Sometimes life throws out a roadblock to stop the infernal busy-ness society tells us is so important – working 50+ hours a week, writing a book, or running for office – and as we stumble over reality, we’re reminded what really matters: people.
And the friends who leave us far too soon.
Eight years ago this coming July, I had the good fortune to meet a dynamic, enthusiastic, dedicated writer named Lori Fetters-Lopez. Even more fortunate, she became an invaluable writing partner and one of my best friends. We shared rough drafts and polished submissions, half-baked ideas and publishing successes, laughter and tears.
But we also shared life: lunches and family dinners, weddings and births and deaths, Cards Against Humanity and margaritas, and writing conferences and workfellow duties for the Antioch Writers’ Workshop that brought us together in the first place.
Almost four years ago, she began a long battle against an insidious, inoperable cancer. So many of our mutual friends didn’t know she was ill because Lori was very private. She never wanted sympathy, or to be treated differently. She continued her work as a mechanic at the U.S. Post Office in Dayton, going head-to-head with the guys every night and usually coming out on top. She rode her beloved motorcycle with husband Danny, and cared for her dogs and birds and adult children, even during the long, repeated cycles of chemo.
Lori was an amazing woman, full of contradictions. She loved to bake and to sew cosplay costumes. But she could fix anything mechanical, from a washing machine to a car exhaust system to postal sorting equipment. She wore black and turtlenecks and leather. But she also wore beautiful scarves and prints, and dyed her hair everything from purple to fuschia to green. She was an amateur tattoo artist who sported a good bit of ink, some of it literary (Hemingway, maybe: “Write drunk, edit sober.”). And she could write…more words in more genres than anyone I’ve ever known.
Lori left us a legacy of quirky stories; examples of her many published short pieces are in Mock Turtle zine and in Flights literary journal. But she also wrote 8 (eight!) YA fantasy novels, three suspense/thrillers, and the beginnings of a detective novel that took on a life of its own. Sadly, none of those have gone beyond our writers group.
She allowed me the honor of being one of the few who shared her trials. I can only hope I managed to offer some measure of comfort along the way, because all I can remember now are the times I dropped the ball, when I was impatient with her, or when I skipped one of our planned bookstore writing sessions. Six weeks before she died, I begged off an evening of Euchre she wanted to share.
It turned out to be my last opportunity to spend time with Lori, to see her ready smile, hear her infectious laughter, share a hug. It’s a tough regret to swallow. And knowing Lori, she forgave me long before I’ll forgive myself.
Every night since she left us, as I log on to check email and Facebook one last time before bed, I expect to hear the “ping” of the text messages she always sent from her night shift at the post office, no matter how I teased her about bad timing. And every morning when I reach for my phone, I have to remind myself she’s not at the other end waiting for a silly emoji text to let her know I’m thinking of her as she heads off to yet another doctor visit.
This weekend, some of us from her writing tribe will gather for an informal wake, lifting a margarita (or two) in her honor. I’m betting she’ll be hovering close by, laughing at the jokes, wiping away more than a few tears.
And reminding us all to “Keep writing!”