I used to use this blog to record my thoughts, and I'm going to go down that path again, at least for a day, because this seems to be the best forum to record my thoughts.
Last night I found out I'd lost a friend. We'd never met in person, and rarely spoke over the phone, but there were times we spoke every day via long, rambling e-mails about everything under the sun. This is the power of the internet: it introduces you to people you never would have met otherwise, allows you to form close friendships, and then lets you suffer the pain of watching that friend's health deteriorate while you're too far removed to do anything more than offer the occasional well-wish.
You may be familiar with my friend Marilee. Some of you knew her from the AOL bead board where we met. Some of you may have encountered her on All About Beads on Delphi. You may have known about her work for LL-BFAC. Perhaps you knew her on one of the many science fiction forums she was part of. Or maybe you just saw her posting on this blog with the handle "mjlayman" (or "Anonymous" when OpenID wasn't working). It was because of her desire to post here that I realized I should enable OpenID in the first place.
I met Marilee on-line when I was around 16 and first joined the AOL bead board. I don't remember us being especially close then, but we did have a love of SF/F in common, so we spoke occasionally, and when I went through a tough life experience, she was one of the people who sent me encouraging notes. When things on AOL went south we were among the group that moved elsewhere, so we still kept in touch, and we must have exchanged the occasional e-mail, though I don't remember much about them.
Then one day, she sent me a link to an article called something like "The Ambassador and the Bellydancer" and it was about a diplomat's relationship with a dancer. It was a pretty long article. I responded to a few points that I found interesting. Somehow this set off a chain of e-mails that continued until her recent hospitalization. When things were good, we e-mailed daily. When she was ill or I was busy or out of town, days or weeks would go by without anything more than a quick message explaining the delay. But once things got back to normal, we'd pick up where we left off.
I talk to different friends about different things, based on our shared interests and the depth of our relationship. Some friends are just dance, some friends are just beads/jewelry, some friends are just general life stuff. Some friends I go to when things are bad and I need someone to care, others I always keep things clean and light. Marilee was the rare sort of friend who I felt I could talk to anything about. Some older friends are like a surrogate mom, nurturing but sometimes too much so. Not her. She was one of my older friends who I considered more like a cool aunt. I think everyone needs a friend like that -- someone who has more life experience than you, and cares enough about you to give you some advice, but also doesn't have a parents' need to guide and protect.
It's hard to decide what else to say about Marilee. I could talk about her love of her cats. I could talk about how she used to sell Bali silver beads on eBay and how every package came with a tiny origami crane tucked in. I could talk about how she would send packages out of the blue... maybe some beads that she knew she wasn't going to use, maybe a book she thought I would love, maybe some Pocky because she saw it on Amazon and remembered that Chris and I liked to snack on it. Apparently she was that way with many friends. One time she purchased a necklace from my shop and had me ship it anonymously to another friend of hers who was going through a rough patch.
She also bought several pieces of my jewelry over the years, when she saw something that caught her eye and had the funds. I have no idea what will happen to that jewelry now, but I hope it falls into the hands of a friend who will love it as much as she did. Maybe someone who knew her in person and will have happy memories of seeing her wear it.
Thanks to the Internet, I had a good friend for over 14 years (even if we didn't know how good of friends we were for the entire time). And thanks to the internet, I have piles of old e-mails that I could read, and sometimes I might go back to a post on this blog and see her name. It's going to be a long time until I fully adjust to her absence. I know I'll be reading a book and think "I should tell Marilee about this", and I know my in-box will seem so much lonelier without her, without stories of silly cats and new recliners and doctors who don't listen and what the book group is reading this month, and oh, the endless links from the Washington Journal... News pieces, editorials, fashion spreads with poorly-done beadwork, she sent it all and we'd talk about it.
When will I find another friend like that? I don't know. That kind of friendship doesn't happen over night. It builds, with every e-mail or IM or face-to-face conversation, as you get to know them better, and gain trust, and open up, and realize that they don't get bored when you ramble on.
Good bye, my friend. I know neither one of us believes in anything after death, I know you don't know I'm talking about you, but I'm saying it anyway. Your loss will be felt. I'm sorry I didn't know I was losing you until you were gone, I would have liked to make sure you knew how much I appreciated you. I hope you knew anyway.