Young Healthwatch volunteer, Valentina, writes an emotional article about her online friendship, through the pen pal scheme.

Some people are fortunate to have never lost anyone in their lives. Others aren’t that lucky. I have quite a bit of experience with losing people I love, specifically family members. Last year in May, I lost my grandfather to cancer; around this time, I was starting to become a pen pal with a gentleman named Bill as part of my volunteering.  

Being a pen pal was not something I was familiar with but as I started getting into it, I felt the joy that came with corresponding with someone. It was such a fun experience, getting to know a person who is very different from me and just discussing things in general. It was almost like a form of therapy.  

Pen palRecently I found out that my pen pal had passed away. The news truly broke my heart and left me feeling very confused. Although I had never met Bill or heard him speak, I had this idea formed in my mind of the wonderful person he was. Just from corresponding, I could tell we would get along, which is what made being his pen pal so fun and simple.  

I remember him mentioning that he knows he won’t be here for long and won’t get the chance to meet me but wishes me luck in my future endeavours. Naturally, I didn’t think much of the subject as reality didn’t kick in for me.  

Hearing about his passing just days after sending my last letter to him made me face reality in a way I hadn’t really done before.  

It was so odd, one day he was here responding to my letters and asking my political opinions and then the next, he wasn’t. 

We always see those scenes in movies when the character never got to say goodbye after the death of another character. It was that feeling that lingered over me the days after his passing. That although this was a person I talked to quite frequently and about numerous things, I never got to say goodbye.  

I often think about the fact that I never met him, why would I feel the need to say goodbye to someone I didn’t actually know? I would sit and wonder if the slight grief I felt was even valid.  

A few days ago I re-read some previous letters of ours, it felt just like losing a friend. We socialised in a very Covid way, so to speak. I do not regret it, even after the news. I am happy that I managed to help Bill stay positive and share with him my opinions on subjects.  

This is one of those times where I truly understand the quote, “‘tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”