Dead Friends

In my life, I’ve had some relatives die: all four great grandparents, uncles Eddie, Jim, and Rich, and some more distant relatives. I’ve also had a few friends and acquaintances die: Kendra, whom I knew in middle school, killed herself in my sophomore year, and Melanie, whom I graduated next to, did the same. So did Blair Harris, who died in Iraq. I can’t say that there have been no deaths close to me, or at least not amongst people I’ve known, sometimes quite well.

Today I got the news that a very close friend in high school died.

Jenni was a good friend, in particular in my junior year. In the classes we had together we tended to be inseparable. She was fun: she had this funny habit of getting to class early, writing some random factoid on the chalkboard, and signing it “The Trivia Goddess”. I’ll never forget that habit, and in fact I still do similarly today on this blog, partially inspired by her.

After graduation, as is generally the case, we completely lost contact with one another. By one of those strange coincidences, I spotted her at DragonCon a few years ago. We were both tipsy (I on whisky, she said on cough syrup due to a nasty cold she’d been fighting with). We exchanged contact info, and began keeping up with one another on facebook. It was good to reconnect with a friend like that.

In the interim, she’d been suffering seizures. On facebook she made frequent reference to having suffered them, and to having to make the odd trip to the ER as a result. She was also very much politically active, functioning as a paralegal for some local ethnic business organizations and working to represent their political interests. We happened to share views for the most part.

Wednesday night, coincidentally after I’d made reference to her while telling an old high school story to friends that afternoon, one of those seizures was finally enough to kill her. Her husband announced the news on her facebook page.

It’s hard to put into words how weird it feels. Obviously I’m no stranger to deaths, as I mentioned at the start, but this is easily the closest I’ve ever been to anyone who’s died. I feel so very old and tired now. I remember dad, when his friend Bill died of (I think) a heart attack a decade or two ago. Surely we were all too young for good high school friends to die? I don’t know.

It forces a realization, in an indirect manner, of how people change. I don’t feel like I’ve changed much, but of course I know I’ve changed a great deal. It’s been nearly 15 years since graduation. People I knew in those days have gotten married and had children (as have I), moved far out of state, gone to prison, seen all the ups and downs of life.

I never really thought I hadn’t grown up or anything. I’m old now, I know, I know. But nobody truly this close had hit the end of the line, and it’s a very sobering thought.

I miss you already, Jenni. It’s really been so long since we knew one another outside of the digital space. But there’s a little emptiness now, knowing that some of the fondest memories of those years has suddenly gone missing.