On-line Friendships

If you have read my post Work Families, then you know about my deceased co-worker Mary.  I attended her memorial service, along with all of her co-workers from her department.  It was a beautiful ceremony and I know she was smiling down from Heaven, so proud of her daughters.  As I suspected, I learned things about her in that one hour that I would never imagine, even though I have spent at least 8 years of my working life with her.  I am not surprised though, because I had a previous experience with another co-worker that passed away a few years back.  After he passed away, I discovered many things about him that I never knew.  When his co-workers started reminiscing about old times, I found myself wishing I had known him better.

There were many things that I learned about Mary that day, but there is one specific thing I want to tell you about.  After Mary’s memorial service, I was giving my condolences to her daughters when I met Chad.  Before I tell you about Chad, I want to mention that when Mary had passed away, she was preceded in death by her husband and son.  Her immediate family members consisted of her daughters, her grandson and some very close friends.  One of those close friends was Chad.

I had heard bits and pieces about Chad and Mary’s friendship a day or two after she passed away.  I knew they were good friends and that they kept in touch on-line.  When I found out that Chad lived on the East Coast, I assumed that they were old friends and they kept in contact after Chad moved to the East Coast.  Boy was I wrong.

Through my brief conversation with Chad at the memorial service and asking Mary’s daughters later, I was reminded of how the internet can change a person’s life.  Mary and Chad had been friends for more than 15 years.  They spoke over the phone, they communicated on-line, they shared stories about their kids and yet, they never met face to face.  Mary was an on-line gamer, so my guess is that she met Chad through an on-line game site.

I know what your thinking, there was some romantic involvement between them.  Nope, Chad is happily married with a couple little kids.  Mary had become separated and possibly divorced from her husband before he died.  Mary was content at being a single mother and had a great life with her girls.  In fact, although her girls were out of school and in their twenties, Mary shared a home with her two daughters, her grandson and her grandson’s father.  They had a good family relationship and I don’t believe she needed or wanted a man in her life.

Anyway, back to Chad.  This man, that had never met my co-worker, Mary, flew many miles to attend her funeral.  He had mentioned to me after the memorial service that he had to come.  He said he knew that Mary would have walked all the way to the East Coast to attend his funeral if she had to.

From what I understand, Chad has always lived far away and the two of them always figured they’d have a chance to meet at some point.  I have been friends with many people throughout the years that live in other states, some that I even grew up with, but I can’t honestly say that I would feel that kind of conviction to make it to their funeral.  Yes, I would feel sad that they passed away, but I don’t know if I would travel the distance that Chad traveled for Mary.  What does that tell you?  Well, I guess it could make some of my friends feel a little offended.  If so, I’m sorry about that.  But what it tells me about Chad and Mary is that even though they never met face to face, they had a relationship stronger than I could ever imagine.

The internet can be a horrible thing that has been the cause of many divorces.  Yet, this is proof that the internet can also be the tool to help two people connect.  I know from personal experience, since my husband and I met on-line, that the internet can help you breakdown your personal walls and let someone see your true self.  I believe that is what happened with Chad and Mary.  They probably started out chatting about the game.  Eventually, one of them mentioned a problem or concern they had about one of their kids.  Then before you know it, this friend you have never met face to face becomes a close confidant that you go to about personal issues.  Things like, “Should I apply for a new position or stay where I am and never get another raise?” or “My little one has been running a fever off and on for a few days now and they are really drooling, do you think they are just trying to cut in a baby tooth?”

The fact that Chad attended Mary’s funeral is so overwhelmingly awesome.  I am sure all of us would like to know they have a friend like that.  But why did he do it?  Mary wouldn’t know if he was there or not.  Well, she would see him from heaven, but I don’t think Mary was the type that would have haunted Chad if he didn’t show up that day.  😉  I believe it was from respect, kindness and to honor his dear friend.  How awesome is that?  And it wasn’t like he stood up during the funeral and announced that he had come a long way for a friend he had never physically met.  Most of the people who were there didn’t know who he was.  Only Mary’s family and some of her friends, like me, knew who Chad was and that he came to honor her.  That says a lot about the kind of relationship these two people had.

I had asked one of Mary’s daughters later about the story behind Chad and she replied:

{They were friends for over 16 years, but he’s always lived far away and I guess they always figured they’d have the chance at some point to meet face to face. He’s an outstanding guy! He flew in Monday night and having him around the night before the funeral was some added comfort for me as well, even tho I hadn’t met him either, him being there when I read over the eulogy late Monday night and his response to it was very similar to something my mom would say. I think he had some guilt about never physically meeting her (he still never saw her face to face) but I know mom smiled over all of it.}

I saw a picture on Facebook the other day that I wanted to share with you.

friends

 

This pretty much sums up the way I feel about on-line friends.  A friend is not defined as a human body that stands by your side.  A friend is someone who cares about your well-being and is there when you need to talk.  Thanks to the internet, we all have friends from long distance.  We may have not seen them in years or we may have never seen them in person before.  But they are still friends that care about you.  So it’s okay to refer to a Facebook friend as ‘my friend’.  As long as they care about your well-being and share with your joys and sorrows, they are your friends.  Who knows, they might just be like Chad and show up at our funeral one day.  🙂

 

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