Guest post: ‘For Macey: A Friend I Never Met’ by Kevin McGinley


Today I am honoured that Navigating Cyberloss reader Kevin McGinley has shared his experience of online friendship and loss in this article. 

For Macey—A Friend I Never Met

A pastel drawing by Macey

In early 2011 my friend Macey died in a car crash when driving home from work on an icy evening. She was 18.

I never met Macey in person. She lived an ocean away. I knew her from an online game where our characters worked together as leaders of a city. The game could be quite exhausting sometimes, so we took to logging off for a break and chatting on MSN to relax.

Macey and I chatted regularly on MSN for over a year and a half. We hardly ever discussed the game we played, I guess because we started talking to get away from it. Instead we just chatted about everyday things in our lives and so we got to know each other pretty well. Macey was a good deal younger than me—just about to turn 17 when we first started talking—but we had a good rapport and chatting to her was easy, so we became friends. Even when we had stopped playing the online game together, we still talked and it was rare for more than a couple of days to go by without us having some conversation.

So my conversations with Macey became a regular part of my life and when she died so suddenly and so heartbreakingly young I was devastated. In the time immediately afterwards, I felt like I was in a daze, disconnected from reality—everything was going on as normal around me while inside me it was like the world had stopped turning. I kept asking myself over and over, “How can she be dead? She’s only 18.” For days I could barely eat. Even as time went on, my grief stayed with me. Macey died on a Wednesday and for six months afterwards, every time Wednesday came round I counted how many weeks it was since she had been gone. Long after she died—to this day, in fact—unexpected things would suddenly rouse memories of her and stop me short in whatever I was doing. Months on, talking to a friend about dentists, I remembered Macey talking about her wisdom teeth and how she was a bit scared about going to have them out, and the grief welled up.

I looked for ways to remember her. I set a beautiful picture of Macey with her dog as my computer desktop background. I gathered all of the pictures I had from her and put them all in a special file.  I went to church and lit candles for her. I had been thinking of getting a tattoo for a while but had wanted one that meant something, so now I got one of Macey’s artworks tattooed on my arm—a drawing of three lilies on a vine.

But a lot of people didn’t understand how I could grieve so much for someone I only knew online. They would look at me with a puzzled expression and ask things like “Did you ever talk to her on the telephone?” A couple of close friends gave me that look as well when they saw my tattoo and heard why I had got it. They actually asked why I couldn’t just have had a picture framed and put it on the wall. It was as if just talking to Macey on MSN wasn’t considered to be enough of a connection to justify my grief at losing her.

But Macey was a part of my day to day life for over a year and half. I knew her better and felt closer to her than many people that I saw and talked to in person every day. My memories of her tell how much it’s possible to share with someone, even if you never meet them in person, and how much someone can make an impression, even at a distance, especially someone as bright and talented as Macey.

When we started talking on MSN, I was amazed at how young Macey was. She was so capable and mature in the game that no-one would have guessed she was less than her late twenties, never mind still in high school. Her game character was intimidatingly competent, took no nonsense, and didn’t suffer fools gladly. But when you got to know her, she had a great sense of fun, with a really dry sense of humour and a nice turn in sardonic wit.

And talking to the person behind the character, she still had lots of those same qualities: I got a nice flash of scorn about not being able to read when I misspelt her name as “Macy” in our first MSN chat. She was marvellously abrupt and to the point as well. She would never start our conversations with any exchange of pleasantries, but just dive in with whatever was on her mind. Even our last ever conversation, the day before her accident, started with her just telling me out of the blue, “I hate lunchtimes.” When she signed off, she would just suddenly say something like “I have to go and cook now” and she’d be gone.

But brusque as she could be, Macey was sweet as well. She loved animals and had a lot of them at home—horses, cats, and a dog called Ember whom she absolutely adored. She often talked about Ember and showed me pictures of her. “Going to play with Ember now” was one of her more common abrupt sign-offs. She was smart about animals too. One time I showed her a picture of my sister on what I thought was her horse. “The horse doesn’t look very happy,” Macey said. It just looked like a horse to me. It turned out that the horse in the photo wasn’t my sister’s horse at all. She had swapped with a less experienced rider because this horse was a bad-tempered beast. Macey could tell its mood just from the photo.

Macey was a gifted artist too. She made beautifully textured paintings and clay sculptures that were done with an amazing eye for detail and a wonderful earthy touch. She had already sold some of her work. She used to show me pictures of her artworks, always acting a little dismissive of them—“Head is goofy” she wrote when she sent me some pictures of a wonderful sculpture of a horse—but she was proud of them too and wanted to share them and I felt privileged that she would share them with me. A short while before her accident we discussed the northern lights. She was working on a landscape and pondering the kinds of colours and shapes the lights made so she could figure out how best to paint them. The way her mind moved, the care and intelligence she brought to her art, and her so young, always just had me shaking my head in amazement.

But what really brought us close were the details of our daily lives that we shared. I followed the story of her getting her first ever job in a shop as it happened, from when she and her mother arranged the interview to her starting work. She acted casual about the whole thing, like it was no big deal, but I could tell how excited and nervous she was. On her first day she talked to me on her lunch break. I asked her how she was finding it. ‘Meh,’ was the terse reply. I asked her what was wrong. “I miss Ember,” she said—she’d been home all summer after school finished and she was missing her doggie. I could have hugged the wee darling. But she got to enjoy her job fast. Within a couple of months she was opening the shop in the morning during the bad weather and running it herself until others got in.

Another tender memory was when, after Macey’s grandfather died, she told me she was trying to play his guitar while we were chatting. She just wanted to feel close to him. But she was nervous because she thought she wasn’t allowed to touch the guitar and worried that someone might catch her and she would be in trouble. I told her I didn’t think anyone would mind—I was sure anyone would have been as moved as I was by how sweet and touching it was.

There were so many other small experiences that we shared. We chatted about Macey’s schoolwork, about her project for her art class and about how she was worried about her math grades. We talked about food, discovering a mutual special fondness for pizza and ice cream when she told me she had it for a seventeenth birthday treat and that it was one of her favourites. We talked about cooking—Macey introduced me to the concept of biscuits and gravy and had to explain that on her side of the Atlantic a biscuit was not something covered in chocolate. She complained about her hands getting chapped and we pondered what could be causing it, at least until she told me she was going out to have a barbecue in weather thirty degrees below zero. She told me about her crush on a much older manager at work, but she was a smart lass and knew it was a stupid crush and was amused at herself. A few days before the accident, she was babysitting her boss’s little daughter. She was tired but having fun and chatted amusingly with me about the games they were playing––Macey was trying to get her to play at forts with building blocks, but the little girl preferred using the blocks as bombs to drop on the fort. I remember too when Macey talked to me once about her ideas about the home that she would make for herself in the future when she was married. Her ideas were very definite—certainly not an apartment, it had to be a house and out of town, and it had to have land attached like a homestead so that she could keep animals. It made me smile, because it sounded pretty much like a recreation of her family home where she grew up.

These were all little things but they were still important. Talking about things like these helped us get to know each other more familiarly and showed we cared enough to be interested in the small stuff. Macey’s talent and intelligence were something to behold alright. But it was our getting to know each other by sharing experiences from our day to day lives that really brought us close and made us friends—and made my heart break with grief for her when she was taken from us so much too soon, so young and so bonnie and brilliant.

So people may wonder how I can grieve for someone I never met. But I look back at my sweet wonderful Macey, and at all I was privileged to share with her, and all I can think is “How could I not grieve?” My sister told me when I mentioned losing Macey, “You touched her life and she touched yours.” She was so right. Macey and I only connected online but that connection was real. I loved Macey. I miss her terribly and I think about her every day. She’s in my heart forever and I’ll never forget her.

_____________________________

In the future, I hope that we will share more of our stories together. This can only be the beginning.

Wishing you peace and strength on your journeys,

blog signature - 'Casey B'

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About Casey Bottono

I am in love with language. I write poetry and fiction in a wide variety of genres. Most recently, I have been shortlisted as a finalist in the Coalition of Texans with Disabilities' Pen2Paper contest.
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24 Responses to Guest post: ‘For Macey: A Friend I Never Met’ by Kevin McGinley

  1. melissa says:

    This just made me cry (and it came from the depths of my heart). It felt like reliving everything I had shared with somebody very special to me. I don’t think it’s just about death but losing people we love and truly care for. Nothing has ever shaken me til now.

    I laud you Kevin for sharing this. I have openly expressed pain in my posts but never like this. I spoke mostly of loss but you spoke of Macey in way that made her live again. I appreciate the friendship that you had with her and you are both special people.

    Oh Casey, this is so beautiful but I think I have to deal with the feelings that have just arisen in me…

  2. nikky44 says:

    That is one of the most touching posts. It brought me to tears and I could feel the joy you shared with your friend and the pain of losing her. My on line friends, are the only ones I have and the most important people in my life. The idea of losing them terrifies me. I don’t even think I would survive if anything happens to her

    • Thank you, Nikky – your kind resonse is much appreciated and I hope you can keep feeling supported by your online friends. People don’t realise how important they can be. Wishing you all the best.

  3. Derek T. Deska says:

    \My name is Derek and I also knew Macey through the internet, with that same game, MSN, many, many texts and a few phone calls between us. I met Macey when I was 17, she had just turned 16, and we talked almost daily until the day of her accident. I can tell you that Macey was the single most impactful person on my life as a young man growing up, even if she was younger – I can attest to just how mature, insightful and what a wonderful woman Macey was. Even now as I write this, I can’t stop myself from getting emotional over the girl that I loved.

    I don’t know what made me do it, but yesterday I opened a journal I started the day she passed and wrote in it for the first time in over a year. It was an experience to read the things I had written down both about her and the way things changed after she was gone. Just remembering the way I found out, the way my mind was processing it all, how enclosed I became for a long time..

    I remember the first time I spoke to her over the phone and laughing at how we each thought the other had an accent. I remember how it was snowing where we both lived and it made it feel like we were somehow closer. I remember her helping me through some rough times in my life and just how much she really cared for those around her, physically and online.

    I don’t want to write too much as I think KJ has done more than a wonderful job covering just what kind of a person Macey was and how she was so..real, no matter where she or her friends were. Macey was, in my eyes, a one of a kind person and someone that I will never cease to miss in my life.

    KJ – Thank you for writing this, it means so much to me personally that you would share these things. I know how much you meant to her and how much she meant to each of us.

    • Thank you for this, Derek – I love your memories about the accents and snow, and your comment about her being so real, no matter where we were, is bang on about how strong her spirit and character were to reach out to us like that and leave us so stricken by her loss. Sometimes I find little quotes that make some sense of things for me, and one was from a guy called Paul Bennet: “Grief is how loving her feels. My grief is, in fact, nothing more or less than my love for her.” I know from how Macey spoke of you how important you were to her as well – I think I told you before about her talking fondly of your insomniac text messages waking her in the wee small hours. You had as special a place in her heart as she did in yours.

    • Casey B says:

      Hi, Derek.

      Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this piece. I agree with everything you’ve said. Although I never had the pleasure of knowing Macey, Kevin’s piece gives a clear sense of what it must have been like to know her. The memories he shared make me think of some of my own with other online friends. I’m impressed that you managed to look back over your journal entries…that kind of thing takes a lot of strength. I hope you are able to find comfort in your memories of Macey and the conversations you had.

      Take care,

      Casey

  4. Kevin, I’m sorry for your loss. You’ve done a fine job of bringing Macey to life for those of us who didn’t know her. From your accounts, I can see why she meant so much to you. Your writing about her with so much affection also tells me about you and that your sister was so right. May you and Derek find comfort in your beautiful memories of a lovely girl.

    • Thank you, Corinne, for your kind words. I really wanted this to be a suitable tribute to Macey, so it means a lot to me that people feel they get a sense of her through what I wrote. Wishing you well.

  5. G Angela says:

    I am really touched by your sharing, and I felt the pain when I was reading, to lose someone who are so connected with us is a terrible thing, and I am inspired by your courage, to talk so much about macey, its a beautiful tribute expressed so well. Thanks for sharing!

  6. Mina Krystal says:

    Thank you for writing this about Macey and how you felt when we lost her. Her mother is my niece and I know how special Macey was. She will live eternally in our memories of her. She was a very special, unique person and I think everyone who knew her (on-line or in life) will always remember her and be glad she was a part of our lives–for however short a time it was. I remember best her love of butterflies and her gift for acting. She is hard to describe because she was so unique–and wise beyond her years—perhaps that’s why God only let us have her for a little while.??? I know her family misses her very much and treasure the memory of her. For a long time her father felt that somehow he should have been able to protect her—-but that’s the normal feeling of a father. We all feel that we should be able to keep our children safe–even after they become adults. But it’s not always possible.
    Thank you to you and Derek for sharing your memories. It helps to hear others feelings of loss. Mina Miner Krystal

    • Thank you, Mina. Macey was real special and so talented, clear even from just talking to her in cyberspace and so much missed by all who knew her. I hope you and all your family can find strength in each other and remembering what a wonderful lass she was. Wishing you and yours well.

  7. Mallary says:

    It has been an honour to read everyone’s kind words about Macey, after her accident I was contacted by many people who wanted to know what had happened and why Macey wasn’t answering texts, or on MSN anymore. While it was heartbreaking to have to break the news of her death to people who obviously cared for her so much, it was also heartwarming to find out that my little sister had touched so many people in her short life.

    Kevin has done an amazing job of sharing his memories of Macey in such an amazing way, my family and I are very proud to have such amazing people share memories of her. We miss her every day, but we can keep her alive through our memories. Thanks again Kevin!

    • Thanks, Mallary – it really means a lot to me that your family were happy for me to write this and I really tried just to let the impression Macey made on me shine through to show a little of her character, cos I knew just showing even a little of her would make a strong tribute. I hope you can all continue to stay strong together and really wish you all well.

  8. Kevin: What a beautiful post in honor of your friend. I don’t think I honestly grasped what this would feel like (in a sense) until a close blogging friend of mine disappeared for 2 months. She literally dropped off the web in every way and it was incredibly unlike her. A mutual friend of ours got in contact with me and together her and I started to fear the worst. Thankfully the worst was not what happened to her, but she did hit an extremely rough patch in her life that caused her to withdraw. I’m so grateful she is okay and back; I can’t even imagine if it had turned out the other way. My heart goes out to you and everyone who knew Macey.

    Casey: Thanks for sharing Kevin’s heartfelt post with us! It was a true honor to read!

    Lisa
    P.S. Thanks for linking up to the GtKY blog hop!

    • Thanks for the kind words, Lisa. I totally get your experience of losing touch with your friend as well – and I’ve read of several others who’ve have that experience – and your reaction shows how much we can feel for people even if we only know them online. I’m glad it turned out alright. All the best to you.

  9. Christina says:

    Such a touching post and wonderful tribute to an awesome young lady.Our online friends sometimes know us better than our “real life” friends, without a doubt. And it’s only natural to grieve the loss of an online friend the same way you would any friend. Thank you for sharing.

    • Thanks, Christine – I’m glad that my post was able to give some idea of the amazing young woman Macey was. And your point about it being natural to grieve online friends is spot-on, I think – connectng with people online is something still quite new and many people don’ really get it, so it’s gratifying to see so many like yourself here who do. Thanks for your understanding and support.

      • Mina Krystal says:

        Thank you for opening my eyes to another aspect of grief that I hadn’t realized occured. Your sharing of your relationship with Macey has made me realize that death -any death-reaches further than just the people who knew and loved them personally. I recently lost a nephew to a suicide, which shocked all of us to the very core. But I know he had an on-line friend and now I’m realizing how this may have affected her. I don’t know how long they’d been friends, nor how much they shared, but it was obviously important to both of them, and she appeared just as shocked as family and friends, and co-workers when he took this way out. Suicide is always hard to deal with but when it comes so totally unexpectedly with no warning signs, it’s really hard to accept and move on. Again Kevin thank you for sharing with us. Mina Krystal (Macey’s great-aunt).

      • I’m so sorry about your nephew, Mina – I know the suddeness and shock can really make such a loss even more painful and I hope you and your family are bearing up. I’m sure it was a terrible shock to his online friend as well and it’s really so generous of you to think of her in the midst of your own grief. I hope you can stay strong and think of the good times and know, as Mallary said of Macey, that he touched others’ lives even over a distance.

      • Mina Krystal says:

        Thank you for your kind words Kevin. We are each dealing in our own way. Some days are better than others, of course. It was your article about Macey made me realize that perhaps Joe’s on-line friend was doing her own grieving. I don’t know if his sister has been in touch with her or not. When he first disappeared, we, and the police, were hoping he’d decided to go to the States to see her. But that wasn’t to be. Again, thank you for your kind words. Mina

  10. Kevin, I’m very sorry for your loss. I completely understand. I lost a dear friend recently who I never met other than online. Online friendships are very real indeed. Thanks for sharing about Macey. And yes, how could you not grieve?

    • Thank you for this – it’s important that those who’ve shared this kind of loss be able to reach out to each other so we realize we’re not alone, and so words like yours mean a lot. I’m sorry about your friend. I hope you’ve been able to find strength and support through your loss.

I love it when you share your thoughts- so feel free.

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