Sunday, June 7, 2015

Breaking My Silence - My Memories of Amy 5/26/15

Hello, my real life name is Chrissy. My virtual alter ego in Second Life (SL) is known as Lacie Chambers. I’ve been thinking about what I want to say about my dear friend, Amy Nauman (pronounced NOW-MAN) also known as Scarlet Chandrayaan in Second Life over and over for days now. I know I have to start writing it down or else my poor head and heart will not allow me to rest. As I sit here staring at the cursor, the mix of emotions I’m going through are many. I’m sad, devastated, in disbelief, heartbroken, hurt, angry, regretful, exhausted, happy to know she’s no longer in any pain, lonely, hurting, deprived, overwhelmed… there aren’t enough words to express what I feel right now. I know there are stages of grief and if I had to guess I’m probably stuck in between denial and anger. Right now, I’m not really comforted knowing she’s in a better place. A better place to me would be cancer free and sitting next to me on the couch, scarfing down a pizza together watching a movie. Grief seems to be a selfish process to go through, at least for me. I have been having a difficult time seeing past my own feelings, but I’m trying. I have been sitting back and watching an entire world through plurk, second life and facebook mourn. I’m comforted to know that I’m not the only one that loved her and was impacted by her. I feel joy in knowing that Amy is loved by many. I feel blessed to know that so many people were able to see what I always knew about Amy and that she is one of the most amazing people ever to walk this Earth. I can hear her telling me “shut up” right now with her nervous giggle. Amy never saw herself as amazing or anything special. I’m glad we proved her wrong.

I had the pleasure of meeting Amy through Second Life. The exact date is fuzzy but it was around February of 2008. Back when “Last Call” and “Dazzle Couture” was the best clothing designer in SL and “Naughty Designs” had the hottest “skins”.

We met through a mutual friend and the only way I can explain how we became friends is: I MADE HER! Amy was always shy. Not a little shy, but super-duper “she doesn’t like calling to order pizza because she hates talking to strangers” shy. She once told me she had a handful of friends because she was so shy. Thinking about it in hindsight, I’m so lucky I got to be one of those friends. She would hang out in SL with our mutual friend and I. It was very easy to see through her interactions with that friend that she was very silly and kind. That made me think; “hey! I have to get to know this person!”. In the real world, I was always shy myself and at the time, I was living away from my real life family and had no friends or connections other than through the virtual world I created in SL. I added her to my friends list and when I noticed she was online I would IM her every now and then and we would small talk.

Little did I know at that point in time, Amy would become not just a best friend to me, but more like a sister.

Our friendship grew as we learned that we had a lot in common. We bonded over a love of shopping, goofiness, a fun sarcastic sense of humor and creativity channeled through SL content creation. At that point, I was obsessed with photoshop and had a photo gallery in SL and she had her tiny stall of a store making ALL THE RANDOM THINGS, Chandrayaan Creations. What I remember most about our time in SL is, she was always there. In everything we did.  As time went on, our interests changed, our businesses changed and we were there to support and encourage each other. She went on to open her urban jewelry store *ICED* and as what once started as a "photo studio", I started my own jewelry/SL Kids store LacieCakes. Amy had a talent and creativity I couldn’t catch up to. She even built a few of my store fronts. She went on to create a kids store called Just Kidding, a pose store, Magnifique and the mesh store most people recognize now, Alouette.

At the end of 2008, I decided to purchase a sim so we didn’t have to pay rent to people anymore and could have a permanent home. It was then that Larette Island was created. Myself, Amy and our other friend Elis split the sim and the name originated by mushing our Second Life names together that sounded kind of cool. LAcie, scaRlET, Elis (with an extra T in the middle). It’s on this sim that most of our Second Life memories were created. We both had building platforms but we usually shared one and built together. We could stand around in SL completely silent for hours, working on our projects. We would call out to each other, thanks to SL’s introduction of voice chat to randomly ask opinions, get inspiration, take random breaks to bust our avatars into dance, say “FORGET THIS STUFF” when we got mad at our builds and play greedy, or some other goofy excursion.

 At one point, our sim was over-run by breedables. Remember that, SLers? Especially bunnies. Oh how Amy loved bunnies. I shake my head thinking about it now. *chuckles*.

 As the years progressed, our friendship grew stronger. We would be chatting and blurt the same thing out at the exact same time which prompted me to yell at her to GET OUT OF MY HEAD! We were even partnered once, because you know, that’s what good friends do, especially in light of a SL break up. We saw each other through SL & RL relationships started and relationships ended. Any hardships we faced in either world, we faced together. She would vent, I would vent. We’d give each other advice. To say she was a loyal friend does no justice to the beautiful person she was. Of course, with all friendships, we had our disagreements, ups and downs, but rarely fought for long. Our friendship meant too much to each other to just throw it all away.

We trusted each other so much we had each other’s RL addresses and phone numbers. At one point in time, she even had my bank account number. That’s how much Amy was a trust worthy person. If anyone would cross her, I was quick to back her up and defend her, because I knew her and I had to jump up to explain her true nature, especially when anyone made an assumption about her character and had a very wrong impression. We would voice chat for hours. We both became plurk addicts (to say the least). Our conversations consisted of silly randomness to how awesome it would be if we could go see a movie together but we’d settle on watching a movie in SL. We thought we would make awesome roommates due to our similar tendencies. We loved to talk about how it would be fun to travel here or there. We often exchanged gifts over the years. As life has progressed she has even gotten gifts for my pets, my husband and my step-children. Much of my cupcake collection is because of Amy. One of the first things she ever sent me was a pillow that said “Friends are like stars, you can’t always see them, but you know they’re always there”. At the time, I had no idea how significant those words would become. In recent days, they have hit me like a ton of bricks.

Our friendship was obviously beyond Second Life and was more Real Life. So when I met my now husband, Mike, in 2012 our friendship was unfailing despite the fact that I drifted away from the virtual world. Had it not been for her surgery due to her first battle with her cancer in 2013, she would have been at my November wedding in real life. Her mom called and kept me updated when Amy couldn’t. I kept tied to plurk just to make sure I wasn’t missing anything. My husband is not a computer nerd by any stretch. When we were dating, I was a little embarrassed to explain the importance of Second Life and the people I knew in it. He understood how much the friends and family I still had in SL meant to me. He actually agreed to throw a small virtual wedding together in Second Life. Amy’s avatar walked my virtual self down the aisle as we recreated our Real Life wedding for our SL friends and family.

When it seemed Amy had beat cancer and she was feeling much better, I was overjoyed that we finally got to plan a real life visit and I got to meet the real Amy in May of 2014. Mike and I wanted to make her experience as memorable as possible and were determined to get Amy to try new things. We live in Ohio, it’s not exactly the most exciting state in the world but we crammed as much stuff as we could in a week. We went to mini golf, to the zoo, to a well-known landmark in Ohio: Stan Hewitt Hall, saw Maleficent, we had days that we just relaxed, we travelled to Pensylvania to shop at the outlet mall taking advantage of memorial day sales and she found lots of moose things, she tried new foods like Donut Land, avocado and sauerkraut balls. She got her hair did and got highlights, got a manicure, we went to Niagara Falls, gambled at a casino and Amy came out $5 richer (btw, she dislikes casino’s), and I forced her to do old people things and she played bingo, which she also was not a fan of. We did more shopping, in fact my room décor she helped me pick out. This was the trip my husband learned very quickly how similar she and I are. Even down to the way we whine. I recall him saying “I can NOT handle 2 Chrissy’s. This is just messed up”. And Amy laughed her laugh and said what Amy always said “Oh my goodness”. Writing this I can hear her voice and the exact way she said it too! This is also the trip that she decided she was going to be our neighbor. We live in a duplex and the neighbors were moving out within months. She met with our landlord and once the tenants moved out, she was moving in and was determined to convince her boyfriend to come with her. All in all, very exciting stuff!

Pic: Niagara Falls visit 2014.  I don't usually like to share RL pics  having struggled with my weight all my life but Amy was brave so I'm going to be brave too.  (Left to Right - Amy, Chrissy & Mike)

It was exactly one year ago, this week that all of this happened. If you would have asked me then that I’d be writing my memories of her down because she passed away, I would have called you a liar and been pretty angry. In October of 2014, just after Amy got the all clear the cancer was gone, and she was set to move next door, it came back. When she called to tell me her prognosis, I broke down. It was selfish of me, I wanted my friend closer but mostly, I wanted my friend to live. I think she consoled me more than I was any support to her. I’m ashamed of that fact, but that’s just how Amy was.

It was easy to see, especially through plurk how encouraging everyone was and that she was surrounded by support. The outpouring of love and encouragement was overwhelming. Despite any misunderstandings, The Leaf on the Wind project set up by her other close friends, Saff, Nicola and Rors amazed me and filled my heart with happiness for her.

 In March of 2015, Amy felt well enough to come visit to meet Mike and I’s kids and just get away for a while. Our kids were so excited to finally meet their Aunt Amy. They bombarded her with Star Wars stuff and pretty much were glued to her side. Her visit was only for a weekend but it’s a weekend I will always cherish. All we did all weekend was watch movies. I got to introduce her to my favorite Jane Austen movies and she claims she liked them. We even convinced her to watch a scary movie! It ended up being pretty lame. She went to her first ever hockey game too!

For Christmas 2014, Mike and I splurged and got her a Pandora charm bracelet. We got her the pink leather cord (pink was one of her favorite colors and the metal during chemo often felt really cold to her) and we got her charms documenting some of our memories together.

 - A 4 leaf Clover – during her first battle with cancer, she visited a random old book store and found a dried up 4 leaf clover in a book. We hoped it was a good sign for luck and positive things to come since she was just about to go through her first chemo treatment. Amy and I shared 4 leaf clovers as an omen. When I was going through a very rough time in real life, my Dad and I would take walks together daily. I was just starting out my weight loss journey so I didn’t walk as far as he did and would often wait and sit on a bench. It was in the same spot every day I would look for 4 leaf clovers while deep in thought and processing my emotions. It was on a particularly rough day that I said a prayer, asking God for a sign, and on this day I looked down from my spot and where I never found a 4 leaf clover before. I found one.

 - A butterfly – a symbol of everlasting life. What starts as a caterpillar, goes to sleep in a cocoon and emerges a butterfly. I have the exact same charm on my bracelet to feel a little more connected to Amy.

- A puppy toe – because we both love fluffies and to represent her puppy Henry.

- A Cupake – well, that’s all a representation of me. I also have the exact same charm.

We had meant to add to it as time went on. Amy was supposed to go on vacation with us to Florida in April but never could make it because she wasn’t feeling up to it. Amy and I never talked about “what if she passed away”. She never spoke like she would do anything but beat this. I never allowed myself the thought she wouldn’t make it either. When I spoke with her mom, she said she noticed Amy was wearing it and it was beautiful. She has assured me that Amy will be keeping it with her. For that I am eternally grateful.

 While I’ve been writing this I’ve been laughing and I’ve been crying. I still can’t believe she’s gone. I talked to her on Sunday May 17th to ask about visiting and told her to let me know when she was feeling better so we could have our Tinkerbell movie marathon. She laughed and said she would. I expressed my fears about my surgery on the 18th and she assured me, like she always did, that everything was going to be OK. I texted her on Monday and Tuesday to let her know she was right and I was OK but was in so much pain. I told her my mom and Mike found 4 leaf clovers, a lot of them, outside the surgery center so it was a good sign! I complained, we joked, and I told her that I loved her and she always meant so much to me and I appreciate the fact she has always been there for me no matter what. The response I received from her was “I might not be able to talk talk but I’d always be there for you”, I replied “We are non talk talk twinsies!” Her last text: “Haha, absolutely!”.

Amy, I know you will always be there for me, but now, you are my Angel.

Right now, I’m finally letting go of all of the anguish I have been feeling. Writing this out, I finally feel like I’ve been able to grieve. I wish I could map out every tiny detail of the past 7/8 years that I’ve known Amy, so you could see and know more about her. I wish I still had every chat log so I could sift through them and reminisce the words in ways that she could only express things.

For anyone that has managed to read all of this, let alone make sense of any of it, Thank you for taking the time to read any of it, even if you only made it through the first sentence. It means a lot to me that you also cared for Amy. It doesn’t matter if she was your friend, family, acquaintance or someone you just happened to know for a day. I think we can all agree, our lives are better for having known her. I am grateful to have shared so much of her short time with her and I am grateful to all of you for giving her happiness, being there for her, when people could have easily walked out because Cancer and the possibility of loss is too tough to deal with.

To her boyfriend Mark, thank you for loving her unconditionally and supporting her through every good day and every bad day. I can tell and all of us can tell how much you love her. I am grateful that we have all come together as a community to help her family in a financial time of need. I am hopeful we all can become better friends and keep her spirit alive by sharing our memories of her. Thank you for seeing and loving the beautiful person she is.

To my Amers, thank you for being my friend. A fact that I have never been open about myself, always fearful of ridicule is my being plus sized. When I lost a lot of weight, you once told me that I was an inspiration to you and you made changes because you saw what I did. What I did is nothing compared to what you have done. You are the true inspiration. Thank you for teaching me to be a better person and to be selfless. Thank you for teaching me the true meaning of forgiveness. Thank you for being understanding. Thank you for teaching me it’s OK that I’m not a perfect person. Thank you for teaching me to be more open and less worried about what other people think. Thank you for all of your support, words of encouragement and for believing in me. Thank you for being there and teaching me to cherish life more. Thank you for teaching me to try new things, to not stay mad long, and to remain positive, no matter what. Thank you for teaching me to embrace the silly things in life that it’s OK to love fluffy bunnies, mooses, stitch, to cry at Big Hero 6, and it’s OK to be a nerd and love Star Wars, Big Bang Theory and Dr. Who. Thank you for the laughter. Thank you for the comfort. Thank you for making me a part of your family. Thank you for everything. To say you will be missed is an understatement. Rest in Peace my darling, wonderful friend. Until we meet again.

Much Love,

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