Packs and groups and moots



Saturday we went to a memorial luncheon for a friend of L from work. She was amazingly competent, sharply witty, knowledgeable and patient, everybody said. She knew the answers to everyone's questions and where all the refills for everything were stored. She had ovarian cancer and worked almost up until the end. Her brother said that we would learn about all the different facets of L (the woman who died) as different people from different parts of her life told their stories.

And it was so.

Family members spoke. Colleagues spoke. And there was another community--her online community, said her husband (I think, not the brother), who was MC.

She wrote fanfic about characters in Lord of the Rings, and she shared these stories with others (all or mostly women) from around the world, who were similarly engaged. They met twice at conventions. Maybe that's when they held their moots.

I started thinking about these communities and how they must have become part of other eulogies and obituaries--the memorial for L can't be the only one that gave homage to the virtual group the deceased was once part of. A person dies and will not appear on the site again, whether, let's say, he signed on as himself or had pretended to be a 13-year-old girl. Or was sometimes an adolescent girl and other times an Argentinian cowboy. I have never been on Second Life, which is a pretend world on line where you get another chance to become the person you wanted to be, living where you always thought you should and wearing and driving and working what and where you really belong. I don't know the particulars, but I suppose it's a way of re-living your life, as Lou Lipsitz wrote:

Now for the other life. The one
without mistakes.

I know this quote because Rayond Carver used it as an epigraph for his poem The Other Life. I don't know if this is all of the Lipsitz poem or only part; there are limits to what you can find out online.

(Some people do get to return to the past. See my friend Robin's new book.)
If you're reading this, you probably have a presence of some kind on the web. And like George Bailey in It's a Wonderful Life, you could probably surmise what the virtual world would be like without you. Just Google yourself and imagine that all that you find is erased.

Some people become more of a web presence when they die. Newspapers display obits on line and provide a "guest book" where people can write their comments, and I'm sure some of the deceased had never been at a keyboard.

When I was first diagnosed, I read Miriam Engelberg's memoir in comics, Cancer Made Me a Shallower Person. I went to my computer to look up her email so I could tell her how much I liked the book, and there in cyberspace I found out that she had died. I don't think that site is still around, but there is a weird site called Respectance that hosts free memorial pages. It's quite odd that two of the commenters said the exact same thing about her. I have a feeling someone's trying to make a profit here.

Cyberspace is so much like the kingdom of death, I think. When people die we can conjure them up in our minds but can't bring them back as three-dimensional, living, talking beings. We use many sites and pieces of sites as aide-memoires. What you see/experience on line is not the same as what's going on right in front of you. In a broad way, the virtual only exists because the tangible exists. The computer screen as Plato's cave?

Pen pals could become extremely close back in the old days, and nowadays everyone is everyone's pen pal and we forge connections through Facebook that may be real or not. And then we sever the tie, through death or attrition or inattention, leaving a trace--at least for a little while.

7 comments:

Tracie said...

Not sure if I should post this here or with the relevant entries, but I want to share before I forget:

Just reached p.64 in the book [April 1 2007], and I love this part: "With this sort of headache, I feel the pain as dispersed pieces of glitter floating in my head, as suspended in gel. I could say amber, but it is more like gel, soft. And I feel I can't unfurrow my brow." I'm sure it was a terrible headache, but great imagery.

And the part on p.48 [March 12 2007] with the girl with the cross on Michigan Ave. and "Can I talk to you about your hair?". Like anyone who's walked from Michigan to the Chicago Red Line stop, I've had do dodge those kids. I wonder if salons make aspiring stylists do that in every city? It's like we now have to link "Can I talk to you..." with "Oh no. Somebody's trying to sell me something." I agree with Linc.

Cancer Bitch said...

Hi Tracie,
I wonder if you could massage such a headache away.
Thanks for getting the book and coming to the reading.
I have to dodge the Greenpeace kids in Chicago and in Evanston. I should give to Greenpeace because I believe in it but I don't like being stopped, even tho I feel guilty for ducking my head and walking quickly away.
--C. Bitch

Jonah said...

One thing I think about a lot is whether or not the people I know online (or even in person) should be or would be notified if I died. Who would tell them? How?

Cancer Bitch said...

I emailed a former student once and got a reply from the husband, saying the wife had died.I know that the family of a soldier who died had to make a special effort (maybe in court) to get access to his email account.

Steve Fellner said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andrew Plummer & Benjamin Seaman said...

Hey Sandi...wanted to let you know I am half way through the book, finding it quite powerful, and I mentioned it on Facebook and a friend in Cozumel responded "Oh, all the girls on my email list LOVE Cancer Bitch's blog..." - Ben

Cancer Bitch said...

Thanks! That's great. Tell everyone to get their libraries to order the book if they can't afford to buy it.
C. Bitch