Note: This piece ran originally on Joyce Bassett’s “New York Serenade” blog and she was nice enough to let us reprint it here.
I said goodbye to my good friend and Springsteen concert buddy this week. Jean Marie, you lived an incredible 49 years.
Here are just a few words from her obituary:
Originally diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2009, she was faced with a prognosis of having four months to live when cancer spread to her brain in October 2010. The prognosis only reinforced her stubborn determination to live life to its fullest and fill her days with sunshine and chocolate. She traveled as extensively and as often as her treatment allowed, including trips to Hawaii, St. Maarten and a wonderful trip to Lourdes as guests of the Knights of Malta. She saw a Bruce Springsteen concert whenever possible and Springsteen’s “No Surrender” and “Waiting on a Sunny Day” were just a few of the themes she preached on her amazing Caring Bridge website, called Focus on the Positive. The site name was from an inspiring quote from the late Benjamin Stowell, a Blue Creek student who “taught her how to cope” with cancer.
While writing the obituary for my sister-in-law Jean on a beautiful sunny day one week ago, I sent emails back and forth to her oldest daughter, Amanda, who also is a Springsteen fan. The Word document we exchanged between us and other family members we called “Jean Bassett rocks.”
Her family played Springsteen music at a wonderful family gathering after the funeral service and her husband John mentioned Springsteen in his eulogy. He talked about one of my favorite Springsteen adventures with Jean. In the midst of chemo treatment, she arranged a road trip for us and our husbands to drive 4 hours to Buffalo and back to see Bruce Springsteen during the final show of the 2009 “Working on a Dream” tour. It was Little Steven’s birthday. It was Clarence Clemons last full band performance. Bruce did the entire “Greetings from Asbury Park,” his first album. He sung “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” My favorite blurry Bruce concert photo is below, with a Santa hat covering up Jean’s “beautiful bald head” as her husband John called it.
Her daughter Amanda and I have been texting each other back and forth for years when a “Springsteen moment” came up. You know what those are: When you travel and spot a Springsteen license plate; when you wish E Street Radio would play a song and it magically is on air while you are riding in the car; when your mom’s Hospice caregiver is named Shirley E. Street.
A Springsteen moment I experienced in the weeks leading up to her death came full circle as I struggled with questions of “why?” Her elementary school students and teachers created a wonderful basket of hand-painted stones and presented them to Jean a few weeks ago. On a regular basis I spent Fridays with Jean, and when I saw the basket at her house, a stone painted her favorite color teal jumped out at me. It said “No Surrender. Springsteen.” Here is a photo.
Jean did not surrender to this disease. Then why was she taken?
Our wonderful priest, Father Butler, admired a different stone in this rock garden which was brought to the church as part of her memorial. He brought it up to the altar, mentioned it in his homily, and laid it upon her casket. Also designed using in her favorite color teal, the message was Psalm 46:10 and it said:
“Be still Jean, and know that I am God.”
He explained this to the packed church of family, friends and her students gathered to celebrate her life:
To be “still,” he said, means to “surrender” yourself to God. We might not know the answers to all our questions about her death, but if we surrender to God, we can find peace and strength. On her final days, she surrendered. And that is glorious and it brings me peace.
See you further on down the road, my friend.
Follow Joyce at @JoyceB10Bassett.