2 min read

Last Days

It’s 33 degrees Celsius outside, and depending on how long I’ve been sitting in cool conditioned air, it feels like a strange gift. I step out into the grassy amphitheatre with stone seats outside my building and the sun feels like a warm palm on my skin, like a hand cupping my chin, like a friend smiling on your threshold with one foot out the door.

It’s autumn, but it’s hotter than it’s been for much of the summer. Everything feels like the last of something, even as it’s also lasting — isn’t that a fascinating bit of language– longer than it perhaps should.

I want to lean into that language and feel where it bends and joins. The last — to last. I’m thinking of endings and beginnings a lot right now.

Kit Reed died yesterday, and I’m stunned by how much that’s affected me. I did not know her well. I had the pleasure of her company at dinner last year at World Fantasy in Columbus. She was deeply beloved by many people whom I deeply love. She was 85 years old. I offer my condolences to the family, friends, and community mourning her loss and celebrating her life. She was so kind to me, and I wanted, as I so often want with older women who’ve beaten a path down and made mine easier to walk, to live up to her and know her better.

To know her better, now, through the reminiscences people are offering, the anecdotes, feels like watching a tapestry unfurl on a long wall. It feels like a last breath of summer in autumn. There is a poem I haven’t written (not about Kit — I wouldn’t presume), of which the first line is “If dying were like autumn,” and I turn it over in my head as I read others’ words: her son Mack’s tribute was the first I read, saying that she didn’t want any kind of memorial service, and that she didn’t tell anyone she was ill. She died as she wanted to, and is it strange that it gladdens me so much, that she had power over that?

I don’t know what I’m writing except that I want to mark this, that a woman lived, that she lived a long, amazing life, that she was fierce and sharp and funny and beloved, that she wrote, that she was read, that she was respected, that she faced death as she chose to, and that I feel privileged to have brushed my life against hers, however fleetingly, over food and wine and fire.