Tragedy, The Internet and Honor

When the phone call came on that Sunday morning, I immediately called my husband who was at work. I asked him to come home from the fire station which is where he always is when we have an emergency of some sort. That’s how the fire life works. After I talked to him, I called my best friend back in Pennsylvania, near The Farm, and sobbed at her to contact my parents’ Pastor. She’s the only other person I could have called in that state of incoherency; the only person that could have understood me through my tears.

While waiting for my husband to arrive home, I sat down and both tweeted and posted on Facebook about my grandfather’s sudden death. While people have come under fire for tweeting at a time of tragedy, it was the only thing left that made sense for me to do at the time. I was two hours from my family, waiting for my biggest support person to arrive home and I was absolutely hysterical. I needed to reach out to someone, to anyone.

I’m so glad that I did.

The response that I got was overwhelming (in a good way). Soon the reply tweets, direct messages, Facebook replies, e-mails and phone calls started coming. I still haven’t managed to reply to every single message that came in during the course of a very, very long week of intense grieving. I plan to but it’s been slow going. I received messages from others who had endured similar losses in the recent past. I received sympathy cards. In my snail mailbox. I received a box of Valentine cards (Toy Story, of course) from a friend who wanted to help me “check something off my to-do list,” as her card read. And I received real, physical help from someone I met during another tragic Internet gathering who helped me fix an error with my grandfather’s obituary when it ran without the photo and then showed up at my grandfather’s calling hours on his lunch break. These people reached out to me in my time of need just like my “real life,” just-down-the-road friends who picked up my mail and bought me a coat. Do you know why?

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These people on the Internet aren’t just strangers on the other side of a keyboard. They’re friends.

I get frustrated when people dismiss friendships or relationships that were formed via keyboard. The fact that some of these friends sent apology emails, feeling guilty for not being able to attend services, lets me know that we’re more than just anonymous people hiding behind screens. Over the years, through blogs and forums and, yes, even twitter, lasting friendships have been formed. People care about one another. In the midst of this sudden and excruciating loss, I have been comforted by the fact that so many people care about the well-being of my family. Online and off, my family has been touched this week by the outpouring of love. I should make a small aside to say that my friends who live both in Ohio and Pennsylvania were also equally amazing during this very difficult time. Again, I have been so touched and so amazed by the support offered by so many loving individuals.

I’m still not “okay” with this sudden loss. I am still mostly heartbroken, still prone to tears at random moments when he crosses my mind in a memory. I appreciate this space here on the Internet where I can talk about him as I need to, when I can tweet about missing him, and not be reproached for grieving improperly. I am thankful for those who continue to reach out, to ask after my grandmother and to offer support. My grandfather was a loyal man and the loyalty that has been shown to me by my friends, near and far, is something that honors his legacy.

Good job, Internet. Good job. And, mostly, thank you. So very much.

 

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10 Replies to “Tragedy, The Internet and Honor”

  1. I’m so sorry about your loss. I feel the same way about our world here in the internet. It has been life changing for me as well. I have stopped speaking about it with anyone that doesn’t twit or blog b/c they will never ever get it and all I can say is I’m sorry for them.

  2. I think the immediacy of the internet is something that will truly change human experience. Real compassion and kindness is difficult (if not impossible) from a distance – physical or emotional – and the internet makes that distance so much smaller. Thank YOU for sharing your grief, and more so your love, for your grandfather in such a honest and touching way.
    .-= Ivory´s last blog ..Like a Golden Girls clip show. =-.

  3. Very well said. I know I’ve heard lots of different times and ways people being cranky about others tweeting, etc in an emergency but really… if that’s what you’re used to doing for every other mundane moment, why wouldn’t a crisis cause you to react the same way? Some of my best friends are people I only communicate through the internet. That’s the way the world has become.

    And again, I’m sorry for your loss.
    .-= Ari´s last blog ..365 Days of Danbo =-.

  4. I remember when one of my dad’s died (I have 2 don’t ask), in July of 2008, I got the news around midnight and I lay in bed for a while, then I got up and sent an email to my nearest and dearest friends. I knew come the morning the chaos of getting home and getting the details sorted out would take over. This was my support network, not family members, I handled that more personally.

    I was so glad I reached out because they all replied via phone and or email. The little interruptions of support made getting through the tide of sadness easier.

    I wasn’t on FB or Twitter at the time, but I wouldn’t hesitate to post if (I suppose I should say when) tragedy strikes again. As women we frequently forget that we need support and help to get through the hard times too. I think Social Media makes it a smidge easier to ask when we need support.
    .-= Lee´s last blog ..Doot Doot Doot Walkin’ Out My Back Door =-.

  5. No one should judge you on how you handle your life, your emotions or your reaction. What matters the most is that you got the support YOU needed. If they don’t like it, don’t read it.

    My thoughts are with you – you shouldn’t have to add this stress to your grief.

  6. There is no improper way to grieve. Those who say there is probably has not had the misfortune to be in the middle of that particular maelstrom lately. You go on and grieve whatever way you need to; we’ll be here to hold you up.

    Thinking of you and yours…
    .-= Katie in MA´s last blog ..Committed. =-.

  7. I’ve said this over and over and over: I’m grateful for all my friends, whether I’ve known them for my entire life or if I know them only through Twitter or the comments section of my blog. They’re all the same to me.

    Don’t forget — I’ve got a stack of papers for you next time you come home…
    .-= Uncle Crappy´s last blog ..crashed. =-.

  8. I have been offline a little bit preparing for Army Dad’s return. I’m so sorry for your loss and will keep your family lifted in prayer. Even though I don’t comment often, I consider you’se guys friends and truly wish you the best :)

  9. I wish I had known about this place. I had a slew of internet friends who all turned on me. It was so devastating. I felt like they were my close friends. We emailed one another, sent cards back and forth, even called on the phone. I saw the pictures of their children, shared happy moments and very tragic ones….people told me not to consider anyone on the internet your friend. They were just people behind a computer who really didn’t care about you! But I CARED…so isn’t there people like me? I cried over losing them. I made a mistake (in my own private life that I shared with them) and because they didn’t hold true to what I had done, they threw it in my face. It hurts when your friends do something like that. So how could I feel that way if I hadn’t considered them my friends?

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