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Please begin with an informative title:

My friend Lori Williams was a great woman, a woman who in a better world would have been much better known. Why do I say was?  Because she died of stage 4 lung cancer cancer on September 5th.  I am still in shock that she is gone.  

She wasn't famous.  She lived in Brooklyn and worked for a New York City law firm as an executive assistant (i.e., legal secretary) in a Manhattan based law firm.  She loved Tom Jones to the point of obsession.  She had one son with whom she often had a difficult relationship. She was brash and witty and warm and loved having a good time (and that meant wine!). She was a red head, and by that I mean really red, not ginger red, but a deep luscious red.  If you were her friend she would do anything for you no questions asked.  She was funny as hell.  She had a temper.  She loved life and people, and she loved both passionately, full bore, all in, heart on her sleeve, vulnerable but courageous.  I never met her in person, but I considered her one of my best friends.  She was a writer and one of the best poets I've ever read that most of you have probably never heard of.  

But none of those things really defined her, nor can the words I write today on her behalf do her justice.  There's a cliche that is too often misused and abused: "Larger than life."  Well Lori fit that adage.  Hell, in life, she pushed the envelope of what that saying meant. Now she is dead.  Gone.  All those who knew her and loved her have left are our memories and her poetry.  A small, short nondescript obituary of her was published in a small nondescript newspaper after cancer took her from her family and friends.  You know the kind.  Born x date.  Died y date.  Beloved {fill in blank} by z family members.

She deserves better than that.  Much better, and I'm going to do my best.  To paraphrase the famous Dylan Thomas poem, I do not want her to go gentle into that good night.  So I am going to do my best to give her  abetter sendoff than that.

Because, dammit, she was crazy beautiful and I want you to know that once upon a time you shared the earth with a great woman, a great artist, a great New Yorker and a great soul.  

Follow me below the squiggle, please.


You must enter an Intro for your Diary Entry between 300 and 1150 characters long (that's approximately 50-175 words without any html or formatting markup).

Like most stories I write, this one begins with me.

It's funny how isolated one can become when your whole world is reduced to your home. For two years after my chronic illness forced me to retire from the practice of law, I spent my time in bed, depressed, reading books and watching TV until I couldn't stand it anymore.  Stir crazy is an expression we use for good reason.  Human beings are social animals.  Well eventually, I stumbled into the world of the internet.  First I read and posted to various forums on topics ranging from philosophy to politics to movies to what ever.  One fine day, a person I knew on a Yahoo Group (remember those?) suggested I take up writing poetry.  What a strange idea, I thought.  But what the hell.  I took her advice I began to write poetry.  No formal training, and no idea what I was doing, I took the plunge.

And that leads me to the star of this piece: Lori.

I first met Lori online at a poetry forum in 2001.  I was just a novice at this whole poetry gig, but right from the first I knew she was a great writer.  She wrote these beautiful poems, gut wrenching and intense, each one a story in itself, each one revealing a slice of her life.  For some strange reason, she took a liking to what I wrote, and encouraged me.  We became poetry pals, and then later as I got to know her better, we exchanged emails confessing our deep secrets, venting our frustrations, but also sharing lighter moments, making each other laugh.  I thought I was lucky to know her, lucky that someone with such talent, such a flair for life, would consider being my friend.  How silly that seems now.  Lori picked up friends like kids pick up sand on a beach, or like the earth attracts meteorites.  She had charisma in spades, yes, but also that special knack of making almost anyone feel comfortable, feel important to her, and thus make you feel good about yourself.

The odd thing about here was how humble she was about her own writing ability.  She always told her poet friends how great we were, and conversely how she couldn't imagine she could write half as well as the rest of us.  She marveled at the poems others wrote, but never fully accepted praise for hers, written with her own distinctive style, in her own unique voice.  If I told her something she wrote touched me in ways I didn't think possible, in ways nothing else ever had, she would, off course  thank me, but invariably she would turn that compliment around.  She'd say, Oh thanks but I could never write the things you do.  I'm just happy someone like you even reads my stuff.

I never understood her attitude.  She published her poetry all over the internet.  Her peers acknowledged her work.  She won awards for her poems.  It seemed so at odds with her personality.  Give yourself a little credit, Id tell her, and I wasn't the only one.  But like a lot of outgoing, charming, gregarious - oh hell, say it, Steve! - "over the top" people I've known, those people who you notice the second the walk into a room, and whose absence you feel immediately after they leave, at her core she had this deep seated insecurity, this belief that she wasn't aren't good enough, and would never be good enough.  

As so many people do, she had her demons.  She feel in love with the wrong men, and, when the relationships went south, she naturally blamed the men but blamed herself more.  She always doubted herself as a mother.  She and her adult son had an on again off again type of relationship, and they were often estranged.  If at times she became angry with him, you never doubted how much she loved him.  In her heart she always felt she'd failed him somehow.  She had her moods, too.  One day she just left the poetry forum of which she was an administrator, for reasons I do not know, and our contact grew less frequent until, as too often happens with me, I lost touch with her.

Of course, by 2005, I began posting to political blogs, especially Daily Kos and Booman Tribune during the height of the Bush era.  I went to political rallies, marched against the war, and spent a lot of my energy learning about and writing about the issues of the day, especially those that consumed me.  I still wrote poetry, of course, but I always kept the two spheres of my online life separate.  Here I was "Steven D" and developed the persona that wrote the diaries and stories, rants and the odd investigative piece  that once in while others found worth taking the time to read.  

In the online poetry world, I wrote under a different name and kept these two parts of me, these dual personas as it were, separate.  I wrote less poetry, became less consumed by what others thought of my creative writing, stopped submitting poems for publication.  I still participated in a forums where friends of mine posted their poems, but I went from thinking of myself as solely an "online poet" and more as a "progressive blogger."  I missed a lot of my old friends though, wondered about them, sometimes searched to see if they were still writing, but it wasn't the sum total of my world, my identity, as it once had been.

And then as they say, came Facebook.  

To this day, I can't remember when I joined Facebook but I do know it was at the suggestion of a friend who was a poet.  And on Facebook I reunited with Lori.  That was a happy day.  She was still the same person, still that life of the party woman I knew and loved, but she was writing less.  Her life was harder, she worked long hours at her job and, well all of us were getting older.  I was dealing with the tragedy of my wife's cancer and chemo brain issues, and she was struggling with trying to help her son, still the greatest love of her life.  But she posted funny little notes (many with outrageous sexual innuendos involving Tom Jones), and I was introduced to some of her other friends on FB, many of them people she actually had met in the Meat World.  I felt blessed to have her back in my life, even if back in meant we read each others posts on Facebook, or sent the occasional message to the other one.

Lori and I never discussed politics.  Her attitudes seemed generally liberal, though she did get really wound up by the "911 Mosque" controversy.  I didn't talk to her about that.  I felt I had no right.  I hadn't lived in NYC when the Towers were attacks and in the days, months and years afterward which New Yorkers, like Lori had faced.  I didn't feel I had the right to question her position.  But other than that I can;t recall Lori ever holding a political view with which I disagreed.  Not that it would have mattered.   She was my friend after all.  Hell, she was more than that.  She was the (drum roll please) Fabulous, One and Only, Lori Williams! (Lori, I hope that made you laugh).

Well, I might as well cut to the chase.  Lori lost her job and her health insurance.  Life got a lot harder for her.  She found work here and there, but had to "go naked" as they say in health care slang.  She continued to have issues with her son.  Still she struggled on, kept herself "in the game" as she might say, always was quick with a quip or a joke.  

At which point the villain of our story arrived on the scene.  Not long ago (i.e., this summer, in early July or August, I'm not sure) she was diagnosed with cancer.  I was shocked when I heard about it about two weeks ago.  She was the last person I ever expected to get cancer, but then cancer is like that.  It strikes unexpectedly, and it doesn't matter if you have been bad or good, cancer don't give a rat's ass.

Well, me being me, I immediately communicated with her to discuss what she should talk about with her doctors, and give her unasked for and unwanted advice on chemotherapy and it's risks, especially to one's brain.  Silly me, again.  She said, as nicely as anyone could, but also forthrightly, that she had Stage 4 lung cancer with tumors that had spread to her lymph glands and her brain, and that concerns about what the long term consequences of chemotherapy might entail was the last thing she was worried about.  I told her I was sorry and told her if she needed anything, anything at all, to let me know.  That was the last time I heard from her.

Somehow, with the help of some wonderful doctors and friends she found a hospital that would treat her despite her lack of health insurance.  She remained upbeat in her posts at Face Book, and it sounded like things were going as good as they could go.  She started daily sessions of chemo and radiation and while I knew her situation was dire, I fully expected that she would still be around, that maybe a miracle might happen, or at the least she could buy some time.

On September 5th, Lori Williams died.  It was a crushing blow to her family and friends, and of course, to her son, who had reconciled with his mother, and was with her everyday at the hospital.  I know I was devastated.  I thought about attending her wake, but I'm pretty sick right now, and I would have had to drive down from Western NY, to NYC.  Yeah, I am a bad friend.  So this is my attempt to make up for not being there for Lori.  For never having taken the time to meet her in person.  For never having given her a hug and shared a glass of cheap wine with her. For never telling her how much she meant to me.

Lori, I am going to miss you, but I will also always remember you.  You, dear, were and always will be Crazy Beautiful just like your poem:

Crazy Beautiful

You remind me of an old time carnival –
with freak shows and elephants
wearing pink tiaras. The townsfolk waited all year
to laugh and take photos of things
they knew nothing about, things
that got them out of their life for a day or so.

They could forget their sadness for one evening;
get cotton candy, ride the ferris wheel, pet
a pig in a funny costume. It was all crazy
and beautiful for them. But Monday’s happen
and carnivals are packed up like those

whose lives change,  yet become more
than they were before. You remind me of this
because you make me crazy beautiful.  You have things
packed up, after your sunshine show,
after everyone goes home and you are alone,
there. We can make our own carnival, you know.
We can be crazy beautiful.

Some links to other places on line where you can find Lori's poems:

Her Facebook Page

Woman on the Brink

One of her 911 poems, "September 15th

Poems published at "Unlikely Stories"

"Crazy is a place" published at Poetry Sz

Three Lori poems at "Poetry SuperHighway"

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