June 1st, 2014

some days...

...and then today.

I may have seen Jay Lake before this moment which I call "first", the moment in which he entered my consciousness directly, but my first real (official as it were) memory of him was... laughter. It was almost painful watching a panel with him and EllEN Klages on it, because they fed off each other, and by the time the panel ended most of us in the audience were doubled over and weeping with laughter. I told Jay, later, that there ought to be a law against him and Ellen on the same stage at the same time because it was dangerous to people's health. ANd again, there was laughter.

That began it. I was never a close friend, not a bosom buddy, but he and I were friends, over a number of years - friends and collegaues, sometimes sharing panels at cons we both attended as visiting pros, sharing meals, sharing conversations.

I remember a panel at the Japan Worldcon, where we both committed memorable things - I, because it was almost unbelievable that a globetrotter such as myself would completely space out on the International Date Line and arrive at the con a day later than I thought I would be, and Jay because he did the inconceivable thing of travelling across half the planet to be at that Worldcon for ONE DAY. We were on a shared panel, that day, and it turned out that it didn't have a registered moderator - whereupon I told Jay that tag he was it in both acknowledgment of and punishment for that amazing trip. He acceded, and then told the panelists to introduce themselves, as is traditional - and it was at that point that I realised something. WHen it came to my turn, I gave my introduction by saying that I was the odd one out at that panel because I was the only panelist who did not have a J in my name. Jay snorted his soda, caught by an unexpected giggle. I made Jay Lake laugh. My debt was paid. My work there was done.

I remember him sitting with Beth Meacham and myself when we were Guests of Honor at a past Radcon ( a thing which he later referred to as "watching Beth Meacham and Alma Alexander interview themselves") - and his reaction of utter delight, a grin lighting up his entire face, at one of my convent-girl tales that came up in conversation (and the name of the nun who had charge of me, a Sister Fausta, which he seemed to find inordinately entertaining).

I remember him acting as patient decoy for the Great Rabbit Gambit of a different Radcon, when he was the innocent party in the entire practical joke but was perfectly content to sit in the front row and keep Bob Brown's attention focused on himself (because of a past stellar record of practical joeks between the two of them) leaving those of us who were REALLY in on the joke to work unimpeded behind the scenes.

I remember the Jaycon I attended, when I asked if there was someone who would offer me a couch to surf on for the occasion... and Jay found me a berth with his own family.

I remember putting together my anthology, "River", my maiden voyage as anthology editor, and approaching a number of my friends and colleagues for contributions to the volume. Several of them reluctantly declined, citing pressure of other work. Jay, sitting at the top table of yet another shared panel when he was accosted by me about this project, merely said, "When would you need it by?" and graced my heart-child anthology with a story.

I remember the last time I saw him, at the Orycon Powell's great writers' gathering and book signing group event at the Beaverton store - he was sitting behind me, wearing white gloves because of side-effects of his chemo and a knitted hat, looking drawn and tired but never grumpy - I remember taking our leave of one another at the conclusion of the event, hugging as two friends do, both of us aware that it might be the last time.

And it was.

I read his accounts of his battle with his cancer, and was full of rage and of pity and of powerlessness. But he - he was never powerless. He would not let himself be powerless. He fought the beast with everything he had, with heart and mind and spirit and failing body, and right until the bitter end he would not yield.

...and then, today.

Today he lost that last battle.

I cannot begin to fully understand what his inner circle, his closest friends and his family, must be going through right now, and my heart goes out to them all. And I mourn the dreams left unfinished, the stories left untold.

There is a Jay-shaped hole in the universe.

Goodbye my friend. Thank you for your words, your spirit, your friendship. I will miss you.

(now with pictures, at my other blog