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One light goes out

July 13, 2010

Death Match

Every now and again, I’ll find myself thinking about death. It’s not that I want to, just that I’m forced to.

News of an acquaintance’s recent bereavement winded me.

I don’t know him at all well. He is nothing more than an online acquaintance. And yet, the immediacy of the internet can sometimes make what would otherwise be dismissed as nothing more than fleeting conversations in everyday life as an important connection.

In fact, the mere fact you’re connected with someone else on the internet (in whatever form) can be sufficient to hard-wire that relationship into the psyche. Such is the power of the internet.

I’ve never met him in real life, nor his partner. Consequently, you’d think that discovering news of the latter’s death would register disinterest.

Still, the news thunders around my head. We are – in a sense – on a level. My acquaintance, his partner and mine are all on the same level even if none of us knew each other. We occupy the same space by virtue of our age. When one light is unexpectedly snuffed out, those that remain look on with a mixture of incredulity and sorrow.

Those initial feelings – a desperate attempt to make sense of the news you’ve just received and to justify how it affects you given your tenuous (or otherwise) connection – lead inevitably to real life questions.

What would I do in that situation? How would I cope? How would he cope if it was the other way around? What would be the last thing you’d say to your loved one if you had the chance? Would it be considered? Would it be blurted out? Would you say that final thing thinking it was your final utterance only to be given a second wind? What do you say the next time around? And – really and truly – at that moment in time (assuming you know of what’s to come) – would you really care?

I tried to resist the sadness which followed. I had no idea how I would cope if I was in my acquaintance’s position, so God only knows how he’s coping. I dropped him a message. Low-key. Keep it simple. Don’t pretend to understand. Just say the obvious. I clicked send and moved away from that world.

I clicked around the internet, only to discover another acquaintance documenting his remaining months alive since being diagnosed with inoperable cancer. It’s a bold move. It winded me again. The words were stark. This was inoperable. He was showing me his illness in pictorial form. One way to deal with it, for sure.

One man dealing with the unexpected death of a loved one, another on the other side of the world coming to terms with his impending departure.

And the rest of us in between veering somewhere between blissful ignorance and fearful confrontation. What would you choose?

The picture above entitled ‘Death Match’ was taken by Flickr User Nomaan! and is used under the terms of the Creative Commons License.

One Comment
  1. cyberguycalif permalink

    Even if never meeting online contacts, you can still develope a closer relationship then what you have with people you see everyday. Online people tend not to judge or nag like family and friends in real time do. It’s easier in some cases to be more open with an online contact then you would be with family and friends. So when you hear bad news, it can effect you the same as if it were someone you have known all your life.

    It is hard to express things when it is bad news, so a short word/note can mean a lot to someone. Kind words at a bad time from someone you never met can mean alot.

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