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.