American in Spain

Mourning An Internet Friend

April 17, 2017

Black RibbonI have a different relationship to social networks than I think most people do. As a transatlantic telecommuter, I spend much of my day physically isolated from other humans. When I was doing this before Twitter and Facebook, I was much more chatty and collegial with my coworkers over whatever chat service we used to use. I also blogged more. Whilst I certainly suffer from the distraction, filter bubble, and other dopamine-based addictive issues with Facebook (I saw a report the other day that the average Facebook user that logs in every day checks their newsfeed 150 times a day...seems high, but...) that everyone does. But Facebook also scratches my innate human social itch that would not otherwise be alleviated by watercooler chitchat. I have made quite a few friends via this blog, and I've even met some of them in meatspace, a fantastic antonym to cyberspace.

There have only been a few online friends of mine who were so secretive as to never ever share a photo of themselves, and often use aliases for their name, such that I was never 100% sure what their real name was. When someone tells you, "Hey, you can follow me over on this other network where my name is completely different," it can be a little weird. One such friend was Lee Buckley.


I'm not sure when Lee first commented on my blog. For a while I wasn't sure if she was a she, since there was another comment by a totally different person around the time that she showed up: "Great story, my wife and I were LOL. We live in Segovia...". Lee was always a regular commenter, which is of great value to a blogger. Comments are the dopamine pellets that keep a blogger going. Here is a sample:

Toddler Conversations - Oh, god, has she grown up in a couple of weeks! She's gone from baby face to toddler face (so stylish with the longer hair and bangs!) And she's obviously having so much fun speaking English.

I wonder where that plane is going - I ALWAYS wonder where that plane overhead is going (and always want to be on it). And since I grew up in NYC, knowing that so many flights were going to so many wonderful places drove me nuts (no wonder I ended up moving overseas). This is wonderful!!

The Perfect Dirty Joke - A lot of the Italian restaurants in Madrid are run by Argentines (granted, many are descendants of Italian immigrants). I'm from NYC and it's pretty common that immigrants will open restaurants whose cuisine are not of the culture they come from. My favorite Italian restaurant in my neighborhood in Queens was owned by a guy from Peru and his wife from Ecuador. (They met working in an Italian restaurant).

Of all my 200+ Facebook friends, I have about 8-12 people with whom I communicate with - actual comments, not just likes - on a near daily basis. Like it or not, you end up feeling closest to those people. I actively enjoy their "virtual" company. And Facebook knows it and does its best to show me more things from these people. Lee was one of these select few.

I knew that she had health problems – she cited several as reasons why she couldn't meet us when we were last in Madrid – was 20+ years older than me, and had been in and out of the hospital with cancer and other issues.

On Saturday, a common friend sent me a worried message asking if I knew why people were posting "Rest in peace" messages on her Facebook page. I saw that her last Facebook post was a share of a video – last Monday, exactly one week ago as I write this – that I had shared about New York state offering free tuition to low income students, a post I had shared specifically hoping she'd see it.

Concerned, I immediately contacted someone that I knew was one of her closest "care for my cat during my hospital stay" meatspace friends. He told me to call him on the phone, where he informed me that Lee had passed away on Friday night.

Unlike when you lose someone with whom you have shared experiences in person, literally everything Lee and I ever said to each other is recorded and can be read back through. That's pretty strange.

To finish up, I think it's appropriate to share two of her comments, to console me, as a good friend would, upon losing my grandfather-in-law and a fetus.

Ramón Hidalgo Caballero, 1920 - 2011 - I bet [your daughter] will remember him. Keep showing her photos of him. Also, memory get fuzzy as kids enter older childhood/adolescence, but I bet when she's older she'll remember. Or that's been my experience.

Also, the photos you've posted here are precious. I never got to know either of my grandads. I envy those who did.

Pregnancy Terminated - Erik, we've never met and probably never will, but I love to visit your blog, read stories about Nora and your family and your town and compare your musings on being a foreigner in Spain to my own.. And at first I didn't want to put a comment here, because your loss is so personal. But I also know that a loss like yours can make other people feel uncertain about what to say, to the point of saying nothing. My sister lost her first baby to crib death when he was 8 weeks old. and I remember how isolated I felt because many of my friends said nothing, under the good intentions of not saying the wrong thing.

From the impression I get of you and Marga, you seem like exceptional people, and I know that whatever the future will bring you, you'll deal with it with grace and optimism. You both have a lot of love in your life, and that's all anyone really needs. Un abrazo muy fuerte.

I'll miss you dearly, Lee. Un abrazo muy fuerte.