Shine On

I lost a blogging friend last week.  It’s odd how the people we meet only through their blogs can seem like friends, but I guess that’s what happens when people write about their own lives, honestly and openly.  Those who read and comment on their posts really do feel as if they actually know the person who wrote them.  And few people wrote more openly and honestly than Martha, the late author of .https://whitehairgrace.com/

When I first started following her blog, Martha was writing about striving to live her remaining years as fully as possible.  I’m about 15 years younger, but her words still spoke to me.  We live in a society that values youth, and it can be a challenge to look for the blessings that come when we have more years behind us than we do ahead.  Then she was diagnosed with cancer, and that became the topic of most of her writing. Still, her spirit shone through in every post, despite the struggles with treatment, the brief remission and finally the acceptance of her upcoming death.  I won’t even try to explain how much I valued her blog, because I don’t have her eloquence.  I’ll only say her posts were a gift that I very much appreciated.

My regular readers know that I volunteer as a dog walker at our local shelter three times a week.  It’s very satisfying to help shelter dogs, but it can also be very draining, both physically and emotionally.  Those of us who spend a lot of time in shelters develop close friendships, probably because we support each other through the hard times.  One of the people I leaned on the most was an adoption counselor named Sherry.  She always listened to us, answered our questions, and offered comfort and encouragement when we needed it.  She was usually cheerful and upbeat, and known to break into an impromptu dance when she thought the occasion warranted it…and the occasion almost always did.

Sherry was in the middle of her own battle with cancer when my husband was diagnosed.  And even though she’d retired from the shelter and was undergoing very difficult treatments, she called me at least once a week to ask how my husband was doing.  They had the same kind of cancer, so her advice was on target and very helpful.  The many, many, people who knew her were devastated when Sherry passed away.   I was amazed at the sheer number of heartfelt tributes that appeared on social media, and I’m suer that was just a fraction of the people she’d helped in her life.

I honestly believe that people like Martha and Sherry are examples to us all.  They weren’t perfect, and didn’t pretend to be.  But they shared the best of themselves with others, each in her own way.  Whether it was  in the blogging world or the shelter world, they helped others with their openness, their wisdom and most of all their generous spirits.  They were the kind of people who light the way for others who are sometimes still stumbling in the dark.  May their light shine on forever…….

106 thoughts on “Shine On

  1. Oh how awful. I lost a blogger friend who I’d actually met in Texas. There are many of us who still miss him. I just can’t imagine the act of dying from cancer. It’s like being on a plane that you know will crash. I’m glad your husband is better. And I wish I’d known about your friend’s blog.

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    • I still feel a bit funny calling her a friend, since I only knew her through blogging. But I loved her blog, and her comments on my blog. She was a wonderful person. If you google, “White Hair Grace,” her blog is still live. At least it was this morning, when I saw her last post. Her son posted it for her. And thank you!!!

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  2. Sending condolences, Ann. I lost a blogging buddy a couple years ago, and I was shocked to be sitting at my computer bawling, even though I’d never met her. It’s true that many times we end up knowing someone more than some of the people we speak with in real life.

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    • Yeah, I was surprised that I cried. I knew it was coming…she was very honest about where she was in her cancer battle….but it still felt like a loss. She was a good person, with so much to offer. I’m so glad her son posted her final blog post that she wrote a few weeks before she died. It was closure, you know?

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  3. Ann,
    I love how you celebrated these two friends of yours by sharing how each of them touched your daily life. It is easy to forget what a big impact we can make on someone just by the way we respond while going about our routines. I am sorry for the loss your are experiencing. I am sure you will carry a part of both these people with you into the future.

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    • Thank you, Ali! You got what I wanted to convey….not my personal sense of loss, although that is real. But just to point out how easy it is to make a huge difference in the lives of the people around you, and how important it is to make that a positive difference!

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  4. Thank you, Ann. Reading about good, caring, and compassionate people is just the antidote to most of the news and noise that bombards us. I’m sorry I didn’t know Martha or Sherry, but am grateful that there are many like them we can look to when the world trends toward negativity and discouragement.

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    • Thank you, Donna! They absolutely were the kind of people that kept my faith in humanity. They didn’t make the news, they weren’t famous, but they sure made a difference to those people they touched, either personally or online. And that’s what truly counts.

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  5. I agree with what you’ve said…meeting new people and reading their blogs will make you will like you know that person like you truly know them.I’m sorry about your friend.

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    • It is funny how we feel as if we know someone we’ve never met in person, isn’t it? But I think that is one of the benefits of blogging: we get to know what others think and feel, even if they live halfway around the world! Thanks for your comment and your care!

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  6. Sorry for the loss of your friend Ann. I hear you when you say, the bloggers you interact with become friends. In the end it is not the problems we face, but how we face them that defines us. Sounds like Martha faced them head on. Allan

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    • That’s a great way to put it, Allan! Yes, it’s how we face the problems that truly define us, since we don’t get to choose the problems we face. Martha did face her mortality head on, and in a way that helped the rest of us, too. We’ll all be in her shoes one day. I only hope I can anticipate my own death with half of the courage, acceptance, and even joy that she did!

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    • I’m so sorry, Neil! Blogging friends are still friends, and their loss hurts. It sounds as if Caroline was someone whose presence really did make a positive impact! (And thank you for that link….it was very touching, and made clear just how much of an impact they made!)

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  7. I’ve lost four dear blogging friends over the years, and experienced feelings much like those you’ve expressed. One ended up serving as an editor for me, one was a fellow in Jerusalem that I exchanged emails with for years, and one was a well known NY radio personality and foodie who seemed to disappear off the face of the earth. Many of us spent a lot of time and energy trying to find her, and we finally did: in tragic circumstances. All of that’s just a way of saying that the blogging world’s much like the real world. It’s filled with good people and the not so good, not to mention much happiness and some tragedy. If we’re blessed to find good people and some happiness with them, it’s worth celebrating — as you have here, in honor of your friends.

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    • I’m so sorry you’ve been through this four times! And yes, I agree that the blogging world is very similar to the “real,” or in person, world. And we feel the losses in the blogging world too. All we can do is try to follow the example of the people we admired, and who helped us when we needed it. Thanks for your comment!

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  8. I am sorry that you have lost two good friends…there does not have to be face to face contact for friendship – and deep friendship – to exist. Blogging expands our chances of friendship and we meet some wonderful people that way. The loss of blogging friends hits hard….and worse – for me – when the blog ends and you do not know why. So glad the son, in this case, provided conclusion.

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    • I will be forever grateful for the son who posted her last words! Ever since Martha ended her blog to focus on her health, she’s been in my mind and I was hoping she wasn’t suffering. That beautiful post provided closure for her many readers….Martha may be gone (I truly believe to a better place) but her words will endure. Thank you for that insightful comment!

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  9. Oh my gosh, I am so sorry for the loss of your friends Ann. People come to us in many different ways in life & our lives are forever changed for having known them. In the blogging world, there are many of us who share very personal thoughts & experiences and through our writing, hope to connect & perhaps touch another person’s life through our own experiences. Whether we ever have the opportunity to meet in person or not, we form a bond through our writing. That, to me, is friendship.💕

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    • I’ve come to believe that blogging friends are real friends, too. I resisted that idea for a long time: how can we be friends with someone we’ve never actually met? But now I realize that when someone puts their feelings and thoughts on a blog to share with others, we do indeed know them. And comments help as well. So when we find a kindred spirit in the blogging world, then yes, they are a friend! Thanks for being one of my kindred spirits….

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  10. What a beautiful tribute to your friends, Ann. I feel your loss – these women made a difference to the world and were irreplaceable. What a gift they were! It seems that the lesson here is that when we make a difference to others, we live on in their hearts.

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  11. I’m so sorry for the loss of your friends, Ann. You are continuing their impact by all that you wrote in this blog. I often find myself telling someone about something that my friend wrote in a blog. It hits me that I call them my friend when we have never met, but as you said, our sharing here in the blogging world really does create dear friendships. You are one of those people in my life and I’m thankful for that, and for you.

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    • Thank you! And yes, I also find myself referring to blogging friends, and then I stop and think, “Is the word friend right?” I’ve come to agree with you that it is…there are different types of friendships and online ones are real! Thank you for being one of my blogging friends!

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  12. Ann, I’m sorry for this loss of a friend and I’m so sorry for your sadness. This is certainly a loss on more than one level and in more than one way. When we give others a home in our hearts and when others let us into theirs, the joys are deep, but so will the grief be too. Still, it’s the “price” we will willingly “pay” when we choose to love and when we allow others to love us. You have lost two very special people, Ann, and it must hurt. Yet, the big heart you have will allow you to also remember how beautiful Martha and Sherry were. I hope and pray that those memories will give you some comfort in this difficult time.

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    • Thank you so much! Sherry died over a year ago, but when I started to write about Martha’s death, I realized I needed to write about Sherry’s as well, because they were the same kind of people. And I still fee the loss of Sherry! I agree about the vulnerability of loving others. I can’t remember which poet said it, but I do remember hearing in English class that when we love someone (and that includes the love of friendship, not just romantic love), we do give them a piece of our heart, and that when they die, we lose that piece. It takes a while for our heart to heal over that “emotional hole” and that’s why we feel grief. I think for profound losses, like spouses or children, the hole never completely closes, people just learn to live with them. Your comment, as usual, was so insightful and helpful!!!

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    • I so agree! None of us are perfect, and we all have our moments when we are definitely NOT our best selves. But that isn’t what matters…what matters is that we do the best we can on a regular basis to help others. If we do, then we really can spread a light that never dims. Thanks for your comment, Ally!

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  13. We can learn a lot about living from those that are at the end stages of their lives! My best friend died a few years ago and it was from spending time with her and her husband (for the last two years of her life) that I learned how not to be afraid of death.

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    • That’s exactly what Martha said in her final post that was shared by her son! She wanted to let people know that death isn’t anything to be afraid of, and that she had found peace and even a joy in her stay at hospice. In our culture, we don’t talk about death enough…it remains something mysterious and to be feared, even though it’s the natural end to every living thing on the planet. Thanks for your comment!

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  14. You presented the sad news of the passing of two dear friends in a way that deeply touched my heart. As we grow older, we become more and more aware of the few years we have left to live. I feel like you, Ann. that a blogging friend is someone who can be as close to one’s feelings as a real friend.

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    • You’re right, Peter, the older we get, the more we realize our own mortality, partially because we have watched so many of our own friends and family pass away. I also agree that a blogging friend is a real friend. We share our ideas, experiences and insights on our blogs, so the people who read them know our true selves in many ways. And when we like someone’s true self, then we are a friend to them! Thanks for letting me know my post spoke to you…and for being a blogging friend!

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  15. I’m so sorry for your loss, Ann (and make no mistake, it’s a loss whether you met this blogging friend in person or not). Lovely tribute you’ve written. Recently, I learned that the elderly mom of one of my long-time blogging friends had passed away; and that the elderly dad of another blogging friend had passed, too. You’re so right: when people write honestly and openly about their lives and the people who matter in them, we come to “know” and appreciate those folks, too — and then are able to share in their grief.

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  16. Those are two sad losses – both friends, even though you never met one of them face to face. Blogging friends are friends. Every time I meet a blogger I find she (it’s always been she so far) is exactly as I expected from her blog because she put herself into it. I’ve recently been thinking a lot about friendship and how the pandemic has changed my attitude. All friendships became online in one way or another! I now value existing friendships more, because I know how easily contact can be whisked away, and I’m more open to making new friendships in circumstances where I might not have made the effort in the past.

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    • They really did! Sherry died last year, and Martha just recently. But I found I couldn’t write about Martha without also writing about Sherry, because they were so similar in the way they helped other people. They were the kind of people who really do make the world a better place. Thank you for your kind words, Miriam!

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  17. I am so sorry for the loss of your friend – it’s amazing how we can connect with friends we have never met. One fellow blogger told me about the death of a blogging friend a few years ago but I think that quite a few of my old friends may be succumbed to Covid or other illnesses. During the Pandemic, many bloggers disappeared from WordPress. Perhaps they had nothing to write about in what was a stagnant era for us all.
    Your post beautifully memorialized your friendships.

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    • Yes, I’ve noticed that too. I think that blogging during the pandemic became tough: how do you find inspiration to write when the whole world has shut down? And I’m sure others got sick or were caring for sick family members. It was such a hard time, and we’re still dealing with it on many levels. Thanks for your kind words. It is amazing how much we get to know people we’ve only met online, isn’t it? But that’s also a gift!

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  18. Such a beautiful tribute to two very worthy souls, Ann. I am certain they would say they were blessed to have your friendship, as well. Hugs to you as you grieve their loss of life; but celebrate the many treasures they gifted you with, during your times together.

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  19. I’m so sorry, Ann. I read Martha’s last post and could tell she was and is a lovely person. Sherry sounds like a wonderful person as well. I know you will miss them both in different ways. Grieving and missing them honors their memory. Thank you for sharing them with us. Take care!

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    • Thanks so much, Brenda! That was what I wanted people to get from this post: that there are people out there who really do give the best of themselves to others on a regular basis. The loss of them is hard, but the real lesson is to use them as an example for the rest of us!

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  20. I’m so sorry that you have lost two dear friends. They both sound as if they were very special to you, each in their own way. I will definitely take a look at Martha’s blog later. I’m glad you had them in your life for the time you did. I believe that blogging friends are real friends, too. I sometimes mention to a non-virtual friend that I read a post from a blogging buddy that really touched me; not everyone understands the close bond we feel in a relationship with those people who have become a part of our families and, in my case, probably know more about what’s in my heart than some real-life friends. I’m sure Martha and Sherry will be much missed by many people, including yourself. I will be thinking of you as you grieve and come to terms with your sad losses, Ann … Ellie x

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    • Thank you! I know that many people will feel the loss of Martha and Sherry, and it is especially hard on their close friends and family. But one was a shelter friend and the other was a blogging friend, and I’m very sorry to lose them. I agree with you that blogging friends really are friends! Thanks for being one of mine.

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  21. A touching tribute to two very special women, Ann. I can feel the way they both touched your life and it seems to me that if we all tried to be just a little bit more like them…oh how different the world would be.
    I am truly sorry for your losses, but I also know your life was infinitely better because they were in it!
    Sweet Blessings, my friend 💜

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    • Thank you so much, Lorrie! And you’re right, as much as we miss people like Martha and Sherry after they’re gone, we’re still just so very glad we knew them at all. They enriched our lives and are examples to the rest of us about how we can treat others. Your kind words and your understanding are very much appreciated…you are a valued blogging friend!

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      • I remember when I first started blogging, Ann, that some people in my life threw out such fear based ideas. They thought it was all a scam and that people weren’t “real.” I didn’t want to hear that because I didn’t want to believe it! I have met incredible souls here (of which you are included 😉) and have made lifetime friendships. I don’t have to meet someone in person to know who they are…perhaps we know more about each other because we read such raw and deep emotion. I have also “lost” a few blogging friends…and though gone from this earthly plane…they will never be forgotten!
        Thanks for being one of those special friends…and here’s to all who have left…they will never leave our hearts 💜

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        • I was worried about the same thing! But with the exception of a few spammers, the people I’ve “met” in the blogging world have been very real and very nice, just like you. Blogging has really expanded my horizons that ways and I’m very grateful for it. And I agree, those who have left this world never leave our hearts….. Thank you!

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  22. Ann: What wonderful tributes to your friends whom you have lost. They will live on in the special memories you have of them. I’ve been off the blogging for a while and you were one of the first I returned to. Thank you for the inspiration I needed, and my sympathies for your losses. I, too, am a spouse who is supporting a partner with cancer. One day at a time, and everyday is a gift. Best to you, Kate

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    • Thank you so much, Kate! I’m so glad to know you are blogging again, and that we have reconnected. I’m so sorry to hear your spouse is also fighting cancer. You’re so right to take it one day at a time, one treatment at a time. They have made so many advances in cancer treatment, and that is a comfort. At this point, my husband is in remission and we are very grateful for that. I hope remission is in your loved one’s future too, sooner rather than later. Meanwhile, just live as fully as you can, savoring every day as the gift that it really is. Take care……

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  23. This is very emotional and heartfelt. Also, I am sorry that you lost a blogging friend , I am sure that wasn’t easy. I also loved the way you described writing and that a few writers write and share openly about their lives. As for me, I write openly about men’s fashion and style even soccer because it is what I love and it is part of my life

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