Updated: May 16, 2021
A week ago I was knocked off my feet by news that one of my online writer's group had died, though not from covid. That distinction is meaningless: loss is loss and grief is grief. I'd met her IRL and was looking forward to seeing her again after this pandemic is over. She was talented, fun, kind, and died much too young and much too soon. She was kind to me when I was a total stranger and going through a rough time. It has been a while since I'd heard from her, but she'd often go quiet when she was overwhelmed with projects. She was a talented voice actress, as well as a writer. Also, she was an introvert and a very private person. I understood and respected her boundaries. So I wasn't too concerned at first. But with the pandemic ramping up, I tried harder to get in touch with her with no success. Then a week ago a family member contacted me to tell me she had died suddenly from an undiagnosed untreated medical problem. High blood pressure. I've heard it said that high blood pressure is "the silent killer" but I didn't really think about anyone actually dying of it. But, yeah, it's one of those things (diabetes is another) that can destroy the internal organs of otherwise healthy people without them having any idea that anything's wrong until the situation is critical. She hadn't been feeling well, a cold or something. By the time she went to the doctor she was in kidney failure.
Her death is all the more distressing because it was completely preventable. Maybe there were other factors, I don't know. I just know what little I was told. Her family has had a hard time finding her online friends because, being such a private person, she had privacy on her accounts locked down, friends lists hidden where possible, and her family doesn't have access to any of her accounts.
I'm shocked and heartbroken.
We met online and chatted in private messages and private chat rooms with other writers. She was always supportive. Upbeat. Had a great (and geeky) sense of humor. I leaned very heavily on my writer's group when my mother-in-law's cancer came back and she subsequently passed away. It was a bad time. A long bad time. My writer friends were always there for me. And I kept writing, more or less, off and on. After my mother-in-law passed, she was buried with my father-in-law. This necessitated a road trip. On our anniversary. (I put my foot down when arrangements were being made that the interment would not be on our anniversary. Things were bad enough as it was.) The funeral was the week before, but a week later I, of course, still felt wretched and wrung out, and not fit to be around people. I dithered about whether to contact Kirylin about a meetup since we'd be right in her hometown. She knew what I was going through, but didn't know I'd soon be headed her way to bury my mother-in-law. I didn't feel up to meeting someone I'd never met before; I just didn't think I'd be at my best. Also, I knew what a private person she was and thought she might not feel comfortable meeting me. But...if I had to pick an aphorism I've lived by it would be "nothing ventured, nothing gained". So I messaged her, and told her about the road trip, and asked in the most tentative way possible if she would want to meet up. This very private person, who knew what I was going through, and knew that I might not be very good company, responded enthusiastically and we met up after we got into town: me, my husband, her and her mother, at the local Half Price Books. We found a big table and the four of us (well, three because my spouse could not resist the lure of a new bookstore and set about raiding the shelves) sat around for...it seemed like hours, but it couldn't have been all night because my husband and I went out for an anniversary dinner and a walk in the park at twilight afterward, while Kiry and I continued messaging each other!
We had a great time, a wide-ranging conversation, and for a while there all the horrible things that had dominated my life in the preceding months faded away. We laughed! I laughed! We were in this wonderful bubble of friendship that happens when people really get each other. I told her afterward a couple of times how much that evening meant to me. I'm so glad I met her. She's gone much too soon, much too young, and I miss her. I don't think I even took a selfie with her. I just have my memories and they are such good memories that I weep. I hope she knows the writing group misses her. She was a good friend to all of us.
Requiescat In Pace Rebecca Thomas, aka Kirylin