"She was my biggest champion. She loved and cared for me enough to be brutally honest about my work."
When writer Debbi Voisey lost her friend Donna, she lost a soul mate. But it started a process of self-discovery for Debbi which she talks about in this heartfelt piece, where she reads her short story Ma Chroi, dedicated to her friend.
Fiction Festival 2017, Ellipsis Zine One and Anchala Press Collection for Flash Memory published in North Carolina, USA) and online at Storgy, Litro, Ad Hoc, Paragraph Planet, National Flash Flood 2017 and Ellipsis Zine. She was shortlisted in the 2018 Bath Novella in Flash Award and is currently seeking an agent and hopes to publish her novella and novel in the near future. She can be found on twitter @DublinWriter on Facebook at ‘My Way by Moonlight’ and on her website http://www.debbivoisey.co.uk
2012 was the worst year for me so far in my life. I lost my best friend to a car accident, and it’s things like this that make you realise that we are only here for a short while, and that no matter what, we are travelling alone. However much you love someone, or however much you think you are joined to them, at some point you will be separated and you’re flying solo.
Donna Bendistis Jubb was a beautiful soul. Sometimes troubled (as we all are) and sometimes unsure, and sometimes worrying about work, and money, and her children. But always optimistic, bright and alive. Even as she was cursing some spate of bad luck or frustrating work project, she was planning her next girls night out or scrapping weekend, or work trip, or visits with friends she had not seen for years, or trips to the beach in Delaware – which was her haven of peace and sanity, and the one place that always centred her, calmed her. She loved to tan (oh how she loved to tan!!) and listen to the waves and the hubbub of families fishing and boogie boarding with their kids. She loved the boardwalk at night, the sweet smell of cotton candy and popcorn, the ding ding of the amusement arcades and the taste of Kings homemade ice cream in Lewes.
Donna loved her friends and her family with a fierce passion. Passion was something she did in spades. Even though she was often called “The Little One” because of her tiny stature, her personality was sassy and bold and often her volume made up for her lack of height.
She was generous to a fault – would hardly ever let you put your hand in your pocket to pay for anything. But she could also accept kindness graciously when needed. Her smile was bright and white and BIG. Her husband Brian always said she could “eat an apple through a picket fence”!! I like that.
I struggled through the last ten months of 2012 without her, and it was incredibly hard. It was our habit to email several times a day. Sometimes we “talked” through emails for an entire work day (yeah, I know, that’s bad! But we did do our work at the same time!), and we talked about things that you only tell to your soulmate. We spoke on the phone and of course we met several times. We’ve laughed and cried together. Now, when I have something I want to tell her, it takes a few moments to realise I can’t.
So leaving 2012 behind was kind of bittersweet. I wanted to get away from it because it was the year I lost my soulmate. It was the year that hurt more than any other time in my life. But it was also the year in which she last existed – so how can I want to eliminate that, strip that memory away?
Donna was always my biggest champion as far as my writing was concerned. She loved and cared for me enough to be brutally honest about my work. She told me what didn’t work as much as what did. She said she hated the parts she hated, and that she loved the parts she loved. Because of her, my writing is better.
After she died, I realised how short life is, and how you have to grab a hold and make things happen. As I moved into 2013 I actually became excited about the future of my writing, and wanted to move things along, to do something with the writing that she had so much faith in. I decided to reduce my working week to 4 days and to concentrate solely on writing on Mondays and because of this, have made great leaps in my progress. I also set up a dedicated writing email address and added her initials after my name, so that she would always be a part of my writing journey. Now, whenever my .dbj email pings I think of her. And celebrate each success and near miss with her in my mind.
The flash I am going to read is called Mo Chroi, which is Gaelic for My Heart. It’s the title Donna gave to her website. She wasn’t the best at keeping it updated, but it had all the important things on there, and photos of all the people she loved. The flash is fiction, but she was very much on my mind of course, and her DNA runs all the way through it.
The simple beauty of everyday things; that’s what hurts the most. A bird landing in a puddle, a cherry blossom petal riding a breeze, a lamb bouncing on velvet green. The wind teasing a branch, prising its fingers loose and making it draw shapes in the air.
Seeing these things and knowing that she no longer can; that’s pain.
And the sounds. You can’t bear it; they cut into you. The mewl of a kitten or the ddddddrummmm of a butterfly’s wings. Even a gate banging against a post, or a child screeching; annoying but real.
She can no longer hear them.
And when you listen to the music she loved, it pulls something deep inside you. She will never again cry at the poetry of songs, or look at someone and feel the words like they were written from her heart to theirs. She will never again feel those human emotions that tie love and life together in aching chains.
You place the tulips – her favourite – in the vase next to her photo. Purple - for royalty apparently, although she was ordinary (yet extra-ordinary). Purple like the bruise on your heart whenever you picture her.
Beauty: it’s what she had. It’s what she was, despite all her fears and neuroses, the nervous tics and multiple apologies that were second nature. She had love; love for her girls and their dancing, for her job, for her family, for her friends. For life.
Love like that is passionate and raw and painful. It happens so rarely. And when it’s taken, the loss is physical.
Mo Chroi – Gaelic for “my heart” – was her mantra; her passion and love for all those in her life. She always gave her heart. She always had yours.
And she broke it when she left this place.