Thursday, April 01, 2010

Saying Farewell to a Facebook Friend

A few years ago I wouldn't have believed how much of my life revolves around being online. I certainly wouldn't have believed that I could care so much for someone who I've only related to through a profile picture. Someone who started out just as a Friend of a Friend. But here I am quietly grieving the loss of this someone special. I'll call her PG for the sake of her grieving family.

We must have met once, through career contacts, but I don't remember. Its funny that you don't always know who remembers you in the world but when she sent me an Friend request I accepted. The face looking at me was sweet. And so was she. Over the months PG commented on my silly status updates and nature photos. She posted some wonderfully encouraging comments when I indicated that life wasn't going quite the way I planned. Her presence was like a long-lost friend who provided comfort and support in a way that touched my soul. I was amazed by her caring.

But behind that profile was a someone who was sick. Very sick. She first alluded to it in some private messages. Doctors appointments became clinic visits. The 10 o'clock appointment morphed into an all day treatment session. Fuzzy thinking was later revealed to be the chemotherapy side effects. All comments were unassuming and not at all resentful or angry. Just a matter of fact. "Here's what's happening with me today. What's new with you Kelly?"

We said that we were going to plan to get together. I was going to try to meet her at the cancer clinic for coffee. I really wanted to but that pesky day job got in the way. Now I wish I had taken a day off. It would have been nice to hold the memory of meeting one-to-one and sharing the same space in time. At the time it felt odd that someone I didn't know wanted to share this part of her life with me. I always think of illness as a family matter not an occassion to bring new people into your life. I was wrong.

She told me how much she relied on my silly status updates and loved the photos I was taking. She also loved the humour and grace of the friends that share my Facebook life (as do I). She found in me someone who would provide respite from her daily grind of treatment. Someone willing to be silly and who was open to exploring the quirks of everyday life. She also found someone she could reach out to encourage when time was tough. I'm honoured to have been a part of that. I hope she knows. I'm thinking she does.

So today when her face popped up on the Suggestions section of my profile I thought I'd check in. One click and then I found out. She must have passed on today. All the comments read "one hour ago" and many ended in Rest in Peace. My last Wall posting was there, unreplied to, from March 23. So I said my farewell on her wall. The last bit of communication but I hope her family can see how many peoples lives she touched.

So farewell my online Friend. This silly technology taught me much about reaching out and your quiet struggle showed me about real connections. Rest in peace PG.