Monday, July 4, 2011

Rites of Passage

It happened, damnit.

For the past almost 13 years I have been part of an 'on-line' family.  A group of women who started out on a very public message board for working mothers and who, over the years, have migrated through several different incarnations and who now have a private board where we 'meet'.  This group of around 35 women come from almost every part of North America.  I am one of several Canucks who have found we have more things in common with our American sisters than we ever imagined.

As with most families, we have been through our good and bad times.  We have held each other's virtual hands through the journey.  

We have celebrated accomplishments -- ours, our kids', our spouses.
We have cried over losses, big and small.
We have weathered the changes that life throws our way
We have sent our kids off to first grade and to college together.
We have watched our parents age, become ill and transition to the next life together.
We have cried for each other as marriages have broken down and ended.
We have rejoiced at new loves and new beginnings.
We have bragged without shame about our amazing children and their accomplishments.
We have held each other up when those same children stumble and fall.
We have encouraged each other in stepping out of our comfort zones, whether it is for a new job, a new career or even just a new hairstyle.
We have prayed when cancer has threatened those we love.
We have laughed over the silly things our families do.

The difference these women have made in my life defies description. They kept me relatively sane through the 4 years I lived in Canada's northern wilderness.  They reminded me that there really was still a world out there. 

They listened to my rants and tears when my marriage came apart at the seams and I had to find a new way to be in the world.   Now they listen to my dating adventures and remind me to laugh.

When my mother died as my marriage was ending, the words of love and support I got from my cyber-sisters were often the only thread holding me together. 

This past week we experienced the one Rite of Passage I prayed we never would face.  As I turned on my computer I was met with what I at first thought was a posting error.  It was a link to an obituary for someone with the same name as one of our members.  This CANNOT be right.  It is too soon to lose anybody to the next life. 

I held my breath and clicked.

Damnit.  Double damnit.  It was not an hallucination.  One of our members has gone where there is no mainframe or server.  She has logged off one last time.  We are collectively in shock.  The reality has hit us in the face. 

And so we say farewell to our sister.  We cry for her three beautiful daughters who will grow into adulthood without their mother by their sides.  We mourn for her husband who is undoubtedly overwhelmed by his loss and the loss his children are feeling.  We pray for strength for all of them, and for all of us. 

Goodbye, Dearest Ilka, you will not be forgotten.  We will keep your daughters in our prayers.  Know you are loved.  Godspeed, my Sister, Godspeed.

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