate like that... I hope the few words I've written about EEM will deepen that resonance.

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  37. Jarvis, thank you... I think it was Picasso who said to never put off tomorrow something you want to do before you die. In EEM's case it was all the truer. I'm happy and humbled that her heart's desire was to cross paths with me -- among many other things I'm sure.

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  38. What a moving tribute and what sad news... I did not know her, but I remember seeing the screen name on Marina's blog and here.
    I am sorry for your loss, it sounds like you formed a strong bond. Bon courage, dear D!

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  39. Victoria, thank you. I didn't know her for long but it was a strong bond indeed.

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  40. Denyse, I'm very sorry for your loss. Like so many other people who've written in, I remember EEM's comments very well and will miss her insights.

    I was so pleased to read that she'd managed to attend your course. I'm sure she must have enjoyed it.

    Treasure the moments you had together.

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  41. Scentof Choice31 janvier 2011 10:26

    I met F (didn't know of her other name) on Denyse's course in London. She was late on the first day because she was in pain, but walked in regal and elegant. We got on immediately and were the naughty, talkative ones in the class. She talked about her illness but never with self-pity. She had so much emotional 'disponibilite' for someone so ill - paid attention in an unusually profound way. I met her for four days and she will always be someone who has made a difference in my life. She had a great sense of fun and wickedness as well. Adieu.

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  42. I am so sorry to hear this. It might not seem appropriate for me to be having tears in my eyes at work but that seems to have happened to me several times in the last 8 months or so.
    Loss has been part of these last months for me and I can't help but not wish it upon other people even though I know it's unavoidable. In the end, I realized it made me appreciate life, friends and love more, once the grief subsided a bit.

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  43. Persolaise, if you'd been able to make it to the course you'd have had a great time with her!

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  44. ScentofChoice, thank you so much for adding a few brushstrokes to the portrait: EEM was indeed funny and naughty and quite the diva. She engaged us all deeply and immediately.

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  45. Ines, I'm very sorry this post awakens the pain of a loss that is still so recent.

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  46. Denyse, I am just speechless. I remember that snowy saturday so well and now she's gone.
    My thoughts are with you and all of those lucky enough to know her.

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  47. Silvia, yes, we were together when I said I had to find EEM, under that Saturday blizzard... Despite the drama, that Saturday is a great memory, first with you two and then with EEM because she was being so funny and brave and graceful despite her accident. I didn't want to think then that I was seeing her for the last time: as Leonard Cohen sings, that's no way to say goodbye.

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  48. I am very sorry for your loss and incredibly moved by the wonderful picture you draw of EEM, whose insightful comments I remember reading on several blogs.
    My heart goes out to you.

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  49. Denyse, I'm no longer worried about my grief, I wish (as I'm sure everyone else who commented here does) I could do something to ease the pain of your loss.

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  50. Olfactoriastravels, thank you. I think the best tribute is enjoying perfumes just as she did, as liquid poetry...

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  51. Ines, EEM wasn't part of my life for very long and in a way, the terms were set from the start: I would lose her, and probably quite soon. But of course, as in every loss, you can't help thinking you could have done more, been there more, given more... It was a geographical impossibility. But I know what there was made her happy.

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  52. Your tribute to F is so beautiful, so moving. I remember you telling S and I about her as we trudged through that amazing snow storm and, later, your concern that you'd not heard from her. It seems like a brief repreive that you spent the evening with her. I am looking forward to re-reading her comments. Sympathies for your loss, Denyse, and to others also grieving. Nicola

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  53. Nicola, if I had the courage I would go back
    and offer a selection as a tribute but it's
    too early in the grieving process for that... better just to find them as I go...

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  54. A beautiful tribute. My condolences to you and to others who have lost her.

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  55. Thank you for this portrait of a fellow community member, D, albeit along with such sad news. I was always struck by EEM's comments, and am glad to know a little of the woman behind them. I'm sure that as an editor, an admirer of your work, and a passionate perfume lover, this tribute would have pleased her very much.

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  56. Alyssa, in a way, that's the irony of it, isn't it? That it would have pleased her... But I think it would have.

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  57. Cancer is such an evil f**ker ( and indirectly the reason why my online presence has diminished a lot - my dad); that EEM brought poetry into your life and that you found these beautiful words so we could feel her life - well, it diminishes that evil and gives us back the dead in three full dimensions. Thank you.

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  58. I am so sorry for your loss. I too remember her comments and I am sad to hear about her death.
    I recently lost my grandfather to cancer, I also have a close relative who has cancer in her lungs. She doesnt have much time left. I was diagnosed with cancer two years ago, luckily the tumors could be removed without any other treatment. I am now healthy but feel for thoose who didnt get the chance I got.
    I wish you all the best and I am happy to hear about the good times you got with her.

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  59. Lee, dear, I'm sorry that you're going through this... I sometimes told EEM that while I acknowledged her illness and would never shy away from talking about it and about her fears, she was not her cancer, she was a wonderful woman AND she had cancer, but the crab didn't sum up who she was, and we should never let it invade our space.

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  60. Sara, sad your loved ones are ill but glad you were cured -- so many are, and at the beginning I hoped there was hope for my friend. Still, in the short time I knew her I think she got everything out of life that she could, and more.

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  61. As a metaphysical person, I noticed her screen name immediately and always paid attention to her comments. She seems like a very wise old soul. The perfume community has been diminished by her passing. Thank you for honoring her with such a beautiful tribute.

    Love and healing to you, D.
    Donna

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  62. Donna, thank you. I was intrigued by her screen name as well. I didn't read the book she named herself after, but I will now.

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  63. Denyse--I am moved by your post about your friend, and so terribly sorry about your loss.

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  64. Violetnoir, thank you. The loss is much greater for her family and loved ones, and I do hope that if they ever stumble on this post, they don't feel I'm appropriating their grief...

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  65. What a sadness I feel. And I never met her but I did through you. It is very difficult. She was very strong and she is smelling wonders now that we are yet to.

    Much Love

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  66. Vintage Lady, thank you for your thoughts. She was very strong indeed.

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  67. Denyse, don't worry that you "didn't do enough"--honesty, humor, and living life as it comes is the best gift, especially for those who know their time limit (which should be all of us, really, but we try to pretend we don't have an expiration date)! You really do take your friendships with you....
    -Marla

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  68. Marla, thank you. I know, but I also know it's a
    normal way to feel when someone you care about dies... But it was also an attitude I thought through at the time. As I wrote, being on the side of life was the best way of giving. The one thing I always wrote to her was "you're here". In fact that's what I wrote to her on the day she died.

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  69. What a beautiful piece about your friend. I am sorry she is no longer of this world, but from your words I know she left her mark on your heart and surely many others. May her memory be a blessing. Big hugs, Tara

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  70. Tara, thank you. I guess the imminence of death made it all more intense... We had to pack a lot into those few months.

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  71. I am so sorry to read this. I always enjoyed reading her thoughts. I am glad that you got to know her well.

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  72. Tom, I did and it was a great pleasure, even a privilege. I'm happy that in her last weeks we got to connect in the real world, and that she was able to share her passion with fellow perfume lovers.

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