Death and Home

by Terra_Cide, HSM Editor-in-Chief

You never forget about the first time you hear of a friend’s passing.

May 1, 1999 – that was the day I lost my friend, Patty. We had known each other since the first grade. That was fifteen years of our respective lives. There are countless memories I could recall about our growing up. I could tell you about the horse shows we attended together, or the time we had to slather clay from a creekbed all over our bodies to keep the biting flies at bay during a hike through the woods, only to show up at her house just as her grandparents from New York pulled into the driveway. I could tell you about how she nearly lost herself to drugs during our teenaged years and had only been clean and sober since earlier that year. She was killed in a head-on car collision on her way home from work, all because a driver was too impatient to wait for the car in front of him to turn right and pulled out around, right into oncoming traffic.

Right into her.

She would have been twenty that following June.

She was the first childhood friend of mine to have died. It’s a little alarming to me to think that nearly as many years have passed since she died as how long we knew each other.

Then there was September 10, 2001. I was just getting comfortable with the idea of making friends online and participating in online communities when one among us took his own life. His name was Adam, but I knew him better as Hermetic, his user name. That was the first time I ever experienced the death of someone I only knew from the internet. One minute, you’re in a chatbox with each other and friends, laughing it up, and the next day, gone. Nothing remains, except for his writings, and the feeling that if we had only read between the lines of sardonic humor, if we had only done something – anything – more, or different, things might have turned out differently.

candlesmallThe surreality of it all made it seem almost as if we all dreamt Hermetic up, except the memories I have of the collective panic that rippled through the community that day, when he had contacted a few of us, informing people what he was going to do, and the frantic, pleading messages those people reported leaving on his phone, which he had turned off. There is nothing dream-like about the grim realities of suicide, only the gut-wrenching feeling of being helpless to do anything about it when there’s miles of continent and ether in between. Nor was it particularly fair that the very next day and for many days thereafter, it seemed the whole world was wrapped up in its own grief and horror as the 9/11 attacks occurred. None of us really got a chance to mourn or go through the whole process of grieving for Hermetic properly.

Besides friends on three different continents, Hermetic left behind a wife and two small children. It’s hard to believe they’d be teenagers now. Had he lived, he would be 39 this year.

It’s only been a little over two years since the death of MementoMorti, the first – and thus far, only – Home friend of mine that has passed away. At the time, I felt it was necessary to write about him, since aside from his real name, location and a couple of dates, no one else had. He died on May 1st as well. I’m beginning to hate that day.

Two years – it almost seems like another lifetime.

However, the memories – the laughter and hijinks, the grief and regret – those still come by and visit from time to time.

Last year, I watched my father pass away. Diagnosed with end stage stomach cancer, he had no interest in trying to play hero by attempting to beat the odds with treatment. All he wished for was to be comfortable. As I looked upon that hospice bed, looking at that frail, old man lying there (which, at 69, he wasn’t all that old), I can remember thinking, that’s not my father. The ravages of cancer had made him that unrecognizable to me. It was only when the funeral manager wheeled him out, his body covered with the flag, that it really hit home.

It was he who had told me about Patty’s death all those years ago.In_Memoriam

I would consider myself lucky if those were the only deaths I’ve experienced in my three and a half decades on this planet. I wish I could say that I’ve only known two friends online who have passed away. Family, schoolmates, and friends – both in the real world and online – I’ve said final goodbyes to more than just these four. I do consider myself lucky that of those friends who passed and I only knew them online, that I learned of their deaths at all. More often than not, online friends who pass away just disappear.

When the Home community learned yesterday of SnidelyKWhiplash’s passing, it shook everyone, from those that knew him well to those that didn’t know him at all. He was well liked by those who were a part of the same clubs as he, such as Incognito, and by others who called him friend. Even if all you knew of him was a passing comment in Home or on Facebook, you felt better for seeing it. His generosity was genuine and selfless. And he was man enough to know his mistakes and own up to them. That’s integrity so rare these days you don’t forget it.

It casts a spotlight on a question that’s been around ever since people started making friends online: when we, or someone we know dies, how do we let friends know? Most people by now have plans in place that, should they pass away, there is a list of people to notify and sites to visit to post messages. This is a strategy that’s been really starting to take hold in recent years with those who have built up a sizeable amount of online friendships. Take a look at your own friends list on the PSN, think about how many of those individuals you think ought to know about the event of your death, and you theirs. As grim as it sounds, it may be the strongest measure of your friendship with those individuals.

Are the emotions we feel any different – any less – than if we had known the person in real life? No.

troubled-watersWhat really is worth pondering is how do we go about dealing with the loss of a person who, although was very real, only truly existed to us in the way they made us feel with their words, pixels, and if we’re lucky, their voice. Then again, isn’t that similar in a sense to how it is with people we meet face to face? We may never know the details surrounding our virtual friends’ deaths in the same way we would know our real life ones, but it does not make the sense of loss any less significant.

At least in Home, we have a unique setting where we can come together to mourn and express our grief as a community, much like we would in reality. There are places where we can visit, recalling fond memories of our deceased friends. There are mutual friends to share in the grieving, as well as the celebration of memories, and from there begin to heal. Although we will never see their username sign in again, they will live on in our memories. After the sense of loss and sadness have passed, after even Home itself has passed, as long as we continue to remember them, Snidely and other Home friends who are no longer with us will live on.

It seems that only in times of death and crisis can we fully comprehend the depth of online relationships. They are more than just usernames and pixels, more than just random people you hang out with. Online relationships are different – but not less – than any real-world relationships of similar value. And we feel their loss just as acutely.

July 11th, 2013 by | 9 comments
Terra _Cide is the former Community Manager for Lockwood Publishing and Editor Emeritus for HomeStation Magazine.

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9 Responses to “Death and Home”

  1. Dragongscales says:

    Very good article friend. This is my first of losing a friend online. ;( that wound be snidely . R.I.P friend bows

  2. beanclay says:

    Insightful article Tera. Indeed friendships forged online at times become true meaningful friendships. From post I’ve read on his Guestbook on obit and Facebook Snidley has touched many lives within the Home community. It is said that in the end if we touched just one life then we lived a life worth living, so he lived many lifetimes through his friendships. We do not mourn the man, we mourn ourselves and his family.

  3. KrazyFace says:

    Death is never an easy thing to take, and the closer you were to someone, the harder it gets.

    I’ve honestly lost count of the friends I’ve lost over the years, but it never gets easier. One friend I’d lost phoned me up the weekend before he committed suicide to see if I’d go “searching” with him up North; he used to collect then re-furnish lost old Scottish battle equipment -- I had to go to work. I still can’t shake the “what if”.

    My mum died a few months ago, she was only in her 60’s. Something got to her -- I still don’t know exactly what -- but she just kinda gave up. Stopped trying. I’ve learned from other’s deaths that it’s foolish to keep looking for reason though. The simple fact is; death is part of life. Sometimes it’s truly unfair, other times it can even be a relief, but it’s as certain as taxes that it’ll come to you.

    I did not know your friend Terra, but my sympathies are with you.

  4. mnmsgin says:

    Great article. I never thought I would get as close as I am to some of my “home” friends, but 2 years later I am. I just found out that one of my friends lost her battle with Kidney failure, while another is fighting for his life with the same thing. I look back at all of my loved ones that have passed. Not a day goes by that I don’t talk to my dad. He past 9 years ago. I now live life to the fullest, take chances, because you never know when its going to be the last time you see or talk to your friends.

  5. I don’t know of anyone on HOME that passed away that was close to me. On the internet through the years, yes. As in real life it’s sometimes difficult to deal with. But it is real life even on the internet, at least it is to me.

    A couple of days ago I was with a friend in one of my spaces and for some reason based on what we talked about I started typing a poem (a song if there were chords) in the chat box and she said it was good and that I should write it down. As I knocked it off in a short I said no but was told again to write it down so I did. Maybe it’s appropriate for here. It has no title. It’s not bad for less than five minutes work. So for what it’s worth, here it is.

    Goodbye to whenever, sitting by the firefly ember
    Going on, moving on, but know I will always remember.
    Someday maybe things will change and dark of night will turn to day.
    Until then I’ll take the train that travels tracks of different tunes of yours and mine to a different place and different time.
    “Who are you, where did you come from” she once said
    But now it’s gone so far away and it’s all dead.
    Still celebrate the fun there was and don’t look at a clock or watch,
    Just remember the time.

  6. FEMAELSTROM says:

    I did not know Snidely at all, and am sorry for those that this effects. I do know the pain of watching my father die as well from cancer. When we lose people that we become very close to and when it’s here, it is real life. We grow to appreciate, like or love those that we have experiences with. I do have a request to someone around me that I trust deeply, that they will log in as me FEMA, and tell my friends that I am not here, in the event of my passing. I don’t see it as morbid. I would want to know if any of my friends were passed, and I believe that others would want to know why I would not have logged in for such a span of time. This is real life, and we are in it, for the good and the bad, this is just a time of the bad, and again sorry to all that lost their friend. The fact that people mourn Snidely, means he was a good friend. That’s a fine legacy.

  7. Jersquall says:

    Thank you very much for this timely article. people are people and friends are friends. A loss is a loss. No matter where we are this death surrounds us in name and sometimes hits pretty close to home. In this case one of our own. I will be attending the Home memorial to support Snidelys friends and to reflect on good times I had with the man as well.

  8. tbaby says:

    Thank you for writing this touching article during this difficult time as we mourn our loss of a fellow member of the PS Home Community, a good friend, and a kind and loving man who touched the lives of all who knew him. Agreed, the loss of someone you know online can be just as impactful as one online. Seeing the support this past week, during the memorial services held on Home Friday night (the 1st I had ever attended on Home), and the “Ride for Snide” last night is a testament to how Home brings us together and serves as a reminder of how strong our relationships with others on Home can be. My heart and prayers go out to Ted’s family and loved ones. May he rest in peace. The same goes to all other members of the Home Community we have lost.

  9. tbaby says:

    btw, pics from Friday’s memorial services and last night’s “Ride for Snide” can be found on Incognito’s website at: http://www.incognito-x.com/t1139-theodore-g-foye#8614

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