YES, CYNTHIA, THERE IS AN AFTERLIFE
Posted by kristipetersenschoonover
A friend and fellow writer Cynthia Wilson passed away in December.
To say that we were close would be an understatement; in a sense, I lost not just a friend, but a sister. We shared so many interests and passions that we were instantly drawn to each other: we were both witches. We were both writers. We both loved New Orleans jazz (and you can’t imagine how much time we burnt up the phone lines over every tiny development in HBO’s Tremé—I don’t know how I’m going to get through Season 2 without her!). We both loved good ghost stories, in print and in film. And we both spent a lot of time researching and discussing the paranormal—always wondering if there really was an afterlife. When I got the news of Cyn’s passing, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It was like my soul had separated from my body, like I was looking down at myself. I had always thought I knew what heartbreak felt like until that moment.
I called Melissa, whom Cyn had met when she was up visiting us this past summer. Melissa had talked to Cyn just two days before she’d passed away, and Melissa said she “said something very strange to me. She said, ‘if I die, I will find a way to be in touch with you and Krissi. I will give you proof of the afterlife.’”
If there’s anyone in the world that would find a way to do it, it would be Cyn.
At first, what she’d said weighed on me. But then I got distracted. People were posting on her Facebook page and addressing her in the present tense. Her blog was still there for me to go back and read. There were e-mails she’d sent me I hadn’t opened yet. And there were photos and videos of her visit that I hadn’t had time to sit down and look at or watch.
She was proving to me there was an afterlife—in a technological sense.
A person can, nowadays, continue to live forever in social media, photos, videos. We are incredibly lucky. I think back to the Victorian era, when photography was young and expensive, and so few families had any photos of their loved ones, any photos of their everyday lives. In fact, so few families could afford it that when the person died the entire family would stand around and pose with the corpse, just so they’d have a visual record that person existed. We are blessed today that we do not ever have to recall a person that way. We can go back and read that person’s blog or post things on their Facebook pages. We have photos of us alive and well. And we have videos. We can pop that disc into our TV or that card into our computers and there that person is, alive and well, like she isn’t gone.
It isn’t that these things can replace this person; the person’s absence has created an enormous hole in our lives that can’t possibly be permanently filled by a bunch of Facebook posts and photos. But for a few moments, the hole can be temporarily filled. All we really have to do is dream; all we really have to do is pull out the old photos of something fun we did together, or retell a great story about some crazy adventure we had with that person, or replay a video.
There are so many things Cyn did not get to finish, and so many things she’ll never get to do. But in the last year of her life, there were things she did get to do that she’d never done before. She came up to visit me in July, and she spent her days, while I was at work, whipping up some wonderful southern cuisine. She loved to cook, and she especially loved to cook for large groups of people. She had the time of her life in my kitchen cooking for all my friends with the New Orleans Jazz blasting from the stereo. And she got to go to New York City, someplace she’d always wanted to go and had never been. She was like a kid in a candy store. And since I spend a lot of time in New York and have gotten blasé about it, how refreshing it was to see the city through a child’s eyes.
So, yes, Cynthia, there is an afterlife. There is one where you are, and there is one here. You will live on for as long as I hold you in my heart, and as long as I share evidence of your existence with others.
And so, here is Cynthia Wilson in living color. Enjoy.
Video: Cyn talks Hot Sauce with Charles.
Video: Cyn confesses she wants to be locked in my local Shop Rite.
Video: Cyn discusses the state of bread in TexArcana.
Video: Cyn shares a funny story about TK, his friend, and Wonder Bread.
Video: “Anything good is five hours from me…”
Video: Cyn talks with Julia Copeland, our buddy from Goddard.
Video: Cyn dreams about moving to Connecticut and shows off her favorite cookbook.
Video: Cyn discusses her favorite cookbook in detail.
Video: Nathan interviews Mick Doyle while Cyn listens in.
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About kristipetersenschoonoverA ghost story writer who still sleeps with the lights on, Kristi Petersen Schoonover’s fiction has appeared in countless magazines and anthologies. She has received three Norman Mailer Writers Colony Residencies, served as a co-editor for Read Short Fiction, has judged both writing and grant competitions and co-hosts the Dark Discussions Podcast. Her work Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole is a collection of ghost stories set in Disney Parks; her novel, Bad Apple, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s also a member of the New England Horror Writers Association. More info: www.kristipetersenschoonover.com
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