On losing a virtual friend
Several months back, one of my regular correspondents on Twitter sent me a direct message. She was looking for a copy of a book I'd written. She introduced herself as a retired librarian from Stratford, who simply liked politics. She wanted to read more about Shaughnessy Cohen, the MP who died on the floor of the House of Commons in December, 1998.
By chance, I had a box of 20 or so Shaughnessy books in the basement (this is unusual; authors are usually only given 10 free copies, and they're given away quickly to friends and family). So I sent Penny Langshear in Stratford one of the books. For some reason, I thought Shaughnessy, also from Southern Ontario, might be happy to think of Penny wanting to read about her.
In the weeks and months afterward, Penny and I talked (via Twitter) about Shaughnessy and politics in general. Not a lot, but the sight of a message from her always made me smile.
Today, via one of my other Twitter friends, Liberal Arts and Minds, I learn that Penny, aka @penlan, was found dead this week. Arts and Minds has done a very lovely blog post about her, complete with a picture.
I too would just like to mark that small friendship and its passing on this blog -- it meant a lot to me. Penlan was funny, bright and passionate about politics, much like Shaughnessy, who would have turned 63 tomorrow. Next week, it's the annual Politics and the Pen dinner in Ottawa, where a book prize is awarded in Shaughnessy's name. I think I'm going to imagine that my old friend will be watching, along with her new librarian friend. I also want to believe that Penny would have been quite pleased to see that a piece of political fiction, Best Laid Plans by Terry Fallis, won the Canada Reads competition this week.
My condolences to all of Penlan's friends and family, even the virtual ones, like me.