If you read any type of “mommy blog” you probably know by now that Madeline Spohr died suddenly a few days ago — age 1 and a half. The news is everywhere. Her life was so eloquently chronicled in words and pictures by her mother, Heather, at The Spohrs are Multiplying. (Site down, probably due to traffic surge.) A wide-eyed pixie with an impish grin, Maddie was instantly loveable.
I’m guessing here that not many people who are writing loving tributes to the sweet girl and her parents have actually met the family. I know I haven’t. I saw the girl’s picture in a post a few months ago and have checked by in from time to time, one more stranger bathed in anonymity, laughing at her antics or letting slip an involuntary “awww” for all her cuteness.
But something is happening in these days since her death. Friends, strangers, whole multitudes of well-wishers are posting tributes and donating money to the family’s favorite charity, the March of Dimes, which helps premature babies. Almost $20,000 has been donated in a matter of days. More than 200 blog tributes have been written.
What is it about this cruel Internet, this gossamer thread of electronic connections. It can make us feel so close to these families and kids we’ve never met. We rejoice in their milestones and grieve in their times of woe. People say things like “so sudden, sad” or “I just can’t stop thinking about her.” TV host Jimmy Fallon offered well-wishes on his Twitter account.
It makes my heart ache for Maddie’s family, this small death in the world. But is it so anymore? I can’t help but cleave to some small sliver of joy, knowing in this time of tragedy a family hears only a world of comforting words and that thousands more premature babies, thanks to the generosity of online strangers touched by the story of a single peer, will benefit.
[The photo is from a family friend's site, where you can go to read the tributes or donate.]