I know it’s not perfect. I know there’s a lot being said about the hazards of social networking and how distant it is making all of us in human terms. But something happened these last couple of weeks that could not have occurred without it.
When I posted on my friend’s page a couple of weeks ago to wish her a happy birthday, I didn’t know then that she was dead. For all intents and purposes we still had tentative plans to celebrate her birthday. When I did post my good wishes, it wasn’t she who answered me, but a woman I’d never met. A sister of a friend of my friend Linda who died, was posting to let Linda know that the memorial of her sister was approaching and she saw my birthday wishes on Linda’s page and messaged me to tell me of the sad news of Linda’s passing. A woman was posting from a page of her sister who died, to a friend – me – on a page of another dead woman. And in this bizarre string of events two bodiless beings connected two living beings together in a moment of sadness. As I reflected on this strange circuitous course of events, I couldn’t help but wonder at this. Where else could this happen? In a small town grocery store maybe, in years past, a customer could hear another customer talking about the demise of a friend and learn of a death that way. But that would entail human connection. This woman’s name, I will say was Barbara, and she was living her own grief in the death of her sister and here she was comforting me on the shock of learning of the death of my friend. All through an electronic medium that most use to post political cartoons or angry diatribes or pictures of cute baby animals. This was something real.
This showed the power of what Facebook can be. It was a small innocuous stab at reaching out from one human to another to assuage some grief. She doesn’t know, I don’t think, what an amazing gesture this was for me. But it gave me information I had not had and may never have discovered.
So I used the power of Facebook to post my yearning to have someone accompany me to give some closure to my grief of my friend of ten years. And my wish was answered. I had three friends offer to take me to the site where she died and after coordinating schedules one went with me.
So yesterday my friend Pat drove me down to Fremont to lay flowers on the edge of a freeway where my friend died. I discovered all the information I needed from the two newspaper articles the woman Barbara had linked to my messages. I believe she jumped off the overpass onto the freeway and that was her demise. Speculation had been maybe she walked onto the freeway in the path of an oncoming car, but we just couldn’t see how she got through the fencing and surmised she must have jumped. It caused my heart to jump to see the spot where she last lived. We brought flowers with us and a chalice that seemed unable to keep a flame from the winds caused by passing traffic, but the spirit of the flame was there. And lo and behold, there was a sign on the side of the road. Maybe her brother left it there or another friend, but I know it was meant for Linda. At this exact overpass on this freeway shoulder, there could not have been another death at that time. On a heavy board with a wooden frame was written, “Ciao Bella” and it’s weight kept it from blowing away as I believe it was designed to do. We tucked our parcels of flowers underneath one edge with the good bye card I wrote to her, I said my heartfelt words of farewell and we climbed back into the car and drove home. It felt right. It felt holy. I indeed received the closure I had expected. And I remembered some words that were given to me, remember Linda’s spirit as a blessing, remember to keep calmness in my heart, remember to breathe.
And my goodbye was said and completed through the power of Facebook.