I play an online game called Hay Day. It’s a lot like Farmville, but for whatever reason, I like it better. I’m not addicted to it, but I do enjoy playing it – keeping my crops going on my farm, keeping the animals alive, producing food for the local neighborhood, etc. I know, I know..it’s nuts and a time suck, but sometimes we just need mindless fun.
Hay Day introduced “neighborhoods” to the game about a year ago, which you can join with other strangers – or friends if you know they are playing too – and form one large team to complete challenges, help each other out, and just work toward a common goal. We all know how I like to be a part of something bigger, so I immediately joined a team called “Always Helping Others.” It felt like a good fit.
Hay Day released a new chat feature with the roll out of the neighborhoods and we were able to talk to other players for the first time. I quickly learned that some of the other neighbors in our ‘hood were related – a few mother/daughter relations, a son/mother combo, and I got Daniel to join our neighborhood so there was a couple in there too. I met Preston, a young man who had started his farm not long ago. A child, actually. His grandmother – Granny Jean – also had a farm in our neighborhood and kept a good eye on “Preston’s Farm” while he played. Sometimes Preston’s mom, Anita, would get on and play in Preston’s place – especially if she had some down time or was bored. Helen became a familiar neighbor and she, along with her daughter Justina, had the best sales on their farms – selling hard to make and find things like jams, candy, and lobsters. There were a few more neighbors with family relations in our neighborhood and we all got to know each other pretty well. We never talked outside of Hay Day and didn’t know each other personally, but became friends nonetheless. When there was bad weather in certain parts of the country or the world, we would be sure to check on each other to make sure all was well. When someone was sick or had a death in the family, we offered as much support as possible online from a stranger.
Not long after we met Anita – Granny’s daughter – she told us she was in remission from cancer. We were glad to hear it, but it still hit hard that one of our sweet neighbors had been sick. Shortly thereafter Anita was in the hospital again for chemo. We all did what we could to support her, Granny, and her little Preston online, but it never felt like enough. We even offered to send her hats to keep her head warm when her hair fell out, but didn’t get them to her before she was released from the hospital and we didn’t want to dare ask for a home address. We were strangers, after all. Whenever we did see her playing online, we chatted her up, checked on her, and sent lots of love and prayers her way. It was so good to see her online. We rallied around her during all this and spelled out ‘Get Well’ messages on our farms in plots of land to let her know we were thinking of her if she happened to visit our farm.
About a month ago Anita got sick again and went back to the hospital. Granny let us know and we prayed and prayed. Anita’s farm sat dormant for little Preston wasn’t playing anymore either. Granny told us week before last that Anita passed away. I cried so hard for this woman I never met. For this woman whose loving mother kept us updated on her even as she watched her baby girl leave this world. For this women whose children will grow up without their sweet mom. For this woman who touched me in ways I can’t explain with her amazing attitude and love for all even though she was in pain and dying. I never met her, but I loved her.
I cannot imagine what Granny is going through. Again, we did what we could and let her know how sorry we were, how much we adored Anita, and that we were praying for the whole family, especially Anita’s little boys. Some of us created little crosses of flowers with a headstone on our farms to offer our love. Others spelled out ‘RIP’ on their farms.
I hadn’t visited Anita’s farm since she passed. I couldn’t. I went there tonight by accident – clicking too fast through the neighborhood. When I saw what was written, I lost it. I never met her. I never knew her. But I loved her. More than she could know. And she loved us too.