Donate HERE to the Mimi Mindel Memorial Cancer Help Program Scholarship Fund
Commonweal’s Memorial Celebration for Mimi
Dear Commonweal Community,
We mourn the passing of Mimi Mindel, a beloved friend and staff member at Commonweal for 28 years. Mimi passed this week, a day after a joyful Passover seder with her beautiful family. We offer our prayers and condolences to her entire family, many of whom we know and treasure.
Mimi was such a radiant unforgettable member of our Commonweal and Cancer Help Program community. We really can’t imagine Commonweal or the Cancer Help Program without her. Tears keep flowing as I write this.
Mimi first came to Commonweal as a participant in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program with her partner Herb Arnold in 1992. She had a transformative experience. After Herb’s death, Mimi returned to Commonweal as a volunteer senior staff member on the Cancer Help Program.
Mimi’s special role in the Cancer Help Program was as our resource person for alumni seeking information on cancer therapies. She created the CanServe Resource Guide. Mimi fielded inquiries from cancer patients from across the country seeking resources for cancer therapies and practitioners. Mimi also became the curator of the Commonweal Gallery and curated many remarkable art exhibits. Mimi sat at the front desk at Commonweal and greeted all who came with effortless grace and kindness.
Arlene Allsman, who coordinates the Cancer Help Program, wrote this:
It fills me with sorrow to write that our beloved Mimi died last night of a heart attack.
On Saturday night Mimi was at Seder dinner with her children, played three games of ping pong and began to feel a tightness in her chest. She went home, slept, did errands in the morning and the tightness returned. Luckily Tony (her youngest son) was at hand and brought her to Marin General. At Marin General Mimi was put under observation for the heart attack and a leaky valve.
I like to imagine Mimi being greeted by Lenore Lefer [co-led the Cancer Help Program with me for 25 years], Jnani Chapman [senior massage practitioner for 30 years], Stephanie Sugars [memorable alum and 30 year metastatic breast cancer survivor] and the many alums that have come through the Cancer Help Program.
I have known Mimi for 40 years. I have many images/memories of her in my head but the one that is coming forward now is of Mimi’s check-ins during Cancer Help Program staff meetings—seated to the right of Michael on the couch at the opening meeting; and to the left of Jenepher by the door at our 2nd staff meeting. Her check-in refrain at the meetings was “All good…doing fine.”
Mimi said YES to life and its many pleasures and adventures.
And when her time came…Mimi went out quickly with no lingering drama surrounded by her loving family as she would have wanted it.
Oren Slozberg, Commonweal’s Executive Director, wrote this:
Mimi left so suddenly. One day she is playing pingpong, and then next day she is gone. I talked to her Monday night, when she was the ICU at Marin General, I told her I would come visit. She said “oh no, I won’t be here, I’m not planning to stay here that long.” She passed at 2am. Commonweal holds people. This place has held thousands as we faced cancer, or growing up, or being human. Mimi held us. In an unapologizing, direct, and loving way. With deep compassion that permeated every one of the dozens Cancer Help Programs she staffed over the last 30 years. She was like my work Jewish Mom, and a close friend. And she was that for many of us. Mimi will be with me every day when I walk through the main doors of Commonweal, and see the hundreds of paper cranes surrounding where she would be.
If I may for a moment, speaking just for myself, not for Laura or any other members of Mimi’s family:
Calvin Trillin’s wife Alice was an amazing woman apparently. He wrote a beautiful tribute in which he quoted a friend who said that Alice was “a woman who managed to navigate the tricky waters between living a life you could be proud of and still delighting in the many things there are to take pleasure in.” https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/03/27/alice-off-the-page
I immediately thought of Mimi when I first read that, and have thought of that remark again today. Did Mimi ever tell you that she believed that she was a slave on the Nile in a previous life, that’s why she got it so good this time around? I heard that several times.
One of our CCHP alumni, Adrea Brier, wrote this:
I don’t know what to do with these feelings. On the morning walk, when Joe told me, I kept walking and hearing Mimi calm me, saying, “look at the beauty…..look at the beauty.” She so loved her nature backyard where we’d always start…..she was my dear hearthuge friend, my role model of womanhood and individuality….she walked to her own drummer with no apologies or explanation……she made everyone family….I am at such a loss……she would have wanted it this way….quick, easy, sort of ta ta, i’m fine, all is good……I feel like a piece of me is missing….when i think of her spirit, her smiling, her irreverence, her gift to all of us, her being so present for and to me and the wisdom she shared and the fun we had……oh g-d, to find comfort in those memories while realizing, being overwhelmed by tears by knowing I won’t see her again….…..i hope everyone finds comfort in their own Mimi experiences…..she was walking love and appreciated everyone for who they were…..…thank you Arlene for what you said. She told me of her times with you too…..she took such delight in all of us….…
There will be many more memorial thoughts. We will arrange a Commonweal Memorial Service for Mimi in coordination with her family.
We are setting up a Mimi Mindel Memorial Cancer Help Program Scholarship Fund as a way for those who choose to create a living memorial for Mimi. She loved the Cancer Help Program with her whole heart. I know for certain there is no way she would rather be remembered at Commonweal than by making it possible for those who come after he to share the extraordinary experience that she had when she came 28 years ago as a participant, and which she continued to have as a staff member for all the years that followed.
Mimi’s passing is a teaching. A teaching about how to leave. Passover celebrates freedom. Mimi celebrated Passover with her large beloved family. She left on her own terms, “as if she had scripted it,” many of us have said to each other. I like to believe Mimi has gone home. That I’ll see her on the other side. That she will watch over us. I like to believe that Mimi is free.
May we be so fortunate. Tears keep coming as I write. I don’t tear up often.
I love you, Mimi. Wherever you are. I know you are near. I’ll keep watching for you. In my dreams, my thoughts, or when I look for you at the front desk, or in our Cancer Help Program staff meetings, or in my evening sessions in the Cancer Help Program, which you always attended.
Mimi knew that love heals. The whole Cancer Help Program is based on that simple truth. Love heals.
So as Mimi would say, “Love, love,”
PS If you would like to contribute to the Mimi Mindel Cancer Help Program Memorial Scholarship Fund, you may do so here.