Tuesday, January 21, 2003

Death of a Friend

I have been grieving for JoAnn Wortz, known as Ebola Smurf. Such intelligence and talent, ended so young. She was my age — in her forties. In fact, her death brought up a whole complex of pain for me, because she died in an accident that was painfully similar to the one that killed my niece Diane in February 1997. (No, I’m not over it. Yes, I’ve gone on with my life, but I will never stop missing her presence.) Every year as the day she died approaches I feel renewed sorrow. This is normal; it’s called an anniversary reaction, and if you’re aware of it, you can figure out ways to deal with it. I know how to treat myself in the first week of February to minimize the damage caused by the loss of someone I loved so much.

This year, because of JoAnn’s accident, it kicked in a couple of weeks early. And on top of a lot of other stresses, the tears and sorrow and questioning caused by JoAnn’s death were particularly hard to bear. They affected me, my family, my friends, my job. I prayed for her family. I sat down and cried more than once. I posted about her death here and in my LiveJournal. On the NaNoWriMo boards I wrote:

Oh, I am so sorry. She was such a vital person.

I'm glad the executor told us. This is just heartbreaking, but it's worse to have someone disappear forever.

Drive safely, everyone. And remember that life is short. Love well. Write well. Take care of yourselves.

All of which is good advice and an honest reflection of my feelings. I was really grateful to know what happened to someone I genuinely liked.

Except, of course, that the reports of JoAnn’s death seem to be greatly exaggerated. In fact, she seems to be still alive and living in the same small town where she always lived. People have spoken to her (or someone answering to her name) on the phone since her apparent death on New Year’s Eve.

There seem to have been no police reports, no obituaries, no corroboration at all that she’s really dead. There are reports of strange behavior, fabrications, and outright lies from other online venues.

If JoAnn is dead, I wish her spirit rest. If she’s alive, I hope she gets help. Anyone lying like that, manipulating people who honestly care about her, is very sick, willfully malicious, or caught in a situation so painful it must be close to unendurable.

Either way, alive or dead, my friend is gone for good.

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