A Blessing in Disguise?

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.

Bain Finch

Digi's memorial

Memorial Statue Dedicated to Digital Pixal

Hi Bain,

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.

Judy Muircastle

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My Relay Journey

Relay Stories_004

 

I come from a rather large extended family in RL and over my 50 years of life, have lost several extended family members and friends, not all to cancer.

My cousin Rogers was one that touched me in a profound way. He was an firefighter and a first responder. He contracted cancer from one of the fires he was called too. I had attended many funerals by this point in my real life, but nothing could have prepared me for this one. If you ever seen the end of the movie Backdraft, you will know what I am talking about. To this day, I cannot handle seeing a funeral attended by first responders in their dress uniform and bag pipes playing Amazing Grace.

Some 24 years ago, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer. Thankfully, it was found early and was quickly over come. But I remember the long nights he endured. I room was in the basement and I could hear him wake in the night, from the pain in his legs due to the treatment regiment, that was keeping him awake. He’d come down and we’d sit and talk for hours. My mom never got her driver’s license so I was the family taxi. Took him to his treatment, doctors’ visits, grocery runs and all the other errands they needed. That was my first experience as a caregiver.

Between this time and when I found SL, I had lost 3 close friends to cancer, two with liver and one with pancreatic cancer.

In the fall of 2010, I had just created my 2nd avatar in SL after a disastrous first go. I had found this place to call home for newbies and people needing shelter, from all the nastiness of the grid and life. There, I met this soul that shared her cancer journey openly. It was my first experience to the worse phrase ever spoken, “there is nothing more we can do.” From the time I met her to her last day, which was less than a month. She story changed me and spoke at her wake we held. That was the day, the path of my life changed.

That spring I found Relay For Life on Second Life. At Kick Off for my first RFL season in 2011, was and still is, my most defining Relay moment. By the time the key note speaker began her presentation, I was already in tears. by the end, I was mush surrounded is spent tissue. I never did hear her words thought all my sobbing, but I felt every pain she shared and her hope.

Between that first Relay Season and last year, I have been involved with every RFL season here in SL, help launch RFL in InWorldz now going into it’s 5th season and involved with RFL where I live in RL, for the Canadian Cancer Society and have virtually and literally walk 3 Relay events per year, for the last 4 years.

When I first became involved with Relay, Dwen warned me, that I will know grief. Between Kick Off of 2011 and last year, I have lost so many fellow Relayers, people I considered friends. Many were hard to handle. One in particular this haunts me to this day. It was two years ago at an RFL event in InWorldz. Clint Westwood was a staunch supporter of our Relay, sponsor from day one and played at many events. Loved the blues and a pillar of the community. His last event he played, he told of his cancer. it was not good. He told us his days were numbered and that this would probably be his last event he could do. Everyone there was devastated including me. Dwen’s words came back and finally knew what he was trying to tell me.

In the late winter of 2015 my father began his final journey from this life. It happened gradual over several months, and it gave us the time to come to terms with it. It gave us the time to say all things I needed to say, things that we would be saying every day of our life to our loved ones. May 27, 2015 I began a beautiful journey through grief, because of the time I had to come to term with his eventual end, of a long and good life and 23 more birthdays. He ruled over cancer.

A few short month later, on Sept 4, I receive a call from my sister that started with “Are you sitting down?” and was told of my other sister’s shocking and sudden death, and how her husband came home from work to find her on the floor. My sister needed me to go with her, to break the news to my mom. That was the hardest day of my life, and began the darkest period in my life. Up until this point, I thought I knew grief, but I was so very wrong.

With a lot of help from family, my darling Panza, Oldesoul and many, many other close friends, I manage to keep moving forward. I also began looking into grief and grief counseling. To my horror, I discovered there is a condition called “Prolonged Grief Disorder.”

“Prolonged grief disorder is not synonymous with grief. Complicated grief is characterised by an extended grieving period and other criteria, including mental and physical impairments. An important part of understanding complicated grief is understanding how the symptoms differ from normal grief. The Mayo Clinic states that with normal grief the feelings of loss are evident. When the reaction turns into complicated grief, however, the feelings of loss become incapacitating and continue even though time
passes. The signs and symptoms characteristic of complicated grief are listed as “extreme focus on the loss and reminders of the loved one, intense longing or pining for the deceased, problems accepting the death, numbness or detachment, bitterness about your loss, inability to enjoy life, depression or deep sadness, trouble carrying out normal routines, withdrawing from social activities, feeling that life holds no meaning or purpose, irritability or agitation, lack of trust in others. The symptoms seen in complicated grief are specific because the symptoms seem to be a combination of the symptoms found in separation as well as traumatic distress. They are also considered to be complicated because, unlike normal grief, these symptoms will continue regardless of the amount of time that has passed.”

I am borderline on this one and where I am on my Relay journey. But no worries, I am still moving forward. Every day is getting better because of the experiences I’ve had in Relay and the stories everyone shared. I am not the same person not too long ago.