The News of My Death…is on Facebook.

I had the strangest experience yesterday.

I sat down with my cup of coffee, The Meaning of Life, and opened FaceBook. There were the usual updates from friends, and then I glanced in the corner where birthdays are listed.

Gail. I smiled just seeing her name. This was a woman I have never met face to face, but had shared many thoughts and stories with through online communities. I have known her for probably ten years. She grew up in Santa Barbara, where I went to college, so we had connected through the experience of that town. Seeing her name listed under birthdays sparked my thoughts that I had not talked to her, or emailed, in quite some time. I always enjoyed our interactions.

So, I went to her page to wish her a happy birthday.

That is how I found out that Gail passed away in November of pulmonary embolism on her son’s 14th birthday. 

It was surreal. I read through all the posts on her page. 7 months worth of posts that I had been oblivious to. 8 months of sorrow and sadness over someone I knew fairly well as far as internet connections go.

Then I came to the day she had died. She had a post about needing sheet metal in a game she was playing. She posted that morning a quirky image of suns and stars and moons with this quotation: “Once you have seen this, you have been sprinkled with Peace, Love, & Happiness! Now go forth and sprinkle other people too!”

A post on her page, from her, to her son about his 14th birthday and how proud of him she was.

And then nothing more from Gail. 

I had not communicated with her in months, and yet I feel such a deep sorrow and grief and ache to talk to her. I knew her only through the internet, but she blessed me greatly.

And it is all there…all in posts from her friends. All their thoughts and emotions and desires and wishes. 

And I thought that Facebook has changed more than we can imagine. We can leave notes on the page of those we loved when they are gone. There is a memorial there of 7 months of thoughts from friends and family. 7 months of mourning.

I also read a post from a friend the other day who had called home on Father’s Day to hear the sound of his father on their voicemail because his Dad has passed away. Others commented about how they called their loved one’s voicemails for a year after they passed, just to hear their voice.

I miss Gail. I am glad that I was able to spend time reading through all those comments yesterday. I wonder at how our social media has changed things. It left me feeling odd, to find out about someone that way. I am left wondering how all these things matter and how we live and move and have our being in Christ in the midst of such a world of images and information. I haven’t sorted it all out yet….I’m still thinking about Gail for the moment….but I know there is much to think on in all of this.

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2 thoughts on “The News of My Death…is on Facebook.

  1. Amy Hamilton says:

    Dear Sarah:

    Did a lot of delayed grieving last night for my mom. But I did it with my HS boyfriend who loved her dearly. Sounds to me like you are beginning to practice to mourn for your mom too. It has taken a long time to feel pure grief for Mama’s loss. Her 94 year old brother passed away over the weekend, so I think that’s part of the breaking open again. The Dymentia robbed us of anything but a shock filled experience. One feels such oddness being happy to see a strong, capable human being who has been so amazing finally go from this earth. It’s simply wrong. No other way to see it or feel it. David’s mom died of advanced Alzheimer’s as well. He managed to be there for her for weeks and months. Had it written into his work contracts. Stayed with her while she died. He is a mensch. I could not have done that. My sisters were there for Mama. I was a world away.

    Keep processing. Every way you can. I pray that your experience is fuller and sweeter and that your children are there and you will gain wisdom and riches from this time with your mom. I continue to pray for you.

    Amy

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  2. sarahkwolfe says:

    I had not thought of that, Amy.

    All our grieving is practicing, isn’t it? I mean, rarely do I hear of people who are content with how they were able to mourn a loved one…it does happen, but the grief is simply something we cannot completely understand or orchestrate.

    One of my favorite books is Madeleine L’Engle’s Summer of the Great Grandmother. She processes her mother’s decline while the mother lived with them at Crosswicks. They had four generations in one house, and the Grandmother died while out on a walk with L’Engle’s son. He carried her back to the house.

    Such an amazing picture of a grace-filled death, and there was healthy mourning that stretched out over a season.

    I think we are so rushed in our daily lives, and processing death takes time. We cannot rush it.

    That was part of what struck me with all the comments on Gail’s FB page….there was an ability to process. Many of the comments were simply people saying they were thinking of her that day and wanted to say that. The image that came to mind…and I apologize if this sounds morbid…was that of people coming to a gravesite and “talking” to the deceased.

    Anyway….mourning is something that is wrapped up in mystery, I think. Those we love are so much a part of our identity that when they are gone there is a confusion on how to continue in a way that maintains their life in our lives and yet acknowledges that we are all dust.

    Thinking of you….and praying for peace to settle on you as you process your mom and your uncle’s lives and deaths. I am not a great “caretaker” and am often humbled by how one of my brothers especially is able to care so gently, physically, for my mother. I wish I was more that way….sounds like David is. Anyway, praying for you.

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