Getting involved with Relay for some, will be the hardest things you will do. And not for the reasons you would think. When I joined the Relay For Life of Second Life committee as PR person back in 2011, I experiences my first go at this struggle.
I was barely part way into that first season, when a well know member of the Relay group passed away from their cancer and I was greatly affected. That was when my eye were opened to the true facts of virtual Relay.
It is so easy to forget that the typist behind the avatar is not a youthful vibrant people we see, but a good chance they are older, sometimes much older than one would think. There is a good chance they might have mobility issues, financial or other real life issues keeping them close to home. Which makes places like virtual world so attractive, as it gives them a place to be normal again. Once you enter the Relay world, enters the distinct possibility the Relay volunteer is a cancer survivor and living with the possibility of the 2nd worse word in cancer circles, “Relapse.”
On a large grid like Second Life, people come and go all the time, so sometimes, one don’t notice people, once they disappear. But on a small grid like InWorldz, one person gone missing, is noticed. Losing 3 or more in a few months is so very hard. Add the fact that most people don’t have a direct connection between their virtual and real life self, when the connection is cut, compounds this issue, those of of us left behind and dealing with, what happened to so and so.
When one becomes heavily involved in Relay For Life, the sad fact is, you will experience grief in ways only a virtual world can deliver. When I say I have lost count of the people I’ve lost, I’m not talking about a bunch I can count on my fingers, I mean 30-40 or more, wonderful and beautiful souls, for I have truthfully, lost count.
After last night’s memorial service for Digital in InWorldz, I dropped back into Second Life and opened a chat with the one person I could think of, that has probably experienced all of this, more than anyone I know. I ask him “how do you deal with all the grief that comes from being involved in Relay For Life and all the people you’ve lost?”
His reply was quick, simple and to the point “Focus on the good and the mission. I think we all forget about the victories. I actually get worn out with all the bad news IMs in volunteers. I personally don’t think it’s something we need to share with 3000 of our closest friends, but that’s me. We call it Relay family and in a way we are, but we don’t tell strangers in real life, we don’t walk down the street telling all our loss. I prefer to share the good news.”
I’m on the fence on this one and will take me a while to come to terms with it, mainly because Second Life and InWorldz are so polar in their makeup. I’ve compared Second Life to being in a large city and yes, one does have a level of detachment from the masses. But InWorldz is like a small rural town, it doesn’t take long to know most everyone and it doesn’t take long to notice when one it hurting or missing.
The virtual world is like nothing, we as people experience in the real world. Because of local and group chats, notices, etc., we can reach more people, share more experiences than one can do in real life. Add the fact we are also online junkies, we use social media, blogs and all the other tools available, we reach more people, make more friends, share more, than one can ever do in real life.
I am not the same person I was back in 2011, I have cried bucket and bucket of tears. My Facebook page reminds me of the fact every time I check my feed, as I follow so many cancer related sites and I see the grief and hardships everyone faces every day. But in that, it reminds me of why I am doing this, it gives me the strength to carry on, in the face of so much grief. But I also know, these Facebook site are focusing on the ones in the fight, to help generate support, and far too infrequently, don’t tell of the many successes people are living through, through the work we are all doing.
The people on the grids are caring souls. Some choose to spend their last days, hours, whatever, in doing something meaningful, rather than waiting to die. For that, we should rejoice with and for them, rather than weep. For people like Digital, who’s candle burned so bright, it could be that that she lived her life as she did, because she wish to live her life to the fullest, continuously or not.
We will never know, but this is what I choose to believe and will carry onward with these thoughts and feelings, because it is what they would have wanted. I choose to honor my fallen angels by living, by caring for my fellow brother and sister, more that I did before. I choose to remember them for how they lived their life.
Memorial Statue Dedicated to Digital Pixal
Thanks for that touching note card you sent out. It touches all of us who have lost close friend on virtual worlds. What you said about most on virtual worlds are older folks enjoying what they can do here but can’t do in real life. One of the things that made me so happy with Hobo Amusement park on Second Life when it first started to get popular, was sitting on top of the zombie building and watching all those avatars running around the park, riding the spinning rides, driving the vehicles, throwing water balloons at each other, clicking the barf bag sack after getting off a ride and making their avatar barf, it was so so funny to watch and knowing that most of those people behind those avatars were probably very old or handicapped in real life, some probably having a hard time getting out of their chair when they logged out. This so warmed my heart to see these people living like children again at hobo park, and probably not even thinking about their illness, age, or handicap. How wonderful that was.
We get so close to people and they just stop logging in one day or someone announces that they have passed and instead of being sad we should be very happy that got to know them and watch them really enjoy their final days in this world of virtual worlds.
I lost a very special person to me in virtual worlds. I first came to InWorldz as Patti Mallory and was married to my best friend from Second Life, Lander Mallory. Lander just stopped showing up one day, then he logged in and said that he was leaving virtual worlds and that he was sorry., and I have not heard from him since and that was more than three years ago now. Lander and I were very close and were together every day on virtual worlds for 2 years. You really get to know the person behind the avatar when you spend that much time with them. I knew that Lander was and older gentleman because of the way he talked and could tell when he wasn’t feeling well in real life because of the way he acted at times. Although I am not sure of what happened to Lander I know he must have passed in real life and that crushed me at first and then I thought of the days sitting on top of that zombie building watching all those avatars running around laughing and having fun and that made me think of all the fun crazy times Lander and I had together. My goodness!! How wonderful that is that older people can act young again and be so happy in their final days. How wonderful is virtual worlds?? and How wonderfully lucky I was to get to be with Lander in those days and we enjoyed each other so much even when the InWorldz sim crashed on our wedding day with only 8 people on it and the bride was Ruthed!! Lander was laughing so hard and so was I !!
Instead of feeling really down and sad when someone on virtual worlds passes, we should rejoice because of the wonderful times we had together, and just think, Wow we helped that person feel happy in their final days. WOW!! WHAT A BLESSING IS THAT??!!!!
Thanks again for that wonderful note card Bain it touched my heart deeply.