Sunday, November 16, 2008
Daphne Crocker at her 60th birthday party last June
Daphne Crocker died this morning at around 8:30 a.m. after a long but dignified battle with pancreatic cancer. She was a remarkable soul.
Daphne lived with a disability of some sort - perhaps cerebral palsy - I cannot be sure what it was, but she paid it very little heed. Some things she could do like other people, some she could not, but there was no whining or complaining, just an acceptance that everyone has different levels of ability and moving on to the next thing.
I met Daphne a couple years ago at a peace demonstration in Ellsworth. It was cold and people were honking their support, but we managed to exchange a few pleasantries. We met again later for coffee or lunch, I cannot remember which, and we chatted. She was a remarkably smart woman with enormous patience and a forgiving nature. She loved the opera with a passion that baffled me. The music was what she enjoyed, she told me, not so much the singing. Daphne used hearing aids, so hearing the arias was difficult for her, but the soaring music in all of its dramatic complexity inspired her to near breathlessness. I confessed to her once that my enjoyment of Wagner's Flight of the Valkyries was due entirely to my childhood exposure to Warner Brothers' cartoons and the cross-dressing skit involving Elmer Fudd and Bugs Bunny. To this day, I can only hear Elmer Fudd's voice bleating "Killed the Waaaaaaabbbbittt! I killed the waaaaabbbbbiiiiiiiittt!" She seemed amused, if a little horrified at the blasphemy. I still like Wagner better than the others though. At least being screamed at in German does not hurt my ears as much as being screamed at in Italian.
Daphne was diagnosed with her cancer over a year ago, and when the chemotherapy made her feel so awful and radiation didn't seem to be an option, she made some very difficult and very educated decisions about how she planned to spend the rest of her days. She had to cut back on some things because her energy gradually faded, but she still kept an active social schedule at her home on Hancock Point and a steady stream of visitors came and went wishing her well.
In July, she attended two days' worth of events I coordinated for Maine Gay Net members and their friends. Daphne had been a member of gaynet nearly since its inception and like many members had e-mailed lots of people but had never met them in person. She was delighted to meet so many and had a marvelous time at the ice cream social and at the picnic. Here's a picture of her with Quinn the wonder dog. I think they look grand together.
Daphne's health really began to fade after Labor Day this year. She was very weak and found talking on the phone to be tiresome. Friends and caregivers read to her, but she stopped responding to e-mails eventually because they became too much. Last week, she made the decision to stop eating. It gave her no pleasure and only seemed to cause her nausea. She knew what she was doing and made her choice clearly and with purpose. She was ready to go, even if not all of us were ready to let her go.
We on gaynet got the news today and we have been responding in our usual variety of ways. I don't know for sure, but I think this is the first time we've had a death of a very active member on our list, and it is hitting each of us differently. Yesterday, L and I went to a memorial service for another member, Jim Higgins. Jim was active with gaynet, but not to the extent that Daphne depended upon the list to serve as part of her social support system. Still, it was a sad weekend. And a sad weekend for the world of music. Jim was a passionate musician and very active in a variety of bands and societies devoted to the performance and enjoyment of music.
A sad quiet has settled over this section of Maine. It will lift in a while, but for now, it is a mourning sound. Blessed be.