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.