Thanksgiving in Tennessee and requiem

For awhile there, I thought we’d be having Thanksgiving at Cracker Barrel, as I was not up to cooking a large meal and my brother (with whom we had Thanksgiving last year) now lives 800 miles away. Fortunately a faculty member from the music department heard of my situation and invited us over. And so we had a good time, good conversation, a very filling meal and lots of playmates for Miss V.

Veeka with Ariel, the little mermaid

Just tonight I thought I’d call a friend – Laurie Paffhausen, who was such a great source for a piece I did almost two years ago for WaPo on her brother, Metropolitan Jonah, then head of the Orthodox Church in America. Imagine my shock when he picked up her cell phone and said she had died last week. We had a long conversation, he and I, about the stress she was under because of his ouster from the OCA last July and how it affected her pancreas to where the bleeding would not stop. She was admitted to Georgetown Hospital in early October. I so wish I’d known that when I was in DC back then, as I would have tried to see her somehow. She was only 50 years old when she died. You know, when you’re a reporter, there are some interviews that stay with you and all the conversations we had when I wrote my Metropolitan Jonah piece often made my day. She saw through all the politics, was very discerning about where the landmines were and was worried about her brother’s enemies. Which as it turns out, she had good reason to be. She had wanted to be by his side in early 2011; she only got to move to DC last winter and we tried for months to get together and finally I took Veeka to see her in mid-May at a lovely home in northwest Washington. We spent the afternoon together and had the nicest time chatting. I remember what a gorgeous spring day it was and how all the flowers were out. She too was looking for a job and we commiserated over how hard it was to find work in your middle age. When I heard in early July that her brother had been relieved of his duties, I called and emailed her but we could never connect. I could not imagine the stress she was feeling now that her brother was out of work, she had no work herself and their aged parents had just been uprooted from San Diego to spend their last years near Jonah who presumably would be leading the OCA for the next few decades. And then I moved. Now, of course, it is too late. Surely she never dreamed that Washington would literally be the death of her. Jonah did say he received her into Orthodoxy before she died.

It’s sunny and cold here, so I’ve been chopping down my banana plants, of which I have at least four in the backyard. Am trying to figure out how to best care for them in cold weather. After chopping away the leaves, I found little green bananas underneath that never grew to full size. Our growing season is not quite long enough for them; a surprise in that it seemed quite hot here for many months in a row. It’s been suggested I take them inside for the winter, but I don’t exactly have a built-in green house with which to do so. Ideas, anyone?

The photo is from a local craft fair last week where several students dressed as fairytale characters. Seeing them was Veeka’s big moment of the day.

2 thoughts on “Thanksgiving in Tennessee and requiem

  1. Thundercat

    Julia, thanks for writing such a touching post about Laurie Paffhausen, an exceptional woman who will be greatly missed.

    When she told me what happened to her brother, I was turned inside out with grief for him, and shame over how it grieved her. It hurts so much more now that she is gone. I can’t even imagine what poor Vladyka Jonah is going through, but I am praying for him and his parents.

    May Laurie’s memory be eternal.


    I lost touch with Laurie Paffhausen over the years.
    I recently had a spark to reconnect with my long lost Mentor in the Legal Field. It much dismay only to find posts that she had passed away; at first I thought it could not be the same Laurie Paffhausen that I knew or that it was a very disturbing joke.
    This is just a reminder to all….To “Cherish” every minute that we have with friends and family…not to mention co-workers.
    She was the BEST Mentor I could have ever asked for and I know that I mentioned it often we were in the Bay Area.
    She never sugar coated things.
    One of her favorite things that I have carried on in my career personal life…she would always say…Call yourself on the carpet before someone else does.
    Not to mention she was super intelligent and sometimes knew more of the ins- and-outs of a case better than the attorneys.
    I,too, shall “Miss” Laurie.
    My sympathies to all her family and friends.
    May your Spirit Be at Peace.

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