In Memory of JM Bates

In Memory of JM Bates
My friend, JM Bates, a bridesmaid at my wedding, looking at me with all the love and support any human could muster for another. That was who she was.

Because I know she hated when I made everything about me, but I’m grieving so I’m going to do it anyway, here’s a little story about how I met her.

The year after I left art school set in motion everything that has so far happened in the rest of my life. I began working in public service, dedicating a year as an AmeriCorps VISTA. I stayed in Chicago rather than pursuing a scholarship at one of the other schools I been accepted to before leaving home. I joined OKCupid, where I shortly met my husband. And I encountered a group of people who became my best friends, a group of people so meaningful to me they continue to shape who I am.

It was an intentional community, a sort of idealistic pseudo-commune, featuring the most dynamic and diverse cast of characters ever dreamed up. We had monthly potlucks, during which I, my Christian Iraqi friend, and my Persian/Chinese Muslim friend brought completely different hummuses. I met trans and intersex people for the first time. I hung around with people of all kinds of ages, of all kinds of backgrounds. From my association with that group of people, I now can call circus performers, radical socialist gun-rights activists, military biologists, mechanical engineers, poets, financial advisors, dancers and acrobats, marketing moguls, and skydiving inventors my friends. They made the world more open to me, they introduced me to myself.

One of my closest friends from those days was a radical feminist and cat-lover. A writer and activist, who at eighteen years old had run away from an abusive home life to follow her online boyfriend to Chicago. She was amazing and hilarious and kind, and she and I clicked. I helped her get a job where I was working as a senior care aide. She got herself fired less than a year later for pushing management to investigate sexual abuses against undocumented workers at one of the facilities she served.

She always made me want to be a better person. She always managed to make me feel like I could do more to be a better person and a better friend.

We lost touch about a decade ago for a number of years. And then we were back in touch. And then not. She was easily exasperated with me, which I understand. I can be exasperating. I am not nearly as good a person as she demanded of herself. And she did not suffer fools.

I am often a fool.

On Valentine’s Day morning, her husband rushed her to the hospital. They were expecting their first baby, 24 weeks along, and a blood clot caused a heart attack. My friend did not survive. The baby is in critical condition.

I can’t begin to describe the emotions I’ve found myself overwhelmed by, which seem to change hour by hour. I can tell you, for a certainty, my friend would want her death radicalized.

She wanted everyone to have access to the healthcare keeping her baby alive now.

She wanted comprehensive reproductive healthcare for everyone, so that nobody who wasn’t entirely willing to face the perils of pregnancy ever had that choice taken from them.

She wanted people to ensure that the language around pregnancy stopped being gendered, that we all remembered men can be pregnant and trans men are men and trans women are women. She wanted all of us to care as much as she did when they were treated as less-than in their humanity.

If you want to get to know my friend a little bit before she’s laid to rest, read her book reviews, read some of her journalistic work, read her LGBTQIAA+ Fantasy Romance, which never stopped earning her the type of hate mail she relished.

Or go the GoFundMe set up on behalf of her grieving husband, the boy she followed to Chicago sixteen years ago, and their daughter, and help provide for the costs of losing somebody, let alone somebody as unique and spectacular and my friend Jac. Just don’t send cut flowers. She hated cut flowers. Or send donations to The Chicago Abortion Fund.

I miss my friend. I am heartbroken over losing her. I am heartbroken for her husband and daughter. I am heartbroken for all the people she fought to help, that they have lost a true ally.

I am heartbroken at the deep unfairness of all of it.

I wish I could tell her how sorry I am.

 


 

Fury: Women’s Lived Experiences in the Trump Era, featuring yours truly, is available for pre-order now! Type “fury_lg” in the coupon code field when you order!

 


 

Check her out on Goodreads here: J.M. Bates on Goodreads

Buy her book here: Brilliant Shadows, by J.M. Bates

 


 

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