Love, Death and Facebook:
Friends for Life, Friends in Life.
In the last two weeks, I’ve learned through Facebook of the deaths of three amazing women. One worked for me for a while. One was a colleague. And one was a mentor. Each of them made my life better in surprising ways. One took care of my son when he was small, with so much love and delight. One taught me how to work for hard clients, appreciate great bosses and told me to read “Disclosure,” citing exactly the right page number. One cried with me two days after the election and talked about how she was marching in a pink hat to fight for our democracy; we were exhausted but she was already taking it on, ready to get to work.
I counted all of them friends in the periods of our lives when we knew each other so I think that might make us friends for life. Facebook makes us friends forever. Even when we die.
When I went on Facebook I never imagined that it would be like this, that I would look at my computer, see the happy face of someone I cared so much about smiling back at me, and then reading the post to see that they have passed away. They have gone from a life I can feel and touch to one I can only remember. It’s unbelievably jarring.
First you can’t believe it.
A split second later you feel sad.
Then you scroll down to make a comment… I scroll slowly, giving myself a little tiny bit of time to figure out on the spot the right sentiment to capture an entire life or years of friendship and possibly a regret for being too long out of touch or not knowing they were secretly battling addiction or battling cancer.
And then, inevitably, I stumble upon someone else’s comment.
And I weep.
At the loss. At the perfection of the comment.
These recent days have been too much. Heaven opened too many holes and added too many stars. It makes us feel so helpless, all this loss. These young creative force-fields, all taken far too soon.
Fifteen months ago, on a morning in May, I read on Facebook that a friend I held so very dear had passed away — far too early — from the cancer he had been fighting for many years. As the lump swelled in my throat, I scrolled down the comments and stopped on one. It made me cry. It was written by someone named John who turned out to be a mutual friend I hadn’t seen in 20 years. I knew these two men from different decades, different worlds really, so it was hard to believe that familiar name was the same guy. So I clicked on the picture next to the comment and sure enough, it was the same guy I worked with two decades before.
And so we became Facebook friends because of the death of our mutual friend.
Our mutual friend — the one who died that May — was a gentle beast of a human. He was kind and thoughtful and smart and relentless and funny and loving and creative. What I treasured most about him was how he seemed to find time or take time for everybody, how all of us who knew him felt we occupied a little special space in his heart that was there just for each of us. Oh the space in that man’s heart... The love that poured out through his Facebook page was nearly overwhelming.
It kept happening. Skip, my old boss… the first man I ever met at work who rushed out of a work meeting so he wouldn’t be late to deliver the cookies to his son’s pre-school one day. Dan, a gifted creative director who literally made us laugh (and himself, with that twinkle in his eye) and cry (the twinkle glistened a little then), whom we all treasured.
Then this week happened. Fresh on the heels of learning of the shocking death of a young friend as a result of her terrible dark path into addiction, two other smiling faces looked out from their place of Facebook immortality.
Here is what someone said about a pretty incredible woman named Ellie who happened to also be a really important mentor to me.
Rest In Power. One of our giants.
Somehow that just seemed right.
Here is what someone said about Gwen, who was a kick-ass advertising executive.
Rest in Power. Do y’all know how much shit she took? Zero. Blessings abound. Many thanks to her team, including Sarah. Let’s remember how many — employees and consumers — were affected by Gwen’s Power.
The same guy wrote both the comments.
We all worked at the same company at the same time.
And it was the same guy who on that morning in May last year turned out to share another friend.
So I wiped away tears for the second time this week, tears brought on by loss and the far-too-early-passing of two remarkable women, tears let loose in a flood because yes I was sad, but also because John got it exactly and perfectly right. I don’t know how he does it — that precision and that accuracy — the way he captures the spirit of souls we won’t see again in this lifetime. He knows what we felt and he finds what we’ll miss and in the same comment he gives us a peek into their legacy. And he says it in 10 words. Or 7. Or 33.
When I read the second one this morning I sent John a private message and told him this. He replied immediately — from a time zone nine hours away — and said thank you, although I’m not sure for what.
And then he said “let’s honor those two lights.”
Nailed it. For the third time in a week.
I was thinking a similar thing.
Here’s how I’m going to start. Thanks to John, who still walks among us, and to Ellie and Gwen and Suzanne and Skip and Dan and our other John who, by the way, are all together now, having first a strategy review committee and then a party up there in heaven, here’s a tiny thing I will do to honor their collective light.
How about we say the words… so people feel before they die what they would feel if they could read all these remarkable comments in their Facebook feeds as the love pours out at their memory. Let’s say them now, so they can feel them for decades.
I want people to know how much they are loved and admired, how amazing they are and how they’ve taught the people they work with and the children they have raised, how much they’ve inspired and how much good they have done in the world just for being and doing and caring and loving.
I want to shine a bright light on the love that’s already out there. Because I wanted Ellie and Gwen to know. I want their families to know. And oh by the way, down here in this mortal world the timing couldn’t be better. There’s too much negative right now.
So I begin today.
Starting with John, while we can say it without yet having to attend that big reunion up in heaven, I’m saying it to you and I’ll post it on your Facebook wall:
Thank you for your laser-sharp instinct about people and your ability to put your unique, slightly rebellious mind, your perfect word choice, your sparkling wit and your gigantic heart right out there. From the time I met you I remember your quirky, funny, smart uniqueness. Just when everyone else would think the predictable, you gave it a twist. Blue cheese in an olive. Cucumber in a gin and tonic. Rest in Power instead of Rest in Peace. Live in Power. As you do.
Far too long ago I realized that sometimes in the face of loss and death the only thing I could do to feel better, little by little, was to just do something.
Today, I’m going to do something: I’m going to tell someone today what I love and value about them.
I might even want to put it on their Facebook page.
To honor these lights….
For Ellie. For Gwen. The massive losses from this week.
And for darling Suzanne.