The mind is a tricky thing. It can separate a horrible reality from the emotions that normally come with it, fooling one into thinking that a tragedy is a mere farce, making one believe that grief is something one can control.
The day I found out that Charlene Bobis, Animal Scene’s editor-in-chief -- colleague, confidante, fellow cat lover, friend -- passed away, my mind decided to play tricks on me. My brain refused to believe she was gone. I went on with my day like I normally did, thinking it was all just an ugly dream from which I would wake up.
But reality soon came crashing down and it crashed down hard. The way she shared stories about her past without regret, the way she held the fort for me when I was too ill to meet my deadlines, the way she rescued cats and advocated for compassion toward strays, the way she just was -- all of it came back to me in one acutely painful moment like a sharp rock popping my fake, emotionless bubble of comfort.
I grieve, but not on my own. As my mind’s deception fades away and how I feel starts to catch up with what I know, I continue to share memories of her with those she also left behind. She has made a family out of the writers, artists, and editors working for the magazine she loved, leaving in her wake a group of people bound together by, most of all, how much they missed her. Having zero tolerance for bull, she has mastered the art of filtering out the phony, which was why those whom she loved also loved her back.
Animal Scene was her baby. She cared for it, protected it, and made sure it grew and thrived.
I could never fill her shoes -- not even if I tried, not even after she insisted I take her place one day. No. There is no other Charlene.
Her passing left a vacuum that nature could not fill. Even my trickster mind could not dupe me into thinking otherwise. However, there will be no goodbyes; just thank-yous and see-you-soons. Her heart stays with us, kept alive by the legacy she left behind.
(Have a blast wherever you are, dear friend, and save a seat for us. Until our next get-together.)