I found out Jen had died on Wednesday, which was also my birthday. Not the best birthday present I've ever gotten, I can tell you that, but I was so touched that Gerald reached out and remembered me and contacted me. I spent most of the day in tears, off and on, and this blew me away, because Jen is the first of my close net friends to die, and while I have ALWAYS known that yes, these are REAL friendships, even if we've never met face to face, I never realized just how deeply the loss of one of these friends I've never had coffee with would affect me.
I can't imagine what he and his mother are going through, Jen was such a dynamic person, and if I am as devastated as I am over her death, I just can't stretch my imagination to cover what the people who knew her and loved her for her entire life are feeling. I just wish that there were some way that I could make it better for them. :( Jen was a spitfire, wildly alive, incredibly witty, sarcastic, thoughtful, and thought provoking. She and I disagreed more than once, and each time we did, while I may not have changed my mind on my position, I walked away from the debates with her a more informed person and looking at things from another perspective.
Jen was one of the main reasons I voted Obama, her staunch support of him made me REALLY look at what he had to say in a way that I had not considered before.
Jen was a LOYAL friend. Years ago, on WBM, she and I both knew one writer. I considered the guy to be an angsty annoying crap head, and when I told Jen this, thinking of COURSE she would agree with me, she damn near tore my head off, on two counts: Firstly, because the guy was her friend and she considered him pretty amazing, and secondly because she was ripshit PISSED that I would talk so disparagingly about somebody behind their backs. She tore me a new asshole that day, and since then I don't say anything behind somebody's back that I don't have the balls to say to their face. In this way, and in others, Jen made me a better person. I was blessed to know her, and I'll never forget her.
Jen was honest, even if it was going to hurt. If a friend was being an idiot, she let us know in no uncertain terms that we were idiots, while still managing to keep us reminded that for all our stupidity, she still loved us. Her sometimes brutal honesty forced me many times to face ugly truths about myself and my thinking, and made me grow as a human being.
My teenage daughter is an aspiring chef. Jen would look over the recipes of this teenager she didn't know at all, and encourage her, telling her all sorts of tips that improved her skills. I remember for my daughter's birthday last year, I was in a quandary as to what to give to her, and Jen helped me select the absolute best chef's knife and garnishing tools that I could afford. My daughter will be using those tools for the rest of her life.
Last Christmas, my husband and I were flat broke, and having some health issues that led to our kids having to go stay with my in-laws for about eight months. Sam and I couldn't afford to do Christmas for the kids or for ourselves. Jen caught a whiff of this in my LJ and emailed me demanding my address. I sent it to her, and a week later there was a box on my doorstep containing about twenty books she wanted me to read, books I am sure came from her own personal reading stash, a carton of much-hungered for cigarettes, some candy bars, and wonder of wonders, a $100 Target gift card so that we could give our children some presents. I cried my eyes out at her thoughtful generosity.
Jen and I made a pact several years ago when we were both in a slightly morbid mood. We agreed that whichever of us outlived the other, that person would take two double shots of their favorite booze with a kick (for me, it's 100 proof peppermint schnapps), one shot for themselves, one for the one who had moved on, and remember the funny stuff and have a good belly laugh.
I was unable to do it on Wednesday.
But you BET I did it on Thursday. I think if I had failed to, Jen would have shown up in my dreams, calling me a hoser and a wuss. :) And I intend to raise a glass to her on my birthday every year for the rest of my life.
As I said in my LJ post about losing Jen, the world is a darker place without her light shining in it.
Here's to you, Jen, you'll never truly be dead, because you affected so many lives for the better, and the ripple effect will spread and spread. You made a mark, woman.
Here is a pic which I've always loved:
She looks so happy, so sassy, and so confident.
This is the first pic I ever saw of Jen, ages and ages ago. Again, sassy, happy, and confident:
I loved her so much.
(As an aside:
Please let your loved ones know about your online friendships, communities, etc. Let them know how to let folks know if something has happened to you, so that people aren't left wondering. If anything ever happens to me, you'll read it right here on my own LJ first, as Sam has my login information safely tucked away. I swear, this wish on my part will be mentioned in the next will that I make out. Either give your loved ones a list of people to email, or the address of your LJ or blog so that they can post a comment on your last entry, or directions on how to reach your favorite chat rooms or forums. SOMETHING, so that, like Gerald did, your folks can let your net folks know that you've moved on from this plane of existence. Do it for love.)