Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Tribute to my Friend, Edith Clark

I first met Edith in May, 2009 at the online community of Crosswalk (CW) Forums.  This was a Christian community where people could discuss nearly any topic from a Christian perspective—politics, current events, theology, morality, parenting, marriage, singleness, humour and more general stuff such as the struggles and joys of life.  The advantage was that you didn’t have to be online at the same time as the others in a conversation (also called a thread), but could read and comment whenever you had the time.

I had a personal thread where I shared things from my life and this is where Edith first appeared in my world, though I believe she’d been reading most of what was posted in all of  CW for a few years before then.  Her handle was “Bountiful,” and all I could think about was the town of Bountiful, B.C., notorious for its polygamous community.  Was Edith a part of that and using her handle to proclaim her support of that lifestyle?  She was horrified when I finally confessed this. 

When we began wanting to know each other better, we started using the private message option in CW and continued to communicate that way until it became too unwieldy and we switched to e-mail.  But even that became cumbersome and eventually I was able to convince her to try real time chat (with written text, not audio) in Windows Live Messenger, which we referred to as MSN.  From then on, we chatted nearly every evening (she was NOT a morning person and not even an afternoon person) and often for several hours.

Edith considered herself computer-challenged but once she got the hang of something, there was no turning back.  It took a while to convince her to try chatting but she learned to enjoy it.  It took her a while to embrace Facebook too, but soon she was sharing things, liking things, participating in groups and even sharing parts of her life.  She was a voracious consumer of information and so when she discovered a website she liked, she would read every page and watch all the videos.  She did this with Crosswalk, both on the old forums and in facebook.  She did it with Al Jazeera, the Arab news service, with my church’s website and more. 

She loved the news and read pretty much every article in the Edmonton Journal (paper format) every day.  If she missed a day, she’d still go back read it all.  She was also very opinionated and got very riled at the many ways the government mishandled its power.  Writing a letter to the editor was something she did if she was particularly upset and she was able to verbalise her complaints succinctly and vividly.  Most of her letters were printed. 

Another of her daily activities, besides reading the paper in the morning and chatting with me at night, was spending time with God.  She did this morning and night, her kitchen table groaning with the books she used for reference.  This love of God is what drew me to her.  I was particularly interested in the fact that she had a spiritual director and curious how that worked.  Her director, Wendy, was an important part of her life and someone I got to meet when I was Edith’s houseguest one March.  She had conflicted feelings about God, however, and although she loved him, she wasn’t always sure she liked him.  She was particularly peeved with what she saw as God’s injustice and we had many conversations on this topic. 

Edith liked to be organised and perhaps this showed most clearly with her collections of books and videos.  She created a database for all her books and diligently entered information about each one.  This was no small task but she thought it a good idea for when the time came that she had to move out of her 1 ½ story house into smaller accommodations and would need to sell most of them—though another idea of hers was to use the books to start or add to a library in whatever housing she eventually moved into.  That way she would have access to the books without having to house them in her apartment.  She dutifully packed the books away into boxes as she entered them into her database and by the time I saw them, the boxes filled an entire basement room, piled four or five deep. 

As for her videos, since the VHS format took up so much more space than DVDs, she was slowly working on converting her several tall bookcases full (and at least two layers deep on each shelf) into digital form.  She would do this while we were chatting online and periodically would excuse herself to change a tape.  While we had a love of books in common, movies and TV shows were something that she was far ahead of me on.  She didn’t own a TV but she would buy all the episodes of a particular show and watch several a day until she’d watched them all.  Bones, about a forensic doctor, was a series she really enjoyed during the time I knew her but when she’d finish one series, she had another ready to go.

Edith had a lot of health problems and for most of the time I knew her, was essentially housebound.  Perhaps the most difficult for her were her breathing issues.  She knew she’d brought these on herself because of her lifetime of smoking but even when she was on oxygen 24 hours a day, every day, she found a way to continue smoking without blowing herself up.  To me, this was amazing and when we began discussing my coming to visit her, I wasn’t sure I wanted to be in a house where smoking and pure oxygen were used conjointly.  Would the time of my visit be when she’d have the accident that would end all things? 

Thankfully, after much research, she decided to try using an electronic cigarette as a means to quit smoking and found it successful.  It’s too bad that she hadn’t been able to quit soon enough to reverse the damage already done to her lungs because despite stopping the use of tobacco, her breathing got worse and worse until finally, one night she went to bed and never woke up. 

What I really appreciated about Edith was her sense of humour.  It was sometimes rather black and earthy but she would make me laugh and she was able to do this even in the throes of deep depression. We used emoticons in our MSN conversations and I would often employ an emoticon that was meant to depict an angel, especially when I hadn’t been particularly angelic.  At first she had trouble recognising the simple drawing as an angel and thought the halo was the rim of a sailor’s cap.  Once she accepted what it was supposed to be, whenever I used it, she would make a point of saying she was kicking the “donut” off my head in an attempt to bring me back to reality.  I know it sounds lame but it was endlessly entertaining as was her custom of calling me a turkey when I was particularly obstinate about something.

She was also never afraid to state her opinion, and she always had one, but she was sensitive to the feelings of others and worked hard at keeping her words from hurting those she loved.  She was an encourager and used that gift far too many times to count.  I could discuss anything with her and, despite her tendency to Eeyore-style thinking, she would give me usable feedback that usually left me feeling better about myself when she was done.  She, more than anyone, was consistently building me up and telling me positive things about myself that I found hard to believe.

I miss her so much.  Who else can I now discuss with and mock the idiosyncrasies of our mutal American friends (we’re both Canadian)?  With whom can I now have three-hour discussions about God or the meaning of life or the fickleness of politicians? Who will listen to me sob out my woes, even if they were self-induced?  I miss her wacky humour and her wisecracks.  I miss her and a piece of my heart is gone forever.  Farewell, dear friend!  


Anonymous said...

Debbie: this was and is a lovely tribute to your is not hard for me to understand why you both got along well together and appreciated each other. Be comforted that she is at rest now..we have a merciful God. I have not forgotten that we are going to get together...I have been sick with flu, or whatever, and then Ben was home for 9 days from Alberta, so things have been on hold for a bit. What does next week someday look like for you, for lunch? Just get back to me and we'll try to arrage something. Love Margaret

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for writing this, Debbie. I imagine it was with many tears. If you don't mind, I would like to keep it. There was something so special about Edith. I think she really cared about others in a way that most of us will never understand.

Unknown said...

A beautiful tribute, Debbie. I know you will miss her greatly.