Virtual connections. How real are they?

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.

Photo credit Digital Grandparent

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.

The Phyllis and Travis Fund

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,

JulieB

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14 thoughts on “Virtual connections. How real are they?

  1. Oh, Julie, that brought tears to my eyes. You are so eloquent where I am at a loss of words. Thank you so much for sharing this.

    • Thank you Judith. You know how much all of my WW pals mean to me–and to all of us. We have something special going there, even if we step away for awhile when our time in the spotlight is over.

  2. Pingback: It's The Bride In Me – Virtual connections. How real are they? « The Cheeky Diva

    • Thank you so much. Phyllis’ sister read her the post I wrote and she cried and said she felt the prayers from her virtual friends giving her strength. I just can’t imagine how devastated they all must be.

  3. Julie, I just read your post and I want you to know how it touched me to read your words. Phyllis is a dear friend of mine. Seeing how people care for her and the boys and are supporting her both near, far and virtual, brings a little comfort. Thanks for sharing

  4. Hi Julie.I just had to write and say thank you from the bottom of my heart! Phyllis is my dearest and best friend and I was lucky to have known her prince charming, Travis! I have seen this link on her page but am just now getting a chance to read your blog. Your words brought tears to my eyes!! I know that the Wedding WIre site is a favorite place for her and that she made many meaningful cyber connections with many of the lovely women on there. How true it is that the amazing world wide web can bring so many people together, virtual strangers who share so much with each other and provide a medium of friendship across the world.

    Theirs was/is a true love story and I hope that her followers out there will continue to send loving thoughts and prayers her way! True love never dies….love lives in the heart and soul for all eternity….therefore, the love story doesn’t actually end=) I want to thank you for sharing the link to the fund her family started and also send a heartfelt thank you to those who are working on a memorial for her!!

    Somehow I don’t think my words are quite as eloquent as yours but it’s hard to show how much emotion is behind my thoughts when my heart is speaking louder than my brain. I know I speak for Phyllis and her family and those of us who are closest to her that the love and support means the world.

    Wishing you love and light ~ Missy

    • Lisa and Missy, I want to thank you both for reading and for being such good friends to Phyllis and her family in the real world. I’m so sorry that the link to the fund isn’t up on my blog right now. I was trying to put up the actual link provided by FundMe and can’t seem to make it work. As soon as I get back to my blog, the picture will go back up in the sidebar and readers can click from there. I am glad to help and spread the word in any way I can. Again, many thoughts and prayers to the family from myself and many other WW brides.

    • Why thank you! What a nice thing to say. So glad people are actually still finding me and reading. Ha ha. I have almost no time to devote to my blog right now, and I do miss it. So much fun and a needed creative outlet for me. Thanks so much for taking a look.

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