Sep 18, 2011

Passing

Dear Friends,

First things first. All is well, genuinely so.

The genuinely good things will get only scant mention in this post though. I must share some sad news before all of that. The good things will follow not far behind this entry. All of you with whom I am close, and for those quiet, anonymous and not-known-by-name-to-me visitors may be fully assured that Petra has a bit of happy chatter in reserve. I am anxious in fact to unpack findings from my annual Summer Drabbatical, and sort them out here. I sense that the muse is back upon me. Thank you all for your patience in my absence. And now, as some say, to cases…

The last post on Voyages en Rose in May of this year mentioned a lovely visit with a very important person in my life, Ramona. Ramona passed away on September 1, after a valiant, inspiring and always hopeful battle with a determined foe. Would you mind if I shared a few thoughts with you?  

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I found Ramona at the time my life that I decided to unlock and take full possession of the contents of my own Pandora’s Box. I had long decades of closely guarded curiosity and compulsion about gender behind me and a furtive future ahead. I had an awkward assortment of garments to my name, and a handful of public sorties en Femme that were not complete disasters to claim. The taste of honey felt worse than none at all.

And so I called Ramona. And so everything changed.

Ramona had, through a seemingly random series of connected events, caromed into the business of helping people like me become acquainted with their inner woman. And my, but she was good. I spent a lovely evening in her care, and for the first time in my life, stepped convincingly out on the town. I cannot describe adequately the impact this had on me. The impact was visible on my surfaces yes, but the internal impact was the thing, the real thing. Tectonic forces shifted the continental plates of my whole self, fertile new plains of undiscovered land emerged, enlarged, virgin and fertile, ripe for exploration.

That exploration unearthed within me a much happier person, much better prepared for understanding and living within a complex and challenging world.

That exploration helped me develop the character to share with my wife truths that I did not have the character to share 17 years earlier when we first met, courted and agreed to be each others everything.

And not trivially, that exploration provided me with experience that was too big, too rich and too damned vivid to not write about.  Much of that experience has been documented here on Voyages en Rose over the last three years in something north of 200,000 words in 227 posts. 340 pages of 10pt thoughts not counting the smoldering 10X heap of deleted detritus and still-borne simile.

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I had long harbored suspicions that I could tell a story but felt as though the risks of working at the craft and failing were higher than the potential payoff of working at it, failing at it, and working again. Becoming “Petra”, I slid into a protective authorial prophylactic that shielded me (the broadly known me that is) from the full weight of those risks. And so I wrote, at a slight remove from responsibility.

The work of writing became a part of my emerging life. It then seeped into the rest of my life. White papers, commercial copywriting here and there, deeper more convincing thinking on the numbers that my clients businesses ran on. Words for money.

By late last year I had leveraged this newly found confidence and attracted an agent. I was offered a good contract to ghost a book for a notable executive on subject matter I had enough familiarity with to ghost well. At this exciting moment, a more sure and certain path opened up; a staff position in a less creative role with my biggest client. I opted for the staff position and returned the book contract. No great or at least permanent loss in my view. The path I am on will allow me to commit to independent creative efforts in a few years. I should have an adequately plump cushion beneath the high wire and my semi-retiring arse by then.

I have Ramona to thank for this entirely unexpected and exciting possibility. I have much else to thank her for, but of all of her gifts and her splendid friendship, this stands out.

And you, Dear Reader, if you feel your times here have been well spent, a quiet salute skyward might be indicated just now.

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In her last year, Ramona found the company of a remarkable partner, Gabrielle. Ramona was giddy, girly, head-over-heels besotted for Gabrielle. What a privilege Ramona enjoyed. Her best times came as her last times.

Gabrielle stands now as the principal keeper of Ramona’s memories. There is a long line of people flanking Gabrielle, all touched and changed in ways great and small by the happy accident of finding Ramona. Finding her, and is so doing, finding themselves.

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Ramona had never been much of church going lady, but this past spring, at Gabrielle’s urging, the two of them popped on smart Easter bonnets, attended a service at Atlanta’s First Metropolitan Community Church and were welcomed with open arms. Gabrielle had been raised, like so many Southerners, in a praise community, and wanted very much to find a place where the best parts of this tradition could be expressed joyfully and freely. More than this, she wanted to share the peace she knew could be found in the best of these places with the most important person in her life.

Ramona surprised herself, and me when she spoke about how much it meant to her to find and be welcomed by this community. When she faltered, they rallied to her side, held vigil and held hands with Gabrielle and others close to Ramona at the end.

Many gathered last Sunday, September 11 for a memorial service at FMCC. The choir sang. The piano rang. Moving tributes were paid. Many of us did our best to present in a way that would have made Ramona proud. She loved animal prints, and so I opted for the leopard sheath that I had worn on one happy day of shopping with her what now seems like forever ago, yesterday or so. I chronicled that day here. Ramona in fact took this picture, and then threatened me with the silent treatment if I did not stop dithering about which perfect skirt I would buy already. We had a busy day ahead after all.

Mrs. Bellejambes attended the service with me. When I told her of the loss and the plans for the memorial, without blinking she asked to attend. She never met Ramona, but recognized that an important person in our shared life had passed, and wanted to mark the moment with me. We will visit FMCC again, together. A final, parting gift into our home from an absolutely gifted woman. A woman I will miss dearly.

See you again here shortly.

10 comments:

Lynn Jones said...

Sorry to hear about the loss of your friend, Petra. She sounded like one of those folk who touch a lot of lives very deeply.

Lynn
x

Petra Bellejambes said...

Thanks Lynn - you two would have got along like a house on fire...

Anonymous said...

Ramona must have been a very special person for you to have been so deeply touched by her. I'm sorry for your loss, Petra, but thankful you had a chance to know her as well as you did. It seems there are many who are better off having known her.

And welcome back to the blog-i-verse. You have been missed.

-pp

cdjanie said...

Petra,

It is a bittersweet experience reading your post - so warmed am I not only by your beautiful writing but your feelings for Ramona and her gifts to others, yet saddened both for you and for anyone she may have touched at her loss. In some way I, and all your readers are among the latter in that it was through her that we received the gift of your words.

Venus In Virgo said...

I'm also sorry for your loss. Good people coming into our lives are so few, treasure those moments. This was so beautifully written XOXO

Halle said...

It would be a much poorer world if Ramona had not been a catalyst for Petra.

My salute has gone skyward to her, along with a message telling her what a wonderful catalyst you have been in your turn for we who have visited and been charmed by this site.

A. Perfect said...

I have missed you Petra, and am in tears over your words. My heart goes out to you in your time of loss.
Hugs

Petra Bellejambes said...

Thanks so much for the warm thoughts PP, Janie, Venus (loving your blog btw ... thanks for all the tips!) Halle and darling Aeify.

Regular programming on Voyages en Rose to resume presently ...

See you soon!

Lori D said...

I'm sorry to hear about the passing of your dear friend, Petra. My condolences go out to you. Losing someone so inspiring really pushes us to put our own lives into perspective, and my heart goes out to you.

Calie said...

What a wonderful tribute, Petra! It hurts to lose a good friend, but it's therapeutic to share thoughts of a passing friend with others. I'm so glad you did.

It especially warmed my heart to see that your wife attended the service. My wife would have too, and it pleases me to say that.

Nice to see you back and congratulations on your new position!

Calie xxx

 
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