The first hint that something might be wrong was when he expressed concern over leaving some kind of legacy for his children. I'd met him in a chat room filled with children's writers and liked him right away. We signed up for the same newsletter where we critiqued each other's stories. He always had something positive to say about my efforts. We became fast friends and moaned together over rejections. We cheered each other's successes. As the years went by we corresponded often and he even chose me to receive the free issue of Writer's Digest he'd qualified for. When he sent out a call to send munchies and snacks to our service men and women overseas, I sent him a big box of Doritos and Hot Tamale candies. He wrote a kids mystery series and sent weekly quotes and writing tips to all his writer friends. And then it all stopped.
If you're reading this you already know what a lonely profession writing can be. It's just you, your keyboard and whatever is in your head. Over ten years ago, when I first got really serious about writing, the Internet was there – true. But not like now. Now you can find just about anything you want, on any subject, and at any time of day. But chat rooms were pretty new when I first met John, and it felt good to know I wasn't alone in this endeavor called writing. Messages from fellow writers were like little gobs of gold popping out at you from the computer screen. I found out that I wasn't the only one bumbling around trying to get my feet under me.
I got better at writing. John wasn't my only friend but one of several in the same group. And the group was primarily women so it was nice to have the male perspective. But why is it we think what's 'right now' will always be? Sure, I noticed when John's emails slowed. The year before he died he emailed to say he'd had some serious heart trouble. I expressed sympathy and promised to pray. But I went on. I kept writing and assumed he was doing the same. And then I got the sad email from a mutual writing friend. "I heard in forum this week that John died this past December."
And I didn't know. I pulled back from the screen and put my hand over my mouth. My mind was rife with flashbacks. One title from a book he was trying to sell, "Bosco Storms the Castle," kept dancing before my eyes. I thought back to our newsletter critiques and the box of goodies I'd sent him for the soldiers. I know the sadness will hang back there in my mind along with the memories of the progress we’ve all made as writers. None of us has rocked the world yet, but John was a rock in my world. So long good friend.