Goodbye, My Friend
I have been wrangling with this post for some days now. It is hard to put into words what Roisin meant to me as a friend and what her loss has meant as well. This is not the first time I have lost a friend, but it is the first time I have lost an online friend.
When I was 17, my friend Laurie was struck by a car while crossing the street and killed. I still remember where I was in the hallway in my high school and the look on my friend Julia's face as she ran up to tell me. I still remember trying to pay attention in AP Biology class while my head was swimming and my thoughts wouldn't rest. Laurie was always klutzy--I carried her books for her on many occasions when she was on crutches--but she was 17. 17. It was spring; prom, graduation, and the start of college were all imminent, those occasions that serve as rites of passage into adulthood in our modern world. At the time, I couldn't bear that Laurie would miss all of that, that she would never become an adult, that we would all move on in our lives and leave her behind us.
Roisin was also my age; less than a year older than me. Although I have known for some months now that we would lose her, the hurt is still there because, again, there was so much still ahead of her. She was a polymath--a writer, dancer, costumer, and musician--and barely a week went by when she and I didn't talk about some new project of hers that she was up to her elbows in. Her stories on SWG contain many, many unfinished stories and arcs. We had a lot in common: hyperactive muses, a helium hand, an unflagging hunger for social justice, and a tendency to translate strong emotion into art.
Before she died, Roisin wrote several new stories for the SWG birthday celebration. The other day, I was copychecking and formatting her stories for What Would Socrates Say?, my first time reading her work since her death. It struck me then that her stories were over. All of that potential, all those unspoken, unwritten tales--gone.
Loss on the Internet is different. There is little chance for closure. I never saw Roisin while she was sick; to me, she was always the vibrant young woman in her Facebook photos. Days, sometimes weeks, would pass when she was especially sick or taking some time off from fandom; it was too easy to believe that this was one of those times, that I'd wake up tomorrow or the next day, and there would be an email from her saying that she was doing better and coming back. And I'd be grateful for another few weeks with her.
But, reading her stories, I forced myself to confront it: This was it. She wasn't coming back.
I don't fear death. I grew up in a areligious household--and I do mean areligious, not anti-religious. Religion wasn't discussed, and I was isolated enough from my peers that I wasn't exposed to their beliefs or practices either. I had a children's Bible that I liked for the stories and the pictures, but my mom and I spoke more about ghosts and ESP than we did traditional religion, and I didn't know much less understand the fundamental beliefs of Christianity until I was a teenager and a widening social circle brought me in contact with them. I thought that heaven was something people told to kids, like Santa Claus, to soften life's sharp edges; I didn't know that people actually believed in it till I was nearly an adult. I never learned to think of my life's deeds as they related to judgment in an afterlife. They related only to how the world was for my being in it.
So I took--and still take--my cues about life and death from the natural world around me. Nothing ends, only changes. It is autumn, a sad time for me as the world around me fades and I prepare for the long and, for me, emotionally draining ordeal of winter. Yet nothing ends. It only rests for a time and arises in a new form. Spring comes again.
Walt Whitman is the Felagund Family poet; he put into words sentiments that Bobby and I share, in a form more beautiful than anything we could say. One day, when I was sad about Roisin, he sent me a passage from "Uncle Walt," as he calls him. I've been reading Uncle Walt in the last few days, as I say goodbye to Roisin.
What do you think has become of the young and old men?
And what do you think has become of the women and children?
They are alive and well somewhere,
The smallest sprout shows there is really no death,
And if ever there was it led forward life, and does not wait at the
end to arrest it,
And ceas'd the moment life appear'd.
All goes onward and outward, nothing collapses,
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
This post was originally posted on Dreamwidth and, using my Felagundish Elf magic, crossposted to LiveJournal. You can comment here or there!