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My Coral Reef: The WordPress Community

I never thought I would write my own. It’s not just a story about me, or even Give -- it’s a story about the WordPress Community.

There have been so many amazing Give Stories — ways users have helped each other — using the Give plugin. From adoption to brain surgery to extreme skiing to political fundraisers. Give has been used for nonprofits, tip jars, and even for crowdfunding.

And as I have been curating these Give Stories with our team, I never thought I would write my own. It’s not just a story about me, or even Give; it’s a story about the WordPress Community.

The Cause

When we curate these stories we ask people about their cause. In this case, I was the recipient of the cause instead of the initiator of the cause.

On May 28 this year, after a bout with pneumonia earlier in the month, I had to call an ambulance to take my husband to the emergency room. He had been totally healthy prior to May, save being the star peritoneal dialysis patient, until May 6. A sinus infection turned into pneumonia. Three days in the hospital fixed the pneumonia but his heart was now at 40% function.

Long story, short, four days later, the end of life doctor met with me and said that it’s time to call his family and say goodbye. Surrounded by his sisters, my stepdaughter, close friends, and my grandson, we said our goodbyes as they took him off of life support.

At 6:00 p.m. May 31, 2016, he passed away.

The cause was this: I didn’t know if I had the money for cremation and funeral costs. At the time, I said nothing online.

The Community

Opening yourself up to community is vital, as I have found to be true in all of my life, but especially now.

In order to receive emotional and spiritual support, as well as notify our extended family, we’ve always kept people updated via text messages and then Facebook. And the support over the years has been incredible: well-wishes, prayer, etc.

And, so, after texting my mom and his close family, I updated Facebook.

My husband of 23 years, Mercier Willard, went to be with Lord at 6:00 pm tonight.

Posted by Bridget Willard on Tuesday, May 31, 2016

I drove home from the hospital, my mom on the phone, got home and took my dogs out. That entire day was surreal. I had left the hospital the night before hearing he had improved. But in the morning, when he wouldn’t wake up, they said it was time.

At this point, I had been crying all day. So, after talking to my mom, responding to social media posts, I went to bed.

Now, my husband Mercier had a photographic memory and he always knew the running balance of our checking account. I did not. He didn’t keep a paper record. I had no idea what our balance was, but suspecting the worst, I prepared myself to do a few hours of accounting. Then I would figure out who I could ask for help.

My dear friend Jen Miller called me around ten o’clock that night. And what I didn’t know, is that my community was already working on mybehalf, in the background.

WordPress: My Coral Reef

When I can’t sleep, I watch “The Blue Planet” on Netflix. What can I say? David Attenborough’s voice is soothing. That night, I woke up in the middle of the night and Episode 6 was playing: “The Coral Seas.”

It’s funny. I didn’t know that coral was even a plant. I always thought it was a mineral. But not only that, coral is an animal and a plant. And it needs to be just below the surface enough to photosynthesize. And so, during the night, the animal builds its own infrastructure, so when the sun rises, it’s perfectly supported to face the sun.

And I didn’t tell people where I was financially. Being involved in the WordPress Community, my tribe: Jen Miller, Jason Tucker, Devin Walker, Matt Cromwell, Roy Sivan, and a running list of credits, banded together.

My WordPress Community worked through the night, without telling me, creating a WordPress site honoring my husband, our marriage, and our life together. There wasn’t anything more beautiful than that. The words could not have been written better. The photographs could not have been curated better.

Do you know how I found out about the website? My phone kept beeping with PayPal notifications.

I went to sleep not even knowing how I would get my first task complete: finding somewhere to send his body. When I awoke, there was $1,300 in my PayPal account from WordPress people all over the world. That paid for the cremation and the funeral.

Hero Image for WillardFund.org
Hero Image for WillardFund.org

How Was Give Used

So, my local WordPress friends set up WillardFund.org with a Give Donate button. They didn’t want to duplicate efforts (or have my friends start a GoFundMe campaign), so they started communicating together on Facebook.

They divided the work among the team based upon tasks. Someone curated photos, another took design, and the same with domain purchase, content, function, etc. They also created a section for comments, funeral information, and, of course made sure to place a donation button.

Give Donation Form for WillardFund.org
Give Donation Form for WillardFund.org

You Are Not Alone

For me, of course this story is ongoing. And the WordPress Community, my friends, built the infrastructure so that my “civilian friends” and family could help. And they did. And they continue to do so.

People often ask me why I’m so open. Of course, it’s scary. Being vulnerable gives some people the feeling that they can now offer their opinions whether or not they seem encouraging. But, in my case, the good always outweighs the bad.

I met the community before I met the software.

The WordPress Community has been good to me over the years. And any community you’re part of should be.

Isolation is never healthy. Find someone you can trust. Be someone that can be trusted. Be vulnerable. Connect. Be human.

In our lives, we will face many victories and many tragedies. We will see babies born and parents die. We will lose jobs and pivot careers. The real challenge is to press forward. And with the help of friends, family, and the WordPress Community, I know I can. And so can you.

Watch the Story in Depth

We talked about what happened and how the website was built in depth on WPblab below.


It was also mentioned in Rich Robinkoff’s Keynote at WordCamp Pittsburg, “The Humanity Of WordPress.

We’d 💚 to Tell Your Story!

Collage of four previous Give Story submissionsShare your Give story with us so we can share it with the world! We love hearing from our Give users about their fundraising and causes. Submit your story now using the button below.
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12 Responses

  1. I remember when this happened and was sad for you but so thankful the WordPress community came together so swiftly in your time of need. The website is beautiful and the Give plugin was the perfect solution!

    1. Thank you so much, Justine. WordPress Community is really special. I’ve never experienced anything like it in my entire life.

    1. You’re a tenderhearted man, Ben. That’s something to be proud of. Doesn’t it make you feel awesome to work everyday for a company who is helping people help people? It’s a real dream.

  2. Not a dry eye…. And and so beautiful how the WordPress community is like family and you can share your story right here, thank you for sharing. I don’t know what it’s like to lose my husband but I’m watching my sister in law walk this painful road after losing my brother. Sometimes I can’t stand it. I don’t really remember what happened the week after he passed, it’s a haze. I couldn’t function for a long time. It was hard. Harder than people know. You never forget those who truly empathized. And you have grace for those who just don’t understand.

    1. This is the first death of a close family member for me. And, Mercier was my rock in so many ways. Loosing anyone with whom you are close is hard. I know that his one sister is really grieving because Mercier was not just her brother but her best friend. And he has two children and two grandchildren.

      Grief is a funny thing. I don’t think it needs to be a competition and there isn’t someone more or less entitled to grieve.

      That said, the burden of every part of my life falling on me and me alone has been a crushing feeling. And every single time I think I’ve lost hope or any reason to continue one of my friends sends me a tweet or a text or sends me a message on Facebook or calls me. I know that I’m not alone. I think that’s saved my sanity.

      Friends like you are a real treasure in this life, Meg. Keep doing your thing.

  3. Dear Bridget,

    Your sharing your story has helped others face their own issues, too. I’m so happy you have a community and that they’ve supported you like your very own coral reef.

    Sending you lots of love,

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