Metro Manila Community Quarantine - Day 410
Karen was very much like the cats she loved. Hard to approach at first because cats can be a bit skittish at times. A little hard to love when the claws come out. But despite the scary bits, they can have some of the kindest souls and the warmest of hearts. Whatever her equivalent for purring was, I'm sure it was great, too. And when you've earned the love and appreciation of a cat, you know you have a very special friend indeed.
In many ways, Karen felt like one of the anchors of the Finer Gaming Things Club (FGTC), a gaming group that has become such an essential support system for its members, especially throughout the ups and downs of this pandemic. Her family's place at Serendra had become the usual venue for our big monthly gaming meet-ups and we'd literally play all night well past sunrise because that's just what we would do. And Karen's space was more of than not our home for the night and we always felt welcome.
She certainly had a lot on her plate and the competitive nature of tabletop games didn't always do well for her self-esteem or mental health. But we always understood this and did our best to support her and encourage her to just have fun with whatever we were playing because that's what was more important. Beyond the games, FGTC nights always felt especially special since most months we'd have a birthday to celebrate. Just looking back at the photos of our game nights just stressed how often we had a birthday cake as part of the feast for the night.
Karen is one of the kindest people I've encountered though, and this is something particularly special given her struggles. No matter how dark her days were or how frustrated she'd get with the news and our government, she'd wouldn't turn any of that anger towards her friends. You can only imagine what the FGTC group chat has been like throughout the pandemic. But it always felt like she'd be around to try to offer a kind word of support here and there to help whoever ended up ranting in the chat for the day.
As Tobie and I have gotten older, it feels like our social circles have narrowed and we've had less patience for people who don't feel as invested in our friendships as we are. But the FGTC, especially Karen, have never felt that way and have become some of our strongest support systems even before the pandemic. When I took this blog private, it was our FGTC circle of friends who asked to stay in touch and asked for access to this site - access I gladly gave. When I asked if people wanted to be tagged in case of updates, only the FGTC friends really asked for me to do this, and I continue to do so even though I know not everyone has the time to read regularly. It doesn't matter - it's not about the views, but making sure this site is limited to people I trust. And I trust few others as much as I do FGTC.
It was only a few weeks ago that I lamented the death of a young Twitter friend I had never met in person. That event already hit me pretty hard - probably even harder given the constant stress we're all under given the present circumstances. But to mourn the loss of a much closer friend, especially a dear soul like Karen, is beyond painful. It may seem strange to say that I feel like I'm at a loss for words 6 paragraphs into a blog update, but that's really how I feel. I keep throwing words at the screen but I feel frustrated that I can't quite find the ones I want to use to fully convey how I feel about Karen, about her passing, and about the void she is leaving in so many lives. I don't know how to capture what I feel in words and I certainly can't fully capture what an amazing person she is.
And it's not just our lives she has touched - looking at the posts on her wall just shows her many social circles and the many people who have felt the warmth of her kindness. Karen was always transparent - she lived her life in a largely unfiltered fashion, and that kind of candor and honesty is amazingly refreshing.
The death of a friend is never easy and will always feel unfair and certainly too soon. And the older you get, the more death you are bound to encounter and that's just part of life. That's just how things go.
What saddens me the most is the fact that I feel like Karen had put a lot of effort to be more engaged despite the challenges of this extended quarantine. She almost always watched our Baduy Pride live streams no matter how weird and potentially unrelated our topic for the night would be. She had started to join us in watching the online drag shows of AnTuTan Says and may have given more tips than we have recently just because she was so happy with the experience. She'd participate in our online board game nights even though sometimes games would frustrate her. And so many times we'd just keep talking about all the other games that she wanted to try and all the fun we missed having together in our FTGC game nights.
We're all still waiting for her family to officially say something like details of the wake or things of that nature. Part of me keeps stubbornly hoping that it's all some big mistake and until we see that update, it's not real. But realistically, I know I have to accept that this is true and that we have lost a dear friend far too soon. We are diminished by her passing, but we will continue on because that's what she would want. And whenever the FGTC finally gets to meet up in person, I know she will be there with us in spirit. She will always be with us because so many love her and hold her dear.
We were already missing seeing you in person because of the pandemic. And now we're never going to stop missing you, Karen.