RIP, Jane Ganet-Sigel

This is the season of life in which we find ourselves.

The children largely grown and out of the house, not yet fully independent but well on their way.

Many, like Aidan, are legal adults who have started to shed the oppositional position in which everything we say as parents is wrong and subject to eye rolling and scornful looks.

Whereas several years ago we battled over curfews and cars, now we talk about care packages sent and received, courses taken and internships sought.

It’s calmer, less emotionally taxing and grounded in a feeling of only slightly mixed gratitude.

Our parents, on the other hand, are in the time that Dylan Thomas called “the dying of the light.”

Some, like my mother-in-law Helen said about Marty in his final days, rage against the inevitable end.

Others are more accepting.

There is no right way to go.

But fading and passing they are.

Yesterday it came to Jane Ganet-Sigel, mother of dear friend Eddie Ganet.

Jane lived a long, full, joyful and generative life.

She founded the Dance/Movement Therapy program at Columbia College, where I have just begun to teach.

A loving mother and grandmother and partner to the indomitable Mel, a sturdy nonagenerian from the West Side with a firm handshake and a grey pony tail.

Jane fought long and hard against the various ailments she suffered.

Her mind never stopped working, even if the strokes she sustained made it harder to express herself.

Dunreith and I would see Jane and Mel at Cheryl and Eddie’s house on holidays like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

We’d sit in the dining room, feasting on brisket or whatever other treasures Cheryl had made, chatting about this and that, thankful to be part of the circle of birth and adopted family.

Even as her ability to speak waned, Jane always transmitted pure love with her soulful dark eyes.

Dunreith chided me the last time we saw her for knocking another guest out of the way before saying goodbye to Jane.

My wife was right, but I just wanted to show my respect and caring for this remarkable woman.

On Saturday Jane said goodbye to her son, who had given her unfailing love and care as she declined.

See you soon, Eddie said.

Maybe not, Jane answered, slyly.

The Great Lioness has taken her last breath, Eddie wrote on Facebook.

It appears that she knew.

As we advance to a certain stage in our lives, there are fewer and fewer people who treat us as their children.

For us, the generation of grandparents is largely gone.

Our parents are going.

Being around someone who related to me that way, as Jane did, always filled me with warmth and made me feel safe.

I called Mom last night while we were making dinner.

She and Jane had met one Rosh Hashanah and enjoyed each other’s company a lot.

Mom had just spoken the day before about how she and her peers are nearing death, thinking about their lives and what has mattered to them.

You are in the stage of living from your dreams and seeing what comes from that, she told me.

It was a little late last night when I called, and Mom was up and alert.

She told me about the writing she’s doing.

I shared the news about Jane and about what she had said to Eddie.

People choose the time they’re going to die, Mom said. Often doctors in hospice don’t understand that, but the pull to life becomes less and less.

I’m glad you’re still here, I told Mom.

Appreciative of Jane for all that she gave us, we are aware that we are inching into the space our grandparents and parents inhabited before us, the place of elders who have largely done what they are going to do in life and who are passing on their wisdom and ceaseless love to those who come after us.

She and they will guide us as we move, slowly but inexorably, into this new stage.

Thank you.

2 responses to “RIP, Jane Ganet-Sigel

  1. Kathy Tossas-Milligan

    As I continue my daily journey of getting used to life without mom (in this realm), this post moves me deeply. Thank you Jeff…

  2. I’m in the senior division here, the last man standing in my family constellation but…no disrespect for Dylan Thomas, I’m far from the category of ‘the dying of the light’, although an actuarial life table might disagree,and I’m still putting out a significant amount of wattage.

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