Internet Sisters

By Monica Gomez



The cappuccino tasted delicious. Kitty and I were half way through our walk round the lake, so we stopped for a rest. I cherished those walks so much: the fresh clean air, the mountains close by, the green pastures, the sheep and this new found acquaintance, who I sensed could become a life long dear friend. An American and an Argentinean together in this little mountain paradise in southern Italy, Lago Laceno. So different from her Texas and my Buenos Aires!


I had arrived 2 years before from Argentina, at the age of 45, together with my family: my 6 year old son who has Down Syndrome and my new husband, who was in the process of adopting my child under Italian law. I had met Antonio 2 years before in Buenos Aires and he fell in love with both of us! It was the moment when the financial crisis had just crushed not only the savings but also the hearts and dreams of millions of Argentineans, including us. We were both jobless but because of Antonio’s Italian heritage he had the possibility of coming to Italy.   It would be a new start for us.  So we made the move, leaving behind our homes, friends, family, and careers in search of a better life that we are now happily building day by day. Because of an offer of lodging from some of Antonio’s relatives, we ‘landed’ in the small village of Lioni. 


In this small community, I was having a very difficult time adapting to the local Italian culture.  I say I am an Argentine by birth with an Anglo Saxon heart because of my formal education as an English teacher and my frequent visits to friends and family in England and the United States.  It was miracle to find here a group of “Brits” who were working in a factory that partly belongs to Rolls Royce. I immediately made friends with two English women. It was such a relief to be able to talk fluently and to share our adventures of dealing with Italians! Among this “gang”, there was Dan, the only American in the group, a man with a brilliant mind and a tender heart with whom I shared very interesting talks about international politics. Those lovely talks in which you have the illusion that the problems of the world can still be solved!


One day, I heard that his wife, Kitty, had come to visit. I vividly remember the English ladies, who had already met her, telling me: “You’ve got to meet Kitty. She’s very bubbly. You’ll like her.”  They were right. I did, and before long, we started going for our walks, and sharing, talking about our pasts, expressing our opinions and getting very close in a very short period of time. At that point, Dan and Kitty were in the process of deciding whether or not Dan was going to accept a position in Xi’an, China. Quite an adventure it would be!


Back to the cappuccino. I was telling Kitty about how I missed my work as a volunteer. In Buenos Aires I had led self-help groups for people with AIDS and cancer, groups for women, and groups for people suffering from depression. I had always loved helping others in need. I had even gone back to school in the recent years and had become a counselor, only one year before I had come to Italy. The one thing I missed the most about my life in Argentina was this volunteer work, something impossible to do in this closed Italian culture in Lioni, where all the problems are solved – or not – within the family.


I had come up with the idea that maybe I could communicate with somebody on line. I thought of physically disabled people (quadriplegics, for instance) who use the computer as a means of communication with the world. So I searched the Internet for organizations, like the Christopher Reeve Foundation (Christopher Reeve had been a model of strength for me in a moment of a deep crisis when my son was born) and many others. But I got no answer.


I was talking to Kitty about all this when she said: ‘Dan has an aunt who has been in a wheel chair for 50 years.’ Without thinking I just said: ‘Maybe you can get me in touch with her.’ 


At this point, I must admit (and Kitty will agree) that we will never know what happened because we never talked about this aunt again.


Months passed. Dan and Kitty went back to the US, then on to Xi’an, China. I was not wrong in thinking that Kitty and I would become very close at heart. We kept in constant touch through email.  Almost a year went by. Then, one day she mentioned she had met this Chinese girl, Vivian, who is a quadriplegic. Kitty started visiting her regularly.


Again – as that day in the lake when she had mentioned Ann – I felt that strange feeling in my guts. Anticipation, perhaps? Vivian didn’t have an Internet connection then so it was impossible to communicate directly with her.


Then came an email from Kitty telling me Vivian’s sad story: how her boy friend and father had both deserted her after her accident, just when she needed them most. Now that ‘male desertion’ was something I knew all too well! When my son Tomas was born and we were told he had Down Syndrome, his father couldn’t take it and left. He never overcame his rejection, one of his points being: ‘He’ll never be able to go to University.’


To make things worse, when Tommy was only 20 days old, my mom was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Being an only child, with only my wonderful but shattered dad to share this whole crisis with, I went through some extremely difficult times.  But I survived!  Then, I met Antonio and you already know that ‘happy ending.’


I thought maybe Vivian and her mom could benefit from my story. It wasn’t just to cheer them up; I was going to talk from my heart and my own experience. If I had survived and managed to find happiness after the multiple traumas of the last few years, I knew anyone could. It’s that feeling of sharing that is so healing, when you realize you’re not alone with your pain, when you connect with other human beings who’ve been there but have made it through.


So I wrote my story and even sent pictures. After that, when Vivian finally discovered the benefit of embracing new technology and got internet service, I sent her an email, very shyly, asking her if we could communicate. I’ll never forget the emotion I felt when I got her answer. I was moved, happy and excited! “Yes!” she said. “I’d like to be your friend!” Those words just filled my heart.


A few days later Kitty also gave me Ann’s email address.


Ann Ruthie Maxwell is the most extraordinary human being I have ever met. We started chatting immediately … and we have never stopped! We chat every single day, except for weekends when my husband takes over the computer. But those days we send email!


At around the same time, Kitty connected Ann with Vivian and this “sisterhood of 3 continents” started to develop.


I know it’s a cliché to say: “There are no words to describe…” But really, how can I begin to explain how my life changed after this? Both Ann and Vivian are a big part of my life. I think we’re even beyond a common friendship. There’s an invisible energy of light running through the Internet when we meet!


Ann is 71 years old. When she was 17 she was in a car wreck which broke her neck and took the life of her mother. She’s been through all kinds of experiences in these 53 years. You can not imagine all the challenges she had to overcome, yet she is full of life, strong, and has an incredibly wonderful sense of humor. She’s caring and loving towards others and not at all the kind of needy person who could be – in all her right – constantly complaining about her fate. I think she might be the longest surviving quadriplegic on earth. She’s a gift in my life.


Vivian is 23 years old. Three years ago she was coming back from a vacation with her boy friend when they had a car crash. She broke her neck and has been confined to a wheel chair with the same type of injury as Ann. Vivian is a sweet, loving, tender girl. She’s always so thankful - when I really feel it is I who should be thankful to her for having her in my life and filling my heart with her warmth.

She calls me ‘Aunt’ and she calls Ann ‘Grandma’


Around once a week, the three of us get together to chat online. We, from three continents, three different cultures, three different generations, are joined by this strong feeling of connection. So far away geographically, yet so close at heart. There is this indestructible bond between us which is simply love in its purest form. What we share is unconditional love because we’re happy just giving!  When we are together we often think of the United Nations. If people could leave their differences behind and get close enough to see one another’s heart, they would discover this powerful link of love and we would find that hatred and violence have no place in this world.


I would like to thank Dan and Kitty for getting us together in the first place and for everything they have done to help Vivian.  It is unfortunate that she lives in a country that provides very little for the care of its disabled citizens. I must admit I am so lucky to have left Argentina and come to Italy where my son receives wonderful care and benefits.


But most of all, I’d like to thank Our Lord for this wonderful plan He had in store for us. We three have been through and continue to go through so much. Life is full of ups and downs, however, now I trust that the glory of this loving sisterhood will support us forever, sharing both tears and laughter.


We always nurture our dream of actually getting together one day. Who knows? God has so many surprises for us, as he has shown us!  Anyway, right here and now, in our everyday lives, we’re there for each other inside this wonderful and magical circle of Love.



About the Author


Monica Gomez is a qualified counselor from Argentina. For over 20 years she’s been conducting trainings and seminars, helping people lead better lives by learning how to deal with everyday challenges. She’s the author of “Aprender a Dar” (Learning how to Give), a compilation of 52 of her articles, whose insights are drawn both from her heart and her personal experience. She now lives in Italy, with her husband and their son.

She is willing to be reached at 




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