A friend of mine died yesterday. She’d been very sick for a very long time. I was lucky enough to get to meet her once; I was even luckier to be able to have her as a friend and be her friend for years. She was a strong, fascinating, intelligent, caring person, and I will miss her very much.
I met her first when Xander was fencing. I did an online search for female fencers who blogged. I was learning some about being an armorer and Elizabeth was a very good fencer. We connected there and continued talking via blog posts, comments, and emails. She eventually became quite ill, but she remained herself, a person to be reckoned with.
One of the most amazing things that I will remember her for (the list is pretty long!) is that even when she felt most alone, she was still reaching out to people. She sent postcards to anyone who asked. She wanted to make sure that other people didn’t have to feel alone, and she was dedicated to this. She created The Postcard Project and sent out several thousand postcards. How long has it been since you got a postcard or a letter from someone? Handwritten, sometimes covered in stamps or stickers, made especially for you – these were the postcards Elizabeth sent out, often with the help of her wife, Linda, and a friend.
I started writing letters and postcards to people a while ago because of how happy I felt when I received one of Elizabeth’s postcards. I sent her a lot (though not nearly as many as she sent me, I’m sure) and it has become a habit; I write letters to certain people once a month at least. These are people who are important to me but are also, for whatever reasons, not people I talk to on the phone or email very much. I ramble about our life, what Katja is up to, what our plans are, and anything interesting going on at the moment that I’m writing. They aren’t fascinating or edgy or, probably, even terribly well-written. They are just a way to keep in touch, to let these people I love see a little slice of our life and know that I am thinking about them.
I have thought a lot since Elizabeth died about the connections I make over the internet. She inspired, challenged, encouraged, and, once or twice, even fought me. We stayed friends throughout, even though I know I seriously ticked her off (and vice versa) a few times. We cared about each other. My friendship with her meant more to me than many people I know “in real life”, as some define it. We chose to stay in touch, worked at it, and enjoyed our discussions. I can’t really express what she meant to me, but she was important.
I have some older relatives who don’t understand how someone from the internet could become such a dear friend. “How can it matter? You’ve only met her once!” That’s true, but I know her voice. I know how she writes, what she cares about, and what makes her laugh. I know that she was my friend and very dear to me. The end of last year I failed her, between moving and people getting sick and my surgery, but her wife wrote an email asking what was going on and I got back in touch. That happens with friends in the physical world, too, sometimes. Life gets busy. It doesn’t mean we stop caring.
I met her on the internet and we became friends. I am lucky to have gotten to know this amazing woman. Her wife, too, is quite incredible, though I don’t know her nearly as well.
One of Katja’s middle names is Elizabeth. That name is for two women: my maternal grandmother, who was funny and acerbic and smart, and this Elizabeth, my friend, the author, the person who cared about everyone, fed squirrels in the park, fenced, boxed, and pushed herself farther than anyone thought she could go. Both women meant a lot to me, and Katja will hear stories of both. Elizabeth McClung was big-F Family.
The world is a lesser place because Elizabeth has died.