Word has at last arrived, as we all knew it would, of the passing of Jay Lake.
There’s no shortage of words out there about his battle with cancer — the vast majority of them written by Jay himself — and I have no doubt that today and in the days ahead the community of SFF authors and fans will be awash with remembrances and tributes to his humor, his generosity, his spirit, and the way he chose not just to live his life, but to these last few years in particular.
Jay was my friend. I’ve noted in the past that Jay and I both came up through the ranks of new authors on The Rumor Mill boards, that he did a stint as my editor and publisher, and that I returned the favor. I had the privilege of being his confidant on a few occasions, both before his illness and during it. I sent the man a spoon from Philadelphia. I stood alongside him at the Nebulas last year and though neither of us left with a pretty award, I took the opportunity to give him his own plush buffalito.
And last summer, in the midst of the Worldcon, I had my last face-to-face conversation with him on the floor of the Dealers’ space, somehow surrounded in our own bubble of privacy amidst the throng of people there. We brought each other up to date on events in our lives and our respective plans moving forward. He asked after my wife, Valerie, and I inquired about his daughter. And then, in a roundabout way that I imagine he’d had far too much practice with, we said our final goodbyes.
I began preparing for his passing that day, acknowledging the inevitability of it in part and trying to deny it in another. Some emails continued to go back and forth, some of it personal, some of it business, always with both spoken and unspoken pain. Looking back on it today, I know that any sense of preparation was really just pretense.
My friend is gone and I shall never know the joy of his company again. But I will conjure him up many, many times in the time to come, sharing anecdotes with other authors who knew him and others who did not. As I type this, my thoughts are brimming over with stories that begin something like “and then there was the time when Jay…” and I know there will always be an audience for those tales, and always a willing storyteller to share them.
Jay made it known that he did not believe in religion, nor any afterlife once his time here ended. My own thoughts on the matter are much less clear, and my writing is full of ideas about the continuation of the essence of people long after their passing. Not soul, per se, as I don’t know what that word even means, but a piece of who they were, the best of what defined them, lingers. Surely I have that with me now, as I think of Jay.
The weary struggle of these past months has come to a close, for Jay, for his family, for others whom he loved and who loved in as well. I’m sad, but I’m also smiling as I think of him, and I realize my one regret is that we’ll never get to share momos together.