Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Hardest Goodbye

The emotions and sensations people feel while gaming are real. When you succeed at something, you feel great, when you fail miserably, you feel down. Weeks of wipes bring down morale while finally killing the cockblock gives a high. The feelings are triggered by emotional and chemical responses, they just happen.

The people behind the mask are also real, and it is possible for people to become friends despite great amounts of distance between them. The internet now is a much faster form of communicating worldwide, becoming friends with others long distance is not a new concept. With the internet these friendships are considered socially a taboo in much of meatspace.

People forget that we used to have things like pen pals. In war time girls used to write letters to soldiers at war. Many of those soldiers and girls even fell in love.

I wanted to take a moment to share a pretty sad story about feelings, friendships, and really hard goodbyes and the affect it's had on my leadership philosophy and how I treat people. It was the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with as a community leader.

In my younger years as a gamer I ran groups on other games. In one of my groups, a roleplay community, there existed a pair of brothers. They were best friends, spent their childhood together, good natured Christian country boys, eagle scouts, and both were huge assets to the community. The elder brother wound up as one of my second in commands, the younger was one of my lower staff, both very bright and having positive influence in the community.

As we grew older, we didn't play as much, busy with things like college, but we still hung around and chatted. Most groups dissolved in our groups long existence, something kept us together when every other groups fell apart.

One day in early December the young brother hopped on to chat with those of us who were hanging out. We chatted for a while and he was cheerful. Eventually he said 'seeya soon and happy holidays' and went off to sleep for the night.

Two days later the elder brother came to us, quite terribly upset, he came to us for a shoulder and support. He said that the younger brother had died that very day. We comforted his brother as best we could and several of us just sat at our computers crying for several days in the aftermath. The younger brother had been there talking to us just days ago.. and then he was gone just like that.

The details unfolded: He had been having terrible seizures in the months before. He had gone to the doctors but nothing could be found. He went to take a nap right before one of his finals and just didn't wake up. It's likely that he had a seizure and just didn't survive it.

It was amazingly tragic and totally unfair. He was a senior in university getting a computer science degree, he was a happy bright young person at the tender age of twenty-three with a bright future ahead of him. He was the kind of friend a friend would like to have.

The elder brother became busy consoling his family and helping with funeral stuff. I had met both of them in meatspace as they only lived two hours away and knew a good deal about them. I dug up the death notice, and two days later the obituary, the later of which had mention of an everlasting memorial on

I went to the site and looked at pictures of my now passed friend. Among the photos was a photo of the two brothers in suits, looking like something out of the matrix at their sister's wedding, and it made me smile.

Myself and the other mourners in our community left messages of well wishes to his family on the site as well as our goodbyes, it was the hardest goodbye. The elder brother explained to his family that we were friends from far away and they were touched that the lives of near strangers from all over the world were touched by their son. The elder brother came to thank us later.

Looking back, I wish that I had been more expressive of my appreciation for people, and have since resolved to do just that.

I realized that our little online community really meant something, something enough for the eldest brother to come to us for support in his darkest hour. Since then, I've had more of an emphasis of community and care for those around me, and my communities have been healthier for it. It's just a shame that it took someone dying for me to realize what was in front of me the whole time.

Appreciate and cherish your friends both in meatspace and online for eventually you may go your separate ways. You don't really know what you've got until its gone, but you can stop, sit back, and think hard of what your life would be like without them.

Never assume malice, always forgive, let bygones be bygones, understand that people aren't perfect, that they're flawed and only human, and sometimes people get caught up in their own emotions and lose sight of the bigger picture.

I resolved to be the kind of friend a friend would like to have and honestly I'm a better leader for it.

The people around you both in person and online, today, and tomorrow are all a gift.

Now go out there and seize the day and tell someone you care about that you care!

And oh anonymous readers of this anonymous altoholic's blog?
I love you all... in that totally platonic non-adult way.

1 comment:

  1. I saw you post something about this the other day on FB and I didn't comment. I'm sorry about your friend. People are people, whether you know them in the flesh or electronically. Today, on the phone with WMMA as he was coming home from work, the topic of conversation "Did you read Zan's blog?..."


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