About ten years ago I was actively playing an online game called Neopets. Pretty much everyone knows what it is, so I won’t go into detail. Within the framework of the game it is possible to have associations of players, called guilds, which allow for more interaction and communication. For a few years I actually owned and ran a small but successful guild, which allowed me to meet and interact with people from all over the world, with many of whom I still communicate today outside of the game. Trent, Kimmy, Kathy, Cara, and Bec are all friends whom I met through that game.
But the one person who probably influenced me the most, and with whom I had the most contact was a lady named Barbara Ann Thornton, from England, otherwise known as “Bats”. She was an intelligent lady, but a bit scatterbrained at times, and she fully recognized this and cheerfully laughed at herself. She was a very giving soul, generous, caring and compassionate, and it was a lucky person who found themselves taken under her unfurled bat wing. I was one such person. I don’t know whether she saw me as needing a mother, or whether something just clicked with us, but she was probably one of the most supportive and encouraging people I have ever had in my life. I remember I used to vent to her about the expectations on me with everything I used to do for my mom and mother in law. I snarled about having to visit multiple stores searching for some of the bizarre things my mom wanted, and referred to them as ‘eye of newt and bat wings’. Bats would always ‘flutter about in fear, furling wings to hide them’, or something along those lines, and we would laugh.
Bats had a number of health problems over the years, but always remained in good spirits, ready to laugh and share a joke with her friends. She had difficulty sleeping at night, so when I would be online before bed, she was still around. Many were the late nights we and others would chat on MSN about anything and everything. We had some hilarious conversations, and some serious, tearful ones, depending what was going on in our individual lives.
Bats had the uncanny ability to know when someone needed cheering up. She listened to me all through Sean’s speech therapies. She consoled me when I lost my mother in law. She was one of the few people I actually told on Facebook when Paul left me, and she was on the phone to me almost immediately. She had no qualms paying for transatlantic phone calls if she felt I needed a pick-me-up at any time. She actually came to visit me at one point, back in 2006, I think it was, dragging her husband and nearly-adult children along to meet people she had only previously spoken to online and via phone. She was a constant reader of this blog, and is one of the people for whom I made the effort to continue it, even when I didn’t want to. She didn’t comment often here, but would frequently send me a note on Facebook letting me know she had caught up. At Christmas she always sent me a Terrys Chocolate Orange. I’m not sure where she got the idea that I even liked them – because I don’t – but it was such a thoughtful thing to do. She used to send Matchmakers for Paul – but, well, when he left there wasn’t much point in that anymore! When my mother in law passed away, Bats sent me a beautiful planter, and we joked about how quickly I could kill it! (I am not a plant person!)
When I had been thinking about taking the kids to England this past summer, there was no doubt in my mind that I would go to visit her. We changed our minds about visiting England because of the Olympics and the Jubilee, but I was planning to try again next summer to see Bats.
That won’t happen.
On Friday morning I received the shocking news from two of our mutual Neo-friends that Bats had passed away suddenly on Wednesday from complications of a lung infection. I was stunned. I still can’t quite wrap my head around the idea that my batty friend is no longer with us. She may have been ‘only’ an online friend, but her death has left an empty spot in my heart, and I already miss her very much. My life was the richer for having known her, and her absence will be greatly felt. I am grateful to the Universe for allowing our paths to cross as they did. I learned a great deal from her, and will miss her wise words and calming manner in the future.
Oh – and the plant she sent me when Bev died is still thriving. I don’t know why or how. But what I know now is that I will do everything in my power to keep it alive….in memory not only of Bev, but also of Bats. Rest in peace, dear friend, and know that you are sorely missed.