If you have signed up to use Facebook, you’re probably familiar with the way the online social media format plays social matchmaker. Not in a romantic way, but by suggesting people you might want to add to your contact list. People who are friends with your friends. People who have some kind of connection to you.
Occasionally, this works. You see a familiar face, an old friend, a co-worker, a former classmate, you didn’t know had signed up and it’s nice to add them to your contact list.
At other times, you are prompted to to catch up with an old friend. People to whom you are already connected but may not interact with on a regular basis.
Sometimes this is a good thing, as well. It reminds you to check in with someone you like. Someone who is probably as busy as you are. Someone you might like to talk to more often.
But then, occasionally, an unsettling thing happens. Occasionally, a face pops up that is startling. A face you can’t reach out and touch no matter how much you might like to.
In the last year, three people I knew and liked died. They were all too young, all under 50. All three were Facebook friends.
At least once a month, when I log on I’m prompted to get back in touch with one of them.
At first, I cringed whenever one of the faces popped up on my computer screen. I was reminded again, in a most impersonal way, that they were gone forever. One more time the sad story behind each death passed through my mind.
But now, each time I see their photos, I take a minute and I reconnect with their memory. I stop and remember a time we spoke or laughed. I think about the spouses, the mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters and the children left behind. I honor them.
I’m sure this is not what Facebook intended, but after thinking about it, I decided to accept the random gift of memory. To be grateful for it.
My friends were here with us and each led a rich and productive life. They worked and played and loved. They built careers and relationships. All three battled the disease that eventually killed them with dignity and grace and amazing courage. Now, through no fault of their own, they are gone
But gone doesn’t mean forgotten.
So, when I open my computer, when I log on to Facebook to see what friends and family are up to, or to post a photo and update my own profile, I glance at the top of the page.
I make a new friend. Sometimes I reconnect with an old friend. And once
in a while I take a moment to think about a friend I will never see
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a freelance columnist for The Spokesman-Review. Her audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and public radio stations across the country. She is the author of “Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons” and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.