Today my friends and followers, you will hear no silliness from me. Today I am saddened by a death. The death of a young man. A young man who had much to live for. A new bride and a new family. After 71 days of marriage, at the age of 34, he died suddenly from a brain hemorrhage. Sadly, that’s the way of the world, people die every day. Leaving friends and loved ones behind. Brokenhearted, lonely, floundering. So why is this man important to me? A man I have never met?
Because of the way I was alerted to this man’s death. The world-wide web. One virtual connection leads to another. And another and another. With this amazing technology we are building a web of our own. An unseen but powerful support network. We take the values we have learned as children and practiced as adults and are sharing them with those we have never, and most likely will never meet face to face. We are not just screens and keyboards. We do more than OMG and LOL and give our HO’s. We are people. Surrounded by virtual “friends” all over the globe.
While we may scoff at people who spend their time in chat rooms, met their mate on a dating site, or fill their days reading “Nerd Forums” as my stepson likes to call them, behind every avatar is a living, breathing, feeling human being with a beating heart. One that feels joy and sometimes, unbelievable sadness. And when those faraway people are suffering, since we cannot come to their aid with a hug, a hot meal or a real shoulder to cry on, we rally around them in the only way the web lets us. We pray for them, grieve for them silently, we share their story with others, we campaign strangers for support in their name.
The ability to reach out to others through the internet, be they ghosts from a past life or complete strangers entirely, makes the world smaller. In expanding our own horizons, we really bring the world closer to ourselves.
For me personally, none of these connections will ever have a larger impact than that of finding my husband on Facebook. We had almost gotten married once upon a time, but I hadn’t seen or heard from him in over 25 years. It started out as a tentative friendship, casual banter and support we both desperately needed at the time. But it all changed when he emailed me a current photo. That photo literally sucked the breath right out of me. One photo, sent across cyberspace from far away. How it changed my life forever. I knew when I saw that face that nothing would ever be the same. Even though we had lived a world apart for a quarter of a century, the bond was still unbreakable. The internet was the tether that kept us connected, and it only took a few months before we were on the path to matrimony once again. This time, however, we were armed with not only maturity, but a fierce committment to each other. This time, it would last forever.
The quest to have the perfect wedding on a shoestring budget eventually led me to the plethora of wedding websites. I chose Wedding Wire to be my virtual guide through the Bridezilla months and spent way too much time there. It started as a place to see pictures of pretty dresses, shiny rings and unbelievable decorations – and find ways to get all of these yummy things with almost no money. What it became to me was a community. Mostly women, but some men. Young, old, first timers, repeat offenders, vow renewers. Traditional couples and same sex couples. Different religions, nationalities, customs and budgets. From all over the world. Each with one shared purpose–to find a way to celebrate their special day in the most wonderful way they could. With help, tips, and advice from total and complete strangers.
Pretty soon I began to feel like Wedding Wire was more than a website for brides on a budget. A lot more. It was real people, asking for real advice, real criticisms and sharing their real successes and failures. Proud brides show off their hard work in pictures and instructions for their latest greatest DIY projects. Venues, playlists, bouquets, honeymoons, cakes and open bar vs cash bar are always popular topics as well. The forums are full of pages of lovely left hands sporting “the ring” and pictures of girls smiling big toothy smiles in a bridal shop at a fitting. All of us would just eat these pictures up. Each Monday morning, members log on in a frenzy, looking for wedding pictures of the lucky brides who tied the knot the previous weekend. The strangers who’ve become our friends. Putting it all together for their moment in the sun. Their one special day to be a fairy princess.
These women and men not only share their stories and experiences, but they play a wonderful game called Pay It Forward. Brides will offer up their leftover wedding goodies–sometimes even a wedding gown if you can believe it-to another deserving bride for either nothing or the cost of shipping. I in fact, will be passing on my decorations to a nice young lady who only lives about an hour away from me.
Some have split off into smaller groups, becoming email pen pals, finding a chat room to, well, chat in, and in the larger cities, meeting each other in the real world and striking up face to face friendships after all.
As I write this, I can’t imagine the pain of the family of the young man who was taken too soon. His bride is one of my virtual friends. I vividly remember pictures of their unique wedding. I haven’t been contributing much to Wedding Wire since getting married. I have moved on, and will let the more recent and upcoming brides share their wisdom with each other. But I am still part of the network of special people there.
This morning I received an email from one of my Wedding Wire friends who has since become a pen pal. Again, another person I have never met face to face. I was shocked to hear of this young man’s untimely death. It hit me as hard as the death of any friends husband would have. What I’ve found out since hearing this news is the best of the world wide web at work. The sister in law of this groom has created a website to help this family in need, and some of the girls at Wedding Wire are donating money to put together a memorial for this young man’s recently widowed bride.
I urge you to open up your heart just a little bit to total strangers, for just a few moments and please visit the memorial site created for this family in need. One look, one condolence, one prayer is all I ask. If you choose not to send a dollar, that’s okay. Just remember that even though we are separated by space, distance and many other barriers, we are all still people. People who hurt and need love in times of tragedy. Nothing can ever take the place of a real look, a real touch, or a real laugh, but don’t discount the power of technology to enrich your life by bringing you closer to others from far away, and how they can be some of your strongest supporters during a time of sorrow.
So to Phyllis, my heart breaks for you, and I thank you so much for sharing your life with us. I hope that your story will touch the hearts of others and you will be comforted in this time of need.
Your WW friend,