A Final Good-bye

Photo by Greg Wagoner, Flickr's Creative Commons

Photo by Greg Wagoner, Flickr’s Creative Commons

Online life can be strange. We “meet” people, friends, and connect briefly…or permanently. We can connect superficially or deeply. Often it’s like our friends IRL—we aren’t really sure what draws us together. Something unknowable, intangible, fleeting. Right place at the right time? Maybe something serendipitous or simply a similar interest.

Like writing.

One such writer I’ve connected with is Tracy Seeley. She was one of my earliest writer friends in my online writing community. I don’t really remember exactly how we “met.” On a blog? Twitter? (Not Facebook, I know that, because we were never friends there.) I only know that we connected deeply over her memoir My Ruby Slippers about a roadtrip to explore her past in Kansas and Colorado, spurred on by a cancer diagnosis.

I wrote to Tracy after reading her memoir, first on email, then on paper…by snail mail. I told her how much I enjoyed her book, and I was honored she wrote back. We exchanged a handful of cards—talking about our shared interests in gardening, places we’d both lived (Colorado and San Francisco), and of course writing.

We also talked about her ongoing battle with breast cancer.

We stopped writing to one another a few years ago. It wasn’t anything in particular that stopped us—not even that we ran out of things we could say—it was just that we both got busy, as friends do.

So today, when quite by accident I stumbled upon Tracy’s obituary, I was caught short. She died last year, and I didn’t know. That’s perhaps one of the cruelest tricks of modern life: someone who you’ve never met in person, who you think you know, feel like you know, can be gone just as quickly as they appeared. And you don’t even know. It feels like Tracy could be alive because I never saw her at the grocery store or on my way around the block with the dog or every year at a family reunion or conference and I never even talked to her on the phone or Skyped or Google-chatted with her as I have with many of you.

From time to time I talk to MEH (My Engineer Husband) about what he should do if I die suddenly. How he will tell my online community…who he will tell who will then spread the word. We’ve never come up with a hard and fast plan. He doesn’t even remember where I keep my passwords. In truth, I keep them on my Macbook, on an electronic post-it, but of course he’d need my computer password to see them—that’s on the same post-it. I’m not sure it would be the first or second thing he’d think of; maybe he’d never think of it at all.

I do. And yet I don’t know what the answer is. For me. I imagine it’s different for each of us.

What I do know is that I wish I’d written to Tracy one more time. To say good-bye. To thank her for her lovely book—which I’ll treasure even more now. To say how much her cards and time meant to me; her acceptance and affection as a writer.

But mostly, I’d say this:

I’m so glad you were my friend, Tracy. You were a beautiful and wonderfully warm woman and lovely writer who I’m so happy to have shared time on Earth with, however briefly. Thank you for being my friend. I will miss you. Love, Julia

My love to you all,

Julia

 

Comments

  1. Lisa Kramer says:

    Our world is strange your words are beautiful

  2. I imagine stumbling across an obituary would take your breath away. Thanks for introducing us to your friend and sorry for your loss :-( Beautiful post!

  3. Julia — This beautifully written, poignant post has me crying. It’s bittersweet—lovely and heartbreaking—all at once.

  4. Micky Wolf says:

    So glad you shared this experience with us. Your openness is a gift…one of authenticity, compassion, and what it means to connect with one another human being in the precious days we are given. Thank you, Julia…may you find solace and comfort in recollecting the times you and Tracy brought inspiration and joy to one another.

    • Your words mean so much, Micky…reading through tears. I am so very glad we’ve connected on my blog. I look forward to seeing you here each time I post — it would’t be the same without you <3

  5. I’m so sorry, Julia, that you lost your friend. I’ve thought (and talked) many times about what my husband would do with my writing if I were to die, but I’ve never thought about how my online friends might be told. I’ll admit that it’s crossed my mind about some of my online friends; sometimes they just sort of disappear into the aether and I wonder what happened to them. I hope they just got busy with happy, life-y things, but I can’t help but wonder if I would even find out if one of them died. :( How sad for you to have stumbled upon Tracy’s obituary that way. It sounds like you were both lucky to have each other when and how you did. <3

    • I hate it when online friends disappear (I think I’ll be more concerned now than ever before) and I often will check. It was quite sad, but I do feel incredibly fortunate to have known her. I feel very fortunate to count you as my friend, too, Annie! <3

  6. Oh, Julia, I’m so very sorry about the loss of your friend. Last year, one of my best friends died suddenly, and I found out on Facebook. It still makes me cry whenever I think about finding out that way–I can picture where I was sitting, and the wail that came out of me, along with “No, no. noooooo!” I don’t think that there’s ANY good way of finding out about a friend’s death, but I made sure I got on the phone and called all of our mutual friends so they didn’t have to find out the way I did. I don’t know how I’d want my death handled online…I have so many friends I haven’t yet met IRL, yet I feel as though I know them, as you’ve said. All of this rambling just to say how terribly sorry I am for your loss.

    • Thank you, Jeannine; I remember when your friend died. I’m so very sorry for your loss and for how you found out. The world is really changing, and we’re all finding our way in this new way of friend making and friend losing… Thank you for your very kind, thoughtful words. <3

  7. Pamela says:

    Online friendships are almost better because they are without our everyday concerns of arriving on time to coffee or calling back about a play date. I think about the letters written in the 1700’s and later and how many real life relationships were grown and sustained by letters. To lose an online friend is no easier than losing someone we see everyday. I’m so sorry for this hole in your life. Thank you for sharing your beautiful words.

    • I hadn’t thought of it that way, Pamela, but your insight is spot on. Historical friendships through letters are so similar to online. So I shouldn’t be surprised at the depth of loss I feel with Tracy. Thank you so much for your kind words and sympathy. So appreciated. <3

  8. Cherry says:

    The strangest thing only yesterday I mentioned to my husband about an online friend and he stopped me in my tracks and said ‘cherry , friends online aren’t real friends they are just computer people’ .You see I disagree online friends are the sweetest I know it’s a little bit like an old fashioned pen friend …maybe they weren’t ‘friends ‘ either Colin ( I’ll speak to him later). Such a lovely story about your very special friend so sad you lost her but just think what you leaned from her conversation…not real friends? rubbish . A beautifully written post as always my friend ❤️
    Cherryx

  9. Sorry you lost your friend, Julia. I’m sure she’d appreciate your beautiful words. Sending a hug your way.

  10. Jamie says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend. A gift of our digital world is getting to know wonderful people who we never would have connected with and cared for otherwise. Tracy must have touched many lives with her openess and lives on through her writing. You honored her as a writer and a friend by sharing her work with us.

    • Thank you for your kind words, Jamie — that is a beautiful way of looking at it, that the wonderful people we meet are a gift from the digital world. I love that. I know Tracy did touch many lives, through her teaching, her writing, and her openness, and I love the idea that I’ve honored her by introducing all of you to her. Thank you for being my friend. <3

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss, Julia. Modern life is full of such paradoxes; we find ourselves connected in so many ways, and in other ways, still not. I’m sorry you had to find out the way you did. I’m sure that, just like you value and cherish the friendship and words you both exchanged, Tracy did, too.

    Much love to you…

    • Thank you, Natalia. Yes, plenty of paradoxes, leaving so much to grapple with including grief and sadness and misunderstanding — all of which I’ve faced in online friendship (among other common emotions associated with friendship). It gives me real solace to hear you say that Tracy likely valued and cherished our friendship, as I did. Thank you for your reassuring words.

  12. Leah Singer says:

    Beautiful post, Julia. I’m sorry for your loss.

  13. Nina says:

    This really touched me.

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