Monday, March 14, 2016

When a Friend Dies



Today I found out by happenstance, via Facebook, that a friend of mine passed away. We weren't close friends or I would have known that her battle with cancer had taken a turn for the worse. She lived in L.A. and I live in Chicago. Nevertheless, Mimi was a fixed entity in my life. We had plans together for when we were older and without kid obligations, plans to travel to knitting retreats and writing workshops and hang out together.

I met Mimi at the Kenyon Writers Workshop three years ago. We were roommates, and it was one of those instant friendships. We simply clicked, despite our vastly different backgrounds; she was Taiwanese-American, I am (what?) German-American Jewish. Each day we chatted deep into the night. Since then we emailed on and off, and I am saddened that I didn't notice that it had been quite a few months since I'd heard from her. In that regard the connection via Facebook can be deceptive. You think you're in touch with someone when really you aren't because you don't notice that that person hasn't posted in a long time.

What to do with her death? I am particularly miffed that I can't talk to her about her death. Tell me, I want to say, how did that happen? I know that sounds odd but when someone dies whom I loved to talk to, with whom I had a chatty relationship, with whom I loved to compare notes, I just can't believe that I won't ever be able to talk to that person again. I keep making mental lists of the things I want to share with that person, only to bump up against the cold blank fact that I won't ever be able to do that again.

Now I'm about to tear up as I write this so I want to turn my thoughts to what I can do about Mimi's death aside from posting on her Facebook wall so her two kids know that their mom meant a lot to other people as well (I remember that it meant a lot to me, when my dad died, that he had also been important to others.) It struck me that I found out about Mimi's death while touring around in Haifa, Israel, with my daughter, while posting, in fact, a travel photo to Facebook. And that, thankfully, is in the spirit of Mimi. Because, upon surviving breast cancer for the first time and going through a terrible divorce and other hardships, she decided, and this was all before I met her, that she was going to take life by the horns. She was going to do all the things she always wanted to do. She bought an apartment in Paris and renovated it. She took a year off from her high pressure lawyer job to travel and explore art and write. She was getting an MFA. She was living life to the fullest.

So, I am going to keep Mimi in my mind whenever I hesitate to do something, whenever I doubt my own courage. "You go do that," she'd say. And she'd be pissed if I didn't.

And I am going to try to do a better job of keeping in touch, of noticing when someone falls silent. Because one day, just like that, they can be gone.


12 comments:

  1. I'm very sorry.

    A photoblogger friend I followed recently passed away with her husband in a car accident. It was a shock learning the news.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sorry to hear that, William. I guess it's a sign of our time that we now also have friends in cyberspace whose fortunes affect us.

      Delete
  2. Beautiful tribute, Annette! Thank you for sharing this post. It made me rather weepy, as well.

    Coincidentally, earlier today I was musing about a friend I made online a few years ago. Sadly, she passed away before we ever got to meet in person - and yet, our friendship continues to affect me even now. Like Mimi, she was a real "grab life by the horns" kind of gal, and I find myself feeling urged to stretch beyond my own comfort zone at times because of the courage I witnessed from afar within her. I think that's pretty amazing how people can affect us so profoundly simply through our online interactions.

    Friendship is a beautiful thing! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tui, yes, friendship is a wonderful thing and it amazes me how many different forms it can take. How wonderful that you continue to be inspired by your cyberfriend.

      Delete
  3. Annette,
    Mimi has told me about you. Thank you for your beautiful words. I am having trouble reading Facebook, it is so painful. We also had "plans together for when we were older", "traveling", "hanging out". It's the "deep conversations into the night" I will miss the most. Sounds like we have a lot in common. I've been with her this past week and would be happy to talk to you over the phone or meet you in person someday to just laugh and remember her. She had so many wonderful friends and she cared deeply for each and every one. Thank you again. You may have even inspired me to go back to reading Facebook, or getting out of my pajamas. Jodi Shoemake

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jodi, how wonderful to connect with you! Thanks for writing. I think Mimi would be thrilled for us to connect.

      Delete
  4. I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful woman. xo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kelley. Mimi was simply cool, tough, inspiring, oh, lots of adjectives apply to her!

      Delete
  5. My condolences, Annette. I had a similar experience of wanting to chat with the deceased. We were at a funeral for the father of one of my daughter's friends. He was such a cool guy to run into and chat with at school events. Throughout funeral reception I kept expecting to turn a corner and run into him, hoping to chat. I had to keep reminding myself that we were there because he wasn't.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steph, thank you. It's simply an absurd thing to have to grasp someone's sudden and eternal absence.

      Delete
  6. Ach Annette, es macht mich traurig und wuetend und, ach mir fehlen die Worte. Es tut mir leid, dass du eine Freundin verloren hast! Sehr leid!

    ReplyDelete