Archives for Death
Ever since my dad passed away three months ago, my brain has been busy. Busy, cluttered, and disorganized. I've felt so mentally disorganized, in fact, that I've had a difficult time writing. (This probably isn't news to any of my regular readers who have noticed the lack of blog posts lately.) I have about seven half-written blog posts in my "drafts" folder that just...don't...make the cut. They're sloppy. They're scattered. And I, too, feel sloppy and scattered. I'm grieving the loss of my father, handling his estate (and by "handling", I mean "drowning in paperwork regarding"), and preparing for a brand new full-time job that starts...uhm, tomorrow. That's a lot of slop. And a lot of scatter.
A few days ago, I received the following letter in the mail from Blue Cross Blue Shield, addressed to my father: Dear Paul, Managing a chronic condition can feel overwhelming. I am here to help! We just learned that you recently saw your physician about a new or existing health condition. I've enclosed some information to help you learn more about the condition and ways to manage it. Enclosed was a handy booklet on heart disease, complete with cartoonish diagrams of the human heart and stock photos of sweatsuit-clad seniors doing yoga at the park. The letter continued: Together we can find ways to improve your health and your overall sense of well-being...I look forward to hearing from you. Sincerely, Susan Stevens, RN, BSN Back to the booklet now. On page five, a drawing of a "normal artery", which looks something like an enclosed waterslide, and a drawing of an "artery narrowed by plaque", which, based on the artwork alone, convinces me that "plaque" must be housefly larvae. Page 14? A photo of legumes, grapes, walnuts, and bell peppers. Not pictured: my father's favorite foods. Think peanuts, steak, and salty pretzels. And then, the kicker on page 24: aspirin. He took aspirin every day. "Honey," he'd tell me, "see this? See how I carry all of these baby aspirins in my pocket? You just never know."
There's no easy way to say this, so I'll just blankly blurt it out as if it doesn't twist my insides into a million knots. My father died unexpectedly last week. Heart attack, right out of the blue. No warning; no (known) history of heart problems. My worst nightmare, basically, has come true.
For those of you with social anxiety, what's more anxiety inducing: leaving a party after saying goodbye to all the guests, or just sort of skipping out unnoticed? I suspect that many of you will choose the latter. After all, saying goodbye to people could be kind of awkward. How should you bid farewell? Should you shake hands? Are your fellow partygoers huggable? What if you break some sort of social protocol and hug someone who just recently met -- someone who finds your way of saying adieu uncomfortable? What will they think of you? And what if you say goodbye to some people, but forget others? Will anyone be offended?
(Note: this is the final post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? Earlier in this series, we looked at both the good and the bad sides of using Facebook as a digital platform for mourning. I spoke about my friend Bubba, who died in a car fire a few years ago, and how his Facebook wall is still alive -- especially on his would-be birthday. However, it's slowly starting to fill up with digital litter ("I want you to join us on schoolFeed!") and, even though Facebook seems like they're in for the long haul, I wonder how long this social gravestone will last. And now, let's bring this series to a close, shall we? BENEDICTION My friend Bubba is dead, but his Facebook profile is (somewhat) living. His memories are digital and accessible, and so are the memories of your deceased Facebook friends. At any time, you can visit their page, reflect on their friendship, reminisce via old photos, and leave a message on his or her wall so that others know you've been thinking about your deceased friend. Not long after Bubba's death, I found myself perusing his Facebook profile and reading all of his most recent status updates. I grew a little sad that he and I had grown apart in recent years. We've both always been big into technology -- we hopped on the whole "blogging" train together, just one month apart, back in '01 -- and I began to wonder how he'd feel knowing that his Facebook page had become the epicenter of his mourning.
(Note: the is the third post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Back in March of this year, Technorati reported that there are already over 30 million dead people with Facebook profiles. Can you imagine how that number will skyrocket over the next 10 years? Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? THE BAD Now, we'll take a look at the negative side of having Facebook available as a mechanism for mourning. 1. Facebook extends the mourning process. Let's face it: Facebook is...well, permanent. As best we can tell right now in the year 2012, at least. It's a gigantic company with gigantic revenue, so I suspect it will be around for a long time in some iteration or another. And what does this mean for mourners? A dead friend with a Facebook profile will keep coming back to haunt you -- especially in the days and weeks immediately after their death. I can't even count how many times Facebook recommended that I "nudge" Bubba, a friend of mine who died in a car fire over two years ago, because he hadn't logged in for a few days. Then, for a few weeks. Then, for a few months. They mistook his death for a mere disinterest in social media. They thought, perhaps, that he'd taken up a new hobby. That he'd begun traveling more or interacting with people IRL. But no. He was dead, and Facebook made every effort to remind me daily. And even now, two and a half years after Bubba's death, I still receive updates on my timeline whenever someone tags his goofy smile in a photo or writes on his wall.
(Note: the is the second post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) Back in March of this year, Technorati reported that there are already over 30 million dead people with Facebook profiles. Can you imagine how that number will skyrocket over the next 10 years? Social media adds an entirely new dimension to the mourning process. Facebook is a great social utility, but how does its utility change after a profile-owning friend passes away? THE GOOD First, we take a look at the positive side of Facebook as a mechanism for mourning. 1. Facebook gives us a new way to mourn. I hate wakes and funerals. I always have. The idea of viewing a dead body -- no matter how gracefully preserved -- creeps me out. When I do attend such services, I tend to avoid the body and just chat with other wake-goers. I look at pictures. I watch the now-common PowerPoint presentation about the deceased's life. I share memories with others in attendance. But they're still very uncomfortable events. Not everyone, especially us anxious-types, can handle a wake or funeral without a breakdown. At my friend Bubba's wake, I got in line to walk up to the closed casket and then greet his crying family members. As I neared the front of the line, I realized that I couldn't do it. My knees grew weak and I started shaking, so I booked it to the bathroom and plunged my face under cold running water in the sink.
(Note: the is the first post in a four-part series about Facebook and death.) I've been thinking about my friend Ryan lately. Actually, I'll call him "Bubba" -- because, well, that's what we always called him prior to his death. The name "Ryan", to me, is exclusively post-mortem. It's the name in his obituary. It's the name that was broadcast on television during the news segment that described his car fire. It's the name on his grave. And it's the name on his Facebook profile. Bubba died over two and a half years ago, but I still remember the day I heard the news. I was sitting in my teeny little cubicle and monitoring social media mentions for the nationwide advertising company whose corporate office I called home from 9 to 5. My husband (then boyfriend) called me on my cell phone. I answered the phone quickly and told him, in a hushed voice, that I wasn't supposed to be on the phone at work. But he continued. "I have some bad news," he said. "Bubba died last night." What? What?