When we first “met” online 8 years ago, her name was CourtReporter. We were both moderators on a deals/contesting forum and instantly struck up a friendship initially based on our shared love of coupons and freebies. Our first chats consisted of private messages back and forth, but quickly evolved to weekly hour-long chats on the phone, where Kim and I would laugh ourselves silly about whatever online experiences we had that week, share our mutual excitement about what we had recently received in the mail, and generally just spend time getting to know each other better.
It was during one of those telephone conversations that I announced to Kim that I had won a trip to the Dominican Republic. Kim had dabbled in a little bit of contesting but it was not yet the passion for her that it was about to become. She wanted to know everything – which contest was it, how many entries I filled out, how long I had been entering the contest (it was an ongoing one), etc. I could sense from her enthusiasm for my win that here was a serious contester in the making.
We enjoyed this long-distance friendship by internet and phone for a couple of years until we decided enough was enough. It was time to meet IRL (in real life)! So we got busy organizing a get-together in Toronto with a few other online friends we knew from this same forum. Even though Kim lived in Toronto, she decided that she wanted to have a “girls’ night out” with me when I came to town. She got busy looking in to booking a hotel room we could share for the night. To say we had fun that night would be an understatement. Kim enjoyed her “girls’ night out” to the full extent and left me with some memories I will never forget. She was both a fun…and a funny…woman.
Kim was the third person I had met online that I was lucky enough to meet IRL. Kim was every bit the same person in real life as she was online. There were no surprises. From the moment we connected for the first time at Union Station in Toronto, it was like I had connected with an old friend I hadn’t seen in a few years. We started talking and laughing, and didn’t stop until I had to leave to go home the next day.
That was the only time I ever met Kim in real life…and the last time I ever will.
My friend Kim passed away tonight after a long battle with cancer. That awful beast had finally caught up with her.
Since our girls’ night out in Toronto a few years ago, we had slowly grown apart. Not because we weren’t still friends (we were), but because my online interests started to take me away from the world of contesting that Kim had become heavily involved in. Thanks to social media sites like Facebook, Kim and I still kept in touch from time to time. Sometimes it was a quick note from Kim asking me to vote for her in some contest she had just entered, and sometimes it was either one of us stopping by online to say a quick hello and check in with one another. Sometimes it was a note full of extreme excitement when Kim would write to tell me that she had just won a trip, like the trip she won to Las Vegas.
The last time I heard from Kim was exactly 3 months ago. How do I know this? I know this because Kim contacted me on Facebook to ask my opinion on bread machine makers (and thanks to Facebook, I still have this note). She was going to buy herself one and wanted to know my opinion about the one I owned. I shared my opinion with her, we had a few laughs, she told me about some recent contest wins, and I asked her how her health was and how she was feeling. In her typical strong, upbeat style, she told me she was doing better, she had just gotten out of hospital, and she was busy getting back to some online contesting.
And so tonight, I lost one of the very first friends I ever made online. I really don’t know how to feel. When you lose a friend with whom you spend a lot of time with IRL, you are part of the whole grieving process. A part of their “inner circle”. Perhaps you know their family and other friends personally, and live close enough to be able to attend their funeral. But for an online friend, like me, who may live hours away in another city, the grieving process can seem so strange. While you feel like you knew your online friend well, there is a good chance that their “real” friends and family may never have heard of you. Do you reach out to them with your condolences? How do you process your thoughts, and how you feel about what has happened?
I never knew I would feel like this after losing an online friend.
I have a love/hate relationship with Facebook. Tonight the “love” side of Facebook is weighing a little heavier. It is because of Facebook that I found out about Kim’s passing. It’s also because of Facebook that I got to see just how much Kim meant to her many online friends. It’s obvious she made a real difference to many people in her online life. I know she made a difference to me…in many ways.
For now, I am embracing Facebook. Facebook is helping me grieve. It’s on Facebook where I would keep in touch with Kim, and it’s on Facebook where I have been able to leave a message of condolence on her page in the hopes that her family read it. Facebook has allowed me to connect with other mutual long-time online friends of Kim and I again. Chatting with these online friends, and sharing our memories of Kim, is comforting. With them, there is an true understanding of how it feels to lose an online friend.
How ironic that this was the last message I received from Kim on Facebook. She was asking me to vote for her in an online contest:
“One more request and I swear I will leave you alone for the rest of this year.”
RIP my friend Kim. You will be deeply missed.
Have you ever lost one of your online friends? How did you grieve?