A very modern way to say goodbye forever
What’s your barometer for keeping things in perspective?
For the past four months or so for me, it’s been Facebook.
Not because of the constant status updates (from the witty to the mundane) or the pictures of new babies, houses, holidays or parties.
All that’s been great but what I’m talking about reading a dear school friend document his tremendous, terrifying and courageous battle with an aggravated form of leukemia.
Since shortly after his diagnosis Andrew and his fiancé Sarah tracked his condition almost daily. A glance at his profile would let you know where he was at the time and how he was feeling about it.
He was very often angry, tired and weak. And the drugs he was given could make him spaced out and slightly high. In those times it wasn’t unusual to read him sing-posting the words of funny songs from bands like Ween.
Sarah would respond lovingly, always quick to reply and share the joke or the boredom depending on what kind of day he was having.
Facebook was also how many of us knew they were engaged.
As the weeks went on, it became one of the best ways of communicating particularly when it was difficult to visit. And it was great to read the enthusiastic lines of well-wishers sending him hugs, prayers, laughs and luck after every one of his posts.
At first I didn’t quite know how to take reading about what he was going through this way. It was uncomfortable to know that no matter what else was going on in my day, looking at Facebook meant remembering how sick he was.
There were also a number of times when I didn’t know how or if I should respond and it was of these times that I decided to send him a message to find out how he was.
“Is that all you’ve got,” he responded.
I was shocked and spent the rest of the day being angry with myself. Did I really have nothing else to write someone who was trapped in a hospital bed and feeling so sick?
The next day, inspired by a more positive update he’d posted that morning I found myself writing:
“Hi, Yep that was a crap question you’re right. But it’s so hard to know what to ask you. I can’t imagine how you are feeling but I’m thinking of you.”
“That’s better. So how’s work?” was his reply and a real conversation took off.
Last Friday afternoon things took a serious turn for the worse and Sarah posted that Andrew had been taken into intensive care. On Saturday afternoon he passed away.
I found out the news the next morning; someone had posted a message of farewell on Facebook.
At first it felt it wasn’t the right way to do it, a message on Facebook felt in-appropriate.
But later in the day conversations with close friends from school got me thinking.
One friend had called from the UK in shock after reading the message. Another remarked in the wake of the horrible news how totally irrelevant the trials of her morning now seemed. Just before the phone call she’d been shouting at her young kids, angry about a messy house.
And then for a brief moment despite the shock and sadness, something made sense.
For most of the time that Andrew’s been sick his Facebook status has been his way of communicating and sharing the ups and downs of what he was experiencing. And just like in real life on Facebook Andrew was noisy, brash, direct and incredibly funny.
Not only was this honesty courageous it’s been a stark reminder to stop worrying about the irrelevant stuff and to be damn appreciative of the health and the life that we have.
It’s not been as easy to log onto Facebook this week, probably because I know he’s not there.
But it’s also occurred to me that maybe the choice Andrew made to share his terrible battle this way will leave more than one of us understanding just how great we’ve got it.
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