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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Why We Relayers, Relay

Under the pseudonym name of Bain Finch, I Relay For Life of Second LifeRelay For Life of InWorldz and in my Relay Life.  This is the speech I delivered at the Kick Off Ceremony of Relay For Life of InWorldz 2013 season for Many Worldz For A Cure, August 24th, 2013.

RFLofIW 2013 kickoff_002

Photo provided by Wildstar Beaumont

There are words that Cancer fighters the world over would love to eliminate, and the first ones that spring to most people’s minds are, “you have cancer.”

When I first got involved in Relay For Life, I felt the same way. But in the 3 plus years I have been Relaying, I now know, there are other words that are far worse. I have said it many times in my “Why I Relay” statements, “you just have to look into the eyes of a cancer survivor, or into the eyes of a parent, whose child is fighting cancer, to know Why I Relay.” The core of that statement is that there are words far worse than “you have cancer,” and that is “your child has cancer.” I cannot imagine being a parent, having those words spoken to me, and how devastating it would be. Which is the root of another “Why I Relay” statement that I make, and that is “I may fly the purple banner of Relay For Life, but my heart weeps for the golden ones.” Gold, being the color of childhood cancers.

But it does not end there. As someone that uses social media to voice our collective hopes and wishes, I read blogs and I read stories. The ones that “completely” move me to tears are the stories of lives lost, to this unbiased beast. As the American Cancer Society celebrates its first 100 years, I find it more poignant than ever, that we do not cease to lose hope. I would also remind you that the Canadian Cancer Society is also celebrating its 75 years of existence, along with Cancer Societies around the globe. And thanks to Dr. Gordon Klatt, who 30 years ago became that one voice, initiated a change with the birth of Relay For Life, things have improved substantially in this global fight. From a sure death sentence not so many days ago, up until today, where 2 out of 3 people that are touched by the terrifying finger of cancer, are now surviving and living from their encounter with this beast.

This is amazing and worth celebrating. And we DO celebrate it with millions of “More Birthdays” every year. But still, there are those other 1 in 3 people, that are being told the worse words ever spoken, that is “there is nothing more we can do.” I know that the words “You have Cancer” or “Your child has cancer” are not the death sentence that it was once was, and we may never get rid of those words from our collective vocabulary, but I know in my heart, and I firmly believe in my soul, that we are so very close to adding these words to the first two quotes “but we can cure it now” and thus eliminating “there is nothing more we can do”, forever.

I would like to believe this is the core of “Why We Relayers, Relay.”

Just as Cancer is a Journey, one that no one wants to imagine taking, a trip down that supposed path of no return, where the outcome is unpredictable and anyone that has not travelled this way cannot predict how it will change them as a person. Many in Relay for Life, be it a Survivor, Caregiver, Fighter or Relayer as myself, Cancer is a life altering event, just as Relay for Life becomes a monumental moment for many, I for one, will never be the same person I was before.

Bain