Image by ChicagoGeek via Flickr
I recently found out that a friend on Facebook suddenly died five days ago. I didn't know her well at all; I befriended her to increase my number of neighbors in Farm Town, an online game I play on Facebook. We occasionally "spoke" when she came to my virtual farm as part of the game, to complete a task for coins or water my flowers. Our conversations began when she typed: "Hi, how are you?" or "Your farm is very pretty." or "Where have you been? I haven't seen you online for a while." She seemed like a genuinely nice person.
How did I find out she died? I saw a post in my Facebook news feed yesterday that obviously was not written by her, giving details about her funeral service. I immediately went to her profile and read a series of posts from a niece, a nephew, a daughter-in-law and friends. I don't know how she died, but it was clear from the posts that she was in a coma and everyone was pulling for her to come out of it. I want to know the details, but no one has posted that information on her wall.
It is sad, but because of her death I now know more about her. She lived in South Africa; she was divorced; she was a mother, grandmother, aunt and friend to many. She worked in a real estate office. She was only 49 years old. I searched for an online obituary and was unable to find one.
She obviously touched my life, but now I am alone with my grief. Unlike my in-person life where I share my family and friends with many other people, this was an exclusive one-on-one friendship that I shared with no one else. So now I am left, by myself, to make sense of her early and untimely death, with more questions than answers swirling in my brain. I can't jump on a plane to South Africa to attend the funeral. I feel awkward about emailing her family and asking for more specifics. The best I can do is take the final gifts she sent me in Farm Town and create a little space on my farm to memorialize her.
I am left wondering what is the best way to say goodbye to an Internet friend. And it's got me thinking about what plans I should make now to ensure I can say goodbye to the friends that are part of my online life after I log off for the last time.