I had no intention of writing about the recent death of Russ Carr, my good friend and Intrepid Media colleague, until I looked at the publish date of my next column: February 27th.
What a cheeky monkey he is to be jumping up and down even now to get my attention.
Since we celebrated birthdays a couple of weeks apart, Russ and I often exchanged gifts. In early February of this year, I had his present ready to send: whiskey stones. Soapstone cubes he could freeze and then use to properly chill his Jameson's without diluting it.
Notice the proper spelling of whiskey, with the 'e'. Not the other way. With the 'e' is the Celtic variation, the one with which Russ and I best identified, waving the green, white, and orange of our Irish pride whenever we saw fit: exchanging Guinness Pie recipes; creating flyers to promote our Intrepid Media work at the Kansas City Irish Festival; wearing claddagh jewelry. Russ and his wife, Kathy, also chose proper Gaelic names for their sons, Brendan and Duncan. And Russ instinctively used a Warrior Pose image for the logo he designed for my business, Tracey Kelley Yoga. In Gaelic, Tracey means "warrior, more powerful". He told me later he had no idea of the connection. Of course, that was the magic of it.
My online friendship with Russ developed one or two sentences at a time; sometimes as glib comments alongside columns, or board posts filled with puns and cooking suggestions. One of my absolute favorite moments shared on this site was when Russ hijacked my column about wordplay with incredibly funny contributions. Delighted, I sent him a t-shirt stamped with one of his creations.
It would be three years or so of online play before we actually met in person, but that was simply a formality. We were good friends who spent hundreds of hours talking about nearly everything. Many emails, hugs, cards, books, goodie boxes, and excursions over the years filled the inevitable gaps in communication due to busy lives, but there was never a question of affection.
When anthropologists study the effects of seemingly random online interaction, from the most basic bulletin board to Twitter, one component that will be hard to quantify is whether the community formed the union, or if the union fostered the community. Many people on Intrepid have been friends close to 15 years. The majority of us didn't know each other in the beginning, although some were familiar virtually, perhaps through other forums, and fewer still knew each other from university, work, or whatever.
Yet here we are, this fascinating mingle of culture, knowledge, and experience, scattered across the world, united in our desires to express ourselves and grow creatively. Quite often, it's simply understood that if a core member of Intrepid needs something, another one of us will take care of it. We've developed projects together; traveled to other countries to visit each other; met, loved, and even married one another; shared new babies, new jobs, new businesses, new books; and came to each others' rescue on everything from stuffing dates for a last-minute gathering and finding obscure music from the "Buffy" soundtrack to providing employment references and supplying funds after a medical emergency.
One of us dying wasn't in the plan.
A friend of mine who survived lymphoma often likes to say, "We're making a memory", no matter what the situation. Good or bad, he looks at certain circumstances with a more narrow scope, understanding that beyond his peripheral are elements out of his control, and he chooses to explore each moment in full. Perhaps this is what it means to be completely present, to live without regret, for if you assign value to all aspects of your existence, including those which are maddeningly unfortunate, they are secured with the golden threads of truly wonderful experiences.
So happy birthday, our dear friend Russ, for your life will be celebrated with the light of a thousand candles, which shines in the eyes of your sons, the hearts of your loved ones, and the memories of your friends.
Airím uaim thú.
Tracey likes to shake things up and then take the lid off. She also likes to keep the peace, especially in a safe, fuzzy place. Writer, editor, producer, yogini, ('cause yoger or yogor simply doesn't work) by day, rabid WordsWithFriends and DrawSomething! player by night. You can follow her on Twitter: @traceylkelley or @tkyogaforyou
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
2.27.12 @ 9:24a
Thanks, Tracey. I was truly hoping someone here at intrepid would offer thoughts about our good friend, and how he intertwined with so many lives. Your tribute is very fitting and touches elegantly on many of the facets of one who shone and shines so brightly. I would not, myself, presume to take on this task. So again, I am thrilled that the task was accomplished, and even more so, with such warmth and verity.
2.27.12 @ 10:48a
Nice piece, Tracey. It's hard to write about a loss friend and you did so beautifully.
2.27.12 @ 12:21p
This is a beautiful tribute that came at the perfect time. The picture at the end there got me teary eyed, but this just made me smile and feel warm and cozy all over, not to mention lucky that I am part of such a wonderful community of people. Friends.
michelle von euw
2.27.12 @ 12:52p
Beautiful. Thanks for saying this so eloquently.
Russ is missed.
2.27.12 @ 2:49p
Thank you so much for this Tracey and you did an excellent job. You, Russ & I will always have Iowa :)
2.27.12 @ 8:39p
This is a beautiful tribute. I'll light a candle for him when I get home tonight.
2.27.12 @ 8:42p
Lovely. Absolutely lovely.
2.27.12 @ 10:02p
Thank you, Tracey.
2.27.12 @ 10:18p
I'm so glad you wrote this.
2.27.12 @ 10:25p
Thank you for writing this, Tracey.
2.27.12 @ 10:37p
I love Russ so much. Thanks for writing this column. I don't want to believe he is gone, to write this is further evidence of the truth, and hurts so. Russ wrote with such clarity, good grammar and intelligence, it's difficult to write about him without being in want of his variety of humor.
Tracey you wrote so beautifully, I could see Russ smile and chuckle, and make his typical Russ expressions as I read your words. Thank you.
Happy Birthday Russ, we miss you so much already.
Remember when you left for college and those buttons? With the pics of Opus that said, "So Long, and Thanks for all the fish!"...The perfect blend of Douglas Adams and Bloom County.
42 the meaning of life the universe and everything.
2.6.13 @ 4:02p
I am not going to read it this time. I do and I just cannot pull myself together to comment. It is a beautiful tribute. I am very glad that you wrote it, but also very glad that all of you were near and dear to him. You are a great group of close friends.
I love the picture and the smile. He was often just like that waiting for me at the end of the day.