I was on vacation when I heard.
For more than a week I have been trying to wrap my head around what it means, what I want to say, how to make sense of it.
Many years ago, when the internet was still mostly new and online communities functioned with yahoo group lists, I found some of my people – people who wrote things by hand, loved words, believed in the power of words and the worth of communication, kept journals, practiced gratitude, aimed for grace, embraced the wider world, lived consciously.
We didn’t know each other. Not really. We were a far flung group. But we shared. For years. And when social platforms moved on, we moved our friendships to Facebook. We kept in touch, some of us.
That’s where I originally met her – way back when. I ran some groups she participated in, she ran some groups I participated in. I can’t say we were close, but we knew what mattered to the other, we cheered each other on in life, and through the years we kept in touch. Journals and journal keeping was a shared passion. We’d send each other articles we knew would be appreciated. Exchanging bits of wisdom, thoughts on art and writing. She sent a collection of notes from a writing class she took on Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. I sent little care packages of antique linens or fabulous costume jewelry when one of my clients was downsizing such things. Contemplating community, happiness, beauty, inspiration.
She was an inspiration alright. Indefatigable. A powerhouse of ideas and a wellspring of kindness and compassion, always seeking to understand, learn from and appreciate others. Even from a distance I knew she could bring out the best in people.
We always said we’d meet.
She promised me lunch at Roy’s when I eventually got there to visit – which I assured her I would, someday.
I’ve done a lot in the journal keeping community in the past. She supported everything I did and everything I dreamed of – a magazine, an archives. I appreciated and learned from her input.
Recently she could no longer stand by and watch unfairness and corruption in the political world so she stepped up and she ran a grass roots campaign. Fighting a long time incumbent to gain a seat on the Kansas Legislature. And she WON!
It was so exciting to watch the results of a Kansas election from my home in Connecticut and brag to those around me – “I know her! She’s wonderful. She’s running for all the right reasons. She’ll be so good at this.”
And she was good at it. Insisting on respectful discourse, she said she would not participate in debate that was not respectful on both sides, always. Such class.
My vacation was a whirlwind thing. A road trip planned in a week and consisting of nearly 6,000 miles in 17 days.
My honey wanted to visit his mother in Utah. He said – “Check the price of plane tickets.”
But no. I think flying these days is hateful. I pushed for a road trip and I won.
We’d been to Luray Caverns in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Kanab Utah, Zion, White Pocket, scenic Rt 12, Back through Colorado and now we were driving across Kansas.
We didn’t actually have time to stop in Kansas, plus I knew that if she was in Topeka she was likely busy with the legislature, and if she wasn’t in Topeka, she’d be too far off my path there in Hutch. Nonetheless I thought I’d take a quick look at her facebook. It was dinner time. Maybe if she’d just posted, “I’m having dinner at such-and-such place in Topeka,” I might swing by for a quick, surprise, drive-by hello. I knew that was unlikely. But I looked.
Her most recent post (earlier that morning) – “You’re waking up in a Kansas where the Brownback experiment has ended. Good morning!” And a few other posts about the successful override.
I sent her a text.
“Patsy. I’m on a quick road trip and passing through Kansas headed east. 40 or so miles from Topeka at the moment. Had hoped to make time to meet you but it’s not going to happen today. However I did look at your Facebook page to see what you’re up to as I pass by and I have to say CONGRATULATIONS and thanks for all your work making Kansas and the country a better place. PS. It’s gorgeous here!”
She didn’t answer. Yep. Must be busy.
We stayed in Missouri that night and the next day headed for Mammoth Cave in Kentucky. My sweetie was driving.
That was when I saw the text from a creative maker friend whom I’d introduced to the amazingness of Patsy on Facebook.
His text said “I’m so sorry” and included a link to the news story “Kansas Legislator found dead in hotel room in Topeka.”
My mind stumbled and I looked up at the world around me in a blur. Then my eyes focused on a passing highway sign – Paducah this exit.
This can’t be right. In fact it’s quite wrong.
Patsy was from Paducah.
Patsy doesn’t exist any more?
How can that be?
Ten days later and I still trip over this fact, daily. Patsy is no longer smiling in this world. Patsy is gone. I never got to meet her.
We weren’t close but she meant so much to me. She was so very important to the world.
I can’t wrap my head around how hard this has been on me. I can only imagine the grief of those who actually knew her buoyant energy.
And I feel for her dearest friends Mark and especially Greg.
If you guys see this – all of my hugs and love to you both.
Thank you for being in Patsy’s life.
And Patsy, thank you for being in my life – however much on the fringe, you mattered.
- The photos here were taken from Patsy’s Facebook page – photo credits to Greg Holmes, Kristen Garlow Piper, and David Bell