I met Kelli Stanley's mother Trish for the first time this past September in St. Louis at Bouchercon...but, no, that couldn't have been the first time. It sure hadn't felt like the first time. The words of strangers dance awkwardly around each other. Ours glided.
Prior to St. Louis, Kelli and I had encouraged our mothers to correspond with each other. After all, they seemed to have a great deal in common. They both were hyperliterate woman who had raised hyperliterate children. They both were battling stage four ovarian cancer. There is always a certain comfort found in kinship, not matter what the source, and Mom and Trish had been emailing each other for a few months by the time September mosslessly rolled around.
At the last minute, Mom was unable to come with me to St. Louis.
I met Trish (but not for the first time - it couldn't have been) in the dealers room at Bouchercon and she immediately invited me to lunch. The level of company can raise the quality of a meal, and so the food in the hotel that afternoon was delicious. She, Kelli, Kelli's partner Tana, and I bantered about politics and religion. Strangers can't do that. I told Trish how much I admired her cane, which sparkled - much like her personality. Trish informed me that she had a small picture of Kelli as a child which she kept on a bracelet. She promised to show it to me the next day.
She showed it to me the next day. She was so proud of her daughter. Five minutes later, Kelli won the Macavity. Trish watched it happen from the first row.
Over the course of that weekend, I spent many hours in Trish's company. With pleasure and good fortune, I listened as she regaled me with vivid tales of her childhood. When, finally, we said goodbye, we didn't say goodbye. Later, too, when we continued our conversation via email, we spoke about how we would see each other again, perhaps at another convention where Kelli would receive another well-deserved honor.
This past Sunday, on January 7, Trish Stanley passed away. She did so on her own terms, not in a hospital but at home and in the presence of Kelli, and Tana, and love.
I never got to see her again. I never got to tell her goodbye. But that's OK. After all, how can you say goodbye to someone who is still with you, to someone who was with you before you even met them?