Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Sparrow Fell

In November of 2009, a friend told me she was taking a break from her online presence. It was too exposing, took too much time away from her real life, put too much out there that she didn’t want strangers or her husband to read. She needed to work on her marriage and figure out what was going on with her moods. She’d made an appointment with a therapist to discover why she was crying so easily and not processing information the way she used to. She wanted to get a part time job, exercise more and be healthy.

Three months of light-hearted e-mails followed. She sent word of contests that I might find interesting. She had the part time job and liked it. Another two months later and the word depression surfaced again.

Almost a year went by before we connected for the last time. I was thinking of coming for a visit to scope out the DC area as a possible place to live. She was excited and wanted me to stay with her. For many reasons, I didn’t go. I wish I had.

She was Takoda, Church Lady, Rhinothongbutt (complete with picture), and herself - Chris Eldin - with such blogs as A Bench Press, Book Roast, Monkey Pee Monkey Poo, NaNoDeMo, Morning Latte, Alpha Bitch and her namesake. She came to L.A. for the 2008 SCBWI Summer Conference and we spent a wonderful evening chatting and laughing over vegetarian Chinese food. She was warm, gracious, funny, generous, caring, a talented writer with a wicked sense of humor.

I can’t remember when she talked about her fears. Was it over dinner? Did we talk on the phone? Both possibly. She was afraid her children would be taken from her. That her husband would get them passports, take them to Egypt, and never let her see them again. She was afraid of her husband’s business partners. Hints of shady dealings - crime on an international scale. Nothing she could definitively put her finger on. She felt trapped in her marriage. Dependent on someone she feared. And yet she said there was no abuse.

Perhaps there were no bruises, no broken bones, but her spirit suffered. She tried to keep her lifeline to us open. Tried in several different ways with the different blogs, but those avenues were closed off one by one until there was nothing left. E-mails to her went unanswered. Did she ever get them? No way to know.

We reminisced one day about how we all met - the wild connections that pulled this group of far flung writers together into such a tight knit community. Chris introduced some of us to each other, knowing we were friends who just hadn’t met yet. I searched her name that day but didn’t find the article that popped up months later.

This past week, another of our group found it. On the night of August 9th, 2012, Chris parked on the side of the interstate, left notes in her car and walked into traffic. Alone. Cut off from us to the point she may not have known how much we cared, how much we would’ve been there for her had we but known she needed us. Just like we have been there for each other in the past. Just like she had been there for us.

I can look back and see the signs. Of course. Such things are easy to see once the outcome is known. Not so easy to see in the moment. Not so easy to know what to say, how much to push, how much to stand back and allow loved ones to find their own way in this life.

I know, from my own experience, that twisted death spiral of eroding self-confidence, living in constant fear and emotional pain, that inability to see that life has ceased to be anything resembling normal, that useless agreeing to anything to try and keep the peace. But peace is never kept even when the isolation is complete. To leave is to risk being killed. Whether or not that is based in reality, the fear is very convincing.

Chris stopped the world so she could get off.

And we are all the lesser for it.

The morning we found out was a sunny day here in the desert of L.A. 0% chance of precipitation. Heat records in danger of being broken. Halfway through walking the dogs and it happened. Fat drops of rain for a minute or two.

God’s tears.

For Chris.


stacy said...

This is a beautiful tribute. Thank you, Sarah.

Tracy Barrett said...

So sorry, Sarah.

Wendy said...

Really beautiful, Sarah.

fairyhedgehog said...

I agree, it's beautiful.

SzélsőFa said...

aww, i am so sorry.

we did change some emails, some surfacing the issues she had had to cope with, but this kind of news is always a shock.

yours is a very careful and honest tribute, Sarah. thank you.