Joan Shiel

Friends make life bearable, especially when times are hard, and I am particularly fortunate in having wonderful friends. But the closest friend I ever had was Joan Shiel, who died on September 30, 2003 from Kreutzfeld-Jacob disease, at the age of 71. Joan was my mother's college roommate, and her best friend as well. Joan was in my life from the time I was born, and helped me in various ways through all sorts of difficult times. Joan and I were very much alike in temperment and in our personalities. She understood my struggles, and showed me - without realizing it - that I could keep searching and struggling. In times of difficulty, she would listen, and she'd always tell me what she thought - even if it wasn't flattering to me. She had remarkable insights that were always thought provoking, and opinions about everything. Whether we agreed or not, talking with her was always a joy. Joan thought she was a difficult person with little to offer other than her intelligence and wit, but she was also extraordinarily kind and generous. In looking back over the years, I realize how remarkably patient she was with me. She taught me, just by her own life, that it was possible to live without dulling myself, that it was possible to be kind and loving, even though life is inherently difficult. I was lucky to have known her. If guardian angels are real, for sure she was mine. I loved her, and I miss her.