It was five-thirty am and I'd been awake since four having the standard argument with myself about whether give up and just get out of bed or stay and wait for sleep to come again. I'd only been there for four hours, but, as usual, I was hopelessly wake, my mind already plumbing the enticing depths of possibility. How much could I accomplish with no Rock Band, no television, no boys' voices raised in raucous debate, no phone ringing? How brilliant could I be if I wasn't interrupted fifty times? But I also knew that with four hours of sleep I'd be a zombie by mid-afternoon and helping my sixteen year old with his algebra would be beyond me.
When this happens I very often compromise and either read a book or fire up the laptop, set it on the beside table, lay down and surf with one hand, reading the news, or blogs, puttering around in friends' photo albums on my space or facebook. Sometimes I can go back to sleep if I stay still enough and trick my mind into not noticing.
Not having a book handy to read at that moment, I raised the screen on my laptop and surfed to blogger to see who had updated and what they had to say. The first name I sighted was Julie Carter's. For a split second I was pleased. Julie had been quiet recently and I'd wondered why a time or two. I raised up on one elbow to better see. As I took in the title to her blog, her words struck me in the chest with the blunt force of a splitting maul.
I reread the words, hoping I was seeing it wrong. When they didn't disappear or rearrange themselves into something that made more sense, I sat up, cursing under my breath, accidentally waking Gary.
"What's a matter Mary?" he asked.
"Julie Carter's husband died last night," I told him.
"You mean Steve?"
And we sat in silence for a few seconds, shocked into not knowing what to say.
Gary knows who Julie is because I have her volume of poetry, Pseudophakia on my bookshelves and I've read him much of the work inside it. He knows who Julie Carter is because I've pointed out her poems over the years on Everypoet. I didn't know sonnets could be anything other than academically interesting until I read Julie's. He also knows who she is because I read her blog and have laughed at her cat stories and ached with her when one got sick or passed away. Because Julie has commiserated with me when I've lost a pet and also (like several others) took the time to express concern for me when I was dealing with a small bout of depression some months back.
The thing is--I wouldn't dream of calling myself Julie's friend; I don't believe that I know her well enough to claim any kinship beyond that of blogging acquaintance. Friendship is an important word in my vocabulary and I tend to assume that it is the same for others. But I guess I've been aware of her words for so long that her sense of grief at the loss of her mate reverberated all the way across the internet from Ohio to Missouri and settled in my bedroom at five thirty AM.
But while Julie's grief is her own and my claim to it only that of a distant person who can only site awareness and deep sympathy, I hope that when/if she returns to us and if/when she reads this, that she knows that I wish, for her sake, that it wasn't true, that those words had arranged themselves into something else.
I hope she also knows--and I'm sure that there are dozens of others who can say this more eloquently and with more familiarity than I can-that she's on my mind and in my prayers.