During the server downtime which began on Thursday and ran until Saturday, there was much gnashing of teeth and kvetching by LOTRO players about not being able to partake in their favourite MMO because they wanted to grind dailies, raid, craft, or whatever. I was nervously watching the server update tweets for another reason: The Osgiliath Guard was scheduled to hold a memorial wake for a kin officer who had departed for the lands beyond.
Our friend, who was known as Girn in our voice chat (Ward in real life, Blurtus on our forums, with toons named Gristle, Taz, Clemdor and others), passed away three days after his forty-sixth birthday following a fight with cancer that goes back several years. He had been doing fairly well of late, but checked into the hospital around the first of February for emergency treatment and died shortly thereafter.
The rest of us only found out about his passing after another kinmate, his best friend in real life, told some of the officers about Girn’s hospitalization and death.
I would be lying if I said I knew him well, but he was beloved in our kinship by many, and had recently been promoted to officer and kin social director. At the time of his death, he and a couple of the other officers and members were planning a series of events for our kinmates and friends.
Girn was not a player who was in to raiding, but he would group up with anyone who needed a sixth to fill out a full fellowship instance, asked for help with a slayer deed or even someone who just needed company. He was a regular in our Mumble voice chat, and I knew him as kind, generous and jovial; even on the days when you could tell he was in tremendous pain from the chemotherapy or other cancer treatments, he tried to not let you hear it in his voice. His condition had been steadily improving recently, and those who were closer to him than I said he expected to be out of the hospital and back on his feet very quickly. Sadly, that was not to be.
So on Saturday evening (server time), we held a memorial for Girn in the Bree-land homesteads where our kinship has its house. In addition to the kin present, some of his other friends were there, including a couple of folks Girn knew from the Landroval server. Of the many things in LOTRO Girn enjoyed, music and games were near the top of the list, so a kinmate who counted Girn as his “number one groupie” performed with his 12-boxing hobbit band and the rest of us shared stories of his life, fireworks and trivia contests to celebrate the short time we had with him.
Several other kinmates spoke kind words and played some songs he liked, including his favourite, “Let it Be” by the Beatles.
As I gathered with my friends and kinmates, I wondered what is it about a silly online game that connects us so closely, even with people we may never meet in person?
Even though I don’t know many of their real names, I can honestly tell you I know more about the lives of some of my kinmates than people whose cubicles are right around the corner from mine at work. The members of The Osgiliath Guard are spread throughout the world; we’re mostly in the US–Girn lived in Montana–but we have many Aussies and Kiwis, a bunch of Canadians and a handful of players from Europe.
From the tributes at our memorial, I can tell you that many of our kin felt as close to Girn as the friends with whom they share a beer after work, or swap pictures of their children, or harass about a bad haircut, and the tears which were shed were as genuine as those for any other “real” friend.
Of the handful of MMOs I’ve played, the LOTRO community is the most caring, thoughtful and mature. Sure there are the trolls in GLFF, but every family has a couple of crazy uncles, too. When something like this happens, it does not surprise me when people step forward to lend a hand to those who need it, or take some time out of the day to pay tribute to a friend who is no longer with us, and because of that, I am proud to be a part of this community.
In life, Girn was humble, gentle and easy-going. The division captain told me Girn was truly honoured to be selected to be one of our kinship’s officers, and I think he would be slightly embarrassed and profoundly moved that his friends would hold a wake in his memory.
Truly, though, how could we not?
Girn’s “main” was a captain, and another of our officers told a story of how much he enjoyed the music in LOTRO, once he was taught to play instruments, he could often be found standing around playing songs just because he could. He also did not believe that death was the “end”, but rather a beginning, perhaps of some grand new quest. Girn did not have children or a surviving spouse; his legacy is the memories and friendships he left behind.
So, Girn, from all of your kinmates and friends: When we arrive upon the shores of Valinor, we expect to be greeted with a wide smile, a warm embrace and wondrous tales of all of the adventures you had without us.
Namarie mellonim, tenna’ento lye omenta.
(Farewell, my friend, until next we meet.)
Day is ended, dim my eyes,
but journey long before me lies.
Farewell, friends! I hear the call.
The ship’s beside the stony wall.
Foam is white and waves are grey;
beyond the sunset leads my way.
Foam is salt, the wind is free;
I hear the rising of the Sea.
Farewell, friends! The sails are set,
the wind is east, the moorings fret.
Shadows long before me lie,
beneath the ever-bending sky,
but islands lie behind the Sun
that I shall raise ere all is done;
lands there are to west of West,
where night is quiet and sleep is rest.
Guided by the Lonely Star,
beyond the utmost harbour-bar,
I’ll find the heavens fair and free,
and beaches of the Starlit Sea.
Ship, my ship! I seek the West,
and fields and mountains ever blest.
Farewell to Middle-earth at last.
I see the Star above my mast!
–Bilbo’s Last Song