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?
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.