So - while away this week, the power of email hit me square between the eyes. I got a facebook email message that one of the women from my Kenyon Review writing workshop had died. She was 20. She had been living with cancer - no blossoming. She was a hell of a writer. Man, she could craft a poem. She could tear one apart also.
I had the privilege to learn with her. Grow with her. Write with her.
She was just finishing up a round of chemo and had fast talked her doctors into letting her attend the workshop. She rested alot and hung out with me at meals. She could jive with my diet issues and fear of an upset tummy. I never balked as she swallowed down horse pill after horse pill.
I told her about my mom. I got it. The process of cancer. I also was not hung up on it. She was not dying - she was living and I think - seeing my mom battle through chemo - that is important to note.
What she showed the world and continued to show - as I followed her on Facebook and Goodreads - is life is for living - ONE DAY AT A TIME. Squeeze it and hang on tight. Sure maybe an afternoon nap is in order, but do not coast, do not sleep it through, cuz you have no right to expect tomorrow to include you.
As a teenager it had to be tempting to just give up, get pissed, be angry at the world. Instead she took summer school, online and sometimes from the hospital, getting chemo. Seriously.
This spring, she and a friend were hatching some public poetry project and sent out a call for work. I sent her some of my work. Happily so. I hope her friend sees that vision through.
Her words, written during the workshop will never cease to inspire me and make me want to write my very best. Such skill with the pen and at such a young age. I wish I had the chutzpa to write like her when I was twenty. I was shy, maybe once you realize that tomorrow is not a guarantee you just write like you don't care. It took me years to learn to take those risks.
As the news settled into my gut, part of me wanted to be angry. What kind of Universe takes away someone with some much talent and such a gift to inspire. Then I remembered - it is not how long you have - it is how you lived what you were given.
I think M's words speak for themselves. She lived every single second... and just like a good poem. Ever single word counts.
Some of her lovely and and totally moving prose can be found here.