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Merijane Block

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Merijane Block Obituary
Merijane Block

May 10, 1953 - February 28, 2017

A Luminous Life.
Merijane Block of San Francisco, formerly of Brooklyn and Oceanside, NY, lived from 5-10-53 to 2-28-17. She was the beloved daughter Mollie and Irving Block (both deceased) and loving little sister to Marilyn (Larry Landes) and devoted aunt to Jennifer Landes. Even before she was born, Meri had a mind of her own and came into the world two weeks early, a special gift on Mother's Day.
Photos of the young Merijane show the distinctive and radiant smile that became her hallmark throughout her life. After graduating from Oceanside High School, her love of the arts took her to college in Potsdam and then to Ithaca. Her constant curiosity and creativity led the way for her to become a proficient visual artist with a keen eye, an innate sense of style, and a rigorous work ethic.
In the late 1970s she moved to San Francisco and started her own one-woman design firm. She created designs for local businesses, headed up the graphics department at a water resources engineering firm, and did meticulous medical illustrations for a variety of physicians.
In the late 1980s Merijane took up writing in an intentional way. She arranged to finish her degree at New College of California by writing her life. Writing became the brilliant thread that would connect Meri to so many others and would ultimately lead her to spreading her wisdom with skill and purpose.
When diagnosed in 1991 with breast cancer, Merijane started a lifelong journey of connecting with and sharing support with others. She wrote about her first group: "it taught me how to live with cancer." From the beginning, and throughout years of co-facilitating support groups, she navigated treatments and learned to make choices "about how to live while dying." Merijane captured the essential paradox of cancer this way: "I was simultaneously terrified and determined to hang on to my autonomy." She later reflected: "I'm glad I had the fortitude to stay. I owe everything I know about living with a life-threatening disease to" the many groups she was a part of.
In 1995, the disease recurred and metastasized and Meri had a myriad of choices to make. Throughout the many ups and downs, she kept deepening into "the knowledge that we can keep on healing even as our disease progresses and, in some cases, outlives us." While enduring multiple treatments and surgeries over many years, she always gathered herself and emerged "authentically herself" in the midst of growing discomfort, loss of mobility, and a weakening and scarred body.
In 1999 and 2009 Merijane attended week-long Commonweal Cancer Help Program retreats. She found them to be a source of great healing and became a vibrant and integral contributor to the alumni community, lavishing her smiling love and her hard earned wisdom on many. Of Commonweal she said, "Nowhere on the planet do I feel more authentically myself; nowhere am I happier."
She worked at the Women's Cancer Resource Center and the Breast Cancer Fund, cultivating new friendships, new learnings, and new pain. Meri met writer David Roche and began storytelling, crafting pieces like, "A Nice Mastectomy," and presenting these to audiences of those living with cancer and their loved ones. She brought laughter, tears, validation, and solace to many who struggled with the constant treatment, the near-constant loss. Later, she wrote with Laguna Writers in San Francisco for 9 years and contributed to their publication Birdland Journal. There, as everywhere, Merijane perfected the art of friendship and was a beloved member of the group.
In 2004 she joined yet another community as she embarked on a yearlong of intensive study of Nonviolent Communication, forming and sustaining intimate friendships that continued to her last days.
Over the years she coped with the loss of many aspects of her independence. Merijane once said she hated to be called brave, yet her courage and grace inspired many others. She contributed to the publication ArtRageUs and traveled to Hong Kong to present her work along with others. More recently she was a contributing panelist at the American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine conference on using Poetry as part of Palliative Care. Her insights, her smile, her shining presence enriched everyone who knew her and had an opportunity to share a cup of tea, a good story, a good laugh, or a good cry. She unfailingly received others with open-hearted warmth, lack of judgment, and an extraordinary capacity to see and celebrate their unique beauty and gifts.
Merijane Block passed away on the evening of Tuesday, February 28, 2017, after 26 years of living with cancer. She is survived by her sister Marilyn, brother-in-law Larry, niece Jennifer, and by many cousins who loved her and always thought of her as the cool cousin. Larry and Marilyn's generosity and cousin Gail's steady presence were pillars in her ability to thrive for so many years despite her limitations. A very large circle of friends and colleagues, whom she also considered "family," were the bedrock of her ability to enjoy life to the fullest, to the end.
Services will be at Sinai Memorial Chapel, 1501 Divisadero, in San Francisco, on Friday, March 3, starting promptly at 9:00 and ending at 10:00. Family and friends will gather at 8:30. The graveside service will follow at Mount Tam Cemetery, 2500 Fifth St., in San Rafael. The family has asked that donations be directed to Commonweal Cancer Help Program (PO Box 316 Bolinas, CA 94924, www.commonweal.org or the San Francisco Jewish Family and Children's Services Palliative Care program. (PO box 159004; 2150 Post St, San Francisco, CA 94115).
As always, Merijane would want you to know how precious your love and steadfast devotion has been.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on Mar. 3, 2017
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