Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Online Relationships - when they work

By now, I'm sure everyone is aware that I not only sanction the validity of online relationships, I have a few of my own. Close friends whom I would invite into my house if they lived in the same city. People with whom I have talked with on the phone, online, in voice chats and in emails. People with whom I have made plans to meet (one was foiled but I have met others) and people whom I definitely believe I WILL meet - someday.

I wanted to tell of a relationship I had the pleasure of watching grow, and culminate in the ultimate of relationships. It began, for me, when I joined a large list group of rubber stamp artists. Linda was a "main character" on the list, someone who posted often and who was well-known and well reputed. Her posts were funny and poignant, informative and friendly and she welcomed me to the list when I posted a "newbie here" intro. Linda's nickname was "Giggles" - and I soon found out why: it personifies her bubbly self.

I soon found out the Linda had been undergoing treatments for leukemia and was posting from inside a plastic isolation bubble - unable to have visitors as the chemo had wiped out her immunities, she found solace in the company of others - online. Not only that, she is a very talented artist and I soon found out, firsthand, how talented she was when I participated in a swap of cards in which she also participated, and was lucky enough to receive a "Giggles original".

I found out that there had been a card-a-day campaign - unbeknownst to Linda, one of her friends had organized a round-robin where those who signed up sent her a card on their promised date, and that would ensure that she would receive mail every day of her isolation. The spirit on this list was awesome and inspirational and I did sign up and sent her a card of my own.

Then came Don - aka Peter Pan. Don had his own story - divorced, having lost a 13-year-old child to a tragedy (I never found out what, and never asked), he was NOT a rubber stamp artist. He and Linda "met" while she played trivia online, and he was usually in the virtual room in which she played. Don and Linda began to chat, began to talk on the phone, and became closer. It was a safe observation that they were becoming a couple.

Don moved from California to New Hampshire when he found a new job and a new life. On his way across the country, he stopped in Ohio - and stayed for a few days with Linda. Their relationship was cemented on that visit. But he had to go on, and she had to stay. Until she was diagnosed with a secondary tumor, a liver tumor, caused by all the chemicals in her body, and told that there were experimental treatments in Boston. She moved in with Don - who lives 45 minutes from Boston - and that was just the beginning.

I had the honor of attending their wedding in 1998, which took place at a rubber stamp artists' convention just outside of Boston (an annual convention at which I had met a myriad stampers from the online list). I not only attended, I was a bridesmaid and acted as their publicist. They knew this story was going to hit the news - the wedding took place DURING the convention, on the floor, and stopped the house in its tracks.It was truly an emotional happening for those of us who knew Linda and what she had been through, but the feelings were palpable in the convention center itself. As their publicist, I sold an article about the wedding to an international rubberstamping magazine, and it was one of their top-selling issues. The wedding had become a happening throughout the artistic community and across the 'net. When I talked with Linda and Don about this article, I asked what they wanted my perspective to show. Linda was very specific.

She said, "I don't want this to be a cancer survival story. I want it to reflect how I found friends and family on the Internet and how I met my husband online."

There were upwards of 40-45 people who came to Boston specifically for this wedding. We were from Canada (2 of us - myself, and someone from B.C.), all over the USA, and one person came in from New Zealand to witness this event. Linda wanted that reflected in the article, and I believe I did just that. The comments that I got on the article after it came out (via emails and the list) were all along the same lines: those who were there relived it; those who were unable to attend felt that they'd been there. And though the article was definitely a contributor to that, it was based on everyone who had watched this friendship become courtship, love, and marriage, via the exchanges online between Don, Linda and the rest of us.

This is only one incidence in which the 'net has brought two people together. It is by no means the sole example. In my own experience, I have been witness to many successful online relationships as well as those which have NOT worked. I have more to tell...but that will be in another entry (saving something for your suspense factor *g*).

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