Recently, the great folk/rock poetress Ani DiFranco wrote an article that first appeared in the Jan. 7 issue of The Nation, in which she discussed definitions of personal success, how she maintained her independence and individuality, and her ride under the radar of the mainstream media until her audience had gotten just too big to ignore.
"It was the very idea that neither fame nor fortune could make a person successful in life," DiFranco wrote, "but something deeper, that gave me the patience to remain independent all those hard years and not reach for the corporate carrot ... .
"My optimist's heart insists that I am not an aberration, either, but rather an example of the possibilities that exist for radical subculture to trickle into the mainstream."
I didn't actually read this article, which was also published in this month's Utne Reader, until the end of March, and the first person who sprang to mind while I was reading it was Jocelyn Sandberg.
Perhaps it's because only two weeks earlier we'd been at an Ani concert in Denver. Perhaps it's because in our nine-year friendship many of our music discussions involved Ani and her ability to remain true to her path and make undeniably kick-ass and meaningful music.
But mostly, I think Jocelyn came to mind because whether she believed it or not, she lived by a similar set of philosophies. And those philosophies, some radical and some not, didn't just trickle; they flowed boldly and unabashedly, affecting and impacting everyone who was a part of her life.
It's not that Jocelyn was a stalwart, in-your-face activist with a no-holds-barred attitude, though she did have her moments. It's that Jocelyn was an incredibly strong woman, who lived life to the fullest, daily, on her terms, not bowing to mainstream hegemonies or, necessarily, political correctness.
She could be a pain in the ass sometimes -- belligerent, brutally honest, and opinionated. She was also the most genuine, straightforward person I've ever met.
There are people who simply pay lip service by doling out compliments, or listen with only one ear, or offer their time or favors with invisible strings attached. Even if you only met Jocelyn once, you knew that this was not her modus operandi. Always vibrant and true to the core, she generously shared her self, time, humor, compassion, knowledge and experience.
It was all of these qualities, somehow housed within one person, that made her such a rare breed. Luckily for us, she immersed herself within the cornerstones of our community. She was intricately involved with the places, people, causes and events that make this town tick and thrive; the very places and events that create and define community.
In choosing to submerge herself in these aspects, she stayed true to her principles and was able to do the things most meaningful to her. At the same time, she managed to build one giant family around her, collecting an assortment of people along the way. She was not just a familiar face, but also a pillar, a leader, a teacher and an invaluable thread, linking mainstream and countercultures, and all in between.
Jocelyn knew hundreds of people, spanning all age groups and political and socio-economic strata. It was no surprise to anyone that her memorial last week at Shove Chapel was filled to capacity.
The celebration afterward at Poor Richard's restaurant was further testament to her omnipresence. With wonderful food, her favorite music playing, an incredible drumming session, dancing and cigars (sorry, Richard ... but we did smoke by the door), it was a party Jocelyn would have loved. The place was filled with such diverse people and good vibes, I couldn't help but feel that maybe Jocelyn was somewhere spinning her magic. Somehow she'd managed to get the assorted people and segments of this community under one roof, with warm fuzzies to boot.
There is no denying that Colorado Springs has suffered a huge loss. It is a loss that has sent many of us reeling with nothing to grasp along the way, and one from which we will be healing for a long time. I know for myself, I cannot yet wrap my mind around the event.
But thank God there was something deep within Jocelyn that allowed her to remain the independent, open, free-spirited woman that she was, which in turn, allowed her to touch so many lives.
Thank you, Jocelyn, for sharing your gracious spirit and successful life.
Suzanne Becker is a former Independent employee and frequent freelancer.
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