For Chloe

I met Chloe Wing eleven years ago, shortly after Henry was born, when I could finally leave him with my mom long enough to seek out some help for my arm pain. Chloe taught the Alexander Technique, which I am not at all qualified to explain. Wikipedia says that the Alexander Technique “teaches people how to stop using unnecessary levels of muscular and mental tension during their everyday activities,” and that sounds right, if a little simplistic. I could write in great detail how much the Alexander Technique helped me, but that seems like not putting credit where it is due: Chloe helped me. Chloe saved me.

Chloe rearranged me from the inside out. I never had a day where I felt all right with my body until I met Chloe. I never had a clue how tense I was, how much I walked around like a floating head in a jar, until I worked with her. Chloe brought me back to myself. But as much as those sessions helped me physically, it was the experience of being with Chloe that really changed my life. Over the years, Chloe became my life advisor, my therapist, my guru, my role model, and my friend. She was everything I wanted to grow up to be: confident, loving, no-nonsense, tough as hell, hilarious, kind of kooky.

Chloe was delightful. I mean that literally: she was full of delight. She made you feel like you were the funniest and most interesting person she could hope to be with. And then her next student arrived, and she focused her beam on them, and you knew she did that for everyone. And there was nothing insincere about it. She loved her students. Her students loved her. Nothing made me happier than recommending Chloe’s services to my friends, and if they were lucky enough to go to her, they came back amazed.

Eventually, after my arms got better and the rest of me was sorted out, Chloe gently booted me from the nest. I didn’t need her services anymore, she said. She assured me that I could always call; I could always come in for a tune-up. And I did. Sometimes I scheduled a session just to talk. Many times I called her with a new pain or ache and when I said I should come in, she’d say I was going to be fine, that she didn’t think I needed her. She was wrong, though, at least about that. I always needed her.

You have probably noticed all this past-tense usage. You’re a smart bunch; you know what’s coming. I was going to call Chloe this week. I was. But Chloe died on September 20th.

I only found out that she died because someone sent me a tweet asking me what had happened. "I heard you knew Chloe Wing," he wrote, and when I read that I got hot and cold at the same time and started sobbing. My family came running, and all I could do was point at the computer. Scott observed that this person could be wrong, of course. I scoured the Internet for some kind of information on her, which wasn’t easy; Chloe didn’t see the point of the Internet, much less social media. Eventually I found out through fellow students, fellow beloveds of Chloe’s, that she had indeed died, almost two months ago. That she chose not to share her illness with her students; she wanted and needed privacy in the end. I can only imagine, knowing how loved she was, that the burden of so many people’s sorrow was more than she could (or should) bear.

As much as I respect her decision, I wish I could have told her how much she meant to me.

About a year and a half ago, Chloe's husband died suddenly. My friend Jessie—who loved Chloe as much as I do, who is the first person I called when I found out she died—sent me his obituary. We both called her right away. I left her a message expressing my condolences, and she returned my voicemail with one of her own, thanking me. She ended the message with “I love you,” which I remember because I literally clutched at my chest when I heard that, it gave me such joy.

I left her another message in return, asking if we could get together, if I could bring her something, or just take her out for tea. I never heard back. I remember leaving her that message, but I can’t remember if I said I loved her, too. I hope I did. She knew, of course, but she deserved to hear it.