Janie Villiers Blessings

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NEVER LET ANYTHING SEPARATE YOU FROM THE PEOPLE YOU LOVE Or, as Abraham understood God to have told him, "Heyay beracha," which means "be a blessing"-that is why we are here. Timeless counsel for all people from Rabbi Harvey Tattelbaum's "A Thought for the New Year" homily published in this newspaper. And no doubt, his Temple Shaaray Tefila sermons offered many a lesson on being a blessing, including not letting anything separate us from the people we love. This column is dedicated to Janie Villiers, my unofficial goddaughter who departed this life on Aug. 26, a victim of breast cancer. Somehow she seemed so indestructible, such a life force, that I did too little to overcome a difference that separated us so much this past year. Never count on cancer, or anything else, being in remission. First, there was our blessed shared history; Janie's aerospace scientist/race car designer English father met her mother, my best friend from Minnesota, at St. Thomas Church in New York (Google mistakenly says Janie and her brother are children from their father's first marriage). And I was regarded as Janie's godmother because, despite geographic separations, our families remained close through real mail and phone calls. Her mother died tragically young of cancer, and then there was Cordon Bleu culinary school and catering work for New York showbiz celebs. Then she returned to London to care for her father. And maybe her hyper-independent spirit plus an intractable vision problem kept the beautiful, gifted and charismatic Janie from marrying. She so wanted a child. Thankfully, generation gaps didn't exist for Janie, and we remained "close family" through yearly visits but mostly through frequent and lengthy phone calls which often financially imprudent Janie said were well worth the cost. She was right, and although never at a loss for words, she was also an empathic listener and wanted to know how we introverts really were. And when there were problems, she never said, "Look on the bright side!" That alone makes one feel better. We both had a sense of outrage and also a passion to make things better. And Janie did-often in a big way, such as when I was hospitalized with bilateral pneumonia. Her long-distance badgering of medics improved my care, especially quieting a noisy roommate. Sometimes Janie did too much-going way over the top-but how much more blessed than the all-too-commonplace "doing too little." I will never stop needing to talk with Janie about this or that personal or societal matter. I intended to send her the Sept. 4 Times piece "First Lady Strives for Caring Image Above Partisan Fray," which called Michelle Obama "The Hugger in Chief." Janie's response to Queen Elizabeth getting a hug from our first lady had been a resounding, "Now that's the kind of affection and love the world needs most!" Her "always there for her" friend Simon wrote, "She will be sorely missed." An understatement. While most concerned with solving our immediate families' disconnects, Janie was also a great extended-family ally who was so happy a grandmother lived in the White House. How she would applaud Mitt Romney for publicly lamenting a nest now too empty of offspring. And how she would boo Paul Ryan for saying it was awful the "bad economy" forced college grads to live at home. Though a preservationist, Janie also opposed "efficiency lighting," small cars and heedless city biking. There's so much more, but if you remember just one thing from this so inadequate remembrance of our inimitable, irreplaceable Janie, let it be: "Never let anything separate you from the people you love." dewingbetter@aol.com

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