Writing with a heavy heart: When raspberries are not appropriate

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These past few days have been very difficult for me. Late on Friday night I found out a good friend of mine had passed away in a car accident. I have been crying ever since.

I consider Kathy a friend although we never met in person. I met Kathy on a website 3 years ago, soon after my husband and I came to the US. Back in the UK I was a regular contributor on several websites, and once I arrived in Chicago I wanted to find a virtual local spot to call “home.” I started looking for Chicago-based Internet forums and came across one, where Kathy was a regular poster. From the outset I was impressed with her vast knowledge on various topics: from mortgages to sports, from life insurance to food – she knew it all! Not only she was very knowledgeable, but she was also passionate to share in her knowledge, and to help others. She was clearly an authority on a wide variety of topics, yet she did not want to keep all that knowledge to herself, but to share it selflessly and with no expectation of returns.

Kathy was also a principled person, who was not afraid to voice her opinions whenever the situation demanded it. I am not brave from this perspective – as the saying goes, I know that I can’t take the heat, so I tend to “stay out of the kitchen” when faced with heated online discussions. This was not the case with Kathy, who always brought persuasive and rigorous arguments to support her outspoken opinions. I admired her for the courage of her convictions, and I secretly wished I could be like her.

These past few days I felt like I was in a bad dream. I felt shocked, sad and confused. To cheer me up, my husband dragged me to the local library yesterday, and we borrowed several DVDs. One of them was Julie&Julia, the celebrated movie about Julia Child’s culinary beginnings in France, and her work on the magnum opus Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I had seen this movie before, yet this time an important part of the plot struck me: Julia’s pen pal friendship with Avis DeVoto, who was a book editor and a passionate cook. The two women started off a correspondence which spanned several years although they had never met in person, and Avis was always there for Julia, offering words of advice and cheering her up during Julia’s work on her influential book.

Watching their friendship develop on-screen made me think of me and my friend Kathy, and I realized our relationship had resembled that between Julia and Avis. We (and many other members of our online forum) never met, yet we had a connection which proved strong despite the distance between us, and we developed a meaningful relationship despite the lack of physical presence. After all, in this era of fast electronic communication, when human connections are often established at the stroke of a key, meaningful friendships don’t have to be face-to-face friendships, do they?

Kathy’s actions have changed the lives of many, and the friendships she managed to forge online are a testament to her wonderful personality, which shone through in all of her endeavors, in everything she did. I keep thinking she would have accomplished so much if her life had not been cut tragically short. So many lost chances, so many unfulfilled opportunities. It’s heartbreaking…

I am writing this with Kathy and her family in my thoughts and prayers. Initially, today I wanted to post the recipe for a raspberry jam which I made earlier in the week. However, I felt this wouldn’t be appropriate. The redness of the raspberries is way too bright a color for me today, when all I feel is an overwhelming sense of grief and loss.

I hope to be able to post this recipe next week. I just need a bit of time.


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