It's been nearly two weeks since it happened.
Nick Young, a 22-year old from Virginia, hasn't touched Heroes of the Storm since. He has too much going on inside his mind. Funeral arrangements, a new living situation, everything around him rehashing old memories that cause him happiness and push him to tears with agony. They say the grieving process varies based on the individual.
However, in recent days, Young has found comfort, support, and love within the unlikeliest of places. A location he can see but not touch. Feel the arms of others holding him but not hug back.
It was a typical Saturday in Aldie, an up and coming area of Virginia where the population, while rising, sat at less than 20,000 individuals.
Young and his fiancé, Josephine Fuentes, who preferred to be called "Josie," went for a ride to grab some peanut butter as they were short in supply at home. They never made it back to the car.
Josie collapsed in the parking lot and was rushed to a hospital that focused on neurological disorders. It was revealed that she had a brain aneurysm. What followed were heart issues that may have resulted from a currently unknown preexisting condition. Josie passed on the following day. But not before Young, sitting right next to her hospital bed, read his wedding vows to her.
The love of strangers
A couple of days later, Young, full of thoughts, emotions, and chaos inside his head, began reminiscing on life without Josie. One of their favorite hobbies was playing Heroes of the Storm together. "Literally every night," according to Young in a recent conversation with InvenGlobal.
"All I would think about was 'How I could I ever play again?' because all I could think of were these amazing memories. I just wanted to get a message to Blizzard to let them know that their game is not just a game, it was a plethora of incredible memories that I will never forget," said Young.
That's when Young took to the game's official subReddit (r/heroesofthestorm) and vented to the community, telling the tale of his recent fiancé and thanking Blizzard for everything they did.
When Nick went to go check the thread, his inbox was full of messages, including a response from Blizzard themselves.
Current Production Director, Kaeo Milker, sent the following message:
I can't begin to imagine how hard this must be for you. It's clear from the show of support on your post that the Heroes community joins me and the dev team in offering our heartfelt condolences during this difficult time.
Thank you for sharing this with us - one of the most rewarding aspects of working on games is hearing about how people connect and make lasting memories together while playing them. We're honored that Heroes could be a small part of those memories for you.
"I was moved to tears," said Young. "There were hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of messages. I had people sending me private messages offering their condolences and letting me know that if I ever wanted to play again I could play with them. I had a grief therapist reach out to me saying he'd help me for free and a former Art Director at Blizzard message me too. It was more than I could ever imagine."
"Seeing thousands and thousands of total strangers come together to celebrate the life of a total stranger is something I've never seen," said Young.
Little did Young know that the Heroes of the Storm community had one more surprise in store for him.
"It was her"
On Tuesday of this week, just as Young was starting to make traction in reading and replying to the hundreds of messages that were flooding his inbox each day, he saw the number was a little too high to be normal.
What he didn't know was that a member of the Heroes' community had reached out to popular community figure, Alarak of the Storm, to commission a piece of art in Josie's memory that found its way to Reddit.
"I woke up and I didn't get the notification that I had all these mentions on Reddit," said Young. "I saw that and I started bawling. It was her. I could not have imagined it more perfect."
The content of the art itself brought Young back to some of his fondest in-game memories with his fiancé.
It didn't matter the strength of Demonic Invasion, Josie picked the Heroic ability regardless. Where their computers were set up, Young could see Josie through a small crack as she cackled and grinned with excitement playing Azmodan and unleashing a demonic army on her foes.
"She loved watching people run away from her army and the power that came with it as the Lord of Sin," said Young.
While the memory of Josie will live on within the "most god damn wholesome community" Young has ever seen, time heals all wounds and taking it one day at a time is what he will do.
He knows that someday he will have to step back into the nexus, even if it will be hard. Josie wouldn't want it any other way.
"I know she would be very upset if I stop doing the things I loved just because I can't do it with her anymore," said Young.
Tim Rizzo is the editor and a reporter for Inven Global. He joined the company back in 2017.