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I Lost My Oldest Blog Friend Today, and It Hurts

blog friend Paul Warburton

A blog friend is an anomaly–he or she may be someone you’ve never met, but over the years you might have seen each others’ souls just as much as any family. A different kind of family, of course. A blog family.

I first met Paul Warburton on a defunct blog site, in 2004.

We hit it off almost immediately, and I was taken with his blog-voice: gentle, compassionate, and weird as it sounds, always listening. You could almost see him listening, nodding, smiling in the words of his response.

My life changed soon after that, and I moved countries, but somehow, the connection remained. He stopped blogging, while I started this one in 2008. We exchanged emails. Postcards and letters. Gave each other writing challenges. His were filled with chatter and jokes, soft-spoken wisdom, mine often with existential angst.

It didn’t matter that I’d never been to Canada, or he to Asia, or that he was closer in age to my parents than to me.

We laughed, we planned collaborative writing projects, cheered each other through marriage (mine), partnership (his); new job (his), book publications (mine). Through it all, up until a few months ago, we plotted writing together, and now I wish I’d pushed and begged harder, years ago.

I thought we had time.

That’s necessary illusion, this belief that all will be well and continue as usual. Even through his cancer diagnosis. His long and fraught treatments that he still joked about.

Anyone can rant about a bad situation. It takes a titan to joke about them, and mean it, too.

We spoke of his recovery. We spoke of the plan for a call with him, his partner, his ninety-eight year old very-spry mother who he loved and spoke of in his typically understated way.

He read both my books, and was excited about the sequel.

This last week, I thought of him often, hoping to hear good news—that his latest treatment had worked. I meant to write to him today, but it wasn’t meant to be.

I did get a message from him this morning, only it wasn’t him, but his equally kind sister, who amid all her grief had found a moment to somehow dig me out, an intangible distant presence in his life, and notify me of his passing.

I thanked her and sent her my condolences.

Privately, my first response was rage, of course: at myself, at the Universe. Typical, but I’m me.

Visceral rage that he, a kind and gentle man should be taken from us while so many who cause nothing but harm should walk the earth. Tears, of course, as I told my husband. Through all the years of my marriage, my husband has heard often of this wonderful Canadian friend who was so full of kindness and insight, who I planned to visit when I first stepped on Canadian soil.

I had eighteen years to do it, yet here we are.

I’ve settled into this numbness that often threatens to swamp me  each time I look at Paul’s emails, his blog comments, his letters.

Paul was inimitably Paul, self-deprecating and genuine, whether in his stories of the navy, of his various jobs, of his last job as a Metro Vancouver transit operator.

I remembered his joy in starting at that job, and dug up this email:

“The boy in me is having a wonderful time, since the trolleys operate like trains, except that the “rails” and switches are all overhead. It was super stressful going through the training, as it’s quite intensive, and the responsibility for other people’s lives and welfare is a bit daunting, but I’m settling in now and I’m “out there” enjoying it.” They’re behemoths and it was a bit like climbing into a 747 at first (in fact, they’re so electronic they even have data recorders) but I’m quite comfortable in them now.   Best of all, there’s no homework in this job.  All my life, except for the 10 years in the Navy, I’ve had homework of some sort chewing up my spare time. ….My only regret is that I didn’t do this long ago.”

They say you die only when someone remembers you for the last time, so Paul is a long, long way from there. He touched my life from so far away. I know I’ll think of him for as long as I’m given on this planet, as will so many others who knew and loved him in his real life.

Paul taught me about generosity of spirit, a willingness to learn and adapt, and facing suffering with fortitude and humor.

He had plans to start up another writing exchange with me, and I was looking forward to his ideas—only I got wrapped up in deadlines and didn’t check up on him the way I should have.

My husband says guilt is a negative emotion, that I should steer it to something positive. Truth, but maybe it will take an hour, a day, a week or more to get there. I’ll hold my loved ones a little closer– be it blog friends or family, and postpone fewer joys in life. I’ll make time for the connections that truly mean something to me.

In the meanwhile, I’ll read all of Paul’s letters, and possibly sign this off in Paul fashion:

Cheers for now, Paul. I’ll see you soon.

Gentle blog friend, if you and I have known each other via this space over the years, leave me a hello and a hug. Can’t tell you how much I need it today.

(And as I typed this, seated at a window spot at a cafe, a blonde little girl in a white and yellow dress knocked on the glass, grinned and toddled off. Her mother gave me an apologetic smile because she could see my face, and hurried off.

I don’t know what I look like right now, but I can’t help but think of Paul and his love for the freshness and joy of a white-and-yellow lemon meringue pie, which he spoke of often in his letters.)

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Damyanti Biswas

Damyanti Biswas is the author of You Beneath Your Skin and numerous short stories that have been published in magazines and anthologies in the US, the UK, and Asia. She has been shortlisted for Best Small Fictions and Bath Novel Awards and is co-editor of the Forge Literary Magazine. Her next literary crime thriller, The Blue Bar, is represented by Lucienne Diver from The Knight Agency, and was published by Thomas & Mercer on January 1, 2023.

I appreciate comments, and I always visit back. If you're having trouble commenting, let me know via the contact form, or tweet me up @damyantig !

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  • I am so sorry for your loss. He seemed like an amazing person.
    I have made many blogging friends here, and it would be painful to lose them.
    blessings to you!

  • Frank Lowe says:

    Your tribute to our amazing and kind friend had tears streaming down my face.
    Tears of joy, remembering the great times Paul an I shared over the years and tears of sadness for future times lost.
    I loved reading about how much he meant to you. Paul touched many people during his life, all were richer for knowing him.
    Paul and I first met in 1969 when we both joined the Canadian Navy. For almost 54 years we remained close friends. Many wonderful adventures were shared by those two boys as they matured and according to the calendar turned into old men. We remained boys at heart though. A video exists of Paul and I having a sword fight last year, Errol Flynn style, with our canes substituting for was a bloodless tie.
    During his last days I went to visit him often, we talked about many things. People we knew, things we did, just two old friends revisiting the past. In all our years of friendship Paul and I never had an angry word between us. Probably more attributable to Paul’s gentle demeanour, than my fiery one.

    He wasn’t angry, in fact until the very end he maintained that this cancer was not going to define or be the end of him.

    Paul told me about his friendship with you Damyanti and how he valued it.
    How Nice!

    Kind, generous, gentle in thoughts and deed. Just a few of the words that can be applied when describing our Friend Paul

    Matty Lowe
    Halifax NS

  • Steve Davies says:

    I just wanted first to say, I’m sorry for the loss of your dear friend Paul. I also wanted to say thank you to you for being someone early in my blogging career to read my blog posts. You were and still are an inspiration for me. I’ve been blogging for maybe 15+ years now (first with the green librarian) and while I at most get a handful of likes on my of posts, my writing has helped me through life in more ways that you’ll ever know.

    Take care and stay safe and a big hug!

    Steve Davies

  • maggiedot says:

    I’m so sorry for your loss. Blog and other virtual friends are so special, but I’m so glad your relationship with this wonderful person bloomed into one of letters and email exchanges—those tangible written words are so precious. The (short) book Write for Your Life by Anna Quindlen has some wonderful passages on how important letters and handwritten notes are after a loved one has passed. You have a piece of his voice that can never leave, and will always remain perfectly him. Hugs from afar.

  • Domenico Vaughan says:

    Though related I only discovered my Canadian family the Warburtons not long before covid.
    I was fortunate, honoured and privileged to have met Paul on a few occasions. It was as though I’d known him all my life.
    Thank you, for I share some of the feelings you have, yet would not be able to express them so eloquently.

  • hilarymb says:

    Wonderful post Damyanti – we think there’s time … but so often, there isn’t. Paul sounds such a great man, a wonderful, understanding friend – I hope you’ll share a few more thoughts from him over the years … we have sad times we take along with us – yet positivity can come out of the sad days. Cheers Hilary

  • Patricia JL says:

    I’m sorry to hear about your friend’s passing. It’s a kick in the gut when it seems to come out of nowhere. hugs

  • Jemi Fraser says:

    Oh, my heart! I’m so sorry for your loss, Damyanti! I never had the joy of meeting Paul via blogging. He sounds like a lovely man and I know his memories will live on in you and others for years.
    My father-in-law is another huge fan lemon meringue pie. The next one I make for him will have me thinking of Paul as well.
    Sending hugs your way my friend.

  • Hugs, Damyanti! <3

  • dgkaye says:

    A lovely tribute to your friend Damyanti. Life is fleeting, I always say don’t put things off because tomorrow is never guaranteed. And that guilt thing, oh ya, it’s a negative emotion all right, but a bugger to get rid of. May peace be with you and to Paul’s family. <3

  • John Hric says:

    I am glad you made such a special friend over such a great distance. Take your time and slowly count the blessings. And the laughs. So sorry for your loss. Then there are those blessings. Treasure them. Take care Damyanti.

  • Sorry for your loss… sending you a virtual hug!

  • Jemima Pett says:

    Sending love and hugs. Yes, they will always be here while we remember them. And yes, the list will grow as time goes on. I immediately think of three blogging friends who are now gone, but not forgotten.
    Be grateful that you knew them, not sad (and definitely not guilty) they are gone, to paraphrase Dr Seuss I think.

  • Mick Canning says:

    Of course, we always wish we’d done more when someone dies. We always think we’ve somehow failed them. And, of course, we’re usually wrong. We can’t be everything to everyone. I’m very sorry to hear of Paul’s passing. I never came across him, but I’m sad through your connection to him.

  • A lovely tribute, Damyanti. Our blogging friends can be very dear to us. I have shed tears over the passing of at least one. Take care!

  • Debbie D. says:

    Heartbreaking to lose a friend of such long standing! My sincere condolences, Damyanti. 🌹

  • That is so sad Damyanti. People may pass from our life as that is the natural order of life. Memories never can be obliterated and you have these happy memories to keep for the rest of your life.

  • Denise Covey says:

    This post resonated. Thank you Damyanti. Our blog friends are indeed real friends. One of my long-term blog friends told me today that I’m her family as she doesn’t have one.

  • Damyanti I am so sorry for your loss

  • arlene says:

    So really, really sorry to hear about this post Damyanti. MAY HIS SOUL rest in eternal peace.

  • ccyager says:

    BIG HUGS, Damyanti. So sorry about your loss. Your soul will feel tender and sore for a while. It sounds like Paul was a huge supporter of your writing, so you can probably honor him best with your writing. Take care of yourself.

  • I’m very sorry to hear of the loss of your dear friend, Damyanti. My heart goes out to you. I’ve lost two blogging friends, both to cancer.

  • Pauleen says:

    Oh Damyanti, I can only send you virtual hugs. It’s a tough time and non-bloggers don’t realise how such tight connections can be made. You will miss Paul but will always hold him in your heart. Xx Pauleen

  • Tracy Abell says:

    Such a beautiful tribute to your friend. I’m very sorry for your loss and hope that you can find ways to release any guilt so that you may rest in all your shared memories.

  • I lost a forum friend some time ago to a horrible motorcycle crash and didn’t find out about it until I wrote to his company (he was the moderator/web designer of the forum), and they told me about his accident happening over the holiday weekend a few weeks prior. I felt gutted. And then I felt angry because his company didn’t even have the decency to tell us he had passed away! Maybe they had no idea how much of a friendship he had forged with the people who frequented the forums he created. I ended up memorializing him in one of my books because he was one of the few people who encouraged me to keep writing. So, he lives on through his character, but the internet is a very surreal space to try to cope with real losses like that. Instead of feeling guilty that you couldn’t turn it into something more face-to-face, maybe take comfort in the fact that you had an amazing friendship despite the geographical barriers. It is a marvel to me that I have friends all over the world now. And even if we never meet in person, I consider it an honor and privilege to have met such wonderful REAL friends through our writing and sharing despite our distances. I wish you comfort and celebration of your friendship as part of your grieving process. (Hugs …)

  • setinthepast says:

    Sorry for your loss x.

  • Sorry for your loss but all you have said is true. Hard to forget their genuine criticism and support of your work. After all it’s how life is.

  • My heart goes out to you. And his family.

  • So sorry to hear about your loss, Damyanti. I know you must greave but I hope you feel better sooner, rather than later.

  • Christine Robinson says:

    Damyanti, the blonde little girl in a white and yellow dress gave you a smile. There are comfort symbols that come to us after someone dies.I’m so sorry for your loss. What you gained from your virtual relationship with Paul will be with you forever. Keep the memories close and smile. 📚🎶 Christine

  • So sorry for the loss of a blogger friend. I haven’t been reading much lately but just came across this post. Some of us know each other only through blogging and it is definitely a special bond.

  • So sorry to hear of your loss. A friend is a treasure however you find them. 💜

  • Here’s a hug from this old friend (no longer blogging, but I knew I had to read this one).

  • VJ says:

    Here’s a 🫂. I sorrow with you, but Paul lives on for many of us. Thank you for sharing your friend.

  • So sorry for the loss of a dear friend in your life. May you remember his words in your own. Prayers for you and his family.

  • Kevin Barrett says:

    Hugs. It is always sad to say goodbye to a friend.

  • My heart goes out to you, Damyanti. I share that feeling–that some blogging friends are closer than the in-person type. Thank you for sharing this man with us. That last memory won’t happen for a long time, I suspect.

    On a happier note, I DL your latest book from NetGalley today. It’s waiting on my phone! The timing couldn’t be better. I haven’t found a great book in quite some time. I’m ready for yours.

  • rxena77 says:

    “If Only” are the 2 most natural yet most needlessly cruel words we think to ourselves. Be kind to yourself. Paul would want that. Be grateful for the time you had with your friend not mourn what could have been.. We make decisions based on who we are at the moment. You are different now/. You will make wiser decisions now. We all have an expiration date written in invisible ink I miss my blog friend, Ann Best, greatly, but I am glad I was fortunate enough to cross cyber-paths with her. May your inner turmoil soon pass, lleaving only happy memories of your interactions with Paul. Roland

  • Sending hugs to you in this difficult time. You had a wonderful and special relationship with him, and no doubt brightened his days as much as he brightened yours.


    may his soul rest in peace…

  • A wonderful tribute to your dear friend. I am sorry for your loss.

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