Death to Facebook

The RingTechnology and the internet are crazy, especially the way social media has invaded our lives – for better or worse.  When my sister died, my resolute decision was that it was “for worse”.

She died while I was driving to the hospital (an hour and-a-half away from where I lived).  My parents didn’t tell me…they were waiting for me to arrive.  They didn’t realize, though, how quickly it would spread when they decided to let others know.  My dad sent one text to about five people when I was still around 45 minutes away.  On the drive, I got a text from my cousin: “I don’t know what to say, other than I love you.”  And, I knew that it had happened, that my sister was gone.  I pushed it away, though.  Told myself that I didn’t really know.  Told myself to wait until I got to the hospital.  My parents had hoped to tell me when I arrived.  Instead, I was implicitly told through a text.  Neither of my parents have embraced the technology take-over.  I can’t really blame them for not understanding that the minute you send a piece of information out into the mysterious realm of wireless connectivity and 3G networks that you have thereby forfeited all rights to said information.  It is now owned by the masses – do what they will.  And do what they will – is exactly what they did.

Because it didn’t stop with this one text.  That isn’t the end to the technology sucks story.  It even invaded her hospital room.  This most private and intimate of spaces – where the initial reactions of a family are taking place – where we’re hugging her, talking to her, breaking down…technology invaded Room 257.

This one text got sent out…and within a couple of hours – our phones started to ring.  We were in the hospital room, mourning the loss of my sister…and it occurred to me that something much worse was about to happen….and I said: “Oh god…Facebook.”

We realized that someone was bound to post on her page and that we had lost control.  It was awful – in a powerless situation, to realize that there was even something else you could lose…something so personal was about to be posted publicly.  I realized that my close friends – friends that grew up with my family, friends that I wanted to tell in a private phone call – were now going to find out through Facebook.  Our family members were going to find out through Facebook.  So, we did the only thing we could to gain any power back and decided we would post on her page.

Do you understand the insanity of this?  We are in the room with her body discussing how to handle FACEBOOK!?  And, guess what?  When I posted our message on her wall – I was four seconds behind someone else.  We didn’t even end up being first.  And the GALL of the person who posted that…………I know.  I know.  They probably didn’t realize how recent it had happened or…whatever…makes me so mad.

And to all those people that I had wanted to tell individually, I sent them a mass text, thinking that was a little better than being shocked with the news on her wall.  Because, it was shocking.  My sister was in the hospital so frequently that we didn’t always spread the word (my parents didn’t always even tell me).  Some people knew, but a lot more didn’t have a clue she had been in the hospital at all, let alone that it was so serious!!!


I might have some pent up anger about this…just a little…

So, yes, right around the time of my sister’s death – technology and all it entails was a definite “for worse”….but almost 8 months out…I also see the “for better”.

Over 300 people came to my sister’s funeral, despite the fact that we had it four days after she died.  I’m not sure that we could have spread the word so quickly without Facebook.  On the other hand, I don’t use Facebook like I used to…  I don’t post status updates.  I definitely don’t whine about my day.  …after using it to let the world know about my sister…I just can’t get back to posting about working out at the gym…  Facebook isn’t fun like it used to be.

Crap…this was supposed to be the “for better” part…let me try this again…

Voicemail…  I have two messages from my sister.  They aren’t particularly special in what they say…but good grief…to hear her voice!  There is nothing that can touch my soul like listening to her voice.  Thank you, Voicemail.

Text messages…  I have a couple years of texts – mainly about Grey’s Anatomy or how we’ll try not to fight next time we see each other.  Again, not crazy interesting, but so incredibly precious to me that I have them backed up in a kazillion places.  Thank you, Text Messaging.

Facebook…  People use her page now to say that they miss her and are thinking of her.  It’s a little memorial page for her and it’s nice to read.  But, really, it’s nice to go back and look at what we wrote to each other or to see her comments on pictures or posts that I made.  …thankyoufacebook…

Etsy…  This is an unexpected one for sure, but Etsy lets you follow people and you can see what their favorite items are.  When I realized this, I immediately looked through all of my sister’s favorite items.  Today, I decided to buy one of them.  The ring at the top of this page.  I feel a little silly.  I’m not entirely sure why I did it….just trying to find a way to be connected to a non-existent person.  Makes complete sense.  Her favorite color was black and she had become obsessed with filigree rings before she died…  I’m guessing she didn’t buy this one, because her fingers were ginormous.  But, it’s my size.  And now it’s my ring.  Thank you, Etsy.

Look at me, trying to see the positive in something I despise.  

Very uncharacteristic.

And everything falls into place…

Today was a really good day.  A really good day.  I was so ecstatic about how everything was turning out that I wasted a good chunk of my morning talking on the phone, unable to focus on work.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve felt like this…like everything was falling into place.  Certainly, not in the last six years.

Six years ago, I started grad school.  That was great, the starting.  But, I proceeded to also start a new relationship that was…not so great.  I will spare the details, but the relationship twisted me in a way that made me sever ties with my family and many of my friends.  I was in a weird place – I made my own decisions and acted of my own free will…but at the same time, I was being manipulated in a way that, when looking back, makes me feel that it wasn’t all my fault.  I did talk to and visit my family, but I didn’t think of them as my family. And, per usual, feel extremely bad about this point in my life.  My sister needed me, but I was too caught up in the my own drama-filled life to notice or pay attention to her.  And her inherent brattiness made me feel justified in not putting much effort into our relationship, since she was so difficult to deal with in the first place.

It took a few years, but I got out of the unhealthy relationship and slowly started to put myself back together.  I became closer with my family, again, fixed the friendships that were fixable, and met my current boyfriend.  That being said, it was an uphill climb…through the mud and the sledge with the wind blowing in my face and rain pouring down on me and some intermittent hail to really make me hate life.  But that all lessened with time and today, the sun is shining so bright that I’ve been walking around blind with happiness.

Because, my future boss (start a new job in a new city in two months) e-mailed me this morning to tell me that he has found extra funding to extend my research position.  I also found out that my temporary housing in my new city looks like it could turn into permanent housing, because the owners are rarely home and would like someone to look after their dog.  My boyfriend and I have been dreaming of the day when we are settled somewhere long enough to get a dog.  When we found out that they wanted a dog sitter, my boyfriend joked how great it would be if it was a weimaraner (his favorite dog – see photo above by William Wegman).  Five minutes later, we found out that it was, in fact, a weimaraner.

Now, my days don’t normally swing on the positive side.  They ebb and flow – up and down – hovering around neutrality.  Especially since my sister died.  But, today reminds me how much I have to be thankful for…how appreciative I should be for…well, my life.

At the same time, I can’t help but feel sad.  Today, I would have called my sister. Today, I would have told her about all of this.  And, today, she would have been happy. Because, when it came to big things in my life, she was always supportive.  The jealousy may have come out later…but whenever I initially told her anything, she was always genuinely happy for me.

She would also have been happy, because my “new city” is less than a three-hour drive from our hometown, where she lived.

I told her that once I graduated and moved, she should come stay with me.  That – wherever I went – she should plan on spending a few months at least with me.  In my mind, I imagined this could turn into something semi-permanent, because I wanted to get her out of our hometown to experience…anything.  She was so depressed and I thought being in a new place would help…and, now, to find a a job so close to home – if she didn’t want to come to me, I could easily have gone to see her any time, all the time.  Whenever I wanted.

If she had just…had just made it one more year…..not even……8 months………….

How is it possible to be so happy and so completely heartbroken at the same time?

Death on My Mind

Everyone dies.  No getting around that…well, I guess if the Singularity happens, we won’t. But let’s assume for this post’s purpose, that it doesn’t.  Then, everyone dies. Everyone on the planet dies and we don’t know what happens afterwards.  There are all levels of theories on what happens, ranging the religious/spiritual spectrum, but the truth of the matter is that we don’t know.  If I had to be defined, I guess I’d be considered agnostic (or, rather, an atheist with hope).  But my beliefs, or lack thereof, weren’t nearly as important to me as my sister’s.  I wanted my sister to believe in God or gods or in reincarnation.  I didn’t really care what she believed in as long as she believed in something after death.  I didn’t want her be scared – I wanted her to be comforted in thinking that she was going some place better. That all this pain and suffering wasn’t “it”.  That there existed a wonderful, amazing afterlife in a wonderful, amazing place that she would inhabit some day (a day that would probably be sooner than later).

I thought she did probably have some sort of spiritual/religious view.  We were raised Catholic and every frickin’ night that I can remember with her, she God blessed every single animal that she had ever owned that had passed away (this list was long – mice, guinea pigs, fish, birds, lizards, cats, dogs…).  More than that, though, how could you be as sick as she was and not at least hope for something better?

We didn’t often talk about serious things.  We discussed Grey’s Anatomy and our parents. Cute boys and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.  But, one day, probably a little over a year ago, I decided to just ask…ask her what she believed happened after we died…

Me: Do you believe in something?  After we die?  What do you think happens to us?
Sister: Nothing.
Me: Well, that’s…
Sister: Unsettling.

The way she said “unsettling” was so…unsettling!  So honest, blunt, straightforward – as if she had dismissed this issue long ago and full well realized that it was unsettling to the rest of us that she didn’t think there was life after death.  I was so disappointed.  I didn’t want her to be scared.  But, she was.  And I couldn’t do anything about it.

The last week with her in the ICU…she was mostly unconscious.  They had her heavily sedated for numerous reasons.  All I could think to do was to make sure no one was sad or cried in her room.  If there was a .0000001% chance that she could hear us, I didn’t want her to hear anything to cause fear.  I talked to her normally.  If someone entered the room and looked as if they were going to be emotional, I started making jokes or talking to them as if nothing was wrong…that’s all I could do for her.  Try to make it less scary.  I guess that’s what big sisters do.

My beliefs haven’t changed since she passed away.  Not like there was much there to start with anyway, but I’m much less scared of death myself now.  It’s almost as if the mere notion that she could possibly exist…in some way or some form …somehow….. …somewhere…. is comforting.  Maybe she is out there…  Or, maybe I’m just hanging on to whatever thread of hope that I can.

Eventually, I’ll find out.  We all will.

Six months and counting…

It’s been six months since my sister died.

I can’t quite believe it.  Time moves differently when it concerns the death of someone you love, because you don’t want it to move at all – dragging your feet as it forces you along.

I wasn’t sure what to write today but wanted to write anyway, so I went back to The Five Stages of Grief website to see if that sparked anything.  At first, it didn’t.  I’ve already written about denial and the other stages just don’t seem to be anything that I’ve gone through in the past months.  Plus, the descriptions of the stages seem incredibly corny – annoyingly so – it’s worded as if talking to a baby.  So, instead of reading those very thoroughly, I just focused on the words:

Denial.  Anger.  Bargaining.  Depression.  Acceptance.

And realized, I’ve dealt with all of them.  Not in the last six months but in the last seventeen years.  Ever since she was diagnosed with Lupus, I’ve stumbled upon some form of each of these “stages.”  Any unwanted drastic change in someone’s life is bound to cause any one or all of these.  In my case, it was this damn disease.  Did I go through the stages in order?  Eh…not really.  Do I think the corny definitions are true? Maybe superficially, but we all grieve differently – so while I can define the stages for me – I’m guessing they weren’t  the same for you.

Where does that put me now, then?  I’m not sure.

I push it away.  I avoid it.  I hold my breath til the moment passes.  I ignore it at all cost.   Except for days like today where thinking about her is entirely unavoidable.  Where I can’t help but look at the million of pictures of her on my computer or listen to a voicemail that I, luckily, never deleted.  And it’s still all there…the mixed emotions, the guilt, the grief.  I found it oddly comforting.  To cry.  To feel it all, even if I only let myself for a few moments. I imagine it will be like an old friend after a while.  One that comes to visit unexpectedly. One that I can visit at a moment’s notice.  Like today.  When I can’t believe she’s been gone so long.