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Personal Remembrances of June

 

Marie Coté

Dear June,

I thank the heavens every day for the privilege of knowing you. I am also deeply thankful and grateful to say that most of what I'm saying here you already know. You know how much I love you. You know how I consider you my intellectual soul-mate, and the special place that will always be only yours I have filled with those precious fond memories of you. I will continue to fill that bottomless reserved space with the future fond memories of you that live on through your friends and family members, especially Jessie.

Dean showed me various photo albums, capturing times in your life before I came to know you. The Halloween costumes were among my favorites. In those volumes of photos, one thing that struck me so saliently was that even though the dreaded Myeloma robbed you of some of your physical beauty, it never stole your spirit, which transcended all adversity. Your spirit remains forever mesmerizing, forever profound.

It was that incredible spiritual strength that held me together the day that I phoned you with the sad news that my father had only a few more days on this earth. You were the first person I thought to call, the sister that I never had, the first outside my family to know. You instantly set aside your own tribulations to say the exact words to comfort me and allow me to get control of myself so that I could get my things in order. Most of all, on that day, despite my inconsolable grief, you actually made me laugh. I have no idea what about, or how you managed to do that, but you did. I remain forever indebted to you for that.

Now, you know that I wasn't at your Memorial *because* of you! You were the one who solved the mystery of that hauntingly beautiful song that my father used to play on the piano when I was a child. Amazingly, over the telephone in a 15-second sound bite with voice-over, recorded from the TV on a cheap grad school tape recorder, you identified Rachmaninov's Prelude in C# Minor. You opened up the world of classical music for me, which I never realized was so much a part of me. I started taking piano lessons because of you. I am even re-fingering the Prelude in C# Minor so as to play it properly. I can hear you saying, "See? I TOLD you it sounds better that way!" You know too that I now have one of the most extensive collections of Rachmaninov's works. You also know that I have never seen a live performance of his works. You know I had tickets to the performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto #1 and Symphony #3, and some of your best friends said that you would want me to go. I have dedicated every delicious note, every tear that spilt from my heart, to you.

You gave me and the world so, so much dear June. What is so amazing is that we have yet to realize just how much that is. Your legacy lives on in your friends, certainly, but not so much as in David and Jessie and your family. Since I got to know Jessie, he has become my adopted nephew. You know we have a special relationship. He is my buddy, and my warm remembrance of you. I hope to stay in his life, and watch him become all that you wanted for him.

In the end, dear Junie, no words are adequate enough. I will see you at a later time, and we will continue our conversations from Santa Fe.

Love, Marie

Dagmar Etkin

It is so hard for me, and for all of us, to have June leave this earth, but I am glad she will get the peace she deserves in the great Beyond. A piece of my heart has left this earth with her.

I was June's friend for nearly 30 years through many different phases of life and many different lives, it seems. We went through high school together and loved and held each other during those difficult times. We shared a love of nature and music, fantasy and imagination. We went into college and careers determined to pave new paths for independently thinking women. Later we went into motherhood together and learned of the wonders of a child's love and a mother's love. I wish that I had had more time with her, but our lives diverged several times. I was glad to have time with her the last few years when we reunited during difficult times we were both having. Her strength and courage has been a source of great inspiration to me in those hard times.

I always admired June's unwavering determination to be herself in spite of what others thought. She has always been a person who went "beyond" in just about everything. She took me into many beyonds years ago, always pushing the envelope going where I was afraid to go. I cherish those times I did let go and went with her. Now it is hard for me to think of her going now into a beyond where I am afraid to go. I look forward to seeing June again there when my time comes, too.

I am blessed to have shared nearly 30 years with her.

Tajud Kabani

Dear June,

I know you now for exactly a decade. I thank you for setting me straight on my professional path as a Dipl.Ac (NCCA)! Your continuous encouragement and inspiration never failed me. Your commitment to the role of professional, mother, wife, daughter, sister never ceased to amaze me. In all these years, I never saw you in any negative or depressive state, you remained humorous and your spirits always high.

Sadly, over the past few years we remained connected only through cyberspace, but your cyberhugs were always received with great warmth. I will miss writing to you "Dear June". I will miss those cyberhugs too. But as I look up to the night sky I know one of those glittering mystical jewels of God is you. How lucky the heavenly body is to have you now, as lucky as we were to have you  here with us. Perhaps you will now expand the arch of heaven, the way you expanded the minds of many here on earth.

I will always remember you for your remarkable energy and your unfailing devotion, I will also remember your fondness for the spicy daals and peas pilau, your hot tub and the Vidalia onions stored in your stocking.

Where ever you are Dear June, may your atman be in peace.

With love, your friend, Tajud

Liz Luby

Even though June was only 43, she seemed to have the wisdom of the ages. She was just always there on the listserv gently guiding people through the information forest of this dread disease.

Here's a quote from Anthon Padovano, a religious writer from the East coast who has been writing wonderful inspirational stuff for a very long time:

"A woman who is faithful sees beforehand not the course of her life but the fidelity of her perseverance. She is optimistic about this even in her forsakenness. She shall find the strength she needs until the last moment. And when she has no more moments to live, she shall pass into the keeping of someone who shall be as faithful with her as she was with others."

June persevered not only for herself but for all of us who were so lost and scared when Mulitiple Myeloma came into our lives. Thank you and thank God for letting her walk the road with us.

Cheryl McKee

I wish I could have been at the Memorial -- to hear the stories and memories of June. In the normal measure of time, I knew her for just a little while -- and was hoping to have many more years of her quick humor, her wealth of knowledge and willingness to share, her empathy and emotional support.

But even as I feel a little "cheated", I also feel a growing sense that June's values and spirit are present and will be for those who need them. The year now "quickens" to light and the stirring of new life continues the rhythm, the ebb and flow of all forms of existence. We, and June, are all part of this -- and, so, we remain connected.

In his poems, the German poet, Rainer Maria Rilke, created an intensely metaphorical language to express transcendent meaning and there is one poem that has special significance for me. I have translated it several times, and will continue to do so. Translations, by the way, are never really done; there are always new insights into meaning and the need for new expression. I would like to offer it now, and hope that you too may, for that "brief moment", connect with that other reality that is indeed ageless.

We know nothing of this journey,
That is not ours to share with you. We have no reason
To think, either with wonderment and love, or with dread,
Of this death, marvelously distorted
 
As a tragic mask of lamentation.
Our world is yet filled with roles that we act out. And,
In our concern to please the crowd, death plays its part also,
Although it provides no pleasure.
 
But yet, as you left us, a faint whisper
Of reality appeared upon the stage -- drifting from the
Portal through which you passed: the greenest of all greens;
Pure sunlight; ageless forests.
 
We play on. Reciting, declaiming that which we
Have learned with effort and hardship,
And adding the occasional gesture.
But then, every now and then, your existence,
 
Torn away from ours, returns to surround us,
Emanating consciousness of that reality, so that
We, transported there for a brief moment,
Play at life a little longer -- but not thinking of applause.

Thom Namaya

JUNE

She is a presence who touches our spirit and souls.
Though we would like to paint images of fluffiness around
     those we cared for and love
And to smooth out the rough surfaces of memory
     I prefer to think of my friend in all her feistiness and zip.
The sharp and clever tongue, that could also be kind,
     and, though she might cringe, loving.
There was little space for fools, but a good measure of
     space for foolishness.
There was a true sense of fun and play that I too rarely saw:
     I regret that the most.
But that is June, for whenever we knew her, accept her
     on her own terms or move on.
I embrace the paradox of who she is...
 
Look around! The room is full. Multiply this by a thousand,
     The many who have been touched by her
Kindness and help. The many who found strength and
     Courage to keep fighting.
The many who now persevere, because she showed the way.
 
By life and deed, I believe she said this:
    Life is short, live it well, and fully. Give your best.
Be as present as possible. Focus on the essentials:
             Love, kindness, family, and friends.
                          The rest will follow.
So my friend, how shall I remember you best?
     Your voice on the answering machine still speaks to me,
"If you don’t leave a message, I won’t know you called."
     So the message I leave is this…
Thanks for your inspiration. Thanks for your guidance.
     Thanks for the toughness and tenacity when it was
So easy to quit. Thanks for being just who you were
     Without compromise or apology.
Thanks for opening the many doors to the house with many rooms.
     Thanks for being just,
June

(I hope in your next life you live in a country cottage, on the southern coast of California, next to an English sweet shop.)

Bill Prensky

As an educator, a practitioner, an Acupuncturist, and a friend, I knew June for a dozen years.  She was one of the most brilliant and hardest workers our profession, or any profession, has ever known. Up until just before her death, while struggling daily with fatigue, pain and disabling and intrusive therapies, she remained a devoted mother of two sons, a wife, and at her desk, every day, keeping in touch with all of the work she had helped to start. She will be sorely missed.

June was one of the founders of the Acupuncture Society of NY in 1990, and its President until 1995. She battled to represent the interests of the emerging Acupuncture profession in this state. She helped to shape the regulations that would govern our practices. She worked on strategies to put forward Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine as a reputable, sound, evidence-based professional practice.

June was a close, personal friend. I carried her sons, David and Jessie, on my shoulders when they were little. They are grown now. I sat with them in the hospital as we explored what her illness would mean to them all. June would call me, and ask me to speak with her son, and her husband, Dean, to explain what her current treatment would mean. It was vitally important to her that they understand. She was a tireless teacher, so she also taught with this illness.

June was only 43 when she died, far too young. June was headed for a brilliant career in science and medicine. But, long before her bout with Multiple Myeloma, illness interfered, and when Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine provided an answer that conventional medicine had not been able to provide, she turned to our profession and applied all of her unbelievable energy towards it. Her accomplishments are widely known.

June was a tireless friend. She and I were both early risers, enjoying the morning hours when only we were stirring. Who else, I wonder, will I call at 6:30 in the morning, to discuss the news of the day?

She was a devoted mother, who protected her sons like a lioness, fighting, in spite of her exhaustion and pain, for everything that they need. She told me last spring, when her younger son, Jessie, was preparing to graduate from high school, and her older son, David, was just finishing his formal years in college, that she would not go from this world until they were launched, ready, able to stand on their own. She kept her promise. She left them in good hands, with her husband, Dean. She stood by them, and they stood by her. Dean struggled alongside her with her illness, supporting her work to understand it and to help others. Her sons lived with her illness as she did, day by day. Jessie was with her when she died, as he had been throughout the struggle. Both he and David were at home when she was taken to the hospital for this last time. She left them all knowing that they were loved.

When we started the Mercy College Graduate Program in Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine, in Dobbs Ferry, NY, June was there. Dobbs Ferry is only 10 minutes down the Hudson River from her home. She knew, then, in 1996, that she was dying.

June donated her collection of rare and privately printed texts to the College Library. It is known as the June Brazil Collection. She served on our Advisory Board. She spoke with me every day about our progress, our trials and our difficulties. She advised. She listened. She understood.

Crucial in bringing Acupuncture into the modern age, June worked to bring diverse schools of thought into the Acupuncture world. June was dedicated to scientific exploration of the basis for claiming efficacy for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She insisted on evidence, and on academic rigor. More than anyone else, she was the driving force that brought the Academy’s publication of Acupuncture Efficacy to reality, and was working on two projects for new books when she died. 

Since her diagnosis in 1994, June applied this same energy to the Myeloma community.

June will live on for me, and for all of us. She will live on through her work with cancer patients and families. She will live on through her husband, through her children. She will live on through her contributions to the world of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine.

Our students now and always will know her. Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Acupuncturists who owe her so much, survive her. Hundreds of Myeloma patients who owe her so much survive her. And hundreds of friends will survive her.

Peter Tischler

I first met June on the Hem-Onc list in December 1996. Gosh, was that only three years ago? She became my "heroine" and I told her that on many occasions. I tried to model my own "ministry" with myeloma friends after her own, but I’m still in awe of all she managed to do regardless of her own personal problems.

June combined some interesting talents. She had become well versed in both Eastern and Western healing arts, but she also knew well the limitations of both. She had little patience with those who would worship solely at either of those altars when it came to myeloma treatment. But I think it was her humanity, her compassion, her caring that stood out in my mind. While her knowledge was impressive, her humanity was prodigious - and compelling to me. I’d like to think that much of what anyone might find to be "good" in my own myeloma ministry is a reflection of what I learned from June.

And now our June has graduated, moved on. Although I feel a great loss, as so very many others do, I know that June would just encourage me to fill in those gaps that her passing has left. We know how to do that; she taught us how.

I have been so wonderfully blessed by these past three years with her. I will think of her often, not least when I pour my nightly "shot" of Essiac Tea that we both used regularly.

Sandy Weinberg

June was my older sister, but more importantly, my friend. She always had a desire for life and was an explorer who always wanted to know more, most probably searching for all the answers that elude us.

June always loved animals, including our family’s chameleons, bird, cat and dogs – a tradition that she continued throughout her life.

In her search for knowledge she crossed through such territories as biology, ballet, film-making, Tai Chi, naturopathy and acupuncture. Attending such prominent schools as NYU and Sarah Lawrence and dancing with the Joffrey Ballet, it was always clear that she was "top" in her class!

She was always there, and sometimes when you wouldn't get an answer to your call or e-mail, you knew that she got your message and even that would comfort you. She was a good listener and a constructive advisor, always trying to maximize a person's potential as she did in her own life.

Even though her personal situation was quite difficult she never saddled people with it, and was still willing to be there for other people facing similar or different circumstances. She always made people feel welcome, and kept her door open and let people know that there was always room for them in her life and in her house.

In my travels through different cultures I have experienced people who celebrate someone's passing, not to be glad that the person is gone, but to honor the presence and contributions of that person during their lifetime, and to respect the fact that their memory will remain.

June, you accomplished much in your lifetime and have left us a legacy. We won't let you down, even as you continue your journey!

------------------

Last night I sat and watched the video tape of June's Memorial Celebration.

There were so many words shot up into the sky like fireworks trying to reach her star, but they all seemed pale compared to June. I think of her daily and her strength, drive and passion which even in the worst of times carried her above the crowds.

I said that you were a diamond in the rough, not because you weren't complete, not because you weren't perfect, but because I know there was so much you still wanted to do! It was comforting to see all the friends and contacts you had which in turn added even more dimension to your life, which you also reflected back to others in your life.

Sometimes I felt jealous because you were always busy in many different ways and with many different people. Yes, I'm sure there are more people who wanted to keep you to themselves. But we all knew it would be against your nature. So we were always glad to see you fly and honored when you would come and perch yourself for a time in our lives.

There were so many silent understandings, that even now when these questions arise in my mind, I know that they never really needed to be asked.

You are still with me. Inspiring me with your strength and courage to carry on. I'll miss you words of wisdom leading me in the right direction, but the words that you left me will ring true for the rest of my life.

I see so much of you in me. You were here when I was born and I was here when you died.  No distance could keep us apart -- our emotions and loved crossed borders on every level. I was there for you and  you were there for me, never asking why or why not, but just knowing.

Now I am still here for you and Dean, David and Jessie too. Unspoken words are timeless, unspoken words are precious, bonds bring us together no matter the distance. We are able to move on together all because of you!

 

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