picture by Shyla Diggs
31 lit tea lights. 31 years come and gone, but a lifetime taken far too soon. One flame for every beautiful year my best friend lived on this Earth. It still feels unreal when I say that she passed away on August 5, 2013, because she is still very much a part of me.
My good friend Natalee Oodles reached out to me shortly after hearing of her passing, and told me how she was inspired to do a blogger’s challenge in her honor. I thought to myself what a wonderful and beautiful way to remember her. Andrea has always loved fashion in SL, and I’ve always really been amazed at the uniqueness of her look and seeing it evolve over all the years I’ve known her. She was excited as can be when she started hers up, and even though she didn’t have the best computer and had no way of using Photoshop, she somehow managed to leave a dent on the blogging community. She adored blogging; she loved finding new stores and putting looks together, she loved getting opinions on lighting and angles of her photos. I can just hear her now stressing about having 17 different outfits to blog and just saying “cba” when I told her to suck it up and do it (cba means “can’t be arsed” and was a favorite expression of hers). I’ll always remember the panic in her voice when nobody commented on her Plurk blog post, or if she didn’t get as many favorites on a picture as she expected. She would get so dramatic about it, kidding of course, and we’d just laugh and give her ‘pity comments’. I’ll remember her staying up all night till 8am her time for Collabor88 or faMESHed to open, her speech slurred from lack of sleep but the laughter strong all the same. Andrea is the reason that I even have a blog at all. She would constantly pester me to start one up, and when I finally got a computer that I thought was good enough for graphics, she helped me set this one up.
Just when I think I have no more words, more raw emotion comes pouring out. Just when I think I cannot possibly cry any more, the tears pour like a waterfall. But that is not what this post will be about, this post is about facing a challenge, as so many of us are. I know it will serve as a reminder to me to keep my head held high, and I hope that it will serve the same purpose for anyone facing sadness or overwhelming grief, be it about Andrea or anything else that life hurls at us.
You can read Natalee’s blogger challenge post in detail here. It challenges us to 1) express something you are thankful for, and 2) track progress of something you want to improve on.
Thankful. I am thankful for her friendship. When I put aside my own heartache for the loss of my other half, I am able to see just how thankful I am to have known her in the first place. Now, more than ever, Second Life stands out to me as a wonderful vessel for us to connect with people that we may never have crossed paths with otherwise. Andrea lived in England her whole life, I in the United States, and it is because of the internet and Second Life that our friendship had the chance to ever form and blossom into what it is today. I am thankful that she could so openly accept me as a person and a friend. I am thankful that she could see me exposed and vulnerable, in my darkest and most broken moments, and was able to pick me up and help me put all the shattered pieces back together. Whatever strength and security I feel today is in large part because she gave me the consistent support that we as humans so desperately need. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to grow with her, to learn from her, to teach her, to love her and be loved by her. I could sit here for hours and hours and try to piece together words that would express how thankful I am for her friendship, as so many fellow SLers have already done on this tribute website to her. But I am thankful for more than just her friendship – I am thankful for all of the people I have met because of her along the way, too.
The first thing I wanted to do when I was told that Andrea had passed away was call her. It was my initial, gut reaction and it always has been. In the past, whenever something happened to me or I got sad news, she was the first one that I told because I knew she could get me through it. She knew every last little detail about my life. And in the day or two after she passed, I just couldn’t shake this horrible, empty, sinking, lonely feeling. I kept thinking “How am I going to make it without her? Who am I going to talk to when I need to vent?” And although it took me a day or two of processing and grieving with others to realize, I can see it now. I am not alone because she is no longer with us. Rather I am richer than ever if I just open my eyes and embrace all the friendships that surround me. She seemed to have a billion people that loved her, some she met on Plurk, some she met in Second Life, others through blogging and Flickr. Every single one of you who has come to know her through one of those mediums is special to me, because she knew you and interacted with you, even if it was just once in passing. Not a single one of you is insignificant in my eyes because you were not insignificant in hers. She welcomed new friends into her life with open arms, gentle eyes and a sincere demeanor. That was one of the things I loved most about her; she treated just about everyone the same. But of course I know that nobody is perfect. She had flaws just like me and just like the rest of us (and I can assure you I reminded her of that constantly), but she really was one of the most accepting and least judgmental people I have ever known. Which brings me to the next segment of the blog.
Improving. I want to improve my life and I want to improve the lives of others, just like she would be doing if she was still physically with us. I want to improve on not being so quick to form opinions on others. I want to improve on reaching out to other people even if I am struggling. It’s too easy to tune everyone else out and just live in the land of egocentric suck when you’re having a bad day, and I’m guilty of it myself these past few days. But then I think about Andrea’s life and how she was battling so many emotions and obstacles herself on a daily basis, yet she always, always asked me how I was doing or how my day was going, sometimes even multiple times a day. And it wasn’t just to make conversation or to break the deafening silence she hated so much; she really wanted to know.
I want to improve on letting go of grudges and just being able to forgive and forget, because for the first time in my life I have lost someone dear to me, and now more than ever I realize just how precious life is, and how short it can be. As cliche as it sounds, I don’t want to waste time dwelling in negative emotions like resentment or hate. I am done with it. That doesn’t mean I will be a flower picking hippy who sees stars every time she meets someone new, and I am certain on some occasions my actions will contradict these very words. But I will try. I will try to forgive, forget and move on.
Dylan, Keri, Kate, Rebecca, Natalee, Darla, Chells, Katie, Layne, Johnny, Luke, Kara, Lulu, Shaar, Chuck, Jill, Abby McDonnagh, Giselle, Meg, Maelie, Brandi, Rachel, Liq, Tyr, Willis, Taylor, Roli, Dermie, Annan, Asia, Jo, Poly, Katy, Misha, Rose, Jared, Tyler, Love, Quint, Mayson, Cyke, Kilo, Lucie; whatever your name in RL or SL may be, thank you so deeply from the bottom of my heart. The list of people I want to hug could literally go on and on because the outpour of people supporting has been in the hundreds. If you are reading this right now, you are surely one of those people. To every single person who has taken the time to message myself or someone else and offer a comforting word, thought or memory in her honor: thank you. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart for recognizing what an incredible person she was, and knowing just how significant her presence in my life and in the lives of so many others is. Thank you for your prayers, your sound advice on dealing with this grief, your beautiful words in her memory and all the efforts put forth to let her spirit live on. I am truly touched by the kindness and sympathy this community has shown for Andrea, and it has made the pain that much easier to take. I am thankful for you all, and thankful for the feeling that I am not alone, even in the absence of my very best friend.
Did you ever know that you’re my hero
And everything I would like to be?
I can fly higher than an eagle
‘Cause you are the wind beneath my wings
It might have appeared to go unnoticed
But I’ve got it all here in my heart
I want you to know I know the truth, of course I know it
I would be nothing without you