Note: What follows is an expansion of a reply from me to a condolence email from "Ed P". Rather than reinvent the wheel, it expresses what I want to say well enough to make up the larger part of what I want to say. Thank you, Ed P, for your indulgence.
It came as personally devastating news. My longtime friend, mentor, and supporter had passed away. It came with very little warning. Even with all of my experience in end-of-life nursing, it slipped by me unexpectedly. I strongly I suspected he was heading down the path toward the end, but not so soon! Please God, not so soon!
Chris, aka Invid Fan, was a precious friend. I've developed several cyber-friendships, some quite close, since I started writing, but none nearly as close as the one I forged with Chris. We never met in person because we lived so far apart. Sadly I never had the chance to hug him and give him a kiss. However, that did not lessen the strength of our friendship or my love for him.
When I started writing, I very quickly discovered I had a burning passion for it, but I had no real idea what I was doing. He took me by the hand and slowly, patiently taught me the art of good writing. He could be quite as stern as he could be gently encouraging when he commented on my writing. Stern or gentle, I like to think I always took his lessons to heart.
We had completely different styles of writing. His was terse and Hemingway-esque; mine leans toward Faulknerian detail with a good bit of steam-of-consciousness. When reviewing my writing, he always respected my style, and tried to teach me within the framework I found (find) most comfortable.
Still, his comments could cut like a knife when he thought I was being lazy and abusing the privileges granted by my style. Earlier on in my "Karen and Laci" novel, I had the bad habit of "heading-hopping", that is moving from one character's point-of-view to another's without a clear break. Head-hopping, he said, was, "Well - childish." Yikes! That bit hard. I learned my lesson though, and I don't think I've done it since Chapter12.
One thing in particular saddens me. We started a writing project together. It was a story from the point of view of two characters, his male and mine a female. We took turns playing our characters off the actions of the other, the result being a story seen from two entirely different perspectives. We had to put it on hold when he took sick, and my own health condition flared up. Now we won't be able to finish it, and that breaks my heart. Still, it comforts me to know that he thought highly enough of my writing to ask me to do the project with him. I could ask for no higher honor.
My favorite story of his is "Where Friendship Leads," followed closely by the "Nowny Poland" series, both novels he had published as old fashion, printed books. The hard copy cover of a "Nowny" volume had the image of a bluebird on it, a copy of a painting done by his beloved niece. I fell in love with that bird. The bird's face looks alive, as if it will cock its head and turn its glare right on you. His niece clearly has talent, and his pride in her beamed through his emails like a lighthouse's beacon. That he used her painting as cover art for one of his books says more than any words can say about how much he thought of her skill.
Earlier, after he took sick, he really shocked me when he asked if I wanted the original painting. At first, I hesitated. It belonged to his niece and I'd feel uncomfortable taking it from her. Well, he said, how about if I bought it from her. Artists expected to sell their works.
It was clear he wanted me to have that painting, so I finally agreed. He acted as her "agent", we decided on a price, and in short order I got a package in the mail from him with the original painting. However, it also contained two of his books, the "Nowny" with the bluebird cover art, and a copy of "Where Friendship Leads."
When I opened "Where Friendship Leads," there on the dedication page, in big 24 point type, it reads, "For Letoria". My breath caught, my hands trembled, and tears welled up and burned my eyes. He'd given me the ultimate compliment. "You are my friend," he said.
How could I not love someone who thought that much of me? I've known for a long time that love has nothing at all to do with one's sexual orientation. We love the person, not the gender. Being a lesbian cannot and never will have a bearing on whether or not I love someone, and I loved him as a treasured friend. He was a kind and generous man, and a skilled and patient teacher. I'm honored beyond measure knowing he thought so highly of me.
Now especially, the book and painting are among my most prized possessions, both occupying places of high honor within my home. I could do no less.
Chris gave to me infinitely more than I gave back. All I could give was my love and devotion. I wish I'd had the chance to say goodbye to him, but life doesn't always work that way, so all I can do is honor him by always following his most important bit of advice: "Always be true to your story, and never cheat it by giving it less than the very best you are capable of giving." That's a lesson I will carry in my heart, and I will never cheat him by cheating the story. I hope I can continue to do him proud.
If you've read this far, let me thank you for your indulgence. I need to say these things so I can begin healing. Who better to share them with than his admiring readers? Thank all of you who've written with your condolences, which I will pass on to his sister. Thank all of you who offered up warm thoughts. Thank all of you again for your indulgence as I ruminated out loud.
Finally, thank you Chris for being my friend and mentor, and for enriching my life beyond measure. I won't let you down.
I love you…