I have done very little since I received that e-mail early Wednesday morning telling me that Squinternet had reached the end of her journey. I posted an announcement in her groups and on the Love Donna Flora blog and crawled into bed for a good cry. Crying can be so cleansing. Unfortunately, it upset my cat who proceeded to demonstrate loudly and longly that he can cry harder and louder than me. This touch of the ridiculous made me laugh.
Grief is like a cloud, fogging my brain. But one thing I know, I am not alone in my grief. Squinternet (Giulia) was widely admired and literally hundreds of people have been touched by her artistry and her kindness and they all feel her absence. I hope those who loved her find comfort in the knowledge that she was well and widely loved and that thanks to the generosity and openhearted spirit of the Second Life community, she got to see that before she died. In many ways, Love Donna Flora! was a memorial – one that she attended. People shared their hopes, best wishes and their love for her at the event and on the blog with blog posts, messages and open-hearted generosity. And she got to see it for herself.
My mind is full of all sorts of thoughts, but two keep coming to the surface over and over. Many other people besides myself feel her loss deeply and she had closer and dearer friends than me. Keep them in your hearts. I know that because I organized the Love Donna Flora event, people have been generous with their sympathy and messages of comfort for me. But there are so many people who loved her, more than I could ever list. Many of them were much closer to her than I. Even people who did not know her well are feeling that sense of loss that binds us as human beings. As Donne so eloquently wrote long ago:
No man is an island,
Entire of itself,
Every man is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thy friend’s
Or of thine own were:
Any man’s death diminishes me,
Because I am involved in mankind,
And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
It tolls for thee.
The second thought that keeps rising to the surface is a kind of desperate casting about for alternative ways to describe the many months since December 2011 when she learned she had cancer. People commonly call the struggle to live with cancer a battle or a war. Martial metaphors form the default language of cancer and that is hard. With a terminal cancer, that is a war than cannot be won, but the language of war makes even the most valiant and courageous person a loser in the end. Squint was no loser.
For me, it seemed that her struggle was to live on her terms as long as she could. She defied the prognostications and flouted the expectations of her doctors. The week before she went to the hospital for the last time she went to the beach. That is living life. She stayed home far longer than they recommended. She refused pain meds that would have eased her days because she wanted her mind active and alert. She preferred the pain with an active mind to the diminished awareness of pain management. Those are not the choices of a loser.
So perhaps a better metaphor is a journey or a maze where no matter what, you get to the end sooner or later. Memento Mori…remember that we all die. Throughout that maze, she made many choices, choices over treatment options, pain management, doctors, whether to go to a hospice or live at home. She worked her way through that maze, often choosing the more difficult, harder road to walk because she saw that as the road that made her feel most alive even during the process of dying. Such a brave, proud woman. She did not lose her battle with cancer. She struggled to live as fully as she could while dying and she succeeded.
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