(This is a hell of a way to come back to Livejournal. More about that choice some other day.)
Wednesday morning I received the kind of phone call no one wants. After a brief game of phone tag, I learned that tamnonlinear
is gone. She died by suicide sometime the night before.
There is a hole in my heart and my life that I cannot begin to fill, especially not with something as insubstatial as words. And yet, to not write something
, to not try to capture at least a piece of the woman who was Abby, and pin it down to memory now, when the memories (and yes, the grief) are freshest, would be a disservice and dishonor to her memory. She was far, far more than this one act. And yet, I find myself paralyzed in finding words...
I was blessed to know a few sides of Abby, but she was a wonder of infinite facets. She touched lives wherever she went, even digitally, and the world is a darker, sadder place without her, for those who knew her in person and those who knew her by her online words.
I don't think it would surprise anyone that Abby's final online words were about her cats. She had 6 these days (Jasper, Jaime, Mia, Jessie, Caliel, and Kala). Abby had what she called a "sucker light," meaning that animals, especially cats, knew she was an easy mark. I don't know if she still did, but for many years she kept cans of cat food in her car just in case she had to rescue a feral or stray. She'd take in these abandoned animals, get them to trust again, and then find them excellent homes. The cats she were harder to place-- too shy, too feral, too unhealthy. I think she found them kindred, as she thought of herself as prickly and maybe broken.
As I write this, I'm in my home office and somewhere in here-- completely hidden at the moment-- are Mia and Jessie. They're terrified and confused and I so desperately want to help them, but I know it will take time and patience.
Time and patience are things I learned a lot about from Abby. She didn't complain when a former-feral or rescue cat didn't give her love or trust her, or, in the case of some of a few notable cats, howled in the basement for a few months or lived inside the springs of a recliner for a while. She loved them just the same and they learned that and they responded to that and they loved her back. She once built a wee palace for a cat she named Portia who was too timid to come inside but wanted to watch everything within Abby's home (especially her other cats.) The house Abby built had a window against the window to Abby's kitchen, so that Portia could see, and it had a heated bed and shingles on the roof to keep it dry. Eventually Portia trusted Abby enough to accept pets and love and companionship.
It wasn't just cats, though, for which Abby had seemingly infinite patience and attention for the minutest of details. She had a patch of woods near her house where she'd frequently spend time. It became the final resting place of the cats who passed away. She knew every inch of it. She spent one summer and fall watching the decay of a deer, and years watching the surprisng growth of a sycamore tree
that had been damaged when it was young. Closer to home, she cultivated a wild backyard, happy to let things grow and flourish where they were planted, usually through happenstance and nature. She'd ruthlessly take out invasive species and nurture what nature otherwise brought her. (Which was sometimes possums.)
She was unsentimental. She didn't keep things
, especially compared to my own packrat existence. She claimed that she hated people, but she belied that statement every single day. She would go without food to donate to an internet friend's fund. When I went through tough times, she gave me a key to her house so that I could come over, any time, and crash (I was driving from one state to another to do so) no matter what. Last year, when she changed the locks on her house, she mailed me a key so that I wasn't locked out.
Over the years her interests shifted, as they do for all of us. I remember her doing Scottish dancing. She took me with her once and I was as terrible and it was fun. She frequently went to Chanty Sings and renaiszsance faires. In the last few years, her attention turned to clinic escorting, with the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force
. She was, from my understanding, very good at it, and very good at being non-confrontational with protestors, even when I think she would have, in many ways, preferred to gve them a dose of logic.
She was always up for some adveture, though like me maybe not always too much adventure. I remember one time we had planend to meet up with some of her friends in DC, but it was rainy and trafficy and we didn't have an exact address and she gave up and we went back to her place instead. On another adeventure, though, when I was researching my disseration, she happily came with me-- drove, in fact-- to see two outdoor Shakespearean productions. I had planned to see the first one twice, a park production of As You Like It
, I think, but we agreed it wasn't very good. So Abby hopped online and the next night found us driving around farmland and unknown roads to find a production of Titus Andronicus
done with a set made of an antique farmtruck with stuff glued to it, a bunch of hay bales, and imagination. We sat on a blanket from her car and ate oreos and it was one of the most fun evenings of theatre I've ever experienced, made better by the company.
Abby was brilliant and widely read. At the foot of her bed there was a trunk and it always held stacks of what she was reading or would be next. Retellings of "Tam Lin", of course, some of which, by the way, she hated
, were always around so that she could include them on Tam-Lin.org
, but there were also books on science and language and various novels.
I know those books were there because when I would visit, she would give mer her room and she'd retreat to sleep in her office on a smaller bed. I'd have been perfectly happy sleeping in the office, but Abby gave comfort to friends. Her room was painted beautifully in blue and had a bed whose headboard was decorated in a magpie collection of shiny objects-- one of the few places you'd find baubles in Abby's house. Often, the sheets were leopard print; one of those weird quirks about Abby that always seemed just a bit out of place was her fondness for leopard print.
She did not, however, like pictures. Art in her house did not have faces. She would not let herself be photographed except under extreme duress. I have no photographs of her. When I try to picture her in my mind, I see her wild red curls, her big glasses, and an expression that was somehow both puzzled by the whole world and patiently waiting for it to catch up and catch on. She also looked good in hats; she claimed it was one of her talents, but that it wasn't a particularly useful one.
One of her talents that many people enjoyed, though, was her ability to bake brownies. These weren't from a mix or a powder-- they were alchemical magic, different every time, requiring days of work and created anew each time she made them. When I raised money to TNR a colony of feral cats, she donated batches for a raffle, and they raised a lot of money and made their recipients very happy.
She made other things the way she made brownies, too-- she decided she didn't want carpets, so she pulled them up. She decided she couldn't find the winter coat she really wanted, so she went forward and made one. She had no training in either of these activities, she just moved forward and did them and eventually it worked.
The last time I saw Abby in person was a few years back while I was still living in AZ. A friend and I had found two cats, one of which had been attacked and needed surgery to remove an eye. The friend and I got the cats healthy, but couldn't find homes for them, especially together. So, when I flew home to PA for a holiday, Abby bought me a second ticket (since you cannot fly with more than one animal) and paid for the cats' airfare, then drove to PA from MD to get the cats and then drove them down to someone in the Carolinas who she trusted to adopt them. (The last I heard, from Abby, about these two, included pictures of them being incredibly well loved and happy.)
The last time Abby and I texted was a little more than a week before her death. I had texted to tell her that my turtle, Shelby, had passed away, since she'd known he'd been sick a long time. She of course expressed her sorrow. I said that on the bright side, since Shelby had liked people so much, he had seemed pretty pleased by having to go to the vet every three days for shots, because he had a fan club. The last text she sent me, since it was late and we ended the conversation there, was that that's not the worst thing to say about about a life. He had a thing he liked to do and he did it.
Abby, I think you had a lot of things you liked and I hope you got to do them. I'm so very, very sorry that none of us saw how much you were hurting, that we weren't more intrusive and insistent on helping. I think you knew that so many of us love you, and I wish you had made a different choice, and had held on longer, but I have also walked those dark paths with the depression demons, and I can understand their seductive, insidious voices.
I don't know how to live up to her legacy of compassion and kindness. I still have the key tso her house, now just talismans to a memory of a loved one lost. I have three cats from her-- Callie, who I adopted from her the first time I met her and who is my baby girl, and Mia and Jessie who ... I've been writring for almost an hour now and I still haven't seen them, but they're in here somewhere... I have little reminders, ways that our friendship has changed me, such as how I shout "Monster!" every time I pull out the vacuum cleaner in order to warn the cats what's coming. I have deep, deep regrets and I have memories.
And I know she'd want us to be kind to ourselves. It's how she finished almsot every converasation with me, exorting me to be kind to myself, something that I know doesn't come easily to a lot of us depression sufferers. I wish, oh I wish... But in the moment I assume that the end felt like a kindness. I wish she'd not been alone. I wish she'd not been in such pain. I wish... I wish...
Be kind to yourselves.