I checked my email and found that I had a letter from, among others, my friend Staci. At least, that's what I thought. The letter turned out to be from Staci's mother Sandra. She was writing to inform me that Staci had passed away last Friday.
I had met Staci nearly a year ago on America Online. I had been talking to "Lori", another online friend, when I said something that really made her angry. So angry that Lori logged off after making a few very hateful comments to me. I just made the simple mistake of forgetting that she was in high school, and referred to her as "...a junior high girl." (Lori was real sensitive about her age...) Well, I went off to get advice "from a woman's perspective." Going into a teen chat room, I began talking to anyone who'd listen about my problem and asked for advice. Staci was the only one who really paid attention to me. She listened patiently as I explained the situation, and gave me some really great insights into the problem. And that is, as they say, how it all begin.
I chatted with her online for several months after that. As we talked, I quickly began to enjoy her company. She had such a sweetness that seems so rare in people today. I believe I was the first person she told about her love for Selim, a young man she had meet online. After she announced to me, and later, everyone else, that she and Selim were "dating"; they seemed completely inseparable. Being the joker that I am, I keep making several remarks as Selim and Staci kept "kissing" each other. I'd tell them stuff like "You guys are giving me cavities!"
Many people commented that I was jealous. Actually, though, the statements I made at the time were more an attempt at humor on my part then an expression of hidden feelings. Anyway, that night Staci wrote me a letter that I'll never forget. Here it is:
I'm glad you are my friend
I can never tell you how much that meant to me. I don't hear words like that often.
When I went to college, I went online less and less, but keep in touch with her through the email system on campus. In every letter she sent me, Staci would always ask how I was doing. In fact, when I moved out of the house, she keep asking me if I had gotten everything unpacked, how I like the apartment, etc, etc.
She even gave me some handy household advice, and tips on basic cooking and food storage. Also, when I casually mentioned that the apartment still smelt slightly of cigarette smoke, she recommend putting out a small plate of baking soda. I had no idea baking soda could be used like that. Just another example of the many simple things I learned from her that enriched my life.
She was a very understanding young woman as well. I freely admitted to people about the crush I have on a young actress named Christina Ricci. Staci, however, was one of the few people who actually seemed to understand how much the dream of meeting Ms. Ricci meant to me. Most others seems to have a "ahh, isn't that sweet?" reaction to it.
In my last letter I had told her about my new hobby. I have no idea what its called, basically I just use flour and water to glue rocks together, eventually forming a sculpture. I so looked forward to hearing her commentary on my new hobby. Knowing her, she probably would have laughed a little, tell me the "proper" name for it, and give me some advice on things I could do to enhance my creations.
She had just graduated from college about a week or so before she died. She told me in her last letter before her death that she had a BBQ party for all her friends because it would be, "...probably the last time we will all be together at one time." I can't help but think how morbidly ironic her words turned out to be.
Just weeks ago, Staci told me about her heart condition. I couldn't believe it. All this time I had known her and she never mentioned it. In fact, when she first spoke of her condition, it was only a brief mentioning. She spent a whole paragraph describing how hot the weather was, and just kind of shoved it on as a "you see, I was born with a heart condition, so heat bothers me a lot...." kind of thing. Upon my questioning, she admitted it was, indeed, a very serious condition and could quite possiblely kill her.
Staci had a great attitude on life. After describing the state of her heart to me, she just said that she thanks God for each day, and for her close family and friends who she loves so dearly. Her courage was a real inspiration to me.
Even though we never meet face to face, I felt closer to Staci than many of my "real life" friends. I will miss her very much. Sometimes I wish it could have been me to have died instead of her, but I can't dwell on thoughts like that. My email box, not to mention my life, will never quite be the same again.
Vaya con Dios, my dear friend.
Michael A. Smith