Nine Inch Nails reference)
A friend of mine died recently.
She died digitally.
That is, I met her online, learned of her disease online, learned of her triumphs and tragedies online, heard her talk about her dreams and her realization of some of them online, heard her talk about the problems with her life and with her medical care online, listened to her rant and rave about the medical system in her country, listened to her — read her, more accurately — as she ranted and raved online from time to time about this and that in her day-to-day existence, and, finally, learned of her death, online.
We never met. I saw pictures of her. Pictures of her as a young lady, and pictures of her as a middle-aged lady. I saw pictures of her at a birthday party within the last year, when she was still up and about and able to laugh and enjoy the company of others. I saw pictures of her somewhere in northern Canada where she saw the polar bears she had to see, perhaps number one on her ‘bucket list’. I saw pictures of her with her beau, who was there for her right to the end, as I understand it.
But I never met her.
It is odd, to me, that her death should impact me as it does.
I have worked with computers for more of my life than I have not worked with computers, and I never thought that bits and bytes would have this kind of impact on humanity. On me.
I did not suspect that I would come to ‘know’ someone without ever meeting them in person. I did not know that I would have to add to the phrase “meeting them” the addendum “in person”.
I knew her. She was temperamental and sometimes out of control, and always blunt, always honest. She was fiery, she was sadness, she was desperation, and she was courage.
Near the end, we agreed that dying was the scariest thing. Neither of us is/was a believer. To the end, it seems, she wanted to keep it that way. She said she was planning her own funeral, so that there would be no religious hypocrisy involved.
This was a week or so ago, and I laughed, because she was being herself and insisting on doing things her way, world be damned, right up until the end. I admired it then and admire it now. I am not sure I could be that brave. I might be more frightened of it than she was.
But she was frightened. I said to her that I envy those of faith, and she seemed to understand and agree. She could not compromise, however, even then. I do not know if she changed her mind at the last minute. A part of me, a huge part of me, hopes that she did, strangely enough, at least strange from my perspective. I hope that she found faith and that she died with the peace that she was going somewhere, that she was not simply going to be buried and forgotten.
I do not know.
And the other part of me hopes that she held out, and resisted the urge to cave in at the last minute to something she did not truly believe in. That gets into religion, I know. I am not anti-religion. Probably more than her, I respect and envy those who have true faith. But a part of me hopes she got her wish, and that she died on her own terms.
I often consider that when you are in great pain, you are not so reticent to go. Still, I hope to show half the courage and personal integrity.
So. Even though I never met this friend, and may not have liked her if I had, to be honest with you, I miss her already, and am sorry for the world for its loss.
There are not enough honest people in this world, and losing one is our great loss.
Besides that, she was not a digital friend when you get right down to it. I DID like her. I DID care for her.
She was a friend.
One of the first people I met in the CSN chat room; one of the first pro-active things I did in the room was to take her aside and suggest that she settle down, to tone down her rage, her anger, even her honesty :). And she did! (Well, not the honesty. Bloody English can’t be anything but honest 🙂 ).
She was a friend. Cor, blimey, guv’nuh strike a match, I am going to miss her!
I wish the best for her family and especially for the man who hung with her through the toughest of times.
Let me just put it like this: She was something else.
She was something else again.