In honor of J.
Yesterday was the birthday of my friend.
She died last Christmas Eve.
Maybe she chose that day, or maybe her body gave out.
I’m not sure I’ll ever know what happened.
Her death was announced by a stranger on Facebook and that was it.
One day J was there and the next day she wasn’t.
We met working at a high-end restaurant in Austin — she a seasoned server around town and comedian, and me a hostess hoping to become a full-time writer. The chemistry was instant, but then everyone had an immediate connection with J — her colleagues, her customers, the audience she performed for at the comedy clubs. It was impossible to dislike J with her 1950s cat eye glasses, her dirty mouth, and her ability to make you feel like the most important person in the room.
Everyone loved J but J.
Or maybe she did love herself. But not in a way that would have saved her.
I wanted to save J. I tried to. Especially the night she called me and teased about ending her life. I know others wanted to be her life preserver, but we could never quite reach her.
Her mother died when she was 10, the circumstances a mystery. But I know there was a lot of pain.
J wasn’t married. Maybe she had been at one point. And she never had children. J died without an obituary, and a few weeks after I read the news of her passing, I cried in anger when I realized a remarkable woman who was neither a partner nor parent wouldn’t get her obituary. She still hasn’t. Do spouseless and childless women not deserve remembrance?
It’s been almost a year now and J’s death has quietly receded into the background. I visit J’s Facebook page to see if there are updates on a memorial, but nothing. Her page is a graveyard of old photos and status updates — J smiling, J pantomiming, J with her arms around others, J asking for help with medical costs, J hiding her feelings of hopelessness under a joke.
I’m looking at your page now, J, and scrolling through our conversations. Sometimes you’d tell me you loved me, and I would say it back. I did love you. We all loved you. Why did you have to go?
I wanted this to be your obituary, but I don’t know enough about your past to write a formal feel good one. And something makes you think you wouldn’t want a sacchrine obituary anyways. You were complicated and imperfect and that’s what drew all of us to you.
Happy birthday, J. We will never forget you.