Jan Theodora

Jan 1, 2018

My sister Jan died a little over a month ago.

She was, as all of us are, a complicated human being. In her obituary her son captured the best and the worst of her life when he wrote "Wonderfully eloquent in writing and conversation, Jan expressed herself beautifully and was known for her sharp wit and fabulous laugh. After a severe stroke tragically impaired her ability to communicate over her final 12 years, Jan’s physical limitations never diminished her fierce approach to life."

That brilliant mind became closed off to us when her stroke left her with aphasia, an impairment of language, affecting the production or comprehension of speech and the ability to read or write. She could get out a few words, sometimes a surprising sentence  or two but then the sands swallowed up her following thoughts, leaving her silenced.

When I was a little girl she made me the most exquisite paper dolls. I must have been about five, so she would have been about 15 or 16. They were drawn in the style of the most elegant newspaper advertisements of the day and the dresses were all ballgowns mimicking the fabulous gowns worn by Deborah Kerr in The King and I. I was thrilled and played with them until they were pulp.

The dresses she drew shimmer like satin in my memory. With a keen sense of design she went on to become an accomplished seamstress, a tailor really, whose "handmade" coats and frocks rivaled those bought in stores. Never inclined to do anything halfway, her cooking was legend, her home perfection, her dinner parties always memorable. And she did it all because excellence was of the utmost importance to her.  Woe to the unwarned butcher trying to sell her an inferior cut of meat. I was there once to witness her wrath, as many others did.

So when she recovered as far as she could from the damage done to her, the thought of her, of all people, unable to communicate except in spurts and with gestures, her bright eyes or that disapproving scowl, we all understood how much she had really lost.

She left us with wonderful memories of who she was to us all. To me, a second mother I always said. She was the epitome of style and pride with a large dose of humor and sass. I honor her by naming my most recent painting after her.

Painting: Jan Theodora © Lissa Banks 2017