Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Breaking Hearts

Our dear friend Antony died Friday. He had gone in for an angiogram, and he suffered massive heart failure during the procedure. Despite emergency surgery, they could not get his heart restarted. Antony is dead. He was only 40 years old.

He had some warning. Last year he developed congestive heart failure and diabetes. He was hospitalized over Thanksgiving weekend with very high blood sugar and further heart problems.

Yesterday, his wife found a love letter addressed to her in his wallet.

Antony and I spent years arguing online before we became good friends. We still argue. As he says — said — himself, he’s an asshole. But he was a blunt, magnanimous, lovable asshole, and if I asked him a question, he would tell me the truth. He was like a brother to me. (Sometimes an idiot brother.) He was amazingly in touch with feelings, his own and other people’s, and he had a gut instinct for some of the issues that most concern me. He always had a talent for driving me crazy, and God knows he could be difficult in company. Stubborn, defiant, contrary, libertarian, and yet generous, open, and loving. If we had been married or erotically involved, I would probably have killed him myself. But I didn’t want him to die.

Grief leaves you exhausted. It's hard to concentrate. Storms of weeping, raging, fistpounding emotion come occasionally, but mostly it's the leaden feeling of loss.

It just feels like one death after another, over and over again. . . . When will it stop?

There are twenty South Bay NaNoWriters. Two of us lost both relatives and jobs during the month of November. Now I’ve lost Antony, and another member has lost her grandmother. Oh, and there have been two or three other layoffs in NaNo families, including Paul’s layoff.

I had been thinking about Ebola Smurf's faked death and the way online communities deal with real death. Been through it before. I first met Antony online 9 years ago. We've spent a lot of time together in 3D, but he and the community that's now mourning him are all people who first connected through this medium.

Our corner of cyberspace is where he met and married his wife (also met various girlfriends). Where I met Michele -- we've been together five years. Where dozens of happy marriages that I know about got started. Our community has gone through marriages, births, deaths, catastrophic fires, legal troubles, financial troubles, ugly divorces, sick kids, sick parents, job losses, moves halfway around the world, and every other issue. Life in cyberspace is as real as you make it.

I’m sorry, I know this is incoherent. Partly that’s because it’s cobbled together from various e-mails I’ve written about this, plus notes to myself made weeks ago when I realized how sick Antony was.

Damn it, he was supposed to live.

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