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.