Friendship passing

A long time ago now, I wrote a novel – about a sisterhood. The concept of the “jin shei” bond, a sisterhood of the heart, a “Chosen” family as opposed to blood kin,was a fantasy I embroidered upon the palimpsest of a real thing, where such secret sisterhoods existed among the women of ancient China, connected by a secret “women’s tongue” called Nushu which was taught from mother to daughter and never ever to a man. My fictional  jin shei sisters, once sworn so to each other, were bound by that bond to do – or at least attempt – anything that a jin shei bao (a sister of their heart) asked of them. Their story (should you choose to and investigate it) is begun in “Secrets of Jin Shei” and continued in “Embers of Heaven”; but somewhere along the way something strange happened to my story, and my idea.

It leached out into the world and somehow became a real thing.

At some point the concept of a “jin shei bao” reared up in a piece of fan fiction set in the Firefly universe, which I took as a great compliment. And more than that –  real women in the real world began to vow the jin shei vow to one another.

I acquired a circle of jin shei sisters of my own. Not many but there are never many friends like this. But they read the book, and they did the thing that was required to swear the sisterhood – we exchanged the words “jin shei” to one another, and so became bonded by it.

And now one of my jin shei sisters is gone. Cancer took her, and complications from that, and also the grief from her recent widowhood into which she followed me not long after I had myself stepped into that shadowed realm. I have just heard that she is no longer among us, no longer in pain, and I suppose that means something – but at the same time the idea of this great friendship passing, this sisterhood torn asunder, is hitting me hard tonight.

Godspeed, Deirdre. I will miss you. I am grateful that you were in my life.