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Author Topic: As the world falls down (kind of a memorial, I guess.)
Bella Bee
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Sorry that this is so long. I should warn you that it's also sad. There's a TL;DR at the end. Read that if nothing else.

I wanted to put this here because it seems like as good a place as any to speak for the dead.

Right now I have nowhere else to do it and nobody else here at six in the morning to tell it to who would understand.

I discovered something tonight and I don't know what to do about it. I don't know how to get around it, but I'm glad that it was tonight, when I have time to deal with it. Honestly, I have no clue where to start.

I've never felt so far away, so far off in time, or so small and sad in all the while I've lived here. Yes, I knew this was coming. When you leave, you lose. You miss babies, weddings, birthdays, funerals. I always felt so lucky, that this had never happened, that nobody I really cared about all those years ago had died before I had the chance to repair all this distance. I fully expected this to happen - I was amazed that it hadn't happened. The fact that it hadn't made me so happy.

A friend of mine from school - who I guess wasn't a friend anymore, but only because we drifted off to different parts of the country and then to different countries... she died. We all moved away, everybody lost touch. I was reading somebody's old Facebook post that I just happened upon, and saw it. I don't even use Facebook.

She didn't die recently. It was two years ago. From how her family described it, I don't think she would ever even have known that she was dying - it sounds like the perfect death, if such a thing can exist when someone dies so young. I think she would have been pleased about that. But, much as I try, I can't remember how she said she wanted to die. We talked about it. We were teens, of course we did.

Until tonight, she was still alive in my head, still living an amazing, happy, busy, clever, wonderful life somewhere. Because she was one of those people that always makes you smile. She was bitchy, sarcastic, kind, a little wild, so funny, so clever. When I knew her, when we were kids, she loved geeky stuff, computers, books, stupid horror movies, David Bowie, Labyrinth more than anything, Bon Jovi, the X-Files, boys, singing, musicals, making fun of sappy music teachers.

She didn't want to be a music teacher, she wanted to be the Ruler of the World.

She didn't want to be so physically weak, so she decided to be mentally strong. People could hurt her, sometimes they did, but they'd never break her. She was tiny and fierce and she was beautiful. I hope she always knew it.

I can still see her right there, probably the last time I saw her all those years ago, standing in a music shop in Camden, headbanging her purple hair to Swedish death metal and then shopping for stunning gothic corsets trimmed with purple lace that actually fit her. She always found them. Standing in her steel toe capped boots made to kick the whole world down. I always saw her as a warrior, whose Achilles heel only served to make her braver and more determined.

And I can remember the first time I saw her, still in a wheelchair, back when we were ten years old. I looked across the hall of a school that neither of us were going to go to, and I thought 'she's going to be my friend.' I knew it at that second. She wasn't even in my class at the school we did end up going to, but somehow she was my friend from the first moment we met. I never asked her what was wrong, although I realized years later when I read Deenie by Judy Blume - the girl in that had a mild version of the same condition and I learned the medical name for it in that book. I don't think it ever occurred to me to ask or mention it. Now I look at pictures of her and it's right there, because maybe it killed her in the end. Yet, when I knew her I hardly even noticed it.

Right then in that school hall, aged ten, she only had eighteen years left to live. You can't fit a whole life into eighteen years when you don't know that you're supposed to.

If any of us was supposed to have a happy ending, she was the one. She took no prisoners and still managed to be one of the sweetest people I have ever met. She had a fantastic gift for snark. She had plans and had fallen in love. There was an incredible future just waiting for her somewhere out there that she hadn't even got near to experiencing yet. I discovered tonight that she was unemployed, job seeking and struggling to find enough money to do fun things when she died. That wasn't how this kind of story was supposed to go.

How could I not have known for two years? How come that the orbits of all of our lives are still so small that people who loved us long ago cannot even know when we have died? How can people just disappear without us even knowing it? How does that happen?

I went looking for her tonight, as I should have years ago. As I promise myself that I will for others, before something like this happens again.

I hunted the internet for scraps of her, footprints. I didn't expect anything to come up, or that I would be able to find it. But there were pictures of her in the last few years of her life in goofy wigs and at gigs, and then I found her blog. I went on the Wayback Machine and found more. I recognized her voice, like it was in my ears. A little more gentle and soft, maybe, in the five, six, seven, eight years since I saw her. But still absolutely her. Her voice is still out there, in the ether. A little bit of her, still floating somewhere on a sea of pages. She loved the internet as a kid, when it was new and fresh and basic and so were we.

She had so much left to do. I should have stayed in touch, not just assumed that I'd find her somewhere and say hi one day. Everything I should have done is two years too late.

I remember hugging her goodbye, that day we went to Camden. I don't remember what the three of us said. I'm sure I thought I'd see her again. I don't know now why I didn't.

When she was a kid, she wanted to be a writer. She loved books and literature. She wanted to be published someday. Along with being an Evil Overlord and a hacker. She had pet computers and she treated them like little mice or cats, playing with them and giving them treats.

I didn't really miss her until tonight. She was out there, in the world, doing incredible things and I'd see her again, eventually. I still talked about her to my family, to new friends.

I would think of her and imagine how her life was going, imagine her as a writer or a lawyer or becoming a tech whiz after all.

If I had read her blog while she was still here, would I have imagined that her health was going downhill, because she mentioned leaning on walls to catch her breath, that she got so tired sometimes? Probably not. I don't think even she knew. I don't think this was inevitable. It just happened.

I wish I knew what she'd say if she saw me crying like this, now that a few hours have gone past and I can cry, finally. Maybe she would have just hugged me and called me a stupid bitch. And I would have laughed and felt better.

I wish I could tell her all this. I never told her how much I admired that she was always putting her middle finger up at a world of people who only looked at the outside of her and just didn't get it.

She was born in a body that was different, so she became the best kind of different right along with it. She wouldn't change herself for anyone. She was always completely herself. I want to tell her how much I always wished that I could be more like her. That in the last few years I have begun to try.

Saying any of that when we were kids would have been sappy and sad, back when sad meant lame. I want to say it now, but there's nobody to say it to.

I hate writing about her in past tense. I hate not having known that this had happened. Here I am, wallowing in tears and clichés when this is so much bigger than anything.

I don't believe that there are goblin masquerade balls in the sky. I don't know if she hoped to be somewhere out there sitting on a cloud and singing, or if she believed that she would come back some day. I doubt it, she was very rational when I knew her. I don't know. But if there's a moment where everything seems beautiful, like some people who come back say there is, I hope she got that. A good dream.

She's always going to be ten, eleven, fourteen, sixteen, twenty to me. She'll never get any older in my mind, even though the photos and writing that I found tonight show that she did. I'll never really know the results of those years, who she became later. I'm always going to feel that age, too, when I think of her. I feel so young and dumb just writing this. I'm two years older than her now.

Someone like her shouldn't just vanish out of the world at twenty-eight. They shouldn't have their former supposed friends not even notice that they've gone. Nobody deserves that.

I feel like I need to do something, but there's nothing. Even her death was so long ago.

This is all so strange.

Tl;dr – If there’s an old friend you’ve lost touch with and hope to see again someday, DO NOT put it off. Go find them right now, this second. Don’t be where I am right now. You don’t want to feel like this, believe me.

[ July 12, 2014, 08:55 AM: Message edited by: Bella Bee ]

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Member # 8561

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isn't it so true? you write about it so well.

Here's my obligatory {{hugs}}, as insincere as the internet makes them feel.

Distance is brutal, a subtle form of murder. It takes people from you, in degrees. Friends, family, acquaintances. In an age before frequent communication across long distances, the murder used to be more complete.

People talk a lot about how they want to unlpug, but I celebrate how the whole mishmash of social media and internet communication can force us to bust through the walls of distance and, even if it seems superficial, stay connected with the people who matter to us. And help them stay connected to you.

Sometimes it's a massively bittersweet or practically unbearable thing, like viewing the facebook of a friend who died. But at least it's there for us.

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Bella Bee
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Thanks Sam, for the hugs and for reading.

That's it - especially introverts, we need things that can help us to keep connected with other people when we don't or can't see them in person. I probably should start using social media more.

But also, there's maybe this illusion of security that social media and 24 hour connectedness gives us, while stuff like this can still slip away from you.

In this case, neither I nor the girl who died used Facebook or anything like that. We both had profiles there, but we never used them.

Her family didn't put anything at all about her death on the internet. All her pages, except her most recent blog, are still up - with no mention of why she's not updating anymore.

The only public mention of her death was a tiny little death notice in the local newspaper that only one person from our schooldays actually saw (or probably her mother did and told her). I guess twenty-somethings don't often read the obits or even the local papers, especially since we've nearly all moved away. That person put up a post about it, but I wasn't a friend of hers and I wasn't looking for it, so I never saw it until last night.

I suppose that's another thing - making sure that your family know where you've been on the net and what real life people you might want to inform if something happened to you. I doubt anyone she grew up with even knew about this before her funeral. I don't suppose that anyone from her childhood attended, and I think many of us would have wanted to go. Not that it matters.

Right now, I'm trying to decide how to tell this to another friend from those days. I'm pretty sure that this friend hasn't heard about it either, because we're in touch and she has never mentioned this to me - and it would have hit her hard.

[ July 12, 2014, 10:30 AM: Message edited by: Bella Bee ]

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Bella Bee, what an awful thing to deal with. I'm sorry for the loss of your friend. Life seems so mutable when we are living it, but suddenly you come up against that hard wall of death.

I want to pull back or off of Facebook, but it is what keeps the possibility of reconnecting really viable.

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Thanks for sharing that Bella Bee. You hit quite a few nails on the head for me. Distance really is brutal, and I say that as somebody who has a very high tolerance for it and can pick up a friendship where it left off very easily. Given enough time though, you can't stop it. I'm sorry you didn't get a chance to reconnect with your friend. If I knew your position on the afterlife and God I might say more, but I will forbear.

Good luck relaying the news to your mutual friend.

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