Remembering a Friend
In the late 90s, when I had just gotten online, I went to the SciFi Channel's website. At the time the site was a joy to use and full of great features, unlike the bloated and bland thing it is these days.
The best part of the site was a thing called Caption This! This wonderful page ran screengrabs of whatever the SciFi Channel happened to be showing and people could write brief captions for the images which were then posted to a continuously updated display board, or "gallery." I fell right into it and passed many happy hours pursuing the activity of "capping" with a small crowd of regulars. We all came to know one another, greeting each other thru the caption gallery and forming a community.
We started an eGroup, which became a Yahoo group when Yahoo bought out eGroups. There were many and diverse personalities in that community, and I enjoyed them all immensely.
One of them was a guy who went by the handle of "144b", but we came to know him as "Uncle Bert."
Bert Tilley wasn't the best typist in the world - his typos were the stuff of legend and made him that much funnier on the caption board - but he had the soul of a storyteller. He was reliably entertaining and his posts to the Yahoo group were adventures unto themselves as Bert told us of his life. He told stories the way other people breathe. It flowed out of him and carried you away.
And now he's gone, at the unfair age of 43. His website will remain as a memorial, at least until the account runs out.
Dammit, Bert, this isn't right. You shouldn't be gone. You leave a hole in the world that won't ever be filled.
He was no less a friend because I never met him in real life. I knew him from thousands of words sent across the internet. When I got the word of his passing today, I was at work and I sat for some time with tears in my eyes.
Rest in peace, Uncle Bert. We remember . . .