I met A through an epilepsy advocacy group to which we both belonged. I don’t remember how or why, but we soon became penpals, frequently exchanging letters and small gifts through the mail.
This continued for years. I grew accustomed to happiness and gratitude bubbling up my throat when an intricately-decorated envelope—inevitably including a lengthy letter and a few origami cranes—arrived from her. Our friendship deepened as we got to know each other, and we eventually spoke on the phone and finally met in person when she visited Toronto with her parents to go to the opera.
I felt as if I’d known her my entire life.
See, that was one of A’s many gifts—making others feel at ease, welcome, cared about and cared for. She oozed positivity even as she dealt with tremendous challenges. She was inquisitive and incredibly intelligent. Most of all, she was totally, 100% herself, and that self brought great joy and comfort to me, as well as to countless people in many circles.
I’ll miss A’s letters. I’ll miss crafting my responses. Her unexpected and sudden death of a seizure shook me to my core. I’m left with so many questions that will remain unanswered—with a hole that no one else could or will fill. She will be missed and remembered for her accomplishments and, in my opinion, more importantly, for her ability and mission to make the world a better place. She certainly made me happier, more optimistic, and more equipped to handle my own relationship with epilepsy with the self-compassion she demonstrated.