I knew Merijane Block through the Laguna Writers Workshops organized by Chris Delorenzo. Merijane often wrote about living with cancer, and I wasn’t always comfortable with that. Occasionally, she wrote about something from childhood. Or her parents. Everything she did was a kind of gift. Even the stories that made me uncomfortable.
She would ask for help when she needed it, but not if she didn’t. She never made you feel foolish for not anticipating her needs. Her way of asking was not apologetic, yet she did not want to declare herself special. Her cancer, her survival, her love were all just facts.
Despite her directness, Merijane was never plain. She was, as others have said, radiant. Love, empathy, service, were not really split between you and herself. We learned how serving and caring take place simultaneously.
She was apprehensive about going away on the Laguna Writers retreat to Puerto Vallarta in 2014. At first, I thought that perhaps she didn’t want to be a burden on the group. But again, it was mostly just factual. The house had a lot of stairs to navigate. They were a trial, but I think the challenge turned out to be worth the company, worth the writing, worth the giving, worth the caring. Sometimes it is hard for me to listen to others read their writing because the stories reveal deep wounds. And now I wish I could play back each time she read.
We went down to the ocean, and I remember holding hands at the shore. She didn’t feel strong enough to swim in an unpredictable sea, but she was so thrilled to have her toes in the water, a reminder from her East Coast childhood.
Back up at the house, Chris arranged for a small band on our final night. After listening politely, we all got up and danced and danced. Some of it was more like disco that we vaguely remembered, but we danced with each other, gender and preferences put aside. Merijane was so sensual. Many of her friends and co-writers have written or spoken of her beauty, her hair, her smile. Despite the surgeries and the pain, she was physical. She reveled in the closeness, the intimacy of us in a dance with two, with three, with everybody.
When she spoke to you over dinner, or held your hand at the ocean, or moved with you in moonlit light, she was completely present. Oh, that gift!