It goes without saying that this is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to write. How do you describe the impact that your absolute best friend has had on you, even in death? How do you write about your idol taking his own life? How do you put into words your feelings about someone that you were so known for adoring that your name will forever be inextricably linked to his? I'm not sure if I even can, but I'd be damned if I didn't at least give it a try.
By now, it's common knowledge. Justin Spencer Carmical, an Internet reviewer known to many as JewWario and my best friend in all of time and space, died by his own hand on Thursday, January 23, 2014. And as has been said, anyone that knew Justin, a group that I am so incredibly proud to call myself a part of, is most shattered by the fact that the way he left us was the polar opposite of his personality -- at least outwardly, as we all now know.
Do you remember Dug, the talking dog from the Pixar film Up? One of that character's first lines in the film was, "I have just met you, and I love you." I can say confidently and without exaggeration that Justin Carmical was the very same way. Nobody was ever a stranger to him, only a friend he'd never met. You could approach him for the first time as a fan and he'd treat you like he'd known you since elementary school, and you'd walk away feeling like you truly made a connection, and chances are you did. He had a way of talking to people that instantly made you feel at ease, even if (like me) you were originally too wonderstruck to even form words.
Justin didn't believe in handshakes. Whether you were meeting him for the first or forty-second time, you'd find yourself the recipient of an enormous bear hug. Hell, even calling them hugs is an understatement. They were more like cuddles, and they had the power to make you feel that you were truly loved, cared about, accepted. Because that's what Justin did, he cared. I'm sure you've all seen the "you're not stupid" video that's gone viral, in a sense, since the tragedy. I was at that stream, and I can tell you, he wasn't just saying that stuff to sound good. He didn't mean it lightly. He truly believed in the potential of all his friends (he insisted on calling us that -- we weren't merely his fans, we were truly his friends), and on a personal level, I can tell you that Justin's belief in me gave me more confidence than I ever could have imagined.
We -- the community of his fans (I'm sorry, his friends) -- used to refer to him as our Mr. Rogers. He would play it up, going so far as to sing Fred Rogers' traditional goodbye song at the end of each of his livestreams:
It's such a good feeling to know you're alive.
It's such a happy feeling, you're growing inside.
And when you wake up, ready to say,
"I think I'll make a snappy new day."
It's such a good feeling, a very good feeling,
The feeling you know, that I'll be back, when the day is new,
And I'll have more ideas for you.
And you'll have things you'll want to talk about,
I will too.
As touching as this one gesture may be, the Mr. Rogers comparison didn't end with just a song. Justin radiated love and compassion wherever he went, in a way as reminiscent of Diana, Princess of Wales, as of Fred Rogers himself. He never had a bad thing to say about anyone and could find the positive in any situation. Whenever Justin entered a room, it was like there was a huge surge of positive energy that instantly made everything a whole lot livelier. The way he talked to you made you feel like the ultimate VIP. His eyes would sparkle, he'd become almost comically animated, and he'd ask questions -- relevant, truly curious questions. He loved people and was always legitimately enthralled by whatever they had to say. It was always very apparent how amazingly delighted he was to see you.
My most memorable exposure to this legendary compassion occurred in the fall of 2011. Days before Halloween, Connecticut (and most of New England at large) was hit by a freak blizzard. My car, which had been parked outside during the storm, was annihilated by a falling tree. Due to the unpreparedness and general incompetence of the state electric company (so bad that it CEO resigned due to the voulme of complaints), our house was out of power for eleven days, with our family even having to resort to showering at the local high school, since our water was also electrically controlled. However, we still had our cell phones, and my smartphone provided access to Skype. Justin would check in on me every single day to ask how we were doing ("okay"), if the roads were cleared ("mostly, but that downed pole out by the mailbox is still there"), what the power company's estimate was for the lights coming back on ("yesterday afternoon!"). He even went so far as to check the Connecticut outage maps and local weather reports to see if he could relay any information to me. During that week and a half without power, Justin was my saving grace. He never asked for anything in return, he was just doing it out of concern for my own safety.
I'm not here to try and make sense of what happened to him. Unfortunately, those are questions that will inevitably go unanswered. And that's not what I want to remember about Justin. The Justin I want to remember is the loving Justin that was my best friend, the silly Justin that could make me laugh when I was at my worst, the playful Justin whose lighthearted teasing brightened every day.
I loved him. Honestly, I have never truly adored or idolized a human being in all my life as much as I have Justin Carmical. His selflessness and sweetness was deservedly legendary, and yet he could also be frank and direct when he needed to be. He wasn't afraid to call me out when he thought I was being dumb or going overboard. I admit that conversations like this happened more often than I would have liked, albeit never entirely unexpected, but Justin would never lecture me. He was always sweet but firm, acknowledging that yes, I had screwed up, but that in the end it would be something to learn from, and while at the time it might have been a bad decision, my doing it did not automatically make me a bad person. He didn't think I was a bad person, so there was no reason for me to think that.
I've said multiple times since he left us that I'd trade living a thousand more years for just one more great big cuddly bear hug. But in truth, although the time I had with Justin, both at conventions and online, is a time that was way too short for anyone's liking, it is, first and foremost, two and a half wonderful, magical years that I would not trade for even the promise of immortality.
Finally, I would like to address Justin personally. I know you can hear me, J, so here goes.
Thank you, Justin. Thank you so much. For making me KittyMarie and, through that nickname, giving me the most amazing friends a girl could ever wish for. For seeing the real me when even I didn't know who she was. For never being afraid to be silly. For tolerating my fangirling and that unavoidable crush. For instilling in me more confidence than I could have ever hoped to have. For showing me that my Aspergers cannot and should not define me. For helping me realize that a few small stupid actions don't make a bad person. For showing me that it's OK to be passionate about what you love. For all your talks, all your teasing, all your laughter, all your hugs, all your jokes. Thank you for loving me, Justin, and know that I will never, ever, ever stop loving you. For as long as I live, you will always be my best friend.
I love you, Justin Carmical.
Katie Marie "KittyMarie" Dunne
February 5, 2014