Four years ago today, I received a phone call telling me that my best friend was dead.
J.D. (Janet Duron) and I met at work. We discovered a mutual love of reading mysteries and science fiction. She was a Weight Watchers lifetime member (a fact I found very hard to believe until she showed me some old pictures) and she encouraged, but never pushed, me to do something about my weight.
She was the oldest of four and had spent most of her teen years caring for her younger siblings. A fact that led her to rebel and move away from Michigan long before she was really ready. How she got to Tucson she never said, but shortly after arriving she became involved in an abusive relationship. To escape that, she turned to drugs. The relationship and the drugs combined to strip away any self-esteem that she had. She gained a lot of weight. It wasn't until her husband beat her so badly that she landed in the hospital that she received help. A crisis center councilor showed her that she was a worthy individual. She took the first step towards the woman I met when she divorced her husband.
Later she would tell me that due to the drugs and the abuse five years of her life were a blank to her. She was glad that it was so because she wasn't sure she could live with the memories.
When she told me these things about herself, I was amazed. The J.D. I met was bright, funny, confident and on occasion a little TOO assertive. It got her into trouble with our boss.
She went back to school, a local community college, and would ask me to proof-read her assingments. She kept prodding me to go back to school, saying that I should be doing my own homework instead of helping her and since our company would pay as long as we had a grade of C or higher, I did. I began attending the University of Phoenix. She would get discouraged and drop out, then start back again. In the five years that it took me to get my Bachelors and Masters, she hadn't yet finished her Associates. That was when I learned that beneath that confident exterior was a very UN-confident woman. That was when we really connected and became good friends.
She moved in with a guy named Mike. With her bad experience she wasn't interested in marriage. He had been married and divorced three times and he wasn't interested in marriage either. They got along beautifully.
Mike wasn't interesed in going places, unless it had to do with his race car.(He bought a Shelby Cobra) My husband wasn't interested in going places. We teamed up and went on vacations together. We went to Las Vegas twice, and saw about every show on the strip between the two trips. We went to the first Farscape convention together, and Lani Tupu made her day by talking to her and personalizing her picture.
She encouraged my fan fiction writing. My first stories were for Farscape, then I wrote a challenge story for X-Files. She read them, made suggestions, gave honest criticism, and was always eager to read more.
I discovered that she LOVED David McCallum and told her that the Man From Uncle was available on video tape. She made it a goal to find and buy every episode possible. From some of the things she would say, I think Mike was a little jealous. I thought it was cute.
Things at work wern't going very well. Her father had died the winter before and she was worried about her mother living on the farm alone. Because of the time difference, and the fact that she worked until 5:30, J.D. would call her mother during her lunch break. Even though she was using her calling card, so the long-distance charges weren't being charged to the company, our boss continually reprimanded her for using the company phone. He began to stand around and watch her, and if she stopped to talk to me, about anything, he would call her into the office and get on her about waisting time. He even called me in to write me up, but I was able to prove we had been discussing a work related matter.
It got so bad that we couldn't talk together at all, even on lunch break, for fear he would jump on her about it. We usually worked Saturday's until 12:00, so we started going out for lunch. After one particularly bad week, she told me she was going to quit. She wasn't sleeping and she had constant headaches. I talked her out of it. I told her to wait until the next lay-off (we had one usually every other year) and volunteer. That way she would get a severance package and the offer of additional schooling. Mike had apparently been telling her the same things. She agreed.
Mike had a car rally he wanted to go to in Ohio the third week of June so she made arrangements to take three weeks vacation and drive across country with him, then fly to Michigan and spend some time with her mom. I was working on another X-Files story and had given her what I had done for her to read on the trip. I got a phone call the second night out. She told me she loved the story and she expected me to have completed it by the time she came home. Her last words to me were 'I can't wait to see how it ends.'
The day she was supposed to fly home I was on the computer, working on the story, when I got a phone call. It was Mike's sister. They had gotten a call from J.D. mom. Just before they were to take her to the plane, she had collapsed. By the time the EMT's got there, she was dead. It was an aneurysm.
It was such a shock. And there was very little closure because she was cremated and her ashes scattered on her family's farm. Mike didn't hold a memorial service here until two months after her death.
I still have dreams that it was some weird mistake and that she it alive in Michigan living with her mom. Denial much? I never have finished that story, I can't stand to look at it. I have all these little reminders from our trips around the house so there is seldom a day that goes by that I don't think of her. Especially on Tuesday nights when NCIS is on. How she would have loved being able to see David McCallum on TV every week.
So, I had to write this today, to pass on the memory of a really nice person who died much too young. She was one month short of her 43rd birthday. And though it might seem as if I'm dwelling, I'm not. Not really. It's by our memories that we keep the spirit of the departed alive. She'll never be completely gone.
I remember Janet.