Response by Anya Harris
Svetlana was someone I noticed and admired from our very first interactions online. We were on a sarcasm message board or something similar on a now-ubiquitous social networking site, and we struck up an almost immediate online friendship. We lived on opposite ends of the world, but we had a commonality in a Catholic upbringing and an appreciation of poetry, literature, and as she might type it, “humour.”
She and I had a shared enjoyment of upending bullies and trolls, and when we were on boards and conspiring to do ill to these nefarious characters together, it was really something to be seen.
We did not talk much about personal things at first, or even maybe overall. Ours was a friendship out of time – one for the ages. Within a few short months, I was calling her “Little Sister” – and I mean that. She was my Intellectual Little Sister, by which I mean she was my little sister (not biological and far away, but in spirit) who was intellectual.
The irony was that she was my MENTOR, and I was not a very good student. I could see what she, at 10 or so years my junior was doing, but I could no more emulate her than an infant could mimic Shakespeare. She shone a very bright light and packed a great deal into her all-too-short time on this Earth. She learned more in 5 months than most of us could master in 50 years, and she did her best to share it with us idiots as fast as she could in the time she had left.
Nonetheless, sometimes we WOULD talk a little about personal things, and illness, and family, and that was how I learned how strong she was, despite the illness and her personal struggles, she always handled things like someone well beyond her chronological age. She was notably serene in a storm.
I just wish I had been able to give her a real physical hug.
There were phases where she was probably my best friend, even though I never met her in person. Bob Dylan missed out when she declined to meet him in person at his show she attended. She didn’t want special treatment at the show. He should have insisted on it. She is a genius. I think I might send him a copy of this book – with a disclaimer not to make it public yet.
I wonder sometimes if the same DNA gone wrong that led to her cancer also contributed to her being so smart … Like “When big brains go bad…” Svetlana had the patience of Job, the foresight of Noah, more sense than Abraham (discernment), the nurturing instincts of Mother Teresa, and the brains of Einstein. Her brain cancer was Satan embodied. I choke up thinking about it.
I think that as I move into my 40s I might be able to begin to comprehend her methods and modes. As I get more mature, I might begin to attempt to emulate her. Time will tell.
I am someone who was always regarded as “gifted” (whatever that means), but this young woman blew me away. Unfortunately, my social networking account was (I contend, wrongly) deleted in the weeks leading up to her passing, so I lost almost all of my records of our many discussions. I scrambled to communicate in other ways. I am so sorry for that. I felt her loss acutely. I have a few screen shots though, and I have my memories. I loved her, and I miss her dearly.
This book has awakened her memory in me, and though I have only flipped through the first few pages, I can hear her voice – a voice that I never heard in life – but one to which I will listen to hereafter with joy and love in my heart.
Some of these poems are like old friends, others are completely new to me, but I urge you to take little nibbles of this book whenever you feel you need lifting up. Svetlana is like Manna from Heaven, ambrosia, food of the Gods. Her messages are like Francis of Assisi meets Thomas Aquinas meets Sun Tzu and are well worth your time.
Read on and maybe even learn something from someone who is a true prodigy.