There was this lady. Her name was Ellen.
I’ve never met Ellen, but I have had conversations with her for a long time. Years, probably. She was a kind lady, and thoughtful. We haunted a couple of the same internet forums on homesteading and the like.
Ellen died this week, of a fast-moving cancer. She had shared that she was ill, and had been updating us on the forum, but we had not heard from her in a couple of weeks. We had been worried.
I did not know Ellen at all, really; how much can you claim to know of someone whose face you’ve never seen, whose voice you’ve never heard? And yet, I feel a loss. She was part of my community.
It’s not a huge community, and I don’t know everyone’s real name, but it is a community nonetheless. You see, these are people I turn to when I have a half-frozen baby goat who’s been rejected by his mama at 3am. Or when I don’t know which heirloom tomato is best-suited to the hot, dry bed on the south side of the house. People who have shared some small parts of their lives with me on line; some sorrows and some joys, as well as some mundane moments that really only another gardener would understand anyhow. People who have congratulated me on my pregnancy, and commiserated when I whined that I was too fat to be able to plant my own tomatoes this year (Hubby’s doing that for me, as I type). People who cared enough to send flowers to Ellen when she was ill, and to send a baby gift to me. People who understand, instantly, why I would choose to live in the middle of nowhere and keep goats and chickens. Good people.
I think there are lots of different kinds of communities, and I think it is a mistake to dismiss online communities as having no value. Though I may never sit and have a cup of tea with these folks, I have turned to them for advice and support, and gotten it. I value their opinions. I appreciate the company when I’m up in the middle of the night and can’t sleep. And, like people who’ve met on a dating site, the friendships can continue beyond and outside of the online world.
I will never meet Ellen, now. I doubt her family knows anything about me, or most of the online community who has been breathlessly waiting for news. People who, in their own way, were touched by a near-stranger, and are now mourning her loss.
Goodbye, Ellen. Maybe we’ll meet someday.