Mia Lipner and I were as close to each other as any two people could possibly be. I loved her dearly from the day we met in May 2010 until her death on May 12 of this year. For the nine years we were coupled, when apart we talked on the phone more than once per day; when we were together, we enjoyed doing many things. I am emotionally devastated by this loss but wanted to put into words some of the terrific things that come to mind about this truly wonderful woman.
Mia was one of the smartest, most insightful, thoughtful, loving, funniest, intelligent, caring, generous and just plain wonderful people I will ever meet. Sadly, she spent the final years of her life battling an exceedingly rare form of cancer and suffered greatly. Mia rarely complained during her illness and somehow managed to be the most optimistic person in the room in her final months and, in fact, we had a conversation about the possibility of her returning to work only four weeks before she died.
Mia worked in the accessibility field. Her last full time job was with Pearson Publishing and before that she worked in accessibility at the Veterans Administration, Microsoft, the Seattle LightHouse and a couple of start-ups that are now forgotten. Mia was a member of the defunct technology cooperative that she and I founded along with about a dozen others and enjoyed doing contract work for Benetech during that time.
While she wasn't a coder, Mia was a hacker at heart. She enjoyed figuring out how things worked, taking things apart and trying to find elegant solutions to problems faced by people with disabilities. I think that of all of the different projects she'd worked on over her long career, she was most proud of her role as the director of the working group on 3D printing and people with disabilities based at Benetech's Diagram Center.
Mia and I were first introduced when I worked for Freedom Scientific and she was at Microsoft but neither of us remember that event too well. We started communicating when she sent a snarky remark in response to something I said on Twitter. That Twitter conversation turned into phone calls and then to my first visit to meet her in person back in May 2010. Mia was healthy then and we had a terrific time together. I would fly from the east coast to visit with Mia for a few weeks at a time three or four times per year and, in all, I would average about 12 weeks per year living with her in her San Francisco apartment.
Mia and I enjoyed San Francisco together. We had our favorite hang outs in the Lower Haight district, we enjoyed going out to hear live music, comedy shows, theatre and restaurants. We also enjoyed a lot of quiet private time together, listening to audio books and podcasts, watching DVS movies and talking about all sorts of things. Mia was an amazing conversationalist and I learned an awful lot from her.
Mia and I were both guide dog handlers. Her yellow Labrador named Pepper is a terrific dog who, at age 15, now lives with a lovely couple in Seattle and was one of the smartest and most entertaining dogs I've ever met. Mia had a great interest in animals in general and, as she got more sick, I would try to find amusing stories about animals to tell her on the phone, something that often brought a smile to her face.
In August 2017, Mia and I went out together for the last time. We were with another couple and our dogs as we left a pub we enjoyed a lot in the past. The sidewalk was crowded and Mia fell down. Mia would not leave her apartment excepting visits to hospitals again. Our quiet and personal activities took on even more importance and Mia and I would spend most of the last two years together in her room talking and listening to various forms of entertainment.
Mia and I wanted to do something to acknowledge the importance and depth of our relationship. Last year on her birthday, she and I started wearing matching rings that look like a tiny Labrador wrapped around our ring finger. The rings made Mia very happy and I'm still wearing mine.
Mia will be missed by her many friends and her family. I miss her tremendously and hardly an hour passes without my thinking of her. If you've any memories of Mia, something nice to say about her or anything else, please do share it with us in the comments section below.
FRANK IRZYK says
I am very sorry for your loss.
Isabel Holdsworth says
I’m very sorry for your loss Chris. It’s rare to meet someone with whom you can commune at such a deep level. What a privilege to have known and loved one another.
I am so sorry for your loss. I didn’t know Mia but I can tell by your writing that she was a wonderful, unique personality. I hope your great memories comfort you.
Greta SteinbachWallis says
Thank you Chris for your beautiful memories of my cousin Mia. Watching her as a child I was not surprised to learn what a wonderful brilliant women she became.
I’m so sorry for your loss. Your relationship with Mia sounds like a wonderful and deep one. Wishing you all the best in what must be a difficult grief process.
What a beautifully written tribute to what sounds like an amazing human being. While I never met her personally, I knew about her while she was at Pearson and I know that she was highly respected by many. May your memories give you comfort
I worked with Mia only briefly, and feel lucky to have been able to meet her a few times. She was a beautiful person, and this is a great tribute to her.
Hugs from us Gonz
I had the privilege to remotely work with Mia for several years. I am very sorry for the loss of a great person — but I am glad that you both found each other — if only for a too short time.
David Harp says
Hi Chris. As so many have already said, I am sorry to hear about your loved one’s death. If it is of any use for you to hear, I (and many others) have found that a mindfulness practice — even such a dilatory one as mine — can be of some help in dealing with loss…
Amy Madsen says
Hi Chris. I was acquainted with Mia in high school. And have admired her greatly over the years. In high school, if memory serves, I remember her regularly carrying a typewriter and large binders filled with Braille – her textbooks? I remember running into her on the streets of New York City many years ago and her graciousness. And was floored by her independence. I am so sorry to hear about her passing. And the tremendous loss to you, her family, friends, and the world.
Daniel Oscar says
Thank you for sharing. I’m very sorry for your loss.
Heather Durham says
Hi Chris. I don’t think we’ve met although I remember Mia mentioning you. I got to know her through work. I spoke with her through conference calls at first, then we met at a CSUN conference. Because we worked for the same company and had a booth at the conference, I was lucky to get to spend some time with her. Then, a few months later, I attended a training seminar in which Mia participated as one of the trainers. It was then that I got to know her a little. We attended a 3D conference together and she was so much fun to be around, as you said, a wonderful conversationalist. We attended the 3D conference as part of a group from the company and then learned that everyone had gone back to the hotel. We in in New York City and I have a horrible sense of direction. I had to figure out how to get us back to Hoboken. I was terrified and got us lost. If Mia was terrified, she never showed it. She was patient, forgiving, calm and just amazingly fantastic about the whole thing. What I remember most about her was that she is one of the coolest persons I have ever met. She was so cultured and brilliant and fascinating and really lovely. I always wished we could have become good friends. She was a kind of person that you want to be around. Not too long after we returned to our respective offices, I left and took a job with another company and we lost touch.
I’m so sorry she’s gone. What a loss! And I’m sorry you’ve lost your dear friend. I hope you’re getting along okay.
I met you, Mia and Chelsea at Panera in San Francisco in 2016. I remember the great ease with which I could talk to you three and how Mia made the whole conversation flow as if we had known each other for a long time. I remember how gently she could relate to the emotions we all brought and be there for her friends. I always remembered her fondly and heard about her from Chelsea this week. I do not have the words to console you but please know that Mia is remembered – even by those who only had the fortune to meet her for a few short hours at a Panera Bread.
Jennifer Michael Hecht says
This is so beautiful. I’m so sorry for your loss, and moved by your writing here.
I don’t keep up any of my blogs anymore, nice to virtually talk to you again. The way you write about her is inspiring.