By: Lessa Leigh
At 3am, I learned Summer Henderson had died this weekend. Most people reading this won’t know Summer, but that should be more reason to continue reading, not less.
Truthfully, I had never met Summer in person. We’d danced around the edges of meeting, but she lived on the other side of town or in a whole other state the entire time we were friends. Those who know me know I struggle with balancing time spent socially with friends and associates against time with my husband, time with my kids, time with my family, and time with myself. In the two years I knew Summer, that balance was especially difficult. Time has become warped, moving faster than a rushing river after spring rains.
There’s never enough time.
Here we are, in the still of winter, waiting for summer to return, and yet Summer is no more. It hurts.
I’d met Summer through my friend, Cynthia, on Facebook. Cynthia and I share a political alignment (and love to get together and laugh), and during the tumultuous 2016 election cycle and the aftermath, those of us who felt left behind on the margins reached out to others, like drowning people seek rafts. Summer was a fellow human, bobbing in an ocean of hurt, anger, despair, and hope, and we reached for each other. She was a huge champion of both Feminactivist and The Girls Are All Right Podcast, and we shared many concerns about the future of this country, humanity in general, and our own lives specifically. We both had ongoing struggles with mental illness. We both had deeply personal connections to the Black Lives Matter movement. We both wondered where the instinct for kindness had gone in America.
Yet, we also laughed. We loved cats. We loved wine. We loved books. We loved bawdy jokes. We loved telling the war stories of our pasts because those stories affirmed how rooted we were here, to the present. We’d survived. Until one of us no longer could…
What I will say to eulogize Summer is this: reach out more. Make connections. Be willing to have difficult conversations with people. Get to know people outside your comfort zone but also get to know people who aren’t there yet should be. In my nearly thirty years (ahem) of Internet activity, I’ve made some dear friends with virtual strangers. Many of them I’ve been able to meet in person. Some of them I haven’t. Yet with careful reading, I’ve rarely made a mistake in assessing someone online.
Believe it or not, your two Feminactivists, Jessica and myself, have known each other since 2009. We’ve chatted extensively nearly every day on multiple social media platforms. We co-founded this site, and we co-host our podcast. We’ve never met in person, but we know each other extremely well. We share details of our lives that allowed us to build the trust to create this enterprise together. I can say that about a few other people, where we’ve done projects together, yet we live hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.
I found as much comfort in knowing Summer as she did in knowing me. The world would be a better place if she were still here, but when I go to her memorial service later this week, I hope to meet some of the people who also knew her and give them a hug.
Time didn’t allow me to give Summer that hug in person. Summer is no more, but in her friends, her family, her loved ones, the spirit of Summer lives on. It can be shared with a simple embrace.
This is for you, Summer: Tom Petty’s Last Performance of Wildflowers