Not all of my contacts are alive

I cannot reach all of the people in my contacts on my phone and computer. They are not all available. And I don’t mean that some of them are crazy busy. I mean that some of them are dead.

I don’t believe I’ve ever talked to people about how they handle their contacts when a friend or family member dies. I don’t know what other people do, but how I handle it is that I don’t handle it. I do nothing. I keep them in there.

For me there’s something too final about deleting people out of my contacts when they die. It feels wrong, a denial of the presence and love that I still feel from them. I like when they pop up when I’m searching for a similar name. I like seeing my brother’s avatar for Google+ or on LinkedIn. Sometimes it feels like a little hello from the other side.

I believe words, alone or in groups, can become a sort of spiritual dwelling place. Some part of my brother’s energy hangs out in the collection of words and numbers that makes up his entry in my iPhone contact list. Perhaps it seems nonsensical, but when I see those words and numbers, I feel the energy living there, moving toward me, and it causes me to think and feel things.

So I can’t delete. Not now anyway. And I haven’t deleted e-mails, or taken LinkedIn profiles off my connections list, or unfriended anyone on Facebook. Facebook has become a virtual memorial garden of sorts on the pages of the deceased. Ages ago most humans used to live in small communities throughout our lives, and we kept our memorial places close by where we could visit them, congregate, mourn, and remember. This still happens in some parts of the world but certainly not where I live. The graves and columbarium niches of my family and friends who have died are all over the place, most of them not nearby. So where do I go to think about them and to share my grief and memories and moments with other people who also care? A Facebook wall. It works, for me anyway, and seemingly for others I’ve seen posting on the walls of people who are gone.

I am speaking for myself of course — I’m sure there are people out there who have a completely opposite experience and find the reminders, words, social media accounts, and photos too painful. I get that. I hope they make whatever deletions and account hidings they need to get through their days. Me, I’ll keep everything around. Some might say I’m in denial — but I don’t think so. I am well aware of whom I cannot call and whom I can, and why. Well, uh, ok, I did try Frank’s cell once or twice. Not sure what I thought I was going to get out of that. Maybe just trying to return the hello from my side of things. I’ll have to find another way to do it.

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