Blindsided by Facebook

January 28, 2016

live-all-the-daysIt was early morning and as usual, I signed on to Facebook. As usual, I checked the day’s birthdays to find that yes, one of my friends, “DB”  was celebrating her special day. She was more than an acquaintance–a former client I used to lunch with every so often even after she left her firm–but not a friend I saw much of. In fact, I hadn’t seen her since we moved back to California. But I kept up with her on Facebook from time to time.

Over on her Facebook page I began to post a Happy Birthday image when I noticed the post below mine.

“Missing you so much today,” it read.  My eyes widened. I scrolled down further and found a series of posts going back to July, talking about how shocked they were and how much they missed her.

Could she be dead?

It couldn’t be true, I thought. No way.

I remembered her as a really nice person, athletic, a runner, a single professional who was constantly on the road for her jobs. Always happy and vivacious, her broad smile was all teeth and she was always tanned. I liked her and her vibrant personality a lot. The last time we spoke she said she’d been living with a really great guy. She seemed fulfilled, excited even. Surely she hadn’t died.

I quickly Googled her.  Several obituaries appeared. I looked at them in disbelief. It was true. She’d died.

She was only

in her mid-50s. Cancer. I surmised that from the part of the obituary that said “in lieu of flowers…” followed by the name of a cancer center I knew.  It didn’t say what kind.

I went back to her Facebook page, thinking perhaps she’d posted about her treatment. Nothing. She never shared any of what she was going through, only photos and comments about the travels she and her husband did.  I wasn’t surprised. She was an upbeat girl and not one to complain about anything.

Had she been sick even as she took some of those trips? Or was it sudden? I didn’t know and I had no way to find out. We didn’t have any mutual friends. Some of my former colleagues may have known of her passing but if they did, they didn’t pass the information on to me. Instead, I was blindsided by Facebook.

It was hard to believe that this vibrant, happy life had been cut short. She remained on my mind for a long time. Maybe it’s because I’m still grieving the loss of my dear sister-friend or maybe it’s that I’m feeling my own mortality, but I can’t get her off my mind, still.

Thinking of her the other day, I looked online for a clue as to what took her life. I didn’t find that, but I did find a video that the funeral home had made to memorialize her life.  It was almost 10 minutes long (!) made up of many still photos of her, her husband, her parents, her stepchildren.  She’d married the man she had been living with and she was clearly loved by him and his children.

The photos confirmed that they had traveled a LOT. There she was in the California wine country. And Paris. In a hot air balloon. Deep sea fishing. Relaxing with a tropical cocktail. With her beloved dog. Oh God, did that get me. And with her loving husband.

In each photo

her wide grin stole the show.

What I saw in that video was a happy life well-lived.

You’d think that I would be happy that she’d had that. And I was, of course. But what got to me the most was that she’d had it and then it was gone, in a heartbeat.

Sometimes, that’s how it happens.

So tonight, I’ll raise a glass to my friend, DB: a lovely woman who lived her dream until she died. We’ll be in the Sonoma wine country for a few nights next month and I’ll think of her as we taste wine.

I will also think of Jonathan Swift’s words: may you live all the days of your life.

That, she surely did.

And each time I visit a new place or have a new experience, I hope I remember that it’s a little piece of my own well-lived life and appreciate the moment so that I, too, will live all the days of my own life.

Rest in piece, Donna. Rest in peace.




35 comments on “Blindsided by Facebook
  1. So sorry for the loss of your friend. I do find that facebook lets us keep in contact with friends and acquaintances but sometimes things like this slip by on our screens. I am so glad you have fond memories of her.

  2. Jacqui Odell says:

    I am so sorry for your loss! Facebook can be a blessing and a curse. It helps us stay in touch, but sometimes I think it makes us to dependent on the screen. Instead of calling and visiting.

  3. These kinds of surprises can be like a roundhouse punch to the gut. I had the same sort of reaction several years ago when I stumbled on the obituary of my boss at my very first “professional” job out of college. She was one of the first women to start her own PR firm in Boston, and was only 68 when she died of a massive heart attack. We’d lost touch when I moved to California, and when I returned to the east coast, I kept saying, “I should get in touch with her.” I never did.

  4. So sorry to hear about this, Carol. Coming so soon after the loss of your dear friend, it must be so hard.

    I remember a similar thing happening to me with a lady I had connected via our blogs and later on Facebook. I had followed her whole excitement about getting ready for her son’s wedding and soon after when I went to wish her for her birthday found that she had passed. The worst thing is not being able to get any details about this since she was the only person I was connected to in her family.

  5. So sorry for your loss. Something similar happened to me recently. I learned that my ex-fiance, who was only 57, died last October. I’m still in shock. He was a really nice guy and I have thought of him often over the years. So sad….

  6. Donna Hanton says:

    So sorry for your loss, Carol. Facebook (the Internet) can be a curse some days. I Googled my first love, a few years back, to see where he might be. His obit was the first thing that came up. He had passed 4 years earlier, at only 46. I thought and still think it seemed such a waste of someone so intelligent and accomplished but also so warm, funny and kind. I wish I’d been able to tell him that one more time. I think that is part of why these discoveries blindside us so much. Toast a life well lived, cherish the beautiful impression this person made on your life, and thank you for sharing a reminder that life is short but precious.

  7. Oh this was a lovely post. I am so sorry for your loss, it does sound like she lived a wonderful life. The problem with FB is that we tend to rely on it a lot sometimes for information on loved ones, but not everyone posts everything on there, especially very private things, such as an illness. I have also been blindsided at times when I hear of something awful happening that I was not aware of on FB.

  8. Carol, what a beautiful post, I too had a similar experience and like you, was heartsick for the vibrant life cut short. Thank you for the reminder, we who are fortunate enough to greet each day sometimes need reminders that what we are afforded, others have lost.

  9. Deanna says:

    How very sad. I am sorry for your loss. Each day is truly a gift!

  10. Glenda says:

    A beautiful dedication to your friend, and a life well lived.

  11. I have had similar experiences, not with friends I know “in real life” but with Facebook friends I interacted with seemingly every day. It is SUCH a shock. Godspeed to your dear friend and wishing you peace in your grief.

  12. Coco says:

    Wow. That’s the good and bad of Facebook at once. A shocking way to find out, but then it led you to what sounds like some wonderful tributes.

  13. andrea says:

    SO sorry for your loss – may you find peace during this time

  14. Carolann says:

    So sorry for your loss Carol. She sounded like a wonderful person and you have such fond memories of her. Understandably, it was a shocker finding out on facebook. The good and bad of social media. xo

  15. Felita says:

    Touching post. Thank you for sharing something so close to your heart. It reminds us all to tell those we care about how we feel about them as often as we can.

  16. Kimberly says:

    It’s such a shock to lose someone so suddenly. It shakes us from the complacency we can easily slip into and brings back the awareness that life is fleeting. Thank you for the reminder.

  17. What a shock! So sorry for your loss Carol, I can’t imagine what that felt like. – Veronica

  18. Patricia says:

    So sorry for the loss of your friend and the unpleasant way you found out. Sometimes life keeps us busy and we forget to keep up with our friends as well as we should.

  19. We mortals are constantly reminded that life is fragile and we know it ends at some point. How sad that your friend died so young. I just lost a young cousin in October and I still can’t believe she is gone. She lived all the days of her life and shared her joys and struggles on Facebook. I’m glad I knew and had a chance to say goodbye. Thank you for sharing this story of a life well lived.

  20. Sandy says:

    That was a beautiful tribute to your friend. Hugs.

  21. Andrea says:

    Oh, so sad. But so beautiful that she did appear to love so much and live such a full life. But cut short. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend and for the blow you received in finding out. It’s amazing how FB can be incredible and yet … can isolate us, too. That might not make sense. My heart definitely aches for your friend’s loved ones. ((hugs))

  22. Dogvills says:

    I’m so sorry for the loss of your friend and what a way to find out about it. I’m glad, though that she was loved and she lived a happy life.

  23. Carol Graham says:

    Not a great way to find out yet glad you did — it made you reflect on all the good times you had with her. Times like this always make us realize how short life is.

  24. I’m so sorry for your loss. Your tribute is very touching. Cancer is really a cruel disease.

  25. Alana says:

    I am so sorry for your loss. A friend and a neighbor, both friends on Facebook, passed from cancer. One never mentioned he was sick. The other one rarely posted details of her illness. For many, I suspect, Facebook is just too open. I truly don’t know what I will do whenever my time comes (assuming there is such a thing as Facebook).

  26. Liz Mays says:

    That’s so sad that her life was cut short that way. It really is wonderful to hear how fully she lived the life she had though.

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