Improbable Island Message of the Day (MoTD)
Sad news (edited 2021-09-17 16:00)
Asa Comeno, one of our most dedicated players, has passed away. He joined Improbable Island at eighteen years old; he would have been thirty next week.
Asa was a chef. He began feeling ill last week, but wanted to get through the weekend at his short-staffed restaurant before going to the doctor, reasoning that it was unlikely to be COVID since he was vaccinated. Edit: see update below
97% of the people who are dying of COVID are unvaccinated, but there's room between 97% and 100% for heartbreak, and Asa died of COVID at home on Sunday. He leaves behind a wife, sister, brother, mother, cat and two children. One is a few months old; the other had his fourth birthday yesterday.
From his widow, sent to a Discord group shared by Asa and his Improbable Island friends:
I wanted to thank you all for the love and support you have been sending my family. I want you to know that you all meant so much to him. He was constantly telling me of all of your writing adventures (sometimes talking so fast with excitement to share it with me that I couldn't keep up). He would always show me photos from your groups that he thought would make me laugh and telling me when he found out that one of you had an interest that I do (like watching Outlander). He was excited each year when your Christmas cards started arriving and would tape them to the back of our front door so they were always visible. I wanted to thank each and every one of you for making my husband's life an enjoyable experience and giving him a creative outlet. I thank you for every smile, laugh and friendship he had because of you. You meant the world to him, and I wish I had been getting to know you all under different circumstances. Lastly, I wanted to share with you that I made sure to mention his online friendships in his obituary and would like to ask you all a favor. I am planning to speak at his service (I hope I can manage it) and I would love to share any messages you had to or about him. I think his family would be amazed by how widespread his friendships really were. Please share the messages here with your OOC name and location. Again, thank you all.
Specific details were shared with a small circle; others who have fond memories of him can send messages of condolence to my email at email@example.com and I'll pass them along. The funeral is on Sunday and I don't want to hand Asa's widow a big file of things to read out one night before she has to read them, so please have your messages to me by Friday evening, the 17th of September. I realise this is short notice and if you send me a message afterwards then I'll still make sure it gets there, after giving Asa's family a couple days of space around the funeral.
Asa's widow also set up a fund for funeral expenses, likewise shared with those closest to Asa; it would not be appropriate of me to broadcast the address to a wide audience, so if you have a financial contribution to make, you can send it to me via PayPal (address firstname.lastname@example.org) and I'll send it along as a lump sum on Monday. I'll cover the fees both ways. To avoid entangling the Island's finances, please don't use the game's Donate button for this; just go straight to PayPal's website and send from there. If you're reading this after Monday September 20th, you can still send money and I'll still send it along, but please follow it up with an email to the same address so I can keep it all straight.
Aside from financial donations and messages of support, Asa's friends want you to know - and I agree - that the single best way to honour his memory is to get vaccinated, and not to give up
on getting your loved ones vaccinated too.
Asa's account, Mementos and Places will be preserved as they currently stand, for as long as Improbable Island is online.
Over the past eighteen months of Things Our Grandkids Will Ask Us About For A School Project One Day, a lot of us have gained a particularly ghoulish little wrinkle to our grief processing behaviour. When we hear that someone close to us has died of COVID, we burn with questions. We ask if they were vaccinated, if they were in good health, if they were doing any other risky behaviours - we try to find the differences between the person who's died and our own loved ones. We pattern-match. We find the shape of the deceased and we compare it to our own shape and find the differences and we tell ourselves "Phew, that's all right then" because we want to believe that there's some sort of sense to the world, some sort of justice, some inherent rightness that will protect us.
Asa Comeno was an Improbable Island player in his twenties who was fully vaccinated.
Just like you. Maybe younger.
If this were a story, then this would be the moment that we all realised that our patterns match too closely for us to still tell ourselves those comforting lies, and it would spur us into taking this seriously again. There would be some sense of reason for Asa's death, some narrative-bound feeling that it happened to at least frighten the rest of us into strapping our N95's tight over our breath because we want to live
damn it, we would talk our reluctant loved ones into getting the vaccine that would give them a fighting chance, we would hunker down and do what we've had practice at and we would claw back a few more lives from this awful piece of history we're struggling through. There would be some reason, some sort of justice.
Here's a thing that Terry Pratchett once wrote about justice, in the novel Hogfather, where the anthropomorphic personification of Death is talking to his human granddaughter Susan:
"All right," said Susan. "I'm not stupid. You're saying humans need... fantasies to make life bearable."
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
"Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-"
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
"So we can believe the big ones?"
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.
"They're not the same at all!"
YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET - Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME...SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.
"Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what's the point-"
MY POINT EXACTLY.
Pratchett was talking about the sort of stories that we tell ourselves. Specifically, he was talking about the stories that make us human, and keep us human, and keep us alive; stories where the death of someone we hold dear can spur us, inspire us, force
us into saving some lives, starting with our own. We're all here because we like stories, and some of us are really good
at telling stories; I hope we can make this one stick.
When an Improbable Island player dies, I only hear about it if they were so heavily into the game that they told their spouses or partners or friends about it, often enough that that spouse or partner or friend logs on to their account and tells me or their in-game friends about their passing. That's a vanishingly tiny minority. 99% of players who die just... stop logging on. If they were fairly quiet - most players are - then we might never even know.
Right now I'm sat in the upstairs loft that is Improbable Island HQ, trying to imagine whether all the Improbable Island players who've died of COVID-19 would fit in this room with me. I imagine them reading this over my shoulder as I'm trying to figure out how to stop more
of you from dying.
Asa Comeno's friends asked me to add a bit on this MotD asking you all to take COVID seriously, get vaccinated, and be especially paranoid about your health. This is unanimously endorsed by all Improbable Island staff.
Asa was really special to a lot of people, not just here in our world but in his as well. A father, writer and chef; it's rare to find someone who deals in so many different kinds of nourishment.
We'll miss him dearly.
Update 2021-09-17 16:00
: Ophelia Hawthorne, Asa's widow, posted this in player chat last night:
The MotD brought me to tears. I only feel the need to correct that Asa was not vaccinated. He wanted to be but he put so much of himself into his work and everyone else that he never made the time to get his own vaccine. Get the vaccine guys.
If you find yourself in Asa's position, wanting the vaccine but not being able to find the time, you have my sympathy. Being a parent myself I know how it feels when a dozen equally-urgent things are tugging you in every direction, you haven't slept properly in months and you have to decide which of these equally-urgent things just don't get done - and yes, taking time to get vaccinated will mean that one or more of the things you have to do won't get done. I guarantee that the consequences of not getting vaccinated will be more severe than the consequences of skipping anything else on your list. You have a list of things to do because there are people who rely on you to do it; those people need you to be alive.