When my friend Karen’s mother died, we somehow ended up in her apartment. I have no memory of how I found out or how I knew to go to her apartment, but I did. We did. There was a small crowd of us there–friends from church, friends from her graduate program. Someone made popcorn. We watched 16 candles. We were just there.
In the days after, we went to the funeral–I even sang at it–”Morning is Broken,” I believe. We checked in. But we were there. Present. We lived there. Other people came in for the funeral, but we were just there.
About a year ago, a classmate died. Six months later, another one. And strewn about the country, we mourned, mostly on facebook. Their facebook pages instantly became memorial pages. People posted stories and photos. The one classmate was single, but her brothers responded to the posts after a few days. The other classmate was mother to two teenagers who replied to every single post nearly immediately. Although I hesitated to view facebook as an appropriate memorial page, it became quickly obvious that this was appreciated by these young adults. In fact, they kept posting pictures on her facebook page months after her funeral, each time engendering more responses. I think it helped them to be able to entice others into sharing memories about her.
Today, one of our second career students passed away. It was not unexpected. She had been ill for a very, very long time. But she was a single mother to a teenage boy. I watched as her facebook page began to fill up with comments and tributes. And then her son wrote his tribute to his mother. He included a photo of him towering over her. He tagged her. I bawled. But this tribute on his page opened up the ability for people to offer condolences directly to her next of kin–a teenager. And people have done so. In spades.
I’m not how I feel. In some ways, such a very public grief, splayed out amongst candy crush updates and rants about snow removal, seems awkward, too raw. In others, I’m not sure that most of us would have felt comfortable reaching out so directly to this young man without the medium. And I imagine–though I don’t know–I haven’t had a conversation with this child since he was 9 or so–that there might be some comfort in being able to read these, in his own time and own space.