How can you befriend, love, respect, and, ultimately, grieve and miss someone you’ve never met?
It’s easy if you’ve never met Cammy Chapel.
Some of you remember Lynn’s Weigh , the blog where I wrote about my weight loss and body issues from 2005-2015. Sometime in the late 2000s, Cammy and I discovered each other’s blogs, although I don’t recall which of us knew who first, and through a series of comments on our posts over a few months, we became…friends? Our interactions certainly were friendly, and Cammy knew (because I confessed) some things about me that I would only reveal to a confidant, and she did the same , so yes, we were friends.
In February 2013, Cammy, me, and three other blogging friends – Shelley, Lori, and Debby – formed a group called AIM: Adventures in Maintenance. For two years, we blogged once a month about what we’d learned about maintaining a more than 100-pound weight loss, and how we navigated those waters. I don’t have a link to my first post, but click here for Shelley’s.
Here’s our logo that Cammy created. How “young” we were!
I trusted Cammy, but not because of the relative anonymity of communicating exclusively online. I trusted her because she was the real deal. You know how you just know that about a person? Online, and, I am certain, in real life, Cammy was a good person. She cared deeply about other people. And the St. Louis Cardinals. When the Cards and Pirates played, we documented our friendly rivalry in texts and FB posts.
Shelley was the first of our former AIM team to learn of Cammy’s death, seven weeks after it happened. Given the strange way algorithms play out on Facebook, Shelley saw a post today (December 28) which Cammy’s sister wrote on November 3. It tagged Cammy’s FB account, letting people know Cammy had died. Shelley posted a comment there and that’s how I found out. Just to make sure, because it was so hard to believe, I did a Google search and, sadly, found Cammy’s obituary.
Our last group contact was in October, when Shelley texted Cammy, Lori, and me about her concern regarding Debby’s mental and physical wellbeing. Cammy told us that she had not heard anything from Debby in months and was not able to learn anything, given her limited contact information. Today, Shelley, Lori, and I have been in touch about Cammy, but sadly, Debby is still MIA.
How can you miss someone you never met? Is it real, the loss you feel? Absolutely! It’s what Pauline Boss describes as “ambiguous loss.”
Shelley wrote in our group text today: “It’s hard to fathom how you can be so close and open with people you’ve never met in person, to know details about them and their family, and yet not know if something bad ever happened.”
Indeed. That’s why I decided to make sure my kids have access to my passwords and accounts so they can let my online community of friends know if “something bad” happens to me, since there’s no way my passing will make the news.
Maybe give that some thought to how that might play out in your online life, too? Internet friendships are real friendships, and the people with whom you share that friendship need to know if something bad happens.
There is, and now was, only one Cammy Chapel. Only one Tippy Toe Diet blog. And Shelley, Lori, and I—and so many others who knew her—will miss Cammy’s voice, her certainty, her confidence, and her caring and loving friendship, even though we never met her in “real” life.