Saturday, April 03, 2010

Orphaned Blog. The Comment I Didn't Leave

Update II: Tammy is alive. She left a comment on Pam's blog. I know her heart is breaking. She had traveled to be with Pam a couple years ago. They referred to themselves as Batman and Robin.

I am shaken. My fellow blogger Anvil Cloud left a note to check on Pam's blog. It seems she died mere hours after I posted this piece late on the evening of April 3rd. That evening I had felt compelled to express a feeling that her blog had been orphaned. So after more than a year . ..

This is what I found tonight:

Tuesday, April 06, 2010
In Loving Memory
Pam Antonivich
8/10/1942- 4/4/2010
"I have ALS, it does not have me
Art does."
-Pam 2009-
She was a very brave woman
Who will be greatly missed
And was loved by many


Here is the post I wrote as Pam was very near death:


Gentle reader. Your life is in throttle-up mode today as spring is pumping energy and life into your routine. This post is an autumn plaint, not a vernal paean to love, but I wonder if you will find it relevant to your involvement in this community we create in cyberspace.
Last night I almost left this comment in Pam's blog, "Mind Trips." Almost. I'm certain she is dead. Almost certain. And it is that uncertainty which I address below:

The following is the comment I didn't leave. What if somehow Pam still accesses her blog and found my dark ponderings. Unthinkable. So this is a comment that will never be posted.

Perhaps this isn't the place for expressing the thoughts that I'm having this evening, but it's been more than a year since we've heard from Pam and six months since her friend Tammy has posted. Both suffered from ALS, Lou Gehrig's Disease, and knowing what I know from a family experience with ALS, my sad conclusion is that they are gone.

We are enlarged by the exchanges with others we've met through blogging. We lean over one another's cyber shoulder and give encouragement and praise and share our wonder and amusement about the journey through this challenging life and fascinating universe.

We celebrate, laugh, strut, worry and rant. We share a little of our unique corner of the world with people whose welcoming porches become as familiar and comfortable as a neighbor's, maybe more so given the anonymity of some communities today.

So perhaps someone will come up with a phrase or word to describe the feeling of returning to a blog like Pam's - her strong personality, her courage, her talent, her portraits of her family, the stories about her friends and baby kitten - as fresh as the day she hit the word 'publish' for the last time - and find her missing.

What words to describe the feeling that we've entered a home where everything is in order, but eerily vacant? The lights still glow, the pictures smile from the walls, the coffee pot is warm, but the owner has left. No note is on the counter, the door is still ajar, the birds come to the feeders, but no one is home.

So we return occasionally to peer in the windows for signs of life. We turn away, but pause to slip a note under the door mat with a scribbled hug and our email address, hoping a house-sitter will find it and allay our worry or confirm our suspicions.

The pixels shine as brightly. Pam's slideshow spins in the sidebar. One of my photos is captured there in the amazing art she created on her computer.

Tammy's picture shines from the comment queue above the keyboard where I drop these words into a blank space. I'm aware of her eyes as I scatter letters across the screen. It's as though she is watching.

The sad fact of this unaddressed flaw of the internet community is revealed in instances like Pam's, where we are left with no closure - only the pitiable, haunting flicker of her orphaned blog.

There are no customs to manage this grief. No one to address our consternation as to why the family has not put a mourning wreath on the door, left instructions as to where sympathy notes might be sent or merely typed one line stating the date of her passing.

I have a friend whose mother died three years ago. Recently she told me that she's left her clothes hanging in the closet just as her mother left them in the vacant little house outside of town.

Too painful to face. Too painful to empty the closet and walk away, or in Pam's family's case, too painful to enter this blog house where Pam still smiles amid her hopes and dreams.

Is it our business? Do we have a right to bristle with frustration at the void, at the unanswered questions? My answer is yes.

Because, finally, we did care. Through this imperfect medium, in this imperfect world, we reached across the physical boundaries of our short lives and hers and created a neighborhood of the heart.
She was one of us.

She was our friend with ALS, the disease that I never told her took my father in nine short months. We cheered her on as her life was extended with drugs, therapy, and loving care-takers, though we knew as surely as she did, that her courage could only sustain her warrior's heart a while longer.

With her unacknowledged passing, one of the homes on the block has been abandoned. The lights come on at night. The dog still sits by door. But no one's home.

The weeds will never grow here. The paint will never chip.

And there is the heavy irony in the title of Pam's last post:

"Still Standing."

What new turn of phrase can address this new phenomenon of the orphaned blog?

Perhaps the question is the answer.

On this spring day, I'm giving my family instructions as to how to manage my "Looking Up" when I die or become unable to care for my little house on the cyber neighborhood block.

Better yet, like a pre-planned funeral, perhaps we should write our own sign-off that some survivor could merely find in the draft drawer and put it out there, beneath the welcome mat, so that visitors could leave a little note in the mail box, gently pat the newel post, and walk away without feeling a uneasy sense that they've abandoned an old friend that just couldn't get to the door.

Rest in peace my friend, my lost neighbor.


Cathy Wilson

April 3, 2010


Anvilcloud said...

I posted some sort of note sometime after the blogs stopped. I was hoping that somebody would update us, but nobody did. One would like to know, but such is the price of anonymity that many of us practice. We don't have any other method of contact.

Cathy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Cathy said...

That's my deleted comment above. Sheesh. Need to take a few more moments for grammar.

Anyway as I was saying:

Yes, AC. I saw you over there. But I'm wondering if you have given any thought to the welfare of your blog should, God forbid, you become unable to tend it.

Cathy said...

My dear friend, Jonna, emailed this remark:

Oh, Cathy! I was teary-eyed by the end of your orphaned blog post! It reminded me of a quote E. M. Forster put in "Howards End", just before the book begins: "only connect ...". That's it, but it explains it all . . "

To Jonna:

Yes, honey. Connect. Life is so precious, made more so by the brevity. And you, my friend - are one of my most precious connections.

Mary said...

We do have a right to be sort of angry and expect an explanation but Cathy, some want to let the shoes lie where they fall.

I sent you a few nudges when you were away for a while and I was always so glad you acknowledged me! If I hadn't heard from you, well, I don't know what I would have done.

I have often thought about composing a draft of my parting gift to my faithful readers, good friends - some I've never met like you. I don't think Michael or Gina would want to touch my legacy (Mary's View) but if I asked them to, they would.

Lovely post,

Sweet Cathy.

Cathy said...

Sweet Mary,

It's a relief to know that you've thought about it, too. I mean - geeze - I was wondering if I was a little weird to think along these lines.

And Mary, it was always so good to know you had been here . . to see the note you'd slipped under the door mat to say you cared.


kate smudges said...

Thank you for letting me know about Pam's death. I often checked in on her blog. I was also glad to know, too, that Tammy left a comment. Our online friendships matter ~

LauraHinNJ said...

I saw this the night you posted it and just checked back now too see your update.

It raised the hairs on my neck!

We don't know, can't know really, how we connect.

Cathy said...

Yes Kate -

They do matter. I have neighbors whose hearts I do not know as well as my fellow bloggers.

It matters in this far too short life that we connect in whatever manner broadens our scope and deepens our humanity.

It's a wonderful mysterious voyage.

Oh yes, Laura -

So much mystery. I am the third of four generations of family that - only at times - possess a seventh sense that cannot be explained.

I don't see it as a spirit world thing - but only as some gift of brain configuration and the electromagnetic spectrum that has yet to be explained. After all - there are radio and tv signals passing through us right now that are only translated by appropriate recievers . .

But, yes. Sometimes hair-raising and sometimes just silly.

girl games said...

Very nice writeup.
I like your style.
thank you for sharing.

KGMom said...

Cathy--I too learned of Pam's death by going to her website. I had checked and checked and then sort of slacked off. I wanted to know---I always WANT to know.

Not sure if there is a way to remedy this, except to leave instructions to family members what to do. But then, none of us knows the timing of our own deaths. I think it would freak people out if we said--by the way, the blogger password is ... please post a note if I die.