In almost three years as a blogger, I have come into contact with myriad people from different corners of the globe. Some have stood the test of time and are still in regular contact; others have departed, maybe to greener pastures. Some pop in, every now and then, like the friends we have in real life. Then, there are the ones who leave an indelible mark on you.
Renee, the blogger behind the 'Circling My Head' blog was in the latter category. She has sadly died of cancer at the age of fifty-three.
In vain have I tried to look for Renee's first comment on my blog. I couldn't find it, and that's because she was an omnipresent figure. Whether it was from her cyber-house, or commenting on other people's online posts, Renee was an inspiring woman. And as a mother, grandmother, daughter, sister, aunt, wife and friend, she drew us, fellow bloggers, into her rich family life. The way she wrote about her husband, Wahid, her children or her siblings will forever be etched in my mind because of the candour and affection in her posts. There are a handful of words, amongst many others, I could use to describe her and these were also terms I used many times when responding to her articulate columns: witty, humourous, strong.
I'm not the type of person who throws compliments around lazily. I mean what I say most of the time and say what's on my mind. If I praise a post or a picture, that's because I've felt touched. It seems to me, from the distance that this medium provides, that Renee and I shared that trait. Her online entries of 'Cancer – 50 Essential Things to Do', a book by Greg Anderson, were obligatory reading for anyone who, like me, was not necessarily acquainted with the brutal reality this condition represents. Her language, when referring to the illness that ultimately killed her, was blunt and very often beautifully honest. Here's a post from Wednesday 28th October, 2009:
'A Lump Is Not Necessary To Have Breast Cancer No.2
Since October is Breast Cancer month, and I unfortunately know that bitch too well, I would like you to read a post I did on Inflammatory Breast Cancer in February, 2008.
Know what you know and know what you need to know. Had I only seen this I would have known what I already knew.'
Likewise, Renee was a lover of all things beautiful. And you knew that from the moment you entered her blog with that marvellous header and the illustrations she regularly posted every week. That love for creativity influenced her own writing. One of the most heart-rending posts I've ever read in my life was the one about the bats tormenting her:
'Did I tell you that I have a colony of bats who hang upside down in my guts? Well I do.
All day long they fly around and hit the walls of whatever is inside those guts. Bang, bang, bang, BANG, BANG, bang, bang……..BANG, BANG…..
It is not comfortable to say the least.You know it is hard to maintain my girlish figure of 217 pounds and right now I am worried about doing so as I am always starving and can’t get things down my throat...' You can read the rest of this post here.
In January I thought of contacting Renee about a piece that had come out in The Guardian newspaper the weekend before. It was an article written by US author Barbara Ehrenreich where the controversial essayist laid into the 'positive thinking' brigade within the breast cancer movement. What's your take on it, Renee? I wanted to ask her, but never got the chance to, because her own mother was dying at the time and it would have been most inappropriate to approach her with such a trivial question. I wonder sometimes what her answer would have been, given the fact that her blog was so vibrant and welcoming, that her attitude to life was a big 'Fuck You Cancer, You'll Probably Take Me in the End, But You Won't Beat Me Whilst I'm Still Alive!' (That swear word is dedicated to you, too, Renee, with utmost respect). Barbara talks about the tone that surrounds breast cancer activism: upbeat, stoic and cheerful. I can't help feeling that Renee didn't fit any category. She was a totally unique person. Read her post published on Thursday 28th January and you will find a person deeply in tune with her aesthetic side. And although many people don't think too much of awards given to bloggers by other bloggers, in Renee's case every single one was justified.
It's only fitting that I finish my little tribute today to this remarkable woman with a clip of another equally extraordinary artist, Lhasa de Sela, who died on 1st January 2010, at the age of thirty-seven of breast cancer. You can read her obituary here. This, I don't need to say, is not how I would have preferred to write about cancer, and specifically breast cancer, but by remembering Renee and Lhasa, I know I am contributing to raising awareness of this terrible, devastating plague. May they always be remembered. After all, those bats cannot win all the battles.
Next Post: 'Feminism: Has It Gone Wrong?', to be published on Wednesday 24th March at 11:59am (GMT)
a very appreciative tribute to your blogging friend. I am sorry you lost her. Blogging helps us to find many like-minded friends who would otherwise remain forever unknown.ReplyDelete
I also wrote a post on 'positive attitude to cancer' the article and comments might be of interest. http://frikosmusings.blogspot.com/2010/03/cancer-be-positive.html
you seem to have a wonderful morning!!!!Peace and love to you :):)Sorry about your friend..but that is what life is all about..to live and to die..Happy day I wish for you..and you have a real nice blog!!thank god I found you!!!hugs and admiration!!!!ReplyDelete
Sadly, I've only discovered Renee since her death. This isn't the first tribute to her that I've read -- and all of them so heartfelt. Clearly, she had a tremendous impact on the people she touched.ReplyDelete
Breast cancer really is a plague. I have three close friends who've been diagnosed with it in the past three years -- and all of them are around Renee's age. One of these friends has just started her chemo and I'm wondering if it would help her to read Renee's blog? My hesitation is only that Renee had the worst possible outcome . . . and of course I want to offer up the cheerful bouquet of "success" stories instead. (Like my mother's best friend, who just passed her five-year "all-clear" and is about to pursue her dream of sailing around the Caribbean.)
I think that blogging can be a format for the kind of honest expression that is rarely found elsewhere. Thanks so much for this.
I too only came across Renee's blog as she lay dying. I never had the pleasure of communicating with er directly. I have only ever blogged about her to those who knew her throughout the blogosphere.ReplyDelete
This is a beautiful post in her honour Cuban and in that of Lhasa de Sela. Their legacies will live on, but it does not diminish the sadness of their respective deaths. They both died too soon.
Hello Mr CReplyDelete
This is a fine tribute to a fine woman who touched do many of us with her candid, open and warm communications. Renee had a knack of making you feel as if she knew you ...and loved you...and that is a very special ability.
I wonder how many bloggers Renee befriended though her blog and her sweet comments...
Happy days to you Mr C.
I only got to know Renee in the past few months. Her presence always reminded me of the bright rays of the sun. She was such a positive person. I've never heard anybody speak about cancer as both objectively and subjectively as Renee was able to do, both simultaneously. She was a woman with a beautiful spirit, and I think it was one of her primary missions to spread awareness about this terrible disease. Your post is such a fine tribute, Cuban. It is a memorial to a woman who must be remembered, who must be recognized, even by those who did not know her. May she rest in peaceReplyDelete
I am always elated to be a survivor,17 years!!.. and my heart breaks at the absolute suffering of those who are taken. I had to fight the horrible medical insurance system we have here. Damned if I was going to let a bunch of privileged naysayers take my life! And I did go the spiritual way..lucky me, I gave myself the right to survive(God said yes!). Thanks and God bless us all...ReplyDelete
a touching post/tribute, Cuban. it brought to mind those bloggers who, as Renee, are sadly gone, and who continue to touch our lives by way of our thoughts and memories.ReplyDelete
a difficult thing to explain to those who have not experienced this thing we do firsthand. we DO connect, yes virtually and removed, but emotionally and intellectually nonetheless.
we did not experience Renee's blog directly as
you did, but we're sorry for the loss because
we know it's heavy on your shoulders as it must be on her friends, family and readers.
thank you for your tender words,
akin to poetry, we feel them.
A warm and loving tribute to two very courageous women.ReplyDelete
I came to know and love Renee through her blog and comments of love and encouragement on mine.
What a battle she fought. The only consolation is that her suffering is over.
Lhasa was my personal friend. Her untimely illness and death has left a gaping hole in my heart. Lhasa had an amazing mind, a rich spiritual bent, and, of course she was a one-of-a-kind musical talent. Sometimes, I momentarily forget that death has claimed her - and when the reality resurfaces - the grief begins again. Thank you for remembering Lhasa here.
A lovely tribute indeed. Very touching.ReplyDelete
Cancer has reared it's awful head and touched all our lives in some way directly and indirectly.
Thank you for remembering Renee. I'm glad I came across your comment on her blog. You describe her so well. I miss her visits to my blog and her uplifting comments regarding my work. Even in her suffering she always had the strength to give to others.ReplyDelete
My friend I cannot add to this, it is a beautiful tribute. I returned from China and I cannot bring myself to post anything until I give Renee her due but I am not a wordsmith like you. So I will reference this post. I feel such a void and I did not personally know her. I cried last night so much when I saw that she had finally passed on. The thing is that Renee was never about tears but about hope and she would not want to be remembered in tears so I had to force myself to stop crying. I am thankful for your post for your eloquence. We will miss her and she will stay with us whenever we think of grace in the face of adversity.ReplyDelete
These bats, they do circle, they draw the shadows upon us; but this heart of light, Renee taught, can banish those bats away.ReplyDelete
After the grief of winter, it is Parsi New Year today, spring equinox, green things abound and I want to wish you Navroze Mubarak.ReplyDelete
Beautiful tribute,thank you.ReplyDelete
Ay Cubano... qué triste escuchar esta historia. Me ha traído lágrimas a los ojos. Bonito homenaje a una buena amiga bloguera... siempre veía sus comentarios en tu blog, pero no la llegué a conocer.ReplyDelete
Many thanks to you all for your kind comments. Renee would have loved them.ReplyDelete
Greetings from London.
old bastard cancer . . .ReplyDelete
a wonderful tribute to a woman who I wished I'd have know here in blogland...
What a touching, lovely tribute to two women who have been taken from us too soon. Sometimes I feel such despair about people but blogs like yours help me to regain some hope in decent, creative people. They are gone but their spirit lives on -- thanks to those like you who write about their lives with such inspired compassion and grace.ReplyDelete
Renee always left the sweetest comments on my blog. They meant a lot. Such a sweet lady who had to endure so much. She is missed by many. Lovely tribute to her bravery and spirit.ReplyDelete
they come here brieflyReplyDelete
to brush our lives with beauty
and make us wonder
I've only heard of Renee since her death, but she was clearly a woman who touched so many. Would that we could all inspire such feelings.ReplyDelete
It's so good to read of another person eulogizing dear Renee. I think that I found YOU on Renee's blog so can still marvel at the ties that bind the blogdom. Thank you for this beautifully written piece and for the gorgeous clip of Llasa. I so miss Renee -- her writing, her blog, her comments on my own -- not a day goes by that I don't think about her which makes me think that yes, perhaps, her spirit is eternal and quite alive.ReplyDelete
Lovely tributes to two remarkable women - I loved the music and didn't know this artist before today - thanks for the introduction and Greetings as always from Mexico...ReplyDelete
I'm sorry to hear of her passing, it's clear she touched you deeply.ReplyDelete
Best wishes to her family and friends.
I always loved when Renee left a comment on my blog and loved to read her sometimes irreverent comments on other blogs. And where on earth did she find the pictures she posted on her blog?! Sometimes whimsical, sometimes just a little offbeat, always beautiful. She will be missed.ReplyDelete
Good morning London,ReplyDelete
Like many others here I came late to Renee, but had often seen her kisses and love in your comment space. It's quite remarkable to realize just how many people she had touched around the world - she was an original. I hope that her family is able to see your heartfelt tribute.
I did not know Renee well. We exchanged comments only a handful of times. Your admiration and love for her exudes on the pages of this beautiful tribute. I am so sorry for your loss, her family's loss, the world's loss.ReplyDelete
BTW,I was able to find Renee's first comment on my blog using the google search bar on my side bar.
Thank you all for your kind comments.ReplyDelete
Greetings from London.
Sounds like they were remarkable women -- thanks for sharing this heart-felt post with us!ReplyDelete
Such a moving tribute Cubano, thank you for introducing Renee to me. I have watched cancer close-up, with my grandmother, uncle and great-aunt and it is not a pretty, kind or fair thing. Renee sounded like her spirit was never brought down by its devastation and that's no small thing. May llasa and Renee rest in peace.ReplyDelete
It touched me so that Renee touched you so. Lhasa de Sela's song was so hauntingly beautiful.ReplyDelete
Just dropped by from a blog of a blog of a blog and am glad I did.
I don't know her blog but have seen a few friends paying tribute to her,yours is the 3rd. Obviously, she is special and dearly missed by all. It's so wonderful to connect and to me, blogs are pictures, words..all informative and wonderful, but it is the people that I connect the most. I certainly do know this dreaded disease..I lost my dad to it 10 years ago. Wishing you a good week ahead.ReplyDelete
A lovely tribute to Renee, Mr. Cuban. I'm sad that I wasn't fortunate enough to know her, but have read many wonderful posts in honor of her death.ReplyDelete
(Your new header and Henry James quote are great!)
Many thanks to you all for your kind words.ReplyDelete
Greetings from London.
Oh I'm so sorry about your friend. What a wonderful post in her honor. I must go over and visit her blog. Thank you.ReplyDelete