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Maryanne Raphael

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· Dorothy Day, A Passion for peace

· Saints of Molokai

· Dancing On Water

· What Mother Teresa Taught Me

· Garden of Hope; Autobiography of a Marriage

· From Eulogy To Joy, An Anthology, compiled by Cynthia Kuhn Beischel with Kristina Chase Strom

· Recovering Your Lost Self From Adversity, An Anthology Edited by Art Martin and Tony Stubbs

· The Key to Success Your Psychic Powers

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· Along Came A Spider: A Personal Look At Madness

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· How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book

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· Mother Teresa's Fourth Vow

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For Sharon Spencer
By Maryanne Raphael
Posted: Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Last edited: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

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Recent stories by Maryanne Raphael
· The Book that Got me Writing
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· Who is Anais Nin
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Sharon was in my life a short time but she was an inspiration and her death left an emptiness in me.

When I met Sharon for the first time, I felt I had known her all my life. When she died, shortly afterwards I grieved her as though we had been childhood friends.

       The first time I saw Sharon Spencer she was sitting at the bar in a restaurant at the University of Cincinnati where a group of us writers had gathered to celebrate Anais Nin's inclusion in the Lawrence Durrell Society Conference. The room seemed dark since I'd just left bright sunshine outside. A man in a black suit was playing old romantic songs on the piano. The room was full of writers, most of them dressed in conservative dark clothes, our idea of what the well dressed academic author would wear.

        With her long dramatic African print, whimsical matching head piece, golden skin, and sensual style, Sharon over-shadowed everyone else in the room. When I saw her closer I remember thinking the material wasn't African, perhaps Aztec or Mayan. Like Nin, Sharon created her own fashion, theatrical, aesthetic, exciting, unique.Although I had read much of Sharon's work, this was the first time I met her. Rochelle Holt introduced us and Sharon immediately threw her arms around me and welcomed me into her circle as though we were old friends from another lifetime and long lost sisters in this one. "Come sit next to me," she said, moving her large purse to free a seat.

         That evening the room was animated with many people making acquaintance with others whose work they had admired or pen pals they had known only by mail. But Sharon engaged me immediately in intimate talk. She began by asking me if I'd heard the latest gossip and before I could answer, she told me one fantastic tale after another of famous stars in twisted webs.Sharon looked like a goddess, her eyes flashing, her movements graceful. She was poised completely at ease, sophisticated, with a playful sense of humor. There was something of the mischievious elf in this dignified lady. I thought she resembled a dancer, model or actress more than a writer, but she proved to be an excellent story-teller.We took turns telling stories of Mexico, the country we both loved.         

         When the pianist played a Spanish song, Sharon sang along. Her Spanish was excellent. When I started speaking Spanish to her, she said, "I've never heard anyone speak so much Spanish so poorly." We both laughed and I told her my teacher Mrs. Rodriguez said the same thing. Sharon had a home in Merida, Yucatan. I had just returned from six months in Monterrey, Mexico teaching English as a Second Language.

           One moment Sharon was joyous, laughing loudly, and the next she was serious, telling of some tragedy in her life. Each of her stories reminded me of one of my favorite tales whcih I was eager to share with her.Being with Sharon was like stepping inside a Somerset Maugham novel. Things seemed to take on a symbolic meaning. The room had a certain magic. The music turned into background for a dramatic scene.There was a sense of expectancy in the air and nostalgia as the music took us back to foolish things that reminded us of other voices, other rooms.

           Many of the participants in the conference left early since the sessions were to begin at 8 a.m. I had planned to spend an hour or two meeting people and then go to my room. But Sharon and I talked frantically until the bartender called, "It's closing time!" After "one for our memories," and "one for the road," we left. Sharon wasn't giving a paper the next morning, but she promised to be there at 8 am to hear what we had to say about Anais Nin.Next morning, I managed to drag myself out of bed and into the back room that had been allocated for the Nin papers.

           I was disappointed when Sharon was too late to hear my paper. When the session ended at noon, she still hadn't shown. I began to worry about her. Several of us knocked at Sharon's hotel room door, but there was no answer. We began to ask around. No one had seen her.After lunch, we tried her door again. Then we called the hotel and asked them to please check to see if she was okay. We were afraid she might have had a stroke or a heart attack.

           The manager said he would open the door and we could go inside and see if she was there. So we gathered at her door around 4 in the afternoon.We held our breath as the hotel worker turned the key in the door. He opened the door and let us enter. Sharon was lying in the bed, wrapped in her covers. Still asleep. Worried, we called to her."Please leave me alone," she groaned. "I'm sleeping. I didn't sleep at all last night. Just let me sleep now. I have a terrible pain in my stomach, a head ache and all my joints hurt. Please let me sleep."

          Sharon did not give a paper even though she was one of the best known Nin scholars. I don't know if she attended any of the sessions. But she was there to share the energy of Nin's eternal circle. And she was doing her part to continue Nin's myths and legends. Like Nin, Sharon's greatest art was her life. Her unique style set the scene and promised adequate drama to come. She had a lyrical walk and held herself in a state of perpetual expectation.I didn't see Sharon again at the Conference.

            The next time I saw her was when a group of us happened to be in NYC at the same time. We were to meet at i p.m. n Greenwich Village for lunch. Sharon arrived around 4 p.m. when we were all getting ready to leave. We stayed a little to visit with Sharon, but it was getting late and most of us had placed we needed to go.Sharon wrote me a note at Christmas on a beautiful Noche de Paz card, said she was going to Cuba from Jan. 5th to 12th. She wanted me to visit her at her place in Merida, Yucatan. When I phoned her, we talked for two hours.She called me again saying now was a perfect time for my visit, but I was just leaving for a long-planned trip to China.

           Shortly before she died, Sharon wrote me a long soulful letter going over the many things we had in common. The day before I left for China, I was at my Writers Workshop, reading my review of Sharon's latest book. When I came home I found a note on my computer "Your friend Sharon had a stroke in the Yucatan and died in New Jersey on April 8th. Rochelle called to tell you."It seems strange to think that Sharon and I spent only a few hours together in person, had a few extremely long,intense phone conversations and some letters. We talked of writing something together.

          That was the visual extent of our relationship and yet it was like an iceberg with the most important part beneath the surface, the initial feeling of recognition of similar-souls, the moments of our past we chose to share, the projects we described to each other in depth and the future plans we encouraged each other to complete. Such a small part she played in my life but her absence is immense.

          A bright star has gone out of my universe. The most unique firework is missing from my Fourth of July." Sharon was reviewing four of my books and I reviewed her VOICES FROM THE EARTH, a celebration of womanhood and the sacredness of life. It teaches us to respect, honor and love the earth, and Sharon promised, "You and I and all there is will live forever."

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Books by
Maryanne Raphael

Along Came A Spider: A Personal Look At Madness

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The Man Who Loved Funerals

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Garden of Hope; Autobiography of a Marriage

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What Mother Teresa Taught Me

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Anais Nin, The Voyage Within Edited by Dr. Eve Jones with a Preface by Dr. Rochelle Lynn Holt

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Dancing On Water

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Saints of Molokai

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2. The Underbed
3. My Career as a Manhattan Liquor Inspector
4. I Was A Crack Adding Machine Operator
5. Doctor Sagwell
6. A true love story
7. Whom God Hears
8. My First Job...(Part 6)
9. My First Job....(Part 4)
10. So This Is Who I Am
11. A Chapter Of My Life
12. I Was A Frustrated Newspaper Columnist
13. My Pet - Wisky - The Book
14. Her Protection From the Hurt
15. About Elaine Raubitschek
16. My First Job...(Part 5)
17. To the Candy Shop
18. I'm Scared

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