Note: This post is from GRS founder J.D. Roth.
The best part of blogging is connecting with readers.
For years, I was scared to meet the folks I knew only online. Though it seems strange now, in the 1990s and early 2000s I drew a line between folks I knew in Real Life and what my ex-wife called my “imaginary friends.” When people asked to meet me in person, I thought it was a little creepy.
About five years ago, that changed. As Get Rich Slowly grew in popularity, more and more people asked to meet me for coffee or for dinner. Eventually, some of those people became my closest friends.
What’s more, I developed real connections with certain GRS readers whom I’d never even met. We’d exchange long emails about money or Mini Coopers or comic books. We’d get into debates about the best way to pay down debt. We’d share favorite books or restaurants or TV shows. I found it was possible to have a friendship with somebody I’d never met in person.
One of the people with whom I built a friendship was Tyler Karaszewski, whom many of you know from his frequent comments here at Get Rich Slowly. Tyler is intelligent, opinionated, and vocal. He often takes a contrarian view. (Sometimes I think he does it just for fun!) Tyler’s comments used to bug Kris (and a handful of my fellow personal-finance bloggers), but I found them refreshing. Even when I didn’t agree with him (which was often), I liked that he was thinking about things.
Last fall, on my return from Turkey, I spent a couple of days in San Francisco. On a sunny Sunday morning, I met Tyler for a walk around Golden Gate Park. As we strolled through the arboretum, Tyler told me about his life, and I told him about mine. He told me about his plans to change jobs. He was also looking to move. He and his wife, Jaime, were raising a baby daughter, and he wanted a better place for her to live.
It was a lovely autumn afternoon, sunny and crisp. We wandered the gardens. We ate burgers and fries. The Blue Angels roared overhead. Through it all, I was pleased to put a face to a name. Someone who had been only a friend online, simply a commenter on a blog, was now flesh and blood, a real human being.
In the late afternoon, we said our farewells and went about our business. Tyler returned to his life; I returned to mine. I retired from Get Rich Slowly and started writing at More Than Money. Tyler made the move with me, continuing to comment, continuing to offer his contrarian viewpoints.
Then, at the end of November, Tyler left a comment (or sent me email — I don’t remember which) to tell me some terrible news: His wife had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Jaime was young (her early 30s) and the disease hit her by surprise. Quickly, she and Tyler had to come to terms with the fact that she was dying. What did this mean for her? For him? For their daughter? Jaime started a blog to share her story.
Unfortunately, the story was all too short. Jaime died last Monday, just weeks after being diagnosed with cancer. Her service is this morning in San Francisco. Although I never met her — and although by most standards I barely know her husband — I serious considered flying down to pay my respects. Instead, I’m doing so here, posting this memorial at the precise time of her service.
My heart goes out to Tyler, and to his daughter. Tyler may have started as an “imaginary friend,” but I consider him a real friend now. I wish I could do more to offer him comfort during this time of terrible loss.
As often happens when somebody dies, I’m reminded that true wealth isn’t about money. It’s about relationships. It’s about the bonds we build with the people around us. Yes, money is important, but ultimately it’s just a tool to help us achieve happiness. And happiness is found most frequently by connecting with others.
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