The Penguin Spoke a Haiku

I want you all to know about somebody named Maria [Last name redacted per family’s request].

I first crossed paths with Maria in late 2005. She was a writer like me, though more so. She was funny like me, though more so. She was a prankster, a reader, and a bad film buff like me, though more so. She was dark like me, though more so. Infinitely more so.

Maria went back to college full-time while working a full-time job and got her degree. This is what I’m currently doing, and if I told you the fact that Maria did it has nothing to do with my resolve to do it too, I’d be lying. Though her degree isn’t the same as the one I’m pursuing, I looked up to her. I admired her. I believed that hers was an example worth following.

Maria has influenced everything from my vocabulary (I cannot say, “Huzzah!,” “Harumph!,” or several other antiquated—and hilarious—words without thinking of her) to my own writing, both fiction and non-fiction. Maria was a brilliant writer who penned short stories I had the honor of proofreading for her.

Maria is dead. She killed herself. She was found yesterday.

The rest of the details I have are few and not mine to share. I’m still very numb and feel a little lost, but I can say this:

Maria was lots of things to lots of people, but she always made an impression whether she believed it or not, and she was missed by many before she ever took her own life. We reached out to her, but she didn’t want to be reached. She didn’t want to be missed. She just wanted to die.

She leaves behind many people who love her and who will miss her, not the least of which are her own family members. Her many friends and acquaintances are drifting between devastated sadness and furious anger over what she’s done. Personally, I’m somewhere in the middle and keep veering between the two extremes in a way that threatens to give me motion sickness, but putting my own feelings aside, I just wanted you to know who she was. She was important. She was loved. She was appreciated. She was my friend. Despite everything she believed to be true about herself and the world, Maria was not insignificant, and she will not be forgotten.

I miss you, Penguins.

41 responses to “The Penguin Spoke a Haiku

  1. I’ve cried off and on today ever since I heard the news from Jigger.
    Then I read Jigger’s entry and I cried some more.
    Now I’ve read your tribute to Maria and I’m crying again.
    She will be missed by so many.

    • Oh, sweetheart. I hate that you’re hurting. I wish I could hug you right now. We’d have a good cry together, but at least I could hug you.

  2. Very well said. I miss her, too. We don’t know each other very well, but we mourn the same wonderful woman. I wish she’d had some idea of how much she affected me, and how amazing she really was.

  3. Thank you.

  4. There seemed to be nothing that we could do. Suddenly, there was this… irzinig! She wouldn’t hear anything from people who loved her. We were just “people on Open Diary” I guess. It is so sad.

    • When someone makes up their mind there doesn’t seem to be anything anybody can do. We let her know we cared, and I don’t think many of us can understand what was going through her mind for the last several months, perhaps even the last several years. I wish like hell she’d gotten help, but she may have believed she was beyond it. She was wrong. I know I and many others would have done whatever we could have done to help her. Personally, she was such a comfort and support to me after I moved to North Carolina and during some other very sad times in my life. She earned my love and devotion a long time ago. I wish I’d been able to do more to show her just how much she meant to me and just how much I would have done for her.

  5. I didn’t have the pleasure of knowing Maria, but I knew of her presence. It’s terrible she had to leave so soon and that she leaves a gaping hole for those who love her. *hugs*

  6. Rain (Sionnach)

    Yes, well said.

  7. Evan (peteliske)

    This was beautiful. She will indeed be missed.

  8. I really wish that I had taken the time to get to know her. I always loved her notes so much and don’t know why I never clicked on that link and explored further.

    • You would have loved her. She was wickedly funny, perverse, and scary-smart. She was also incredibly driven, which I know you would have related to. I don’t think you have the darkness she did, but I think your personality, which is so hopeful and devoted to optimism, would have endeared you to her the way it endears you to so many others.

  9. I was a lurker on her OD for a long time. I feel awful now. I’ve never actually talked to her before but am greatly saddened by her death.

    • You’re not the only one who has been saddened despite having had little contact with her. It goes to show what a huge presence she was, even to those who didn’t interact with her the way others did. Her presence alone made an impact on people.

  10. I will miss her, she was a hero of mine too.

  11. Your comments reflect the troubled connection many had with Maria. I only worked with her for about a year. A gentle natured, sometimes cynical, very brilliant woman. Like many of the other people who have written, I go between grief and disappointment. Her departure leaves a painful void to those who were her family and friends. What a pity that Maria didn’t recognize that He thought enough of her to create her just the way she was.

  12. the sibling

    I am The Sibling….Maria’s sister….I just wanted to thank you for this post. She was such a bright loving soul. I cannot believe she is gone….particularly in the fashion she chose to make her exit. Thank you for being her friend. Thank you for caring. And thank you for keeping her memory alive. Thank you.

    • I’m so sorry for your loss. My heart just breaks for you, your daughter, and your parents. You are all in my thoughts.

    • I am incredibly sorry for your family’s loss. You all were among my first thoughts when it started sinking in. I can not imagine how it must feel. My thoughts are with you.

  13. Every moment of this loss brings a different kind of pain. She will never be forgotten.

    • You’re right. I feel very unstable, like I can’t trust my own emotions to stay put for very long. I know it will get better, but right now every part of me misses her.

  14. Came here via Beverly. What a terrible tragedy – the death, followed by the remorse, the what-ifs, the lifelong absence. I’m so, so sorry.
    My heartfelt condolences to Maria’s sister; I know what it’s like to lose a sibling. In case no one’s said it, there is nothing you could have done to prevent this. I hope people say this to you, over and over, for the rest of your life.
    OD community, I am Galaga; my OD is community-only. If there’s anything I can do for y’all, please get in touch with me.

    • Thank you very much for your comment. I’m also very sorry you know what this is like from the perspective of one who has lost a sibling. My heart hurts for any family that’s had to go through this.

  15. Indigo Spider

    I am so sorry for your loss and for her family as well. I do not know you other than through reading your blog and did not know Maria but from this post she must have been a wonderful person. Beautiful way to keep her memory alive. Again, my condolences to every one she left behind.

    • Thank you very much. Maria was troubled, like many people of her intelligence and talent can be. But her sweetness always trumped her dark side for me. She was a devoted friend to me, especially when I went through very sad, difficult periods of my life. I wish she’d have let us help her the way she helped so many of us. She will be missed so much.

  16. The nore from Maria’s sister is heartbreaking. My herat goes out to her and her family.

  17. I had the pleasure of being A part of Maria’s life for a short period of time back when we were young. She and I had a special similarity that helped one another bond for that time of our lives. Though she moved north so quickly with no intrest in what was behind, she was never out of my thoughts, and when family members were noticed as a passers by memories of her always fill my mind. My deepest heartfelt thoughts and love go out to her mom, dad and sister.

  18. I went to high school and middle school with Maria. She was one of the smartest, most unique, and sweetest people I have ever known. I haven’t seen her in about 15 years although I’ve often wanted to catch up. This is horrible news. My life would have been less bright if I had never met her and the world is now a darker place. It really hurts me to think that Maria didn’t know how much she meant to so many people. It makes me wonder what has happened to her in the last 15 years to have led her to this. I wish I had spoken to her.

  19. I really appreciate the note that you left for Maria. I’ve had such a difficult time with the people who’ve reacted in anger that I’ve had to completely shut them out of my mind because it hurt too much to read their words. But you shared your feelings with diplomacy and elegance and helped me to see the “other” side of the grief we’re all feeling. Thank you.

  20. This news has just struck me like a 2by4 to the face. I didn’t know Maria ‘in real life’ but like so many of us, I felt like I knew her through her diary for a number of years. A great number of us cared for her and I wish that there was more we could have done. I think this blog post was lovely, Tem, and just a perfectly fitting tribute to a legend of her own time.

  21. Thank you for the beautiful post. I was Maria’s band teacher for a while in high school. She was a wonderful and enthusiastic young woman, and a supurb musician. I am sorry for your loss.

  22. *hugs*