death online

On my parenting board this weekend, we found out one of the longtime members had died. It’s hit the board overall very hard. She was a much-loved member, and it was unexpected.

I didn’t interact with this particular person all that much. It’s not that I disliked her, but that we had different areas of interest, and because it’s such a large and active group, our paths seldom crossed. So I’m sad for her and her family, and I’m heartbroken for those who’ve lost a friend, but I’m staying quiet there to respect their mourning.

It got me thinking to other internet boards, and the losses I’ve seen there. On the anencephaly support board, of course, we saw death all the time. We united because of death, and death kept us there until it became familiar like a shadow. It wasn’t a good thing, but we made it into something good.

But in those cases, we weren’t notified of member deaths, if there were any. (There’s one woman I always wondered if she took her own life after her baby died, but I’ll never be able to find out.)  In over ten years online, I can only thing of three times when the member of a board has died.

OmniCindy from EtiquetteHell died shortly after Hurricane Katrina. She was kind-hearted and generous, and I always got a giggle from how she referred to her husband as “Mr. Cindy.”  That was why I began referring to my Patient Husband as Mr. Tabris, but that wasn’t nearly as funny. Others did the same, using their own screen name for their spouse.

I belonged to a due-date group when pregnant with Kiddo#3, and we organized a “baby shower in a box” for one another. Adele was the woman who sent me a box: some Burt’s Bees products and a cute pair of yellow socks. Adele died during childbirth of an amniotic fluid embolism. Her death hit me harder. I went that morning to my prenatal appointment and sat numb as the midwife came in. I told her what happened, and she looked drawn, sad too at the thought of a motherless baby. Sometimes I think of that child, within days of Kiddo#3’s age, growing up motherless.

We touch people online and don’t realize how many, how often. We cast our nets wide and we learn about one another, share bits of one another. It’s good. I’m not disputing that. Even in death, the community tightens up behind you and they cling together, and it’s good they have each other.

A while ago I got a panicked thought that if I died, you guys wouldn’t know, so I gave my Patient Husband access to post here. Not that I anticipate it, but at least you’d be notified.

In the meantime, I’m thankful for one another, for the online friendships we’ve forged, for the prayers and support we give one another. Please say a prayer for Shelly and her devastated family, and thank you for being here.


  1. HeebyJeebyLeebee

    And I’m thankful for your words of wisdom and caring. You’re incredibly thoughtful and insightful and I always look forward to your posts.

    I’ll be sure to keep Shelly’s family in my thoughts.

  2. cricketB

    I hear you. OneBitCPU already knows who to contact. (Jane, you’ve been pegged for all parts of the fandom and for Twitter.) I hate it when people drop off the grid without warning, or when they say, “Things here are getting worse. I have to leave.”

    I dusted off an essay I wrote in another group ages ago, called “Falling Rocks”, about events in yet a third group which were still affecting me six months later. Even years later, dusting off the essay reminded me those rocks are still there.

  3. Jim Kane

    This is a very thoughtful post. You would be missed and I think that this is an issue that is being talked about more and more.

    1. philangelus

      It seems that the online communities lack the ability to get closure simply because of the screen name phenomenon. OmniCindy, for example — I have no idea what her actual name was. The woman who vanished off ABFA was posting under her maiden name, not her married name. Many people know me only as Tabris.

      I chuckle, though, when I think about how God must be filing our prayers. Things like, “Please help OneBrightStarlet with her mother-in-law problems, and also please bless that person from the parenting forum who’s having some sort of issue with her son but couldn’t tell us what it was.”

      1. Lane in PA

        God knows who we really are.

  4. Laura

    sweet post, Tabris.
    And, yes, I know your real name. 😉

  5. knit_tgz

    It’s no different from when we pray at the Mass “for a particular intention” (which is left unstated).

    Anyway, I would miss you too.

    1. philangelus

      It’s odd to think we’re all pen-pals. 🙂

      1. Ken Rolph

        That occurred to me as well one day. I come from a generation that had real pen pals around the world. It was conducted with filmsy blue sheets which were both paper and envelope.

        When our first grandchild was born the kids bought a new camera. They belong to the generation which believes it really knows how to use technology. In practice they just take things out of the box and press the most obvious buttons. They were trying to show a roomful of people a stack of photos. It was hard to see anything while passing that little camera around.

        They still had the open box which the camera came in. I noticed that it contained a cable similar to the one which connected our DVD player to the TV. So I tried connecting the camera to the TV. This worked, of course. We turned the lights off and everyone sat around watching masses of photos of variable quality.

        We had re-invented the slide night!

        1. philangelus


          We don’t really know technology until we’ve used five cables to hitch two devices together that never were meant to be married to one another, usually passing them through a third device that has nothing to do with either one of them.