Today I learned that a good friend, one I made through the internet, passed away yesterday. It was posted on his Facebook page. I expressed my condolences, chastised myself badly for not writing since last November, and burst into tears. As I often do, I will write about my grief, and tell you why Kevin was so important to me. Kevin was a real friend, and not just someone I met from the internet.
Two things I've noticed today. First is that time is SHORT. Our last message together, he sent me a photo of his rescue kitten. I expressed my adoration, and asked for details that never came. I should have followed up. I just crept his page before blogging. The last post was in May, when he posted a picture of gifts and balloons someone brought him. It looks like it was taken in a hospital room. Why didn't I check in on him?
The second thing I've learned that it's true what they say...Friends you make on the internet ARE real friends, even if you've never met them in person. It doesn't matter. You still love them, and you'll still grieve them when they're gone. I can't stop crying, and I will always love him.
I met Kevin through Farmville on Facebook. I noticed we shared a mutual friend, and as Farmville players commonly do, we 'added' each other. I think he sent the friend request first.
He learned that I was a Meatcutter by trade, and sent me a private message. He was making Beef Stroganoff for company, and wanted my opinion on the best cut of meat to use. I recommended top sirloin or maybe inside round. He asked about tenderloin, which is absolutely the best cut of meat money can buy. It's also tremendously expensive, and I wasn't just worried about cost, but how the texture might hold up in a dish like stroganoff. It was a great conversation. Kevin was interesting and so friendly. I asked him to tell me how it went, whichever cut he chose.
He wrote back, telling me it was excellent and everyone liked it, and he was glad he asked me. It went from there. We'd write back and forth a little, talking about Farmville and our love of cats. He had three Tuxedos if I recall correctly, and I was new to loving cats and we sent pictures back and forth. No, I don't have pictures of his cats, but Amir reminds me very much of of his cat, Bellarinko.
When I started writing and publishing books, he became a HUGE supporter of my work. He was my First Fan. He didn't just buy a copy of my novels for himself. He bought them for friends and gave them as gifts. He bought copies and donated them to his local libraries. He asked bookstores to order Thoeba and Aphrodite's War. He encouraged me every step of the way, even when I doubted my talent.
We began to write regularly, like pen pals. We told each other almost everything, we shared secrets. Kevin was a private person, thus I have no photos of him, nor would I share them without his permission. It's a bit difficult to write a tribute to him without invading the privacy he cherished. But I loved him, and our conversations will remain private.
I can tell you Kevin was a social sweetie. He had many lifelong friends, and obviously made new friends easily. He spent time in the military, and was a hero. He liked to travel and saw countries from all over the world. I never did get the story about Morocco.. He was also a well liked teacher, and still kept in contact with many of his students. They shared their successes with him. You know that means he was an excellent teacher when former students do that kind of thing. He rescued cats, and not just taking in strays. In Florida he and his partner of thirty or so years set up shelters for feral cats and fed them, kept them safe.
He was a sweet and loving person that I'm going to miss for the rest of my life. I already regret that I didn't send him at least a little note telling him I was always thinking of him. I actually was....I kept saying "I should send Kevin a little note, telling him I'm still here, and I still think of him.'" I thought we had more time. Last I talked to him, he'd moved to a great retirement community that had all the amenities and he was enjoying it. I'm angry at my own stupidity and lack of action because I KNEW his health wasn't always the best. He'd done some suffering. Honestly? I thought he was busy. I thought he was living his best life in a gated senior's community and he was having a great time, and that sometime he would get back to me and tell me about it. Now all I can do is write a blog expressing my love and regrets.
Want to know something silly and strange?
Kevin told me that when he died he wanted to come back as one of my spoiled rescue cats. Yesterday evening, before I learned of Kevin's passing, a young man found a kitten underneath our car. I ran to get it some food while the kid coaxed it out. We fed the poor starving baby, and my hubsand and I brought it inside the house. We determined that no matter what, we would figure out what to do with such a small baby. I remember thinking that the little one would match with out other cats, who were black, white or both.
Minutes later, the kid knocked on our door and told us his friend had a car, and they would take the kitten to the Humane Society. We handed the cat over with a little reluctance. But we all agreed to do what was best for the cat. I didn't even get a picture, but it was white with black markings and perhaps four months old.
Now that I've learned of Kevin's passing, I want the kitten back. Silly, huh? But that's a different blog that I'll also write tonight.
I actually don't know Kevin's friends or family, or even his partner well. Do I send this on his page? To his partner? I don't know what to do with this blog, but I do know I wanted to tell you how much I loved and appreciated him.
Let this be a lesson. If you love them, TELL THEM. Often, and whenever possible. Don't wait.