When An Online Friend Dies

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In September 2014, a very dear friend of mine passed away. It came as a complete shock to all who knew her. I found out about her passing through social media. Reading tragic news on a computer screen about a friend who passed away suddenly is an experience that I do not wish on anyone. You ask yourself, is this real?

I’m sure by now, many readers have heard of the hit television show LOSTLOST has a huge fanbase from all around the world. It is a deeply thought-provoking show that touches on the “big” themes in life – science verses faith, family, destiny, fate verses free will, redemption, hope, love, and death. LOST was an inspiration to many people. -This is how I met my friend Bonnie. We followed each other on Twitter, became friends on Facebook, and carried on lengthy conversations and theories about LOST. We became particularly close because I was from Alabama, and she lived in Tennessee. We constantly messaged one another through Facebook and texts. We enjoyed collecting LOST memorabilia and helping each other find cool items. Bonnie had an extensive collection that she documented. You can view her impressive collection here.

Bonnie and I continued our constant conversations for years. We became interested in each other’s lives. As a gay man living in Alabama, it’s rare to meet someone who knows who you are and instantly accepts and loves you. Bonnie was like that. She supported and loved my partner and I. She knew details about my life and vice versa. When I would come in from classes at school, I would always check my notifications to see if I had missed a message from her. I always kept track of her posts because she was always crafting some new LOST project with her action figures. We were both nerds at heart and enjoyed the time talking about action figures, trading cards, books, and prints – all LOST related of course.

I had the pleasure of meeting Bonnie in person in March of 2014. It was the first LOST event that I attended and I knew she would be going as well. There was a LOST cast reunion in Los Angeles. It was also the first time I had been to California. Bonnie stayed in the hotel across the street from my partner and I. I had talked with her online for years and the day finally came that I would meet her in person. She was as radiant as she had been online. She was the kindest person to my partner and I. I’m so grateful that I was given the opportunity to meet Bonnie in person.

In September 2014, Bonnie passed away. Since we lived just a few hours away, my partner and I attended her funeral. Although this gave me some closure, the grief process has been the most unexpected. In a way, I think I’m still in shock. You see, when an online friend dies, the fallout is different. Even though I had met Bonnie in person, our relationship was primarily an online one. This did not make our relationship any less real, only different.

Having very few true friends in person, Bonnie was as close to me as a best friend. I talked with her more online than I did with other friends in person. We knew each other’s likes, dislikes, etc. Since LOST touched on the “big” questions in life, our conversations relied heavily on philosophy and meaning. Whether we were discussing geeky topics such as collectibles, or details about family issues, our conversations always seemed more raw and real than the conversations that I have in person sometimes.

As for the healing process – it’s slow. Really slow. My childhood best friend passed away when I was a senior in high school and my uncle passed away in 2012. Their deaths were hard and still are, but I have closure. As for Bonnie, I still find myself checking my messages. Each time I see where a LOST cast member has been cast in another show, I want to message her. Every time I scroll through eBay and see a LOST item that I think she would enjoy, I’m reminded that I can’t contact her. For years, I would find a LOST collectible or book and instantly contact her to see if she had it. I see items and I think, “Bonnie would love that.” Every single time, I remember that she’s no longer here and it’s as if I experience her death all over again. It’s gut-wrenching every time. I stop in my tracks and have to remind myself that she’s no longer here.

For those of you who have also experienced this, I understand. I know the feeling of seeing profiles on Facebook, knowing that you can’t contact them. I know what it’s like to still follow someone on Twitter when you know that they’ll never tweet again. I still keep Bonnie’s LOST blog in my bookmarks tab. I know the feeling of -even just for one second- thinking that someone is still alive when they aren’t. During that second, you relive their death all over again. The feeling comes out of nowhere. Whenever I see anything that reminds me of Bonnie, I go to message her, but soon realize that I can’t. I can’t tell you how many times this has happened. If you have an online friend, don’t ever let anyone tell you that it’s not a true friendship. Friendship happens in the most unlikely places. A friend is a friend is a friend.

I remember Bonnie not by her death, but by her life. Even though remembering her death hits me like a tidal wave every now and then, I hold on to the memories we shared – both online and in person. I find peace by enjoying the life that I have left. Bonnie was an absolutely kind and generous person. She touched so many lives while she was here. LOST fans around the world knew about her and her amazing collection. I honor her memory by continuing my love for LOST and remembering her each step of the way. LOST and Bonnie touched my life in numerous ways. If there’s one thing LOST taught me, it’s that love is stronger than death.

*In loving memory of my dearest friend, Bonnie Craft*

Originally published on Liberal America here: http://www.liberalamerica.org/2015/07/02/online-friend-dies/

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