"It is my o-pinion..."
I heard those words hundreds of times in the 18 years I knew JoAnn Costello, my therapist. And I was always grateful to hear them, because they usually preceeded some general truth about life, some specific advice based on her own personal experience, or some intuition (which was always right).
JoAnn died of cancer on Dec. 30, 2011.
I will miss her spirit, her spunk, her smile, her intelligence, her humor, her turquoise eyes (as described by a friend at her memorial today), and her hip Italian shoes, but mostly I will miss JoAnn's influence in my life.
When I first went to JoAnn in 1993, I felt paper-thin. I was sensitive, supremely self-conscious, and doubted my own thinking and abilities. Every nerve felt raw and exposed to the world. JoAnn heard my story and said, "Of course you feel that way. It makes total sense to me."
As healing as those words were, JoAnn was not one to simply shine you on. She was not warm & fuzzy. But you knew that she saw something that you didn't see in yourself; something good and strong and original. And it was your job, with her help, to find out what it was.
At her memorial today at the Swedenborgian Church in San Francisco, I heard things about JoAnn that I didn't know. That she was adopted. That she'd had a difficult childhood. That she went to UC Berkeley and graduated with a 4.0. That she liked tequila. That she often sent back food. That she treated her son Jesse like a prince, which was not encouraged in her parenting circle. I was not surprised, however, at the depth of love and admiration that was expressed in that intimate, little, candlelit church.
Afterward, while standing out on the church courtyard lawn while Randy, JoAnn's husband, and her friends danced to the Bourbon Kings Brass Band, two of us "group" members were marveling at our amazing good fortune at having found this woman--out of the thousands of therapists in San Francisco (many of them fantastic)--to give us her o-pinion on life and how to live it.
I will miss you, JoAnn. But I will forever thank my lucky stars for leading me to your little cottage in the Castro and later up the steep stairs of your house in Glen Park. And I'll forever thank you.
With deepest love and gratitude.